October 5, 2007

A desktop operating system that’s easy to use.

Filed under: bsd,thetao — SiKing @ 3:04 pm

The last planned system to evaluate is DesktopBSD, version 1.6RC2. It is the only one out of the list that is non-production ready. I want to stress: there is no particular reason why this one is last it just came out that way.

First impressions: not a very original name , easy to navigate website with the user in mind, “a customized FreeBSD installation not a fork”, forums are active and people actually contribute, several mirrors and bittorrents available.

The installer

Number one item: I first tried version 1.6RC3, but that one could not get past “X server configured successfully”. After a recommendation I downgraded to RC2.

Download, burn, boot. Came up the first time into a fully graphical environment. Not only that, it was able to get a better resolution out of my graphics card than I had been able to get out of any other distro, Linux or otherwise. Like WOW! 30 seconds worth of straight-forward simple questions, followed by 30 minute install (I did not actually time it, it’s just my impression). There was even “use some sensible default in all available free space” disk partitioning option. After reboot, there is a bit of configuration: new users, root password, etc. Not one mention anywhere of network configuration (DHCP in my case), but the machine does come up Internet-ready.

So far, I am in awe.

Package management

“With its graphical package manager, DesktopBSD offers a simple way to install, upgrade and uninstall software using FreeBSD’s package collection (called “ports”). There are about 16.000 packages currently available.”

It took me a moment to find the graphical package manager – built into the KDE Control Center. Only afterwards I noticed the obvious icon labelled “Software” on the desktop. It asked me for the root password, as it should, which tells me that DesktopBSD also does not do sudo. First time I ran it, it told me a whole bunch of information explained in plain-English terms, and updated the portsnap. After starting up, it automatically first checks for current security issues.

One of the ports that is not installed right off the CD is – a sensible decision considering the thing’s size: a good first test for the package manager. To start I boldly ignored all the warnings and advice the package manager was telling me, and jumped straight into installing OpenOffice. My first few attempts (OOo-2-RC, OOo-2, and lastly ooo-build) were all met with failures. OK, so what was it it was actually telling me: update all installed packages, install security updates. Right. Most of the packages updated correctly, some failed since they are apparently no longer available!?!? OOo was among the failures. Update package list, and try again. Same result. I am not familiar enough with the Ports system to be able to resolve this right now. But at least the graphical package manager seems to be a good app. About the only complain that I have, is that it has to restart every time it completes an update of anything – it would be nice if it had to restart only if it updates pieces of itself.

If I switch to this system this is definitely going to take some getting used to, but I shall be brave.

Software support

First off my *NIX tools. Default and industry standard user shell is bash! Points there for D-BSD. I don’t get what is with all the other *BSD guys pushing all the [c-z]sh; they are interesting alternatives but not a choice default. D-BSD was missing GNU-awk (it has nawk), but all my other *NIX tools that I need were there.

D-BSD comes with Firefox preinstalled and working with no configuration. Oddly, I noticed some (but not all!) of the same rendering problems that I saw with FF/PC-BSD. One thing that I ran into a little later, which is not immediately obvious, is that it comes with the American version, which uses inches when defining things like print settings. This is gonna hafta change, if I am going to use this as my full-time system.

Thunderbird had to be installed extra. During the install I noticed the description in the package manager told me the latest is, but it downloaded, and complained that it is not the latest. No idea how to convince it to download the latest. Again, I am dismissing this as user-error. But TBird worked just fine after the install for all my stuff: IMAP, POP3, SMTP, and NNTP.

Gaim, preinstalled, worked with no problems.

For toonz, D-BSD comes preinstalled with Noatun and Kaboodle. The only difference between the two, as far as I could tell, is that Noatun could play MP3s (or anything else) even over smb:, whereas Kaboodle had to have them served up locally.

As I mentioned before failed to install. I will blindly assume that the problem in this case is on my end, specifically with my serious lack of knowledge of the Ports system.

Overall, major points in this area!

Browsing shares

As was already mentioned, browsing my Windows shares worked and it worked with no configuration. I even found where to store my Windows login credentials so that Samba does not bother me with it every time.

External devices

My Seagate disk (two partitions: ext3 and fat32) worked … sorta. D-BSD detected my ext3 partition as type ext2; from what little I know about this, I think this should work. I was able to read / write to both partitions.

DesktopBSD could not, unfortunately, figure out my Nokia. It thought it found four partitions, which there aren’t, none of which could be mounted, of course.

Good enough for my work.


As mentioned, I have access only to a network printer. I went through the KDE Printer Wizard, set it up as a TCP printer, and the test page got dumped out. I did not mess around with all the double sided, booklet printing. That is more of a KDE / drivers type of thing, rather than BSD type of thing. Also, it’s Friday, and I’m feeling lazy.

Good enough for my work.


Guys, what is with the Windows XP look-alike dressing? That is gonna have to be the first thing to go!

One curious thing that I did notice: I found the system rather unresponsive on-par with a liveCD, but that could be just my perception.

Final thought: I found my next workstation OS!


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