Good news everyone! I was able to install TrueOS on the correct hard drive and get it to boot, first try. The text in the installation GUI was hard to read because the resolution was incorrect but I was able to identify the proper hard drive and roll it out.
Once booted I had to learn the hard way that my AMD HD7870 Tahiti LE is not supported. I read that the “radeon” driver should work for my GPU but when I clicked apply I got colorful vertical lines that burned my monitor. After the timeout the screen didn’t reappear as expected. I had to hard boot and the vertical lines persisted through BIOS, text mode and various graphics modes. I was concerned that the damage was permanent but it appears to have mostly faded.
On the next boot I selected vesa so I could just move on. I figured I could always update the graphics driver later. When I got to the screen where you enter the hostname I learned that my Corsair gaming keyboard isn’t supported either. It’s not just that the mapping was wrong, I tried many options. I pressed each button in order and learned that multiple keys would result in the same characters. I could only type the characters “emu3an]i”. I think the “m” key turned on the numlock. I’ve never seen anything like this in my 26 years of computing. I plugged in an old keyboard and I was able to move past that.
When I finally got to the desktop I was seriously underwhelmed. The way windows behave and the options available from the menu are really not ready for prime time. There isn’t even a terminal anywhere in sight where I could escape from this bland, functionless GUI.
I want to get this going but there are just too many hardware problems and I don’t have enough time. I’m going to have to go back to Linux but I wanted to make a report of my strange experience. That radeon driver is dangerous.