If you want to try BSD, GhostBSD might be your best bet

The default GhostBSD desktop.

GhostBSD offers the user-friendly MATE desktop environment.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

BSD, or Berkeley Software Distribution (aka Berkeley Standard Distribution) is a discontinued operating system that was based on Research Unix. Originally called Berkeley UNIX, BSD was first developed in the late 70s and then, in the early 80s, it was adopted by some workstation vendors as an alternative to DEC Ultrix and Sun Microsystem’s SunOS.

Eventually, BSD faded away but the code remained behind. In the early 90s, William and Lynne Jolitz developed a new port of BSD for Intel CPUs, calling their operating system 386BSD. Development for 386BSD slowed and eventually stalled. It was then that a small group of 386BSD users decided to keep the OS up to date, renaming the project FreeBSD and releasing the first iteration on November 1993.

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Over the years, I’ve toyed with FreeBSD, but it has received a mere fraction of my attention (compared to Linux). Part of the reason for that is FreeBSD isn’t the most efficient operating system to install. Out of the box, FreeBSD installs as a command-line-only OS, for which you then have to jump through a few hoops to get a desktop environment installed. 

Case in point, I was originally going to review FreeBSD but ran into trouble getting a desktop environment up and running as a VirtualBox virtual machine. I’ve done this before with a measure of success. But for some reason, the latest releases of both FreeBSD and GNOME aren’t wanting to play well together.

After spending an hour or so attempting to get GNOME up and running on FreeBSD, I set that aside for now. Because I can be persistent, I decided to find a FreeBSD spin that makes it fairly easy for just about anyone to experience what a truly rock-solid operating system is.

The solution was GhostBSD.

GhostBSD uses the Mate desktop to create a user-friendly environment that is easy enough for anyone to use. You’ll even find a GUI tool (called Software Station) for package management, which means you can work with GhostBSD without ever touching the command line. From the Software Station, you can install just about anything you need (even apps like Slack and Spotify).

The Software Station found in GhostBSD.

Installing software with the GhostBSD Software Station.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Pre-installed software

Out of the box, you won’t find a ton of pre-installed…