Will TrueOS pass the parent/grandparent hassle-free test?


Next month I will be visiting my parents and within that visit I plan on replacing my dad’s current PC—a REALLY OLD Gateway desktop with a slightly more modern Dell PC circa 2010. Being that my parents live nearly 400 miles (640 km) from me in a somewhat secluded area with a crappy internet connection, I need an OS running on that replacement PC that will be very stable during updates e.g., software not breaking and the OS booting correctly after updates.

My first thought was to use Fedora or Ubuntu. They both have automatic updates (very important for my dad). They run modern software and are reasonably stable and easy to use. Thing is, I don’t trust Linux as a reasonably trouble-free desktop OS. I’ve used various Linux flavors over the years on the desktop and server to not trust it with my parents.

Second option is a *BSD based desktop. FreeBSD is my preferred BSD and in the past I have ran vanilla FreeBSD with Gnome and i3-WM. While vanilla FreeBSD is very stable as an everyday desktop, not having an interactive GUI update manager makes it a poor choice for my parents. I don’t believe teaching them how to run freebsd-update and pkg update/upgrade in the terminal is going to happen. Therefore, TrueOS would be the logical choice. On paper it is what I want. However, in the past I have ran into various stability issues/breakage while trying to use TrueOS myself. Granted, most problems I’ve had were while running TrueOS in a VM which may have contributed to my issues. For a while I used TrueOS on my laptop, but the wireless network manager was extremely wonky. I finally gave up and went to Fedora.

The third option which I suspect is going to be an unpopular choice among many members here is to run Windows 10. I already have it activated on this Dell PC so I can always install it at no cost. In my own experience, Windows 10 has been nothing but reliable on my own PC during the past two years which to me places it ahead of Linux and possibly TrueOS. So the question really comes down to: TrueOS or Windows? Can I rely on TrueOS to be trouble-free for my dad since me having to coming out there and fix something is not a viable option? I guess what I’m trying to ask here is how reliable has TrueOS been for you and would you be comfortable installing it on your parent’s PC if fixing something required a six hour drive?


I’m quite sure that you could have TrueOS work for your parents so long as they’re not doing anything fancy and don’t need to install software themselves, but from the perspective of someone like your parents, it’s basically just another Linux distro, so whether it’s going to work well for your parents is likely going to boil down to how you feel about updates and how TrueOS manages them. Boot environments help considerably in being able to have and run a stable system, but there’s still a certain amount of technical knowledge required to deal with this stuff. It’s certainly possible to have someone who isn’t technically savvy use TrueOS or Linux and have it work, but I’d expect updates to be a pain point on all of them. They’re really not that hard, but they’re hard enough (especially if anything goes wrong) that they’re really not completely hands-off. So, whether it’s reasonable depends heavily on the folks using it and how easy it is for you to help them when they need it. If you’re not comfortable having your parents use a Linux distro, I very much doubt that TrueOS will be acceptable. No, they’re not the same, but at high level, interacting with TrueOS is basically just like interacting with yet another Linux distro - especially if you’re using the same DE in both.

Honestly, if I were in your position, I’d look at trying to get something set up that allowed me to use TeamViewer or something similar to control the box remotely, allowing me to fix most problems without driving 6 hours. AFAIK, unfortunately, TeamViewer doesn’t work on any BSD, but it does work on Windows, MacOS, and Linux. So, unless someone can suggest an alternative that works on FreeBSD/TrueOS, I’d suggest going with whichever of those three OSes you’d feel most comfortable having your parents use.

In general though, I would suggest avoiding Windows simply because of the security problems. Aside from that, I’d probably recommend it over TrueOS or Linux for someone like your parents due to familiarity and how it is aimed more at folks who have no clue what they’re doing, but the security issues put you at a real risk of having to help your parents after they’ve managed to thoroughly infect their computer with who knows what, potentially resulting in more 6 hour drives than an occasional update gone wrong might do.

Mac OS is probably the best OS in general for folks who have no clue what they’re doing, but it’s obviously not cheap.


put STABLE on it, and they should be good to go.

Functions similar to windos 7.

Unless they need windos specific programs, they should be good to go


An important question to ask is, if there are friends or neighbours close to your relatives, who are using personal computers themselves. If yes, they could be helpful, would you chose an operating system which they are familiar with.


