Using FreeBSD as Desktop OS

scottro

Daemon

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#7
What sort of desktop are you expecting? For example, the link in the previous post is good if you're looking for a minimal desktop.

Will this be a laptop or desktop? FreeBSD lacks support for some wireless cards supported by Linux, though you can use a USB to wireless, like the Edimax 7811-UN (I probably have the dashes in the wrong place.) Synaptics can be problematic and several newer Intel video cards aren't supported.

This is not to put you off trying it, but just be aware that there may be some things that don't work properly depending upon your hardware. On the other hand, on a desktop I have, FreeBSD installed like a charm, installed the NVidia drivers from packages, and I got set up as quickly as I would some Linux desktops.
 

fossette

Active Member

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#8
SOAPBOX on
Sorry, but why do I keep seeing this when the question is about FreeBSD? As if some members do not wish new users to use FreeBSD, as if new users can't learn. FreeBSD is quite capable to be a desktop OS. To me, PC-BSD is a bundle, and bundles are a set of frozen-in-time packages (until the next upgrade). FreeBSD is more than that!
SOAPBOX off

Well, if a new user wants PC-BSD, go for it. The option exists! The choice is his!

Dominique.
 

wblock@

Administrator
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Developer

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#9
Yes. The thing is that PCBSD is FreeBSD, and it's a lot easier to tell someone to install it than to walk them through the process of installing and configuring X and desktop managers. An install that includes X and a desktop manager is also what a lot of people expect when they install an "operating system".

Now if they want to set it up on FreeBSD, it definitely can be done, as those of us who have been using FreeBSD desktops for years can prove. It just takes a bit of time and effort.
 
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ILUXA

Aspiring Daemon

Thanks: 367
Messages: 599

#10
Did not found more appropriate topic, may be this info will be helpful for someone :)
who will use FreeBSD as a desktop OS.
If I found out this solution when I started to use FreeBSD as a desktop OS,
it could save me a lot of time while I mounted my mp3 player with
mount_msdosfs -L en_US.UTF-8 /dev/da4 /media/WALKMAN
All my mp3-s are like "209≠SINS — ⱭɆMɆ℞ǾⱠ ▲ D¥И∆ϟȾ¥ " :D,
so to open files and dirs from my mp3 player,
it should be mounted in UTF-8 locale.

Auto mount attached USB devices in UTF-8 locale with your file manager using hal.
(Works with x11-fm/nautilus, x11-fm/thunar, x11-fm/pcmanfm… etc)
By default (with hald_enable="YES" in /etc/rc.conf) x11-fm/nautilus will auto mount with HAL all your attached USB devices, but it won't automount these devices in UTF-8 locale (even if your system locale is UTF-8 locale), so if there are some folders/files that use unicode symbols (✞✞☹☹☹✞✞) or hindi/arabic/cyrillic letters in its names — you won't be able to open it. So to change this appearance, install sysutils/gconf-editor, open it and navigate to /system/storage/default_options/vfat/mount_options and add
Code:
-L=en_US.UTF-8

to its values (or another *.UTF-8 locale).


Or just enter

gconftool-2 --set "/system/storage/default_options/vfat/mount_options" --type list --list-type=string "[longnames,-u=,-L=en_US.UTF-8]"

and press return.
 
Last edited:

Zirias

Well-Known Member

Thanks: 132
Messages: 383

#11
Sorry, but why do I keep seeing this when the question is about FreeBSD? As if some members do not wish new users to use FreeBSD, as if new users can't learn. FreeBSD is quite capable to be a desktop OS. To me, PC-BSD is a bundle, and bundles are a set of frozen-in-time packages (until the next upgrade). FreeBSD is more than that!
Most can, only some want, the one willing to learn will check google first and e.g. find this "cooltrainer.org" howto. Although a bit dated, it gave me quite some idea before my first test with FreeBSD, which then was 11.0-CURRENT with KDE4 on a notebook ;)

So, I'm all with you, I wouldn't want everything bundled. But it's a matter of taste whether you value maximum control of the system higher than the time needed to get that going ;)
 

Snurg

Aspiring Daemon

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#12
Except of the lacking hibernation functionality FreeBSD is a perfect desktop system imho.
In terms of stability, it is different category than Linux or even Windows.
So, if you can live with S3 instead of S4 suspend, FreeBSD is your perfect desktop OS.
Disadvantage is a bit more manual configuration, though.
 

