Other Desktop environments with best support moving forward

scrappywan

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I have been pondering for a while now which desktop environment FreeBSD users consider the best choice for today and in the future. It looks as though desktop environments created primarily for Linux such as Gnome and KDE may become more difficult, if not impossible to keep up to date for FreeBSD due to systemd integration and other Linux technologies from what I understand. If this is the case, will there eventually be a total divergence of certain Linux desktops from which FreeBSD is able to port? Perhaps Lumina desktop is the only full-featured DE we can count on to be fully supported by FreeBSD in 5 years. Anywho, I look forward to the feedback.
 

Maxnix

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Personally, and I think a lot of FreeBSD users do the same, I don't use a full-featured DE; but only a window manager (cwm to be precise). However, regarding the support for the most Linux-centric DE like KDE or GNOME, IIRC there was the possibility of a systemd compatibility layer (even for Linux distros that don't use systemd as their init), but I'm not sure.
 
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scrappywan

scrappywan

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Personally, and I think a lot of FreeBSD users do the same, I don't use a full-featured DE; but only a window manager (cwm to be precise). However, regarding the support for the most Linux-centric DE like KDE or GNOME, IIRC there was the possibility of a systemd compatibility layer (even for Linux distros that don't use systemd as their init), but I'm not sure.

I have considered going the window manager route and it probably makes more sense (for me, anyway) to use a window manager over a full-blown desktop environment. Will have to explore that option more closely. Thanks!
 

kpedersen

Son of Beastie

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I understand your thoughts exactly. I am always in the same boat when dealing with DE/WMs

What will help with future maintainability and reduced breakages is picking something with a small number of and stable dependencies.
Go to https://www.freebsd.org/ports/ and type in a bunch of DE names:

Gnome has a frightening 592 dependencies hahaha
Xfce4 has 243 which is still a sh*tload.
Lxde has 194 which is still too many for something that should only need a GUI toolkit and nothing more.

Lets look at non Gtk+ / Qt DEs...

CDE has 41 and looking at them they are pretty much just X11's standard packages, with motif. Nice!
What is also nice with CDE is that the entire desktop is in one source tarball and is very easy to build.
I personally like the look but I realize it does look a bit dated. It however has stood the test of time and is likely to outlive many current desktops so if that is important to you, I say go for it. Something that has good support moving forward is bound to look dated one day anyway.

Or... make the UNIX terminal your desktop and you only need a dependence on XTerm (which comes with X11). It sounded stupid to me at first too but learning to be comfortable at a command line is the most useful thing I have done. It has arguably one of the best text editors there (vi) and along with tmux, it provides multiple "windows". This will likely be around longer than our lifespan too if you want something looking forward ;)
 
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scrappywan

scrappywan

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I understand your thoughts exactly.

What will help with future maintainability and reduced breakages is picking something with low / stable dependencies.
Go to https://www.freebsd.org/ports/ and type in a bunch of DE names:

Gnome has a frightening 592 dependencies hahaha
Xfce4 has 243 which is still a sh*tload.
Lxde has 194 which is still too many for something that should only need a GUI toolkit and nothing more.

Lets look at non Gtk+ / Qt DEs...

CDE has 41 and looking at them they are pretty much just X11's standard packages, with motif. Nice!
What is also nice with CDE is that the entire desktop is in one source tarball and is very easy to build.
I personally like the look but I realize it does look a bit dated. It however has stood the test of time and is likely to outlive many current desktops so if that is important to you, I say go for it. Something that has good support moving forward is bound to look dated one day anyway.

Or... make the UNIX terminal your desktop and you only need a dependence on XTerm (which comes with X11). It sounded stupid to me at first too but learning to be comfortable at a command line is the most useful thing I have done. It has arguably one of the best text editors there (vi) and along with tmux, it provides multiple "windows". This will likely be around longer than our lifespan too if you want something looking forward ;)

Thank you for your response and clarity of the topic. :)

While I am fairly proficient in the terminal and use it practically everyday, having a DE or WM will always come in handy for certain tasks and conveniences. I recently began (as in two days ago) getting my feet wet with i3 WM. While there is a slight learning curve for Window Managers, I feel this might actually suit me better.
 

kpedersen

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Yep, that is probably a good choice. Most WMs only have one or two dependencies and can be maintained pretty easily.

