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Using PC-BSD
Pages: 1, 2, 3

Adding and Removing Programs

On a PC-BSD system, there are three built-in mechanisms for installing software. You can use the ports collection, meaning you cd into the desired ports subdirectory and type make install clean. You can also use the packages collection, meaning you type pkg_add -r name_of_package.



The easiest way for new users to install software is to download a PBI to the Desktop, and double-click the PBI to start its installer. The PC-BSD site has plenty of PBI screenshots.

The advantage to PBI is that the installer offers to create shortcuts both on the Desktop and in the Programs menu of the KDE menu. This makes it easy to find your applications and remember which applications you have installed.

PBIs also come with their own de-installers, in Computer -> PC-BSD Settings -> Remove Programs. Simply highlight the desired program and click the Remove button. Note: this will not work for programs installed through the ports or packages collections; for these, you need to type pkg_delete -x name_of_program.

Keeping Up To Date

The Online Update in Computer -> PC-BSD Settings is one of the slickest utilities that comes with this operating system (Figure 2). Similar to Windows Update, it can check your operating system and programs for both security vulnerabilities and new features. Once instructed to do so, it will download and apply any missing patches for you. You can also use this utility to safely upgrade your operating system when a new version becomes available.

Online Update
Figure 2. Online Update

If you select "Check for updates," you have the option to automatically schedule the process on a daily or weekly basis.

If you prefer to manually watch the process, instead click the Check Now button. When I tested my version of PC-BSD, it was only nine days old, so I received a "Your system is up-to-date" message. However, when I tried this on an older version back in November, I saw Figure 3. By highlighting one of the entries and clicking on the "More info" button, I was able to get more detailed information about a given feature or security vulnerability. When I clicked Next, the patches were applied.

Update Now
Figure 3. Update Now!

Note that patches that affect the kernel will require a reboot. The computer will automatically do this for you.

Configuring Flash and Java

For novice users, there are currently three available web browsers: Konqueror, which comes installed with KDE, and Firefox and Opera, which are available for download from the PBI directory.

To install browser Java support, download and run the PBI for the Java Runtime (you can find this easily if you search the PBI directory for "java"). During installation, you will be prompted to accept the Sun licensing agreement. Once installed, you can verify Java support in Konqueror or Firefox by typing about:plugins into the Location bar. In Opera, type opera:about.

Note: at the time of this writing, there is a bug that prevents Firefox from correctly seeing Java support. Hopefully it has been corrected by the time you read this.

Hint: a good site to test your browser is www.privacy.net. Click on the hyperlink for Analyzer at the bottom of the page.

To install Flash support, download the Flash plugin. If Flash doesn't immediately show up in Konqueror when you type "about:plugins," go to Settings -> Configure Konqueror -> Plugins. Click on the "Scan for New Plugins" button and it will enable Flash support.

For Firefox, go to Programs Menu -> Firefox -> Install Flash Plugin, which will prompt you for the root password. When finished, Flash support will now show in about:plugins.

For Opera, simply download the PBI for "Opera with Flash" and enjoy.

Conclusion

If you haven't had a chance to try out PC-BSD, take some time to install and poke about this user-friendly operating system. If you're looking for a free and stable operating system for friends or family, burn them an ISO and have them give it a test drive.

The PC-BSD engineering team appreciates all feedback and suggestions for improving the operating system from a user perspective. The email address for the project lead is available from the PC-BSD contact page. Don't be surprised if you see one of your feature requests implemented in a later version of PC-BSD.

Dru Lavigne is a network and systems administrator, IT instructor, author and international speaker. She has over a decade of experience administering and teaching Netware, Microsoft, Cisco, Checkpoint, SCO, Solaris, Linux, and BSD systems. A prolific author, she pens the popular FreeBSD Basics column for O'Reilly and is author of BSD Hacks and The Best of FreeBSD Basics.


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