re changing from vista

Matthew Seaman m.seaman at
Fri Nov 14 13:47:47 PST 2008

peter wrote:
> Dear sirs
> please can you help me i am totally confused i want to change from 
> windows vista
> but i cannot understand which system to use
> i am not sure if freebsd will work with my hardware and software

FreeBSD (or any Unix/Linux for that matter) is very different to Windows, and it can be a daunting task to get up to speed with it.

FreeBSD in my humble opinion is the best-of-breed Unix out there for 
server-class applications.  Which is cool if you're one of those hairy 
Unix types that can wrangle the command line, and configure a dozen 
instances of Apache before breakfast, but maybe not if you are an 
ordinary mortal that just wants to surf the web, listen to a few tunes, 
send e-mail, chat on IRC, maybe edit the odd document.

While the properties of FreeBSD that make it an excellent Server OS 
also make it an excellent foundation for a Desktop OS, it doesn't come 
with the layer of middle-ware that smooths over the user experience[*].  
Of course, such software is readily available, but -- catch 22 -- you 
don't have the sort of Window/Icons/MousePointer environment 
immediately available to let you easily install the desired WIMP environment.

I suggest going to and grabbing an ISO of PC-BSD. 
This is an integrated user environment based on FreeBSD, but with much
more the sort of graphical interface you'ld be used to as a Windows 
user. It also has quantities of useful help and advice for people 
wanting to make that first step away from Windows, plus help with 
working out if all of your hardware is supported under the OS.

Windows software will not in general work under Free- or PC-BSD.  There 
are emulation environments that you can install, and these are 
sufficient to run a lot of software including a number of popular 
games, but there is no guarantee that any particular application will 
work.  There are Open Source alternatives to the majority of popular 
Windows Apps (Firefox instead of IE, Thunderbird instead of OutLook, 
OpenOffice instead of Word+Excel+PowerPoint+etc., Gimp instead of 
Photoshop, ...)  but these are independently developed applications 
with their own concepts of how things should be done, not slavish 
copies of the Windows equivalents.  The differences can be frustrating at first, but persistence will pay dividends.



[*] Yes, all you pedants out there: the software is on the FreeBSD 
installation media and you can install it at the same time as you 
install the OS.  True.  The point is, however, that it won't 'just
work' without at least a bit of configuration involving doing some command-line stuff.  Plus you have to know /which/ of all those 
software packages it is you actually want to install -- there's 
actually two major contenders (KDE, Gnome) and any number of minor 
contenders to choose from, and any number of choices and optional bits 
to decide on -- fine if you're familiar with all that, but still a real 
hurdle for the uninitiated.

Dr Matthew J Seaman MA, D.Phil.                   7 Priory Courtyard
                                                  Flat 3
PGP:     Ramsgate
                                                  Kent, CT11 9PW

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