Does Desktop have a future on BSD?

hunter0one

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I'm having an awesome time using FreeBSD as a desktop. Yes, ports come and go, but you always have the freedom to revive an application you want if someone in the community hasn't already (like how I'm using a new SeaMonkey port).

Everything I've tried works out of the box or tells you how to make it work. The documentation and support for FreeBSD blows any Linux distro out of the water in my experience.

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

A toy I use every day, thankful to be away from the so-called "distro dance".
 

Aeterna

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I doubt it.
First of I have seen arguments that try to make difference between desktop OS and laptop OS. So lets make it clear:
Desktop operating system is the main control program in a user’s desktop or laptop computer, also known as client operating system.
from
https://sites.google.com/site/operatingsystems10/home/desktop
However for the sake of argument let's stick for a moment with computer tower: is FreeBSD suitable and have it future as desktop/tower OS?
If you understand desktop OS really narrowly: I can run some stuff on my carefully selected hardware then answer is yes - FreeBSD will manage somehow at home.
However this is not what defines desktop OS in general:
I have several computer towers connected to very specific hardware: confocal microscopy, sequencing hardware, PCR, Western, and bunch of other hardware. None can be managed from BSD, linux, OS X. Form most part specialized hardware is not accessible from anything else than windows.
In fact situation worsened as some time ago a lot of diagnostic hardware had UNIX interface. Not anymore.
At home: sure but only if hardware is carefully selected for compatibility (which excludes from FreeBSD a lot of latest laptops). Even at home I need windows in VM because all photo editing software that I use is not available either for BSD or linux.

The only hope for home unix desktop os is the expansion of web applications which can alleviate some of the problems, but not all of them.
I have been using BSD since mid 90' I did use SunOS, Linux, Netware, MacOS, Windows and Be. Since VirtualBox 4.x I don't have windows installed as main (dual booting) OS but I still need Windows for some stuff. This makes BSD/linux a fringe/enthusiast desktop OS and this will stay this way 'til the time when OS will not make that much of the issue.

BSD and linux future is in the server land as desktop OS not so much unless the only use is browsing, email, music, some video streaming and a bit of document editing excluding any specialized desktop software.
 

Alain De Vos

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Too few persons have freebsd installed for a commercial vendor to put time effort and money to create a a driver.
My piano, microscope camera, telescope camera all have windows drivers but no freebsd drivers.
 

kpedersen

Son of Beastie

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Even at home I need windows in VM because all photo editing software that I use is not available either for BSD or linux.

Interestingly. I suspect that there is a greater number of people running a Windows 7 VM on a Windows 10 machine, just to access "non-cloud" editions of Photoshop and Maya than there are a total number of FreeBSD desktop users. ;)

But, I personally feel, if I am going to be running a VM anyway. It might as well be running on an OS that I enjoy and give a damn about.
 

Aeterna

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Interestingly. I suspect that there is a greater number of people running a Windows 7 VM on a Windows 10 machine, just to access "non-cloud" editions of Photoshop and Maya than there are a total number of FreeBSD desktop users. ;)

But, I personally feel, if I am going to be running a VM anyway. It might as well be running on an OS that I enjoy and give a damn about.
My main OS is Slackware. Why not FreeBSD? Hardware compatibility (when I got my current laptop FreeBSD was not compatible with the hardware). But I am planning to get another laptop, then I will install on my current hardware (i7-4810MQ, 32GB RAM, 1,5TB SDD) FreeBSD as hardware is conservative enough to get FreeBSD working.
 

kpedersen

Son of Beastie

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My main OS is Slackware. Why not FreeBSD? Hardware compatibility
True. Linux is hard to beat in terms of hardware support. In general though, I still find FreeBSD much better than Windows for the ~5 year old machines I have. So can't really ask for any more than that.
 

Tieks

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Alain De Vos said:
My piano, microscope camera, telescope camera all have windows drivers but no freebsd drivers.

Correct, don't even waste your time finding stuff like that WITH a FreeBSD driver. Still I do think things may change for the better. In the past lots of hardware came with a proprietary standard to connect the hardware to a computer. Nowadays manufacturers tend to use industry standards like USB, simply because it is cheaper. That will bring it nearer to Linux and hence FreeBSD. Another development is that ever more hardware runs on some embedded Linux or even FreeBSD. That's not a bad thing either. But for the time being, keep a Win7 VM at hand.
 

BostonBSD

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I remember wanting to use Linux/Unix as a desktop back in 2001-2002, however, the software I needed for school only ran on Windows {we had to use visual studio, ms office, and Maple V, as well as some other proprietary things that came with the textbooks}.

This is far removed from today, there are FOSS equivalents to all of these, I even have VScode on FreeBSD now.

Linux did seem somewhat plausible, but I wasn't willing to try given the limitations upon acquiring hardware, much easier today.

