Getting started with GhostBSD and FreeBSD Part 1

New users are often discouraged when they start with Linux distributions that boot to a command line and the same apprehensions are present when they attempt to learn FreeBSD. GhostBSD, a FreeBSD release which immediately boots to a desktop environment, addresses that fear.

GhostBSD is available with either XFCE or MATE, and thankfully still provides a 32-bit release if you plan to use it on older hardware. Set up and installation using a bootable CD or USB is similar to Linux, but this isn't an issue even if you're starting with GhostBSD and have never tried either FreeBSD, any Unix variant, or Linux distribution.



Starting with friendly GhostBSD or PC-BSD is a good idea if you don't want to mess around with Mac OSX on your expensive Mac. GhostBSD includes a few niceties not present in a default installation of FreeBSD. Moreover, it already includes standard applications such as a web browser and saves you some time compiling software, a task that is part of managing FreeBSD, but generally not necessary for most Linux distributions.

This article provides a quick, basic overview of the GhostBSD installation for new users, in addition to a description of some of the characteristics of FreeBSD and GhostBSD. The installation procedure was performed on a Toshiba NB520 using GhostBSD

Downloading and verifying the GhostBSD ISO


GhostBSD 10.1 is available as an ISO for 32-bit and 64-bit hardware. If you're running older hardware, I highly recommend the XFCE release since MATE uses some Gnome libraries that won't work well with older graphics cards and conservative hardware.

Once you download the ISO, verify the file by MD5 output with the provided MD5.txt file. Remember to download the correct MD5 file from the GhostBSD download page.

Note: The verification step is generally skipped by most experienced Linux users. Curiously enough, however, I found it oddly important for FreeBSD, GhostBSD, and PC-BSD - issues with the download integrity did occur.

If you're already on a Linux box, you can create the md5 output by running the command md5sum <ISO filename>.


Once you've verified the download, you can proceed to creating a bootable USB drive.

Creating a bootable USB stick


The GhostBSD XFCE 10.1 ISO clocks in at 1.7 GB, so you don't have to burn the ISO to a CD, DVD, or a large Flash drive.  There are several ways to create a bootable USB stick in Linux, Windows 10, or Mac OSX.

If you're running any Debian or Red Hat-based Linux distribution, you can insert your USB stick and check the device path by using Partitioner, Disk Utility, GParted, or Parted before creating a bootable USB drive.




Once you've identified the USB device path, you can run the dd command.

sudo dd if=<GhostBSD .img filename> of=<device path> bs=1M conv=sync


Booting to GhostBSD using the USB drive


Before booting to GhostBSD using the USB drive, take note of the following if you're installing GhostBSD on a laptop:

1. If you're installing GhostBSD on a laptop, note that you may want to ensure that the laptop has enough USB ports for the GhostBSD bootable USB drive and a wireless mouse since your laptop's touchpad may not work immediately.



2. Make sure your laptop is plugged in to a power source. Although the GhostBSD ISO is considerably smaller than most Linux distributions, the installation process may take longer depending on your hardware.

3. Although you can perform the installation without network access, having either Ethernet or Wi-Fi access is highly recommended since it may simplify network setup.

4. Most laptops generally have a quick Boot Menu. Use this option if you prefer not to have to enter the UEFI or BIOS settings.

5. If the GhostBSD desktop environment fails to load or you end up with no video, reboot the system and select Graphical Install - (Failsafe VESA mode) or Graphical Install - (ACPI Off).



Once you boot to the GhostBSD desktop, you can begin installation by clicking the GhostBSD Installer shortcut.

Note: While booting from the GhostBSD USB media, you will see a few error messages regarding VirtualBox components. Ignore this since you are not creating a virtual machine. You can prevent or remove this service after the system has been installed.

Continued in Getting started with GhostBSD and FreeBSD Part 2

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