ILUXA

Aspiring Daemon

Thanks: 367
Messages: 599

#13
In terms of stability, it is different category than Linux or even Windows.
:D Not in my opinion. Yes, FreeBSD is much better in security, performance and "terms of stability" than Linux,
but Linux is much better than Windows… In ALL "terms" :D except in terms of proprietary software amount, Windows wins here :D
While FreeBSD and GNU/Linux are successful and Free *nix operating systems (FreeBSD is a successor to UNIX and GNU/Linux is a UNIX-like OS with a "little bit" different license :)), Windows is a proprietary piece of garbage with spying features, a buggy, slow and stupid operating system for housewifes…
 
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ANOKNUSA

Aspiring Daemon

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Messages: 675

#14
Sorry, but why do I keep seeing this when the question is about FreeBSD? As if some members do not wish new users to use FreeBSD, as if new users can't learn. FreeBSD is quite capable to be a desktop OS.
The debate about *nix as a "desktop OS" confounded for a while, having used Linux as my main OS on laptops all through my college years and now using FreeBSD in my day job. It took me a while to realize that people wondering whether *nix could work as a "desktop OS" were envisioning a stereotypical "desktop user" with a stereotypical "desktop" use case. You know the type: they think of computers as magic boxes full of little hamster genies that run around fetching thems their Bookfaces and the emails. Whether an OS can be used to do "desktop" stuff is irrelevant: everything should just work without any effort or learning on the user's part. It's hand-holding these people want. The PC-BSD folks are willing to hold those hands. Well, let's send them there, rather than bogging down this community with the same inane questions over and over. I've been using FreeBSD for about two years now, and the question of whether FreeBSD could be used as a "desktop OS" has come up quite a few times. The abundance of X applications ought to answer that, but then the usual "desktop OS" crowd can't be bothered to look that stuff up, so they ask here instead, letting someone else spend the time and effort because they have better things to do with their time than ...*snort*... learn things.

I say stop the discussion then and there. Call me callous, but from my observation the quality of a community and its products dropping as it lowers its standards to accommodate noobs is a very real phenomenon, because noobs don't know what they're talking about and can't articulate what they want, and can't properly participate in the right discussions. Some of them eventually will be able to; many won't even try, and will simply demand things from developers. If someone else somewhere wants to pick up the quality operating system that is FreeBSD and make it "user-friendly" for another crowd, good for them. Funnel all the people wanting user-friendliness here, and the quality of FreeBSD will drop below sea level when the focus shifts from stability, reliability, performance, and security, to the convenience and novelty "desktop users" want.
 

teo

Well-Known Member

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Messages: 438

#15
Look at this cute FreeBSD system in a graphical desktop, and why not dream of a FreeBSD system with a graphical desktop by default from the array?

FRE.jpg
 

xavi

Active Member

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Messages: 112

#16
I've been using FreeBSD for about two years now, and the question of whether FreeBSD could be used as a "desktop OS" has come up quite a few times
Add an option to install a desktop in the installer and this question goes away ;)

Seriously, I've seen this point of view before and I'm always slightly mystified by it. Why make things harder than they have to be? This is the 21st Century after all. Why not include a desktop installer as part of the install process, but allow people who want to run a headless server to skip past it? We don't expect people to set up everything manually, hence the use of an installer. So, why should the installation of a desktop UI be any different?

How many good people have moved on to another OS simply because they struggled with setting up a desktop on FreeBSD. You may claim that this 'rite of passage' solves a problem by filtering out people that don't know enough or persist enough to get things working. But people have deadlines, jobs, families and other issues impacting them that stops them wasting time on something that should just work. And first impressions count. Those same people may have gone on to be excellent additions to the FreeBSD project if only their first foray had been a bit more friendly.

