NomadBSD on your USB…
After spending several years of my life working on developing an OS on a USB stick and owning more USB sticks than any person should, I’ve had an ongoing affinity for OS’s running off a USB Stick with a persistent storage area.
There is something quite nice knowing on my Keychain there is an Encrypted Ubuntu 22.04 OS which I can boot off on most PC’s (USB stick has USB3 and USB C on it) which is set up just the way I like it with all my VPN’s, Tools and Documents syncing down from the cloud if I need it.
I’ve also got a USB Key with https://partedmagic.com/ on it because I’ve had far too many occasions in the last 30 years where I wished I’d had it on me.
Over the last week in a fit of absolute insanity in hindsight I’ve been looking at if there was any possibility of running BSD Desktop on an old 2012 Imac I’ve got.
The long and the short of that is there is, if you like loud fan noise and high power draw.
The idea however lead me to the discovery of Nomad BSD an interesting BSD Distro based on FreeBSD which Runs off a USB Stick (and can install to a Hard disk)
NomadBSD is a persistent live system for USB flash drives, based on FreeBSD ®. Together with automatic hardware detection and setup, it is configured to be used as a desktop system that works out of the box, but can also be used for data recovery, for educational purposes, or to test FreeBSD ®’s hardware compatibility.
I’ll be very upfront here, my BSD skills are basically limited to my Linux skills and I learned very quickly that in many ways the two are the same, but that’s the same as a person from London and a Person from Newcastle speaking English to an American. All three are using the same language but not in an understandable way.
What can I tell you about Nomad?
It’s been updated within the last year at the time of writing the last update was 2022–12–04
It uses FreeBSD 13.1
It boots off a USB Stick
The process itself is pretty easy to get going, after following the instructions on the site and using dd to write the img file to a USB Stick (paying attention here is always useful) you boot your PC from the USB Stick and it runs through its usual BSD setup which is text-heavy (and great, I wish modern OS would let nerds like me see WTF is going on)
Once booted a pretty desktop much like the image above is displayed and you run through a setup where you’ll be asked to create user names, and a few other things, nothing that wasn’t plain English and easy to understand.
Once that’s complete the OS will reboot and you’ll end up with a Login prompt to log in and once that’s done you’ll be using a BSD Desktop from your USB key.
The boot time on the 4 devices I tried it on 2012 Imac, Dell XPS 13 2022, Thinkpad 230 and an HP 2015 2in1 was good. Ranging from 30 seconds to 1:15 from BSD Press enter to the desktop.
The OS itself runs smoothly, with little to no lag on any of the devices and indeed changes I made and files I added were indeed saved between boots.
Unfortunately, and I do mean unfortunately it’s BSD.
That is not an aloof statement, I’ll give you an example of why I say this.
While troubleshooting why the Wifi wasn’t working on the Dell XPS on more than one public forum the answer was in no uncertain terms in posts from 2021. “BSD just doesn’t do Wifi”.
Using it is like stepping back into 1990 world of Linux. Most of what most people could get running in less than 30 minutes on say Ubuntu or Fedora is going to either never work or take you a few weeks of discovery.
If that’s you’re thing then I applaud you, it’s not mine.
This is a nice idea, pretty well implemented, it transfers and runs to a Hard disk easily although without dual-boot. It’s well maintained and I have a lot of respect for the team who maintain it. If you want to learn BSD and I highly recommend you do it you value security and have the time then I’d fully recommend having this on your keychain or even an old eBay bought Thinkpad