Open source snapshot: GhostBSD

GhostBSD is a FreeBSD derived, Gnome-based desktop operating system.

When it comes to open source desktop operating systems, there's no question that Linux is the top dog in terms of market share (at least, if you disregard the open source components in OS X that are a product of its NeXTSTEP heritage). But that's not to say that Linux is all there is. Alongside projects like GNU Hurd, Haiku and others, there is the plethora of desktop-targeted operating systems in the BSD family.

GhostBSD is a distribution based on FreeBSD. GhostBSD's creator, Eric Turgeon, says that the name comes from 'Gnome hosted by FreeBSD' and was originally pronounced 'G host BSD'. Now, everyone, including Turgeon, just pronounces it 'ghost BSD'.

"GhostBSD's goal is to provide a variety of GTK desktop builds of FreeBSD, ready to use, without the difficulty of configuring FreeBSD," Turgeon says.

"GhostBSD provides new users with a fully featured FreeBSD desktop. It can be used as a server monitor, as a server itself or as a powerful workstation."

The project started in 2009, although the idea for it stretches back farther.

"I was a GNU/Linux user and wanted to build an OS," Turgeon says. "One day I read 'How to Become a Hacker' by Eric S. Raymond and the word 'BSD' caught my attention."

He downloaded and tried out FreeBSD but got stuck after logging in. He tried the desktop-oriented PC-BSD, but didn't take to it ("I am a Gnome user not a KDE one," Turgeon says).

He returned to FreeBSD, and read "Teach Yourself FreeBSD in 24 Hours" and started to learn how to use the system. "After that, I lost my passion for GNU/Linux," he says. "I started GhostBSD almost at the same time I started [using] FreeBSD."

He cites security and stability as two of the big drawcards for users of *BSD systems. "Most [*BSD OSes] are server-oriented systems. PC-BSD, DesktopBSD, MidnightBSD and GhostBSD are desktop-oriented systems and they are all based on FreeBSD. If users need a great server OS, FreeBSD is perfect."

GhostBSD "is very close to what FreeBSD is," he says. "GhostBSD can use all the features of FreeBSD without any incompatibilities."

He says he doesn't track the user base of GhostBSD, but it's mainly hobbyists and enthusiasts.

GhostBSD's release schedule is based around FreeBSD's. "It will stay like that until we have the power, resources and equipment to make our own package repositories server," Turgeon says.

There is no direct relationship between GhostBSD and the FreeBSD team, but Turgeon says he has helped out the FreeBSD Gnome time.

Although other people have helped out with the project from time to time, it's mainly been a solo effort. He's happy for volunteers to join GhostBSD.

"The GhostBSD website needs good writers, Drupal7 Web developers and translators. The documentation needs good writers with basic MediaWiki syntax knowledge. The development needs people who can build, test and develop new tools for GhostBSD, as well as build packages for pkgng." He's also eager for 'GhostBSD ambassadors' who can represent it at events.

Funding comes from donations, he says. "I have adopted the Linux Mint way of funding the project – donations, sponsors, partnerships and Google AdSense."

At the moment, work is being done on the website to introduce a unified login system. When it comes to the OS itself, "we’re eager to see a (better) Update/Upgrade Manager, a new software Package Manager that uses pkgng to install and update software, our own installer back-end, our own package repositories server and more," he says.

Ultimately, he would like to see a desktop environment that's designed for BSD OSes and licensed under the BSD licence.

"When everything else is complete, I might take Mate’s code, fork it, remove all the 'linuxisms' in it and make a desktop environment united with the FreeBSD system core," he says.

GhostBSD Website:
Licence: BSD style

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