Does Desktop have a future on BSD?

darkoverlordofdata

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First, the good parts...

The graphic presentation is great. Everything is crisp & clear, fonts are easy to read. Not grainy, like ubuntu.

The gui is rock solid. I always thought Mate was flaky, but on BSD it is rock solid. Combined with the clear graphics, I've discovered that I actually like Mate.

The performance is great. Keeping an eye on htop, I see that it barely uses any cpu, and rarely hits above 1gb memory usage. My old Dell Inspiron i3 has never run this well, and it doesn't degrade over the course of the day.

This all adds up to a great Chrome browser experience, rivaling Chrome-OS. But this is where it starts to break down. My wifi is constantly cutting out. I have to reconnect about every half hour. It's always been rock solid on any linux distro I've used. And after re-installing Arch, the wifi is back to 100%.

Where BSD really falls down is it's third party application support. It's very frustrating. The repo and ports are missing many apps, so I have to go with my 2nd and 3rd choice. That's ok, except they have so many broken features that I spend most of my time monkeying around with workarounds. So it's not a very productive environment.

I'm not trying to compare BSD to Linux - in fact they are almost identical. But these issues were the issues Linux had 10 years go. Maybe worse, or I would still be using Windows. So what I am saying is that it needs a lot of work, and I have not much hope that this will happen - when I research forums and mailing lists for resolutions, I am struck by the attitude of the BSD developers which can be summarize as "it's a server, why are you trying to use it for your desktop?".

Which is a good question. Why am I? An OS is only as good as the software that it can run. I can browse the web, play a few games, and write my shopping list. Unfortunately, until the developers start caring about desktop users, I I think desktop BSD will be little more than a toy.
 

Alain De Vos

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Could you be concrete what do you miss compared to linux or Windows ?. I use freebsd on the desktop and miss nothing.
A part of improvement could be installation. I figured out booting with linux grub was the most easy in my case, but after this very steep learning curve, i miss nothing.
Also one can not force other persons to make a choice. If one says I want to use this or that O.S., who am I ?
Ooh, some hardware drivers would be nice to have. But for this commercial vendors need to see a business case.
I think 1 in 10.000 persons use freebsd and 4 in 10.000 persons use gentoo. This to have an idea.
If wifi is a problem, just put a very cheap wifi dongle into your PC or laptop. It will work fine with freebsd after a little bit of config.
 

Trihexagonal

Son of Beastie

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I think desktop BSD will be little more than a toy.

Here's my toy at 306 days uptime:

the_red_and_the_black.png
 

20-100-2fe

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The same for me, FreeBSD has all I need (Firefox, LibreOffice, Thunderbird, VLC, Calibre and development tools such as Eclipse) in the most recent versions, unlike other BSD flavors.

The only area of improvement I see is also hardware support, but there are plenty of warnings everywhere on this subject as well as recommendations as to which hardware will be best supported, so this is not a surprise and we know what to do about it.

On supported hardware, I'd say there is no difference in terms of desktop functionalities for me between FreeBSD and Linux. But of course, someone with different requirements will have a different opinion.

Furthermore, there's nothing bad with using Linux. I'm still using Void Linux on one machine, though my preference goes to FreeBSD for "spiritual" reasons.
 

shkhln

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when I research forums and mailing lists for resolutions, I am struck by the attitude of the BSD developers which can be summarize as "it's a server, why are you trying to use it for your desktop?"

I don't remember ever seeing such claims from FreeBSD committers. From users, yes, but not developers. FreeBSD as a whole is indeed quite apathetic about desktop, however the project doesn't take any particular position on the matter. It's mostly a consequence of server-related work being partially sponsored (by companies using FreeBSD in production), while desktop is an entirely volunteer-driven effort.
 

Sevendogsbsd

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I have the opposite issue: I am finding apps that were not ported to FreeBSD last year are available now. No issue for me: everything I need is there. No matter what, I would never go back to Windows, despite the availability of apps. There is nothing Windows offers that would ever sway me. My use case is probably different though - not everyone has the same software needs.
 

