Update on my PC-BSD experience. Had let it sit for months but recently had a few weekends to play with it again.
I updated to the latest version. It found my ethernet card! Have not customized anything so as not to shoot self in foot. Learning how to install software various ways. PC-BSD and FreeBSD make this easy! I am very impressed. I have not installed any games or entertainment features.
PF (Packet Filter) was installed with PC-BSD automatically and it is behind a D-Link hardware router/firewall (no wireless option), so I am not worried about security. Yet.
Installed Python with NumPy and SciPy, Vim7.2. My short-term objective is to learn a little Python. Maybe play with Gambas later--like Visual Basic, I gather. I have some technical programs to write that I do not want to commit to a MS product.
Now everything I need to work with is right there when I turn the machine on, including the tutorials, etc. Only problem: no *nix drivers for my Canon i350 printer.
This is getting to be fun.