Originally Posted by Johnnie J
I've tried both DesktopBSD and PC-BSD, and I prefer DesktopBSD, but feel free to try them both. I'm new to the alternative to M$ OSs and have tried many. For servers I don't know, haven't gotten into the nuts and bolts of how they work yet.
I like both of these systems, but despite the fact that they use desktop managers common to most Linux distros, they do tend to have their own unique feel. You can get just about all of the same software you run on a Linux system, but you do have to use the Linux ports to get all of the software. Things like Flash Player are hard to find in BSD, so the easiest route is to enable the Linux Ports and run them instead of native BSD apps when you cannot find libraries, codec, plugins, and other extensions.
I find PC-BSD to be somewhat easier to manage with the PBI - Push Button Installer, also known as the PC-BSD Installer. However, PBI does install each application in a stand alone fashion. That makes apps easier to install but can lead to multiple copies of certain libraries. DesktopBSD is a bit closer to FreeBSD in its approach, but simply eases the configuration of the desktop environment. Both PC-BSD and DesktopBSD are based on FreeBSD, the most widely used free version of BSD software.
FreeBSD is definitely not automatic to install and set up as a desktop system, though clearly it can be done. It makes an awesome server system. However, with PC-BSD and DesktopBSD, FreeBSD is now approachable in non commercial software.
I would consider PC-BSD close in ease of installation to a relatively easy Linux desktop system. The one thing that could trip you up may be those extra libraries, plugins, etc. that enhance the user experience. A real novice will have no trouble clicking to install the base system, but they may run into issues if certain things do not work immediately following the installation. The BSDs are still lacking in hardware support and lag the best Linux vendors in keeping up with recent device driver development support.
They are cool systems, to be sure. I am less confident that the novice will be able to handle them. For those who are adventurous they are well worth an adventure to try them out.
For this discussion, I think that Xubuntu is going to be the system of choice for our friend. For others, I recommend experimenting, if possible, with every system mentioned in these pages. All of them have something to offer, if you have the time, you either have a removable USB hard drive, or you know how to multi partition and multi boot. I have at least a dozen distinct desktop instances on one computer and close to that on another one.