Sevendogsbsd

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The license is not a deciding factor for me. I don't prefer to use commercial software on an open source platform but I have purchased commercial software for Linux before and still use it. I do look at licenses, but if a piece of software works well, I use it regardless.
 

Hakaba

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I try to install freebsd as desktop env in two laptop.
Nothing is easy compared to a linux install...
But I have a server with zfs/jails and I want a desktop env with jails...
So I failed, I try to understand why, I read a lot, I discover tools, facility, relation between things... Finally, I learn something... That is why I continue to trying the freebsd install on laptop...
 

Hakaba

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My goal here is to answer the question about the «future» of BSD in desktop.
My point is something like : even if it is not easy, I (and maybe I am not alone) will have a FreeBSD as desktop env to learn something and to have FreeBSD features like in my server.
 

Sevendogsbsd

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There are plenty of BSDs out there that will install a desktop for you, along with applications. A new one is FuryBSD, and of course there are GhostBSD and others. FreeBSD does not do any of this for you but it is not difficult, if your hardware is supported.
 

LakeCowabunga

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I thought it would be impossible to install a DE on FreeBSD, but seeing others saying they did it, kept me at it. NOW, that I know WTF I'm doing, it's easy-peasy. But, yes, the developers have pointedly said they don't care bout DE, 'cause it's a server OS. So much so, that they basically forbid discussing derivatives. THAT is the only thing that keeps me from recommending FreeBSD to others. The fact that they aren't wanted here.
 

blackhaz

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Depends on what do you define as future. I've started using FreeBSD since 9.0 and I think the quality of desktop experience on it has been progressively increasing, especially since the new package manager was introduced. The 12.1 is a fantastic system to dwell in.

But, FreeBSD would be struggling to become widespread as a desktop. Among the reasons I see the main issues are:

- Limited hardware support.
- Choice of apps more limited than Linux.
- Apps must package their own libraries. (Average users do not enjoy dependency hells and rolling release schedules.)
- Must come with a sane set of out-of-the-box desktop defaults.
- Limited overall coherency: little stuff like copy-paste between different X apps, connection management and so on...

A typical FreeBSD advocate would probably tell most of this isn't even FreeBSD's problem. Few average users would find this appealing, but maybe that's even to the better.

I found ways to work around this in my environment, and I don't see a better desktop OS alternative to what I do - migrating from Windows and MacOS. There are inconveniences here and there, yes, however, the benefits of being involved in operating your own machine elbows deep outweigh everything.

There are, of course, headwinds, like everything being Linuxified, commercial Unices dying out, so, I guess, BSD developers will have to face increasing struggles with porting complex future software. And sometimes it seems like hardware companies couldn't care less... I sincerely hope, though, the desktop FreeBSD tribe will continue to thrive in its own way.
 

Nicola Mingotti

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ok, this is my 2 cents

i use FreeBSD because i am a control freak, i like to have, at least the impression of, knowing what i am doing. I don't dislikeLinux, in particular, i still have a few Debian server running. But, BSD is a lot better documented.

darkoverlordofdata , are you aware you run almost all Linux soft in FreeBSD? I do it, it works.

Also other BSD are interesting, I have a couple server in OpenBSD, for some stuff it is the best fit IMO.

FreeBSD is well documented, designed, tries to be performant, offers compatibility with Linux, several firewalls, tries nit to shock its users on release change ... i like it.

I run it in a VMWare virtual machine in a mac or a Windows, i change from time to time. The reason is simple, i can't spend days fighting with drivers anymore. i need wifi, audio and possibly the camera to work. I need Microsoft and sometimes CAD, so i simply can't run on metal in the laptop.
 

Trihexagonal

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i use FreeBSD because i am a control freak, i like to have, at least the impression of, knowing what i am doing.

That resonates with me.