One slight snag is if Wayland ever becomes a replacement for X11. Pretty much all existing window managers will have to run in an isolated compatibility layer (XWayland) unless they are to be rewritten. However, I think any worry about this is jumping the gun. I honestly feel that Wayland will die off before FreeBSD ever needs to or gets round to migrating to it ;)
 

jb_fvwm2

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I seem to recall reading that wayland is difficult to enable a scrot [screenshot tool] vs say, Xorg.
 

kpedersen

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I seem to recall reading that wayland is difficult to enable a scrot [screenshot tool] vs say, Xorg.

Yeah, Wayland poses a couple of problems. The biggest one for me is remote desktop / programs. With Wayland the best you can get is a VNC kind of stream (slow).
But since it is the Gui toolkits that will target Xorg vs Wayland, so long as we compile (i.e Gtk+) to target X11. We can likely avoid Wayland long enough for it to disappear once the kids realize it isn't trendy any more :)
 

scottro

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If you make use of ImageMagick, instead of scrot, you can use its (ImageMagick's) import command.
import myscreen.jpg

Then, your mouse cursor turns into an X and you can select a section, or all, of the screen. Click the mouse, and you have your screenshot.
ImageMagick has a lot of dependencies, and those trying to keep a lean system wouldn't want it just to take screenshots, but I mention this in case you have it for one of its other many uses.

All that being said, back to the subject of Wayland, I think Fedora is one of the few using it by default, and it's still buggy. They're only using it by default if you use Gnome, but I haven't been keeping up with it.
 

Trihexagonal

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I have considered going the window manager route and it probably makes more sense (for me, anyway) to use a window manager over a full-blown desktop environment. Will have to explore that option more closely. Thanks!

I used KDE and Gnome when I started using Linux but that's been years ago. When I used PC-BSD I used what I think was Windowlab or some archaic WM. When I started using FreeBSD I discovered Fluxbox and that's what I've used for the past 12 years. You can write your own styles on a text editor to match the colors of your wallpaper and the menu is edited with a text editor and accessed by right-clicking the desktop.

I honestly don't know what advantage a DE has over it. It's simplicity and functionality at its finest IMHO, with 34 dependencies.

I use The GIMP a lot and do my screenshots from that.
 

sko

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IIRC there was the possibility of a systemd compatibility layer (even for Linux distros that don't use systemd as their init)

"was" is probably the right term here. With the way systemd polluted and replaced a lot of subsytems within the linux ecosystem, a compatibility layer would most likely be a similarly huge, ugly, monolithic beast just like systemd itself.
It took the devuan project 2 years to remove systemd from debian and a lot of desktop-related stuff doesn't work because of hard dependencies on systemd or the weird/broken ways it handles some things.

If linux keeps diverging from the relatively UNIX-like way it once was, I don't think it will be feasible (or even desirable) to keep porting linux-specific DEs to BSD or other UNIXes. But we'll see if this really happens - Linus Torvalds seems to get upset about systemd more and more often, so I'd spare some popcorn for when he eventually explodes and tears down the whole systemd house of cards ;)

BOT: I use TrueOS with Lumina on my desk- and laptops and I really like how slim and fast it is. Customization is relatively simple, especially compared to KDE, and it integrates really well into the FreeBSD ecosystem, also on the user-side with tools like lifepreserver for ZFS snapshots/replication or the ipfw GUI frontend.
 

Maxnix

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Linus Torvalds seems to get upset about systemd more and more often, so I'd spare some popcorn for when he eventually explodes and tears down the whole systemd house of cards ;).
If all of this was up to Linus, Poettering would have been kicked off a long time ago. Unfortunately, Poettering is backed by RedHat and we all know how much influence it has in the Linux world. Let's even consider that the "power" of systemd is the pervasiveness it gained in the Linux ecosystem, so that even if Torvalds would choose to don't care of working around systemd mistakes anymore it could be practically obliged to prevent all the problems that will affect (at least) major distros like Debian, Fedora, CentOS..., since Lennart (how usual...) care nothing about the consequences of his work.
 
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scrappywan

scrappywan

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If all of this was up to Linus, Poettering would have been kicked off a long time ago. Unfortunately, Poettering is backed by RedHat and we all know how much influence it has in the Linux world. Let's even consider that the "power" of systemd is the pervasiveness it gained in the Linux ecosystem, so that even if Torvalds would choose to don't care of working around systemd mistakes anymore it could be practically obliged to prevent all the problems that will affect (at least) major distros like Debian, Fedora, CentOS..., since Lennart (how usual...) care nothing about the consequences of his work.