More than once I've come across remarks on other forums of people that have installed OpenBSD and been pleasantly surprised at how friendly the install process is and the fact that OpenBSD even comes with a minimal WM by default. It's often not the one that they want to use but it at least bootstraps them and makes their system usable. And this, from a project that is often seen as unforgiving of new users.

Some of us will never use FreeBSD as a server. I don't even use FreeBSD at work. So my only contact with FreeBSD is on a laptop at home, running it as a desktop. So, if I couldn't have got a desktop running you would have lost my contribution to the project (as small as it is). And I'm sure that there are many others like me on this forum.

There are enough hard problems to solve in the FreeBSD project already, without the installation of a desktop being one of them. IMO, making the project more welcoming (without dumbing it down) should be the number one priority of the Foundation.
 

drhowarddrfine

Son of Beastie

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#17
ANOKNUSA You said that very eloquently. I've tried saying the same thing for years but wind up in gibberish as I slam my hands against the keyboard.

This is the 21st Century after all. Why not include a desktop installer as part of the install process
There is! Not in the standard installer but it's there. After all, FreeBSD is a professional operating system for professionals. If it's too difficult to install a window manager, then one should move on to something else. We're not out to win any popularity or beauty contest.

There are enough hard problems to solve in the FreeBSD project already, without the installation of a desktop being one of them.
That's a very good case for not including it in the standard install.

And which desktop software would you install? Would you want to run up against all the people who will rail against your choice? How much manpower does FreeBSD have to throw at this work?
 

scottro

Daemon

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#18
It's a reasonable question, but the simple answer is that there are only so many resources to go around. PCBSD, with some commercial backing, is doing a lot of that already.

Additionally, judging from several Linux distributions, as they concentrate more on the GUI, it becomes harder to do the regular sysadmin stuff--for example, RedHat, a billion dollar company, crippled their text installer, which, judging from various forums and mailing lists, frequently causes issues when X doesn't work properly during installation.
 

Zirias

Well-Known Member

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Messages: 383

#19
Seriously, I've seen this point of view before and I'm always slightly mystified by it. Why make things harder than they have to be? This is the 21st Century after all. Why not include a desktop installer as part of the install process, but allow people who want to run a headless server to skip past it? We don't expect people to set up everything manually, hence the use of an installer. So, why should the installation of a desktop UI be any different?
One very simple and yet important reason (IMHO): Keep the base system minimal, complete, self-contained and strictly separated from anything else. FreeBSD is a complete operating system on its own (unlike Linux, which is basically still just a kernel). GUIs aren't part of that OS, and you wouldn't want to integrate something like xorg in the base system.

What you get in the Linux world is distributions, and there's nothing wrong with distributions pre-configuring software for e.g. a desktop environment. A "FreeBSD distribution" could do the same. But out of the box, for FreeBSD itself, I think this would be a bad idea, somehow comparable to kernel.org delivering an installer for xorg and KDE -- silly, isn't it? That would bind resources better invested in developing the OS itself.

Of course you can install all the necessary extra software yourself. You can do the same on Linux (see the LFS book), but that's a bit more complicated, because Linux isn't a complete operating system and doesn't come with a ports tree (although some distributor does something similar).
 

ronaldlees

Aspiring Daemon

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#20
...
But out of the box, for FreeBSD itself, I think this would be a bad idea ...
I agree. Even if the extended installer were to have a selection for a full blown UI, but only as an option, there could down-the-road be a tendency to blur the edges, and bring unwanted dependencies into the picture. For one thing, developers would be predisposed to develop with a bias for the (somewhat arbitrary) UI setup.

The UI stuff would likely bring into the picture extra responsibilities relative to security issues. And - those (potential) security issues would not be in the bread-and-butter workload of the OS developers.

I like the idea that I can install only a base+kernel system, to do things that I want to do with more security than I (might) have with a full blown desktop. So, it's not always that a base install is done to set up a server.
 