I usually ran Debian with LXDE and once I hit the desktop was bored to death with it. The first thing I would do is look at all the programs that came with it by default, most of which I had absolutely no need for. Then put up a wallpaper that was the only thing that distinguished it from every other distro dancer desktop on display. I hate to say it but it's the same with any OS including FreeBSD variants that come pre-rolled with a DE.

With FreeBSD I install the base system and compile all my third party programs from ports because I like having done it myself. I get to choose the programs that suit my needs and end up with a custom desktop like no other, except the other 3 laptops currently running it and the 1 running OpenBSD.

I prefer vintage Thinkpads and currently use a Win7 era Gateway/Acer clone for my multimedia machine so all my hardware is supported. I use my laptops as desktops and run an Ethernet LAN so wi-fi or suspend aren't something that concern me. I'm not lacking any functionality I require from a desktop OS and have all my third party program needs met by the ports tree.

I've seen several devs answer questions from desktop users and have a whole different perspective on that point. So FreeBSD is meant to be a server. All the better IMO. I know how to set it up and work out any problems that arise without asking questions. I don't need anybody to hold my hand or set up my desktop and wouldn't have it any other way.
 

memreflect

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I usually ran Debian with LXDE and once I hit the desktop was bored to death with it. The first thing I would do is look at all the programs that came with it by default, most of which I had absolutely no need for. Then put up a wallpaper that was the only thing that distinguished it from every other distro dancer desktop on display. I hate to say it but it's the same with any OS including FreeBSD variants that come pre-rolled with a DE.
I experienced that same boredom. A large part of what makes FreeBSD so much fun, at least for me, is the tinkering (which the Handbook guides you to enjoy as you wish). I remember seeking out Arch Linux specifically because Debian just didn't feel right. I liked Debian's stability, but eventually I wanted newer software. The more I heard about Arch and heard about the Arch wiki, the more I wanted to install Arch.

Eventually, however, I ran out of things to do, and updating the kernel or init system (and network daemon and DNS resolver and everything else systemd has taken over) every couple of weeks felt wrong somehow. I wanted newer software, but that didn't mean I wanted to possibly break my system while getting that newer software. Sure, I could blacklist those specific update packages, but what if I missed important security patches as a result? FreeBSD is what I wanted--pkg/ports allow me to install things if I wish, and what gets installed is reasonably current.

I don't need anybody to hold my hand or set up my desktop and wouldn't have it any other way.
That's my attitude as well, though it's admittedly not one suited for someone who is obviously at odds with FreeBSD at the current time.
 

memreflect

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My wifi is constantly cutting out. I have to reconnect about every half hour. It's always been rock solid on any linux distro I've used. And after re-installing Arch, the wifi is back to 100%.
FreeBSD has issues with hardware (from what I understand anyway), but I'm not sure it should have caused wifi issues quite like that. Sounds to me more like the driver was buggy, incorrect for your particular wireless device, or simply misconfigured. I'm still a BSD newbie, so I unfortunately can't help much here. pciconf -lv should list the device, and you could check to see if it's supported.

Where BSD really falls down is it's third party application support. It's very frustrating. The repo and ports are missing many apps, so I have to go with my 2nd and 3rd choice. That's ok, except they have so many broken features that I spend most of my time monkeying around with workarounds. So it's not a very productive environment.
I agree that's not very productive. FreeBSD isn't for everybody, but if you could highlight which particular things are giving you trouble instead of being so vague about the issues you're experiencing, that could potentially help you as well as future readers.

I'm not trying to compare BSD to Linux - in fact they are almost identical. But these issues were the issues Linux had 10 years go.
Yes, Linux experienced the same issues. And gradually a majority of those issues were fixed by people who wanted them fixed. FreeBSD needs people to contribute code in the same way. Without that support, things don't get fixed very quickly!

I can browse the web, play a few games, and write my shopping list. Unfortunately, until the developers start caring about desktop users, I I think desktop BSD will be little more than a toy.
Well, I like my toys, but I get your point.