Well, of course the best solution is to figure out how to make all of this someone else’s problem. :wink:


The other thing about TrueOS that nobody has mentioned yet is SysAdm.

If you create a separate administrator account on the system and open up the port for the sysadm server, you can easily “remote control” their system from your own TrueOS system/SysAdm client by logging in with that user. That will let you handle thing like updates, rolling back a boot environment, and other options for them from the comfort of your own home.


Windows security has always been cause for concern and reason enough to avoid Windows in general if you’re not a tech-savvy user. I am not so sure my dad wouldn’t fall for some phishing scam email directing him to install malware in disguise of a flash player plugin. Windows 10 has come a long way in terms of security, but I still don’t know if I could trust a 70 year old with little technical experience to not infect the machine somehow. Unfortunately, Windows is probably the easiest choice in terms of ease-of-use and the ability for it to mostly take care of itself.


Good point. I’ll have to look into that.


Doubtful. Most of their neighbors are old people. They may have some friends with basic knowledge of Windows but that’s about it. I’m usually their go-to for tech stuff.


I have replaced all my computers at home with TrueOS. My 7 year old’s laptop is a TrueOS machine, pretty much functional for him, but he has trouble with some stuff.

I tried putting a VM because he’s getting more advance, and certain things don’t work in TrueOS. Scratch didn’t work on TrueOS I suspect it’s because it requires flash player (Not TrueOS’s fault). Tynker didn’t work on there, Lego Mindstorms didn’t work on there, and that is also not TrueOS’s fault. I tried installing a (learn multiplication) game with PlayOnBSD since the VM wouldn’t install and that did not work ( I later found out it’s related to the video driver). I had to use a separate computer that did install on PlayOnBSD (and the video card was supported). I ended up having to dualboot his laptop with Windows8.1

I don’t like Microsoft, and I can do without. My child can’t, he needs to be able to run programs and 99% of the programs run in Windows. It’s terrible and insecure, but developers never want to write programs for the nerds using FreeBSD. In fact it wasn’t until Kris Moore had the novel idea of bringing it to less technically inclined people (still requires some degree of technical skill though) that some of us, (like me for example) were able to use it. It’s far easier than running Vanilla FreeBSD, but more complicated than running Windows.

Security feautures are nice, and that is what attracts most of us to any of the *BSD’s or derivatives like TrueOS. I’m sure both my 7 year old child, and your parents don’t care about “Security.”

You want something that just works without intervention out of the box and 99% of everything will work on? Go with Windows.

You want Security and reliability, Lumina, AutoFS, and SysAdm?.. Stick with TrueOS, it comes at a cost. You have to have at least a little technical experience, you will have to look for alternatives because nobody really cares about the “nerds in their basement” using *BSD

I’m still looking for alternatives to those4 things if anyone has any suggestions.

  1. Timez Attack (multiplication game)
  2. Scratch
  3. Tynker
  4. Lego mindstorms

When I said “Developers” I meant the developers that only write/test their software on Windows and say it’s good.

I did not mean people Like Ken Moore, which wrote the very first BSD Desktop environment from the ground up, because it didn’t exist. We were mostly borrowing from Linux, and Ken did the BSD community a huge service by writing the first DE on for and by BSD people.

Allan Jude
Kris Moore
Poul Henning Kamp
Theo De Raadt
Colin Percival
et. al.

This are all awesome developers. I was going to throw in Dru Lavigne, and Micheal Lucas’s name in there, but I don’t think they are developers. Still huge pillars of the BSD community though.


I kind of feel the same about Windows in that it’s often a necessary evil to get things done on the desktop unless a user’s needs are: relatively narrow, specialized for a certain OS, or simply undemanding. My dad falls into the undemanding use case scenario where TrueOS might be a good match. My biggest concern by far is that a system update doesn’t leave his computer in an unbootable state, leaving me with no remote access.


In that case, all it takes is selecting the previous boot environment in the bootloader to get back to the previous boot environment, at which point you could remote in and do stuff. But it would require that someone there select the correct boot environment when booting. If you go that route, I would suggest tweaking the bootloader settings so that it takes longer before booting. IIRC, it’s only something like 5 seconds by default, in which case, I’d expect it to be problematic for your dad to deal with it even if all he needs to do is use the arrow key to go down by one and then hit enter.