ANOKNUSA

Aspiring Daemon

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Messages: 675

#21
How many good people have moved on to another OS simply because they struggled with setting up a desktop on FreeBSD. You may claim that this 'rite of passage' solves a problem by filtering out people that don't know enough or persist enough to get things working. But people have deadlines, jobs, families and other issues impacting them that stops them wasting time on something that should just work.
It doesn't "just work." It has never "just worked." Things only "just work" from the perspective of people who wish to be spoon-fed those things to which they are already accustomed; anything else "doesn't work," insofar as people then need to make an effort to change their habits in order to adapt to the new thing, or change the "broken" thing to accommodate their habits.

In a similar vein, people who think [insert thing here] would be better if only it were just like [insert other thing here] don't know what the hell they're talking about. Make one thing just like another thing, and you have ...one thing. Just two copies of it. And you already had the one copy, so why'd you piddle your time away making the second? Perhaps the first thing would be better if it were just more like the second, but how much more? Who decides that? You---the person making all the demands and none of the effort? Might it not be better to slightly change the second thing than completely overhaul the first? And so on...

FreeBSD doesn't work that way. It does what you want, how you want it to, provided you are willing to put the time and effort into crafting it into your desired system. The "solution" of providing an installer that installs one particular desktop or another is just gonna leave more people unsatisfied than it leaves satisfied, because people are either gonna want something else and have to do the extra work to replace it, or they're gonna spend a small amount of time with it and decide they don't like it because it's not exactly like what they already have---what they're already used to. People who want something that's rigged up to work the way the unspoken masses ostensibly want it to have other options already available. Send 'em toward those options.
 

forquare

Active Member

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Messages: 203

#22
Add an option to install a desktop in the installer and this question goes away ;)
From what I understand, there was one. But it became broken after becoming unmaintained, which it did because those that could maintain it didn't use it. And perhaps those that couldn't use it because it was broken didn't know enough to troubleshoot it?

How many good people have moved on to another OS simply because they struggled with setting up a desktop on FreeBSD.
Possibly many, but if a person can't follow a handful of pages in the handbook then we might need to talk about he definition of good.

I don't know what it used to be like, but setting up Xfce was the easiest part of my first installation for me. The hard bits included: figuring out how to correctly copy the image to a USB stick (no optical drive), figuring out why wireless didn't work, which led to figuring out how to install -CURRENT and upgrade that to get required drivers.
Installation took several days of trial and error. A suitable desktop took minutes, thanks to the handbook.
 

Zirias

Well-Known Member

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Messages: 383

#23
FreeBSD doesn't work that way. It does what you want, how you want it to, provided you are willing to put the time and effort into crafting it into your desired system. The "solution" of providing an installer that installs one particular desktop or another is just gonna leave more people unsatisfied than it leaves satisfied, because people are either gonna want something else and have to do the extra work to replace it, or they're gonna spend a small amount of time with it and decide they don't like it because it's not exactly like what they already have---what they're already used to.
Although I completely agree, I still think the stronger argument is the architectural concept from a software engineering point of view, for which I'll try to further clarify my point. This is probably best understood when compared to Linux, because many people asking for things like "desktop installers" have some knowledge about Linux:
  • Neither FreeBSD nor Linux are "distributions", they are free opensource software projects.
  • The FreeBSD project is a full (somewhat minimal) operating system.
  • The Linux project is "just" a kernel, with here and there some little userspace helpers directly related to that kernel.
  • Concluding from the above, FreeBSD can be installed as a working system, Linux can't.
  • There's still a way to install Linux without a distribution, but you have to get a set of GNU userland tools yourself and know yourself how to build and install (or follow some instructions from a book)
  • FreeBSD on the other hand comes with an installer, which makes sense because everything needed to get it up and running is part of the project.
So my argument is: you should never expect a software project to provide means for installing other software, because that's not in the scope of the project. If you want an installer for a fully working Linux system, don't ask the Linux developers but look for a distribution. Same thing goes for a "desktop installer" for FreeBSD, if such a thing is desired, it should be done in a separate distribution project.

Given all that, I must acknowledge that the ports and packages actually are a simple but powerful form of distribution, and that makes it quite easy to install FreeBSD with extra software "from scratch". Still the ports are strictly separated from the base system, they don't even have releases. This is actually a benefit for many users and tying them to base, e.g. by providing base installer options for ports, would make things very complicated. So, it's nice to have the ports around, and they're most useful when not mixed up with the base system. They're a separate project (living in a separate source code repository for a reason) and that's a very good decision.

[Desktop installer option]
From what I understand, there was one. But it became broken after becoming unmaintained, which it did because those that could maintain it didn't use it. And perhaps those that couldn't use it because it was broken didn't know enough to troubleshoot it?
And this, if this really happened, is just a good practical example for why you shouldn't do this.
 

monwarez

Member

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Messages: 24

#24
I would say that since FreeBSD does not come with any a desktop it's allow more flexibility. If you want to have a very customized desktop you can have it without having another desktop installed that you may don't like. When you look at GNU/Linux distribution it's more a matter of which desktop is default,what program are used for managing installation, and what program installed by default that will help you to choose one distribution against an other.
So to answer the question, FreeBSD can easily be used as a desktop. Now for the how I do that, it's depend on which desktop do you want ?
The basic step will be to install x11/xorg-minimal, then if your video driver is not installed you can install it (or else you will not have full 3D acceleration, but it could be the case if your video card is not supported). The next step is to install a window manager, there is a lot see in x11-wm.
Depending on the window manager, you may need to use gdm,kdm or not.
then you will need to add to $HOME/.xinitrc (depending on which desktop)
Code:
exec openbox-session
or
Code:
exec fluxbox
etc...
Finnaly if you choose to not login on a graphical login, just need to type
startx
You may want to have at least x11/xterm to have a terminal (or another one).
After that you can install other software that you will be using.
 

Seagate

Member


Messages: 20

#25
Did not found more appropriate topic, may be this info will be helpful for someone :)
who will use FreeBSD as a desktop OS.
If I found out this solution when I started to use FreeBSD as a desktop OS,
it could save me a lot of time while I mounted my walkman player with
mount_msdosfs -L ru_RU.UTF-8 /dev/da4 /media/WALKMAN
All my mp3-s are like "209≠SINS — ⱭɆMɆ℞ǾⱠ ▲ D¥И∆ϟȾ¥ " :D and some files use cyrillic letters.

Auto mount attached USB devices in UTF-8 locale with your Nautilus file manager.
(Also work with x11-fm/thunar, x11-fm/pcmanfm… etc)
By default (with hald_enable="YES" in /etc/rc.conf) x11-fm/nautilus will auto mount with HAL all your attached USB devices, but it won't automount them in UTF-8 locale (even if your system locale is UTF-8 locale), so if there are some folders/files that use unicode symbols (✞✞☹☹☹✞✞) or arabic/cyrillic letters in their names — you'll not be able to open it. So to change this appearance, install sysutils/gconf-editor, open it and navigate to /system/storage/default_options/vfat/mount_options and add
Code:
-L=en_US.UTF-8

to its values (or other *.UTF-8 locale).


Or just enter

gconftool-2 --set "/system/storage/default_options/vfat/mount_options" --type list --list-type=string "[longnames,-u=,-L=en_US.UTF-8]"

and press return.
for usb drive is works.

how to use external hdd ? i've installed fusefs_ntfs, ntfs-3g but still can't mount.
i don't know proper configuration mount_options in gconf-editor system/storage/ntfs or ntfs-3g. This time when ever i mount always display error :

Code:
Unable to mount the volume 'Seagate Backup Plus Drive'.
mount : illegal option -- m usage : mount [-t fstype] [- o options] target_fs_mount_point
alternative that I currently use sysutils/volman and mount from terminal and also volman can't integrate with thunar or DE filemanager.
 
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