But consider this: you ran Arch for a reason. You didn't choose Debian for its stability, and you weren't running Gentoo because you enjoy customizing things like your Linux kernel, how software is installed, etc. You chose Arch. Why? What about it made it feel right for you?

In other words, identify what your needs are (hardware, software, and workflow), then ask if FreeBSD is right for you based on those needs. If there's one thing you've learned, it's that not every OS is created equal. You learned it when you moved to Linux, and you've now re-learned that lesson by switching from Linux to FreeBSD. Despite their Unix heritage, they are very much different beasts. (In fact, it could be called a mistake to consider them nearly the same in the first place as GNU/Linux is mostly based on AT&T's Unix such as System V, which differs from BSD in a number of ways, but I digress.)

Also ask yourself why you decided to completely obliterate Arch and install FreeBSD in the first place. Why vanilla FreeBSD instead of something more desktop-oriented like NomadBSD, FuryBSD, etc.?
 

drhowarddrfine

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Another one of these threads, eh? Same response from me. I've been running a FreeBSD desktop since version 5.0 on both a laptop and workstation so these threads questioning the ability of BSD to run the same desktop software Linux has is beyond my comprehension. (Mine was Gnome back then but I use i3 now).
 

Nicola Mingotti

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Another one of these threads, eh?

It is kind of a welcoming thread for potential new users;)

I must say Linux compatibility is there, but it is not the easiest thing to use. Also, new users don't probably know our great Handbook and are not aware they can dig a lot of stuff out of this forum looking at past questions. so, well, we must repeat :)
 

Trihexagonal

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Eventually, however, I ran out of things to do, and updating the kernel or init system (and network daemon and DNS resolver and everything else systemd has taken over) every couple of weeks felt wrong somehow.

It take about 24 hours to compile ports, edit system files and tweak programs to get one of my desktops set up. Once I'm done it's rock-solid till the next version bump is released about a year later, then I reinstall the new version from scratch. I've never had a problem where my system didn't boot right back up after running # freebsd-update fetch and after you've used ports a while you can tell what needs to be done to work through any problems.

That's my attitude as well, though it's admittedly not one suited for someone who is obviously at odds with FreeBSD at the current time.

I struggled to figure a lot of things out and think almost everyone does, or has at some point. The difference is some people stick with it and succeed. Others get frustrated and find a reason to give up and go back to the disco of their choice. It's never their fault though.
 

CraigHB

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Same feelings here, FreeBSD is designed for customization. Open the hood and get in elbows deep. There are few operating systems that provide that kind of flexibility. Of course for desktop use there are things you sometimes have to work around and sometimes there are obstacles or limitations. Desktop use is not a primary objective for FreeBSD like it is for Linux so you have to accept that.
 

Sevendogsbsd

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I have to add that despite FreeBSD being designed for customization and requiring user work after the base install, it is still (in my opinion) far easier than Slackware or Gentoo Linux. Actually for me, I find Gentoo far easier than Slackware but that is another topic. FreeBSD is actually for me, a very easy OS install and even user software configuration and install. Where I have issues, or had rather, was thumb drive plugin/automount and the recent Intel video driver breakage. Vermaden's automount solves the thumb drive issue but since I am not using FreeBSD as a desktop right now, not sure if the Intel video issue in 12.1 is resolved.

If Steam ran natively (without jumping through hoops), I may switch back as a desktop, but I am happy running Void Linux for the moment.
 

SirDice

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Where BSD really falls down is it's third party application support. It's very frustrating. The repo and ports are missing many apps, so I have to go with my 2nd and 3rd choice. That's ok, except they have so many broken features that I spend most of my time monkeying around with workarounds. So it's not a very productive environment.
Third party applications (aka ports) are community driven. Applications don't "magically" appear in the ports tree. Somebody has to take the time and put in the effort to create a port for it. Then that person also has to keep it maintained. FreeBSD only maintains the ports structure and makes sure it does what it's supposed to do. Individual ports are, for the most part, maintained by volunteers.
 
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