FreeBSD seemed like a whole lot of extracurricular work just to get a desktop, and there was hardly any desktop software available. The only people who used it were like these hardcore computer dudes, with apparently extra hardware laying around.

If you want to know what it looked like back then, look at the RiscV processor today, the appearance is kind of similar {just some fringe thing no-one really thinks about in the mainstream}.

I haven't used windows since 2008 nor OSX ever and I don't really have any desire to. BSD/Linux is much more fun anyways, they make it far easier to program your own widgets/scripts for personal use.

{You may notice that when a windows machine becomes obsolete due to performance, the problem is solved by wiping the hard drive and installing BSD. It's more true today than ever before. A lot of really good hardware is deemed unfit, not due to any particular issue with it, but really due to the software on it. Windows 10 on an HP 800 G3 mini took about 5-10 minutes to boot....BSD and probably Linux takes only several seconds and it feels brand new.}
 

Hakaba

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The hardware compatibility has nothing related with the Desktop capability for an OS.
Mac OS 7 is a desktop OS without contest, but hardware had to be carefully selected (the computer must be a Mac, printer can not be serial, keyboard only work in ADB, graphic card must have specific romsize...)
NextStep is an another example. And what about Silicon Graphics, Amiga OS ...
 

Aeterna

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The hardware compatibility has nothing related with the Desktop capability for an OS.
Mac OS 7 is a desktop OS without contest, but hardware had to be carefully selected (the computer must be a Mac, printer can not be serial, keyboard only work in ADB, graphic card must have specific romsize...)
NextStep is an another example. And what about Silicon Graphics, Amiga OS ...
shrug,
this is not about OS wars, none of the hardware that I listed above will work with OS X. Hardware compatibility is important and desktop must be capable to deal with the hardware.
NextStep is an another example. And what about Silicon Graphics, Amiga OS ...
What about VAX (I was using it in late 80')?

The main question was: is there is a future for FreeBSD desktop. If drivers are not developed, this limits OS use as desktop. This requires money and army of developpers. Unfortunately BSD is not rich.

To make it clear, this thread is about future of FreeBSD as desktop OS.
 

Fuzzbox

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BSD and linux future is in the server land as desktop OS not so much unless the only use is browsing, email, music, some video streaming and a bit of document editing excluding any specialized desktop software.
But that's true for any OS ! I use a specialized business software daily in my job, which requires a dedicated USB smart-card reader, used with an accredited driver. This suite is the best tool for the job, but it's only available for Windows. That's a fact. But with the easiness of virtualization, I can run a Windows VM on FreeBSD or Linux, and use it as I would use any other software. I was already doing that in 2004 (Debian + VMware + Windows 2000). So it's not a real problem.

This "desktop" and "hardware compatibility" questions always make me smile. In the early nineties, buying hardware in accordance to the OS your were willing to install was mandatory, and not the opposite.

I now run FreeBSD on four laptops and two towers, and I had only two hardware glitches ( a crappy wireless adapter and an USB keyboard). Indeed, they are not bleeding edge, but they work and they cost less !

Stop wondering if FreeBSD is usable as a desktop. Use it as a desktop now ! Only a wider adoption will lead to better support. That's what happened with Linux. And I think the current evolution of Linux creates a positive momentum to drain new users to this community.

My 2 cts.
 

mark_j

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But that's true for any OS ! I use a specialized business software daily in my job, which requires a dedicated USB smart-card reader, used with an accredited driver. This suite is the best tool for the job, but it's only available for Windows. That's a fact. But with the easiness of virtualization, I can run a Windows VM on FreeBSD or Linux, and use it as I would use any other software. I was already doing that in 2004 (Debian + VMware + Windows 2000). So it's not a real problem.

This "desktop" and "hardware compatibility" questions always make me smile. In the early nineties, buying hardware in accordance to the OS your were willing to install was mandatory, and not the opposite.

I have to disagree with this. Back in 'them days' there was very little hardware differentiation, especially for things like the graphics stack. You supported CGA, VGA etc and ALL graphics cards did too. It did start to get out of hand with Voodoo etc (thanks ATI for driving the race to the top!). Nowadays it seems every revision of a card from nvidia or AMD breaks something previous or adds a new feature requiring yet another new driver and the lag associated. Obviously these companies produce drivers first and foremost for the dominant market: Microsoft.

It was the same with serial devices because they worked off 8250, then later 16550 with bigger buffers.
Ok, there were variations as db25 died out to be replaced by db9, but the UART interface stayed the same and hardware, not software.

Likewise, you had either 386 or 486 which basically operated the same, with small differences. You had MFM, IDE, SCSI to support. Simple.
Memory overclocking? Ha. :eek:

Nowadays you have USB and that is a pile of dog-poo. It's a miracle anyone can write drivers for that nonsense. Likewise Bluetooth.

Nope, hardware compatibility is much more nuanced than back in the early 90s (when 386bsd was kicking around). You only have to pull out FreeBSD 1 or earlier and look at the GENERIC config to see how things have changed.

But, you're correct with the desktop. Back then, a GUI consisted of a tiled Window manager, Xeyes and xTerm and we were happy. :cool:
 

Alain De Vos

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The lines of code of an accelerated gpu card driver got out of hand.
For vendors more lines of code is better.
Like the an oracle database.
 

mark_j

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Yes, that still seems to be a metric many companies use to measure "productivity", unfortunately. :rolleyes:
 

kpedersen

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Nowadays you have USB and that is a pile of dog-poo. It's a miracle anyone can write drivers for that nonsense. Likewise Bluetooth.
Recently had massive issues with a Prolific ttl/usb adapter on Windows. The manufacturer changed their chip and updated the driver purposely to prevent use on (what they call) 3rd party knockoffs using the same driver. My older chip didn't work and annoyingly Windows update uses the latest non-working version which was almost impossible to roll back. I had to use a "hacked" driver from GitHub.

This kind of scummy bullsh*t really thankfully doesn't exist in FOSS desktops.
 

Fuzzbox

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Nope, hardware compatibility is much more nuanced than back in the early 90s

You're right, I should have written the late 90s ! My excuse is that it's already a long time ago :)
I remember specifically buying a Sound Blaster sound card, a HP 710c printer, a Matrox G400 video card and an Alcatel modem, because they were known to be supported by Red Hat Linux.
 

BostonBSD

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I have a suspicion that all of these peripheral devices are going to be integrated in the future and driver issues will gradually become a thing of this time period (how clear does clear have to be? how vivid does vivid have to get? how high is high definition?).

Not so long ago flash plugins were a farce in the FOSS world, now we have html5 and no one talks about flash anymore.
 

Hakaba

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this is not about OS wars,
You miss my point. It is not because the hardware have to be chosen carefully that FreeBSD has less "Desktop" capacity. It is because the market share was 90% Wintel today that we link the two subjects.

FreeBSD is the only OS that I install in my laptop (a recent MSI laptop). My NAS, my printer, my USB keys ... works. The situation is better than any computers in 90's. But I have an incompatible Intel+NVidia cards config. That is not the responsibility of FreeBSD, but mine. And the proof is easy. If FreeBSD need to handle the MSI laptop, all Linux distribution have to (and this is not the case).
For me a good answer can be in the install step. A step that list all compatible hardware and all unknown one could be a good warning.


And as an OS X user, each time I want to buy something, I need to be carefull with OS X compatibility with some surprise. I buy a headphone with "compatible OS X" and Jack and surprise this headphone does not work on Windows, Android and neither on my FreeBSD laptop... Is has a standard jack !
 

richardtoohey2

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For me a good answer can be in the install step. A step that list all compatible hardware and all unknown one could be a good warning.
Great, who is going to do all that work? And test all the hardware (that won't be cheap), and keep the list up-to-date? And across all supported versions of FreeBSD, and platforms (e.g. does the device work for 32-bit, 64-bit, Intel, ARM, etc. etc. etc.)
 

6502

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{You may notice that when a windows machine becomes obsolete due to performance, the problem is solved by wiping the hard drive and installing BSD. It's more true today than ever before.}
I am not sure for this at least with browser comparison. If I remove Windows, install BSD/Linux and run the web browser - it is obviously slower than on Windows. Probably the reason is in Xorg (GUI). I have not tested Wayland yet, maybe it will make browser faster.
 

kpedersen

Son of Beastie

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I am not sure for this at least with browser comparison. If I remove Windows, install BSD/Linux and run the web browser - it is obviously slower than on Windows. Probably the reason is in Xorg (GUI). I have not tested Wayland yet, maybe it will make browser faster.
I think what was being meant is that you can't even install the latest browser on Windows XP. So no matter how "slow" FreeBSD might be, it can still actually render a "modern" website.

Though in general, most open-source UI toolkits suck in terms of performance and are probably the reason why the Windows version of software (especially web browsers) feels faster.
 

Zirias

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Though in general, open-source UI toolkits suck and are probably the reason why the Windows version of software (especially web browsers) feels faster.
Except anyone who cares about their mental health will use some toolkit on Windows as well. Building a UI on plain win32 API is certainly possible, probably quite efficient (at runtime, not at coding time), but most certainly bad for your brain 😏
 

kpedersen

Son of Beastie

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Except anyone who cares about their mental health will use some toolkit on Windows as well. Building a UI on plain win32 API is certainly possible, probably quite efficient (at runtime, not at coding time), but most certainly bad for your brain 😏
I don't really know what UI toolkit Firefox uses on Windows. I would be surprised if it was Gtk or Qt. They probably have a light abstraction layer ontop of Win32.

wxWidgets I suppose has a similar approach. Unfortunately on Linux/BSD, it sticks ontop of Gtk or Qt so you lose that "lightness".
 
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