From what I've read about Lennart Poettering, in his mind, the software he creates is always fine—it's the end users who are the problem. The recent systemd bug allowing root access to users with names starting with a number such as '0day' was downplayed by Lennart because these invalid usernames were being created with system tools which allowed for invalid usernames to be created in the first place. Therefore, it shouldn't be on him to fix systemd even though this systemd exploit allows an invalid username to gain root access which is by no means a sane or safe default for handling such an issue.
 

Beastie

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If you make use of ImageMagick, instead of scrot, you can use its (ImageMagick's) import command.
import myscreen.jpg

Then, your mouse cursor turns into an X and you can select a section, or all, of the screen. Click the mouse, and you have your screenshot.
ImageMagick has a lot of dependencies, and those trying to keep a lean system wouldn't want it just to take screenshots, but I mention this in case you have it for one of its other many uses.
FYI, there's a 15 year old fork of graphics/ImageMagick with very few dependencies called graphics/GraphicsMagick.
The two have many commands in common, with the former having them as separate binaries and the latter as a single binary with separate commands.
And by the way, import has some very interesting options that allow its use without a mouse:
Screenshot of the root window: import -window root test1.png
Screenshot of a specific window: import -frame -window 0x1200022 test2.png
Screenshot of a specific window but this time without any decorations: import -window 0x1200022 test3.png
 

Maxnix

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FYI, there's a 15 year old fork of graphics/ImageMagick with very few dependencies called graphics/GraphicsMagick.
The two have many commands in common, with the former having them as separate binaries and the latter as a single binary with separate commands.
And by the way, import has some very interesting options that allow its use without a mouse:
Screenshot of the root window: import -window root test1.png
Screenshot of a specific window: import -frame -window 0x1200022 test2.png
Screenshot of a specific window but this time without any decorations: import -window 0x1200022 test3.png
Or if you have graphics/imlib2 installed, you can use imlib2_grab to take a screenshot of your screen entirely. :)
(P.S. thanks for the tip on graphics/GraphicsMagick :))
 

George_ember

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For me the biggest problem isn't the window manager. The problem is that after installing a window manager you struggle to find a FileManager / terminal etc without a lot of dependencies, without be part of a Desktop Environment and with their functionality. Xfce4 or gnome screenshot for example have the possibility to take screenshot of a specific area. I can't find any other alternative to do that. The same exist on File Managers too. There are a lot. But none have the functionality of Thunar or Nautilus. I believe that Lumina Desktop is the only future Desktop Environment on FreeBSD even if the Desktop Environment i like is Gnome3. Also I don't like that Lumina Desktop is QT based. I would like to be written in gtk3. But this is not something serious.
 

Trihexagonal

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The problem is that after installing a window manager you struggle to find a FileManager / terminal etc without a lot of dependencies...

I've been away for a while but saw where you got a new user name. Good to see you. :)

Eterm and Xfe are what I like best and always keep an instance of them open and scrolled on my desktop for easy access.

Eterm has native transparency and 25 dependencies. That in itself is enough for me.

Xfe has 45 dependencies, several different color schemes to choose from and everything I look for in a file manager. I've used several others when Xfe had a short-lived vulnerability. None of them appealed to me like Xfe does, although I do have Midnight Commander installed, too.
 

George_ember

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I used rxvt-unicode with Thunar. I know PCManFM and Xfe and I used them in the past. But always I feel that something is missing. I don't feel as good as when I see Nautilus or Caja or Thunar. I have used almost any Window manager and I can do my job everywhere. Just i am not so productive. In the end is a desktop machine. FreeBSD on its own has limitations. At least to have some integration on desktop. So I prefer to use Desktop environments. Not something specific. The most updated every time. I used Xfce4, Lumina Desktop and now I use Mate. When Gnome3 will be updated, I will go to Gnome3 witch is my preferred too :) My computer is 9 years old (I will buy a server specific for FreeBSD as desktop soon). When I see sometimes that struggles with dependencies and huge compiles, I return to Window Managers for a period of time :)
 

Trihexagonal

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My computer is 9 years old (I will buy a server specific for FreeBSD as desktop soon).

When I find something that works for me I tend to stick with it and have all my machines set up the same with Fluxbox.

All my machines are Windows 7 vintage or older. I discovered a new love for Thinkpads, have a W520, T61 and X61. My brother-in-law gave me the Gateway laptop I'm in now because they dropped a can of beans or something on it and borked the HDD. He was going to throw it away and my sister said I might like to have it. :) I hated to tell him I put a new 1TB HDD in it for about $50 but he was OK with it.
 
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