@zskwrel can you give a little more details as to what the system will be used for? If just general browsing the web, doing email, viewing videos, then TrueOS can be a very good alternative.
Qupzilla works for the majority of websites, Firefox is a “known” alternative. Thunderbird is another well known email program, VLC works well for videos. Anything requiring Flash may be a problem, but even at that Chrome/Chromium is yet another alternative.
Lumina is a good desktop, keep things simple. Don’t forget “accessibility” features that come in handy for older folks.

System Updates. Just because one is available, doesn’t mean it needs to be applied. STABLE is on a 6 month schedule, you can time trips to visit that coincide with a release :slight_smile:

Can you set up/bring a new system and let him/them play around with it for a while before actually switching them over? Tell them they are “taking a test drive”.


@mer My dad’s requirements are: Internet browser, email, Office suite like LibreOffice, Tetris, and Solitaire. I don’t think any of the sports news sites he visits requires Flash player so hopefully that won’t ever be a problem. If I go with TrueOS, the Stable branch is definitely what I’d set it to. I also plan on bringing my recently retired Supermicro 1U server running FreeNAS to their place to setup as a backup and media server. I’ll make sure to download several iso images to experiment with if needed.


To me, that sounds like a good plan. Wait for the December STABLE; it’ll pick up all the little bits of goodness from the current UNSTABLE (which has been very stable for me).
If you currently have a TrueOS system, visit his sports sites and see how they behave.
ClawsMail is a good alternative to Thunderbird, Aisle Riot Solitare works pretty well (conflicts with GnuCash), there are a bunch of different Mahjongg versions in AppCafe. LibreOffice works well (for me at least); if he is going to print, do research on the model of printer and CUPS support beforehand.


Not to discount SysAdm, but is there anything that it can do that you couldn’t simply do via ssh? Doesn’t it just provide a graphical interface to specific system administration tools on either your current system or another system running TrueOS?


Dear friend,

I don’t know how old your parents are and how much knowledge they have about computers, operating systems, computer apps and TCP/IP. I will be 65 this year, going on 70, and I don’t have any problems with the so called computing devices. And no, I don’t have computer science degree, and I was never involved, professionally, with IT industry. Tho, I’ve made TCP/IP networking, Personal Computer hardware and PC level applications one of my hobbies, at the age of 45. Moreover, I and my friends, ranging from 15 to 70 years old, are kicking ass on that net while PC gaming with SLI set-ups and use apps that you had never heard of. Many of us (the olden enthusiasts) utilize Unix-like OS(s) and contribute to Open Source software since early ‘90’s. But, most of us do not use Facebook or some other dumb-ass social connectivity services/apps, which are all remakes of the same old shit with a different scripting framework and look, over the same broken, almost 40 years old, TCP/IP.

I’m almost sure that your parents would get the hang of the BS-CS/IT science in no time, if you think that you rly know what you know and are able to explain howto, in a coherent way, to your parents or others - no matter which consumer digital device, OS or app.
Just because your parents are older, it doesn’t mean that they can’t learn new things. I taught my old dog, that I adopted from an abusive environment, new tricks. And, he gets smarter every day, just like I - lol.



Acknowledging the fact that the OP’s parents are capable of understanding any particular piece of technology, or capable of using it, is not the same as saying that they want to or that they will do so. Being able to learn [new things in general] does not equal wanting to learn [this particular thing at this particular time].


Of course SSH access will let you do anything/everything on a remote computer, but if you don’t want to have to remember all the various intricacies/difference between your system and some remote system that you rarely access, then SysAdm is a perfect solution.

SysAdm is basically just the graphical “control panel” that you use for your local TrueOS system, but pointing at some remote system instead - so the options that are available will change a bit (including how they function) depending on the version of the remote system and which [sub]systems are available there.


As someone who has lived abroad and maintained my parents computers (and PCs of other elderly people), I assure you your best bet is to go buy a brand new PC with Windows 10 and stop f’ing around because you will pay for it with hours and hours of time and constant complaints from your parents. Warranties and support contracts are your best friend. Buy an extended warranty and your good for 3 years.

This isn’t a maybe: mark my words. I tried twice with PC-BSD and my mother just refused to use the computer after a while. :smile: