10 Aug 2011

BSDanywhere: time machine

I have already written about BSD-based systems several times. I reviewed FreeSBIE and PCBSD.
They were system based on XFCE and KDE. These are more or less modern looking operating systems. Could I imaging myself back into 1990s when I was downloading another BSD-based system?
This time I will tell you about BSDanywhere. This is Live CD based on OpenBSD. Authors write on their site that this OS is not intended to be installed at all, and that it only works from CD. That is fine, because I was interested in Live systems from the very beginning.
Latest version of BSDanywhere has number 4.6 and was released in November 2009. Unfortunately, it is the last version because its single developer stopped any further activities with BSDanywhere and switched to OpenBSD itself.
So, iso image of BSDanywhere is downloaded and burnt onto CD-RW. Disk is in the optical drive of my Compaq C300 laptop. Reboot. Choose to boot from CD-RW. Let's go!

Boot process of BSDanywhere contains several questions to user: timezone, keyboard layout (quite a good choice!), network connection and so on. The difference from Linux-based systems which also ask users some questions (like Mandriva) is that BSDanywhere uses text mode for this questioning.
Finally, BSDanywhere asks you for username and password. Two possible usernames are "live" and "root", and only "live" starts graphical system by default. There is a message about it right about username entry line.
Few seconds more, and X-server is up and running. That was a time for me to remember my first ever attempts to install Linux on my desktop.
It was a great success for me at that time to see grey-and-black screen with mouse pointer in shape of X. That was back in 20th century, around year 1999. This time round I got similar screen. It did not stay for long and was replaced with desktop wallpaper which has something resembling BSD logo on it.
BSDanywhere includes several windows managers. I can't tell you the number exactly, because it is different from different managers. Then, all of them have 3-4 letter abbreviations, not the easiest method to rememeber. Seems like default is CMW (Compartmented Mode Workstation)
General feeling of desktop design still left me in 20th century.
Even though desktop wallpaper is more or less modern in style, all the buttons and control elements are very old-fashioned. I perfectly understand that desktop environment is not the most important bit of server system. But BSDanywhere is LiveCD, which is unlikely to be used on server, but rather on desktops. It was built relatively recently, and I would expect something more contemporary in there.
Unfortunately, BSDanywhere did not recognise my network card. I think it is not supported by BSDanywhere at all...
It means, of course, that I could not mount any network drives this time. I also in doubt that Samba is installed on BSDanywhere. At least, man mount says that supported filesystems are listed in /sbin/mount_*, and cifs is not there. I think nfs is not good replacement for cifs.
Next issue I had on BSDanywhere with local NTFS partition. Although, mount_ntfs exists, but it gave me an error "Operation not supported". It can be well because I don't know commands in BSD and tried to follow Linux rules. Or it can be because ntfs and ntfs-3g are not the same from BSDanywhere point of view. Though, I should admit that XP is mentioned in man mount_ntfs.
After some digging I found a way to mount my ext3 partitions using -t ext2fs parameter. This time round command worked exactly the same way I use it in Linux. As a result, I had an option to check to some extent what BSDanywhere supports. For example, I could successfully open pdf files, gif and png images. Unfortunately, I could not check multimedia facilities: I don't keep any music or video on that partition.
In terms of software, BSDanywhere does not give you a lot. That is quite strange for Live CD-only system. They tend to include lots of applications, so users can get almost everything they want right away. At least, this is true in Linux world.
In Internet and network applications, I would like to mention Firefox (version 3.5) and Thunderburd. BSDanywhere also contains mutt (CLI-based mail). Once I got logged in the system as live user, I got a notification in the right-bottom corner saying that I have an e-mail. That was mutt and greetings and informational e-mail from developers. I still remember this style of e-mail clients running on MS-DOS. That was about year 1991. (Yes, I am that old, can you imaging?)
Office applications in BSDanywhere only include Text editor (X File Write) and some viewers, including PDF viewer which I already mentioned.
Graphics section of menu contains only one application for image viewing.
Audio section again only contains one application. This is XMMS player. I was pleasantly surprised by BSDanywhere this time! XMMS player is very similar in design to WinAmp. It is kind of resilient classic for me in terms of multimedia applications, even though I use neither WinAmp itself or Audacious for several years now. Unfortunately, as I alredy mentioned, I had nothing to test XMMS on.
There is no "Video" section at all, unfortunately.
Default (and I believe the only) File manager in BSDanywhere is XFE (X File Explorer).
Accessories section contains Nano editor, xclock and couple of applications for syncronisation and backup.
System tools are widely represented by applications with acronimic names, few of them with clear understandable purpose (like trafshow).
That is almost all for applications included into BSDanywhere. It is not much, is it?
Another positive thing which I would like to mention about BSDanywhere is system performance. Speed is very good, unless CD operations are involved.
If I have an option to look into systems from 2 different worlds, I can compare BSDanywhere with TCL. I have never written about TCL (Tiny Core Linux), but tried to run it few times. Of course, this similarity is only external. BSDanywhere and TCL have very different core. BSDanywhere is based on powerful BSD system where TCL is based on functionally minimized (thus reduced in size) Linux kernel.
Was BSDanywhere run useful for me at all? Yes, I think so. First of all, it let me take off 12-13 years and feel myself fresh graduate again. Then, it gave me another view on Live CD based BSD system. Even though I could not do much from this OS, I still learnt something new. Thank you, BSDanywhere for this chance!


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