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Latest OS Version a Free Masterpiece?

A free Unix-like OS need not be feared as something that isn't accessible or usable on a desktop. At least that's the hope with the latest release of PC-BSD version 1.4.

The release includes a long list of fixes and improvements, with a focus on making the desktop BSD OS easier to set up and use. The official codename for the release is da Vinci, but that doesn't necessarily mean the release is a masterpiece.

"I like to think of it as more of a Renaissance man -- the idea that one OS can be a great server with FreeBSD under the hood, and at the same time allow users to easily surf the Web, or play games like World of Warcraft with only a few clicks," Kris Moore, founder of the PC-BSD project, told InternetNews.com.

PC-BSD is a desktop and user-friendly BSD distribution based on FreeBSD. The previous PC-BSD release, version 1.3, came out at the beginning of the year and was similarly focused on ease of use.

Moore noted that while there are a lot of changes and improvements in the PC-BSD 1.4 release, users will benefit most from hardware support and configuration.

"Also our new GUI tools will greatly assist in setting up networking, such as wireless connections, something which had been rather difficult in the past," Moore said. "The X.org GUI tool also allows the user to easily set their screen resolution, and driver with 3D support on the first boot."

The installer in version 1.4 is further improved from its inception in version 1.3. PC-BSD 1.4 no longer needs and "advanced" section to set up firewall and networking, since the release has great GUI tools for this in the OS now. The upgrade process for migrating from prior version of PC-BSD has also been improved.

Though BSD distributions have often lagged behind Linux and other Unix-like operating systems in terms of users, PC-BSD may well be on its way to bucking the trend. Moore isn't sure how many downloads or users there were for PC-BSD, since users can get the OS from a variety of sources.

"However, we do know in the past month we've had over 45,000 systems visit the main Web site, all running FreeBSD, of which we'll assume a large portion of them are running PC-BSD," Moore said.

Developers hope to include two key items in the next major release of PC-BSD: FreeBSD 7, the core OS on which PC-BSD is built; and KDE 4. the desktop GUI.

"We try to have a new release out every six months or so," Moore explained. "With 1.4 it took closer to nine months, with several of those months going towards implementing a whole new build process. Now that it's in place, the next release may be closer to the six-month mark, depending upon the release schedule of FreeBSD 7, and KDE 4 of course."