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Old 17th August 2008
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Default FreeBSD as a desktop - Thoughts..

Hi to all

I am using exclusivelly FreeBSD as my main home desktop system since 2004 (that year I had totally removed any Windows/Linux partitions of my disks )

I was lucky that I have FreeBSD-compatible hardware so I did not faced many difficulties with the setup and all the pieces of my hardware is working fine.

After four years of this experience, I have concluded that there are many *important* features missing and nobody AFAIK devoted enough time or money for them. IMHO the lack of these features are preventing the most of the people to use FreeBSD as a main deskop system and force them to use Linux:

Very important:
- Lack of native adobe flash player
- Lack of full 3d-accelerated video drivers with the exception of the nvidia 32bit

Important:
- Lack of suspend-to-ram - with minor exceptions
- Lack of suspend-to-disk
- Lack of tv/video card-related framework

I think that FreeBSD Foundation must pay attention to this, except the Java devotion.

What do you think?

Last edited by harisman; 17th August 2008 at 07:53 PM.
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Old 17th August 2008
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I would agree with the entries in your "very important" category, and add a decent virtual machine (Virtual Box would be a good candidate) and improving the linuxulator. The latter is important because all of the commercial desktop software runs only on Linux, and the emulation layer is pretty stale.

Those things you list as "important" are not to me, personally. I don't use laptops nor do any TV stuff.

It is important to recognize, though, that what a desktop is depends a whole lot on the individual. Beyond simple email, web viewing, documents and music, users' needs begin to diverge rapidly. It really is hard to say what a desktop is other than it is what people do interactively on the computer.

BTW, running the Windows version of Flash9 in Firefox under Wine works pretty well. Native would of course be better, but in the interim this works pretty well.
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Old 17th August 2008
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That it is true, I am using a laptop, so these are important to me

The lack of a decent virtual machine (I guess you mean FreeBSD as a host server) I think it would be more important on the server side. Anyways, adding a VirtualBox or a Vmware virtual machine would be great!
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Old 17th August 2008
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No, a VM is probably more important on the desktop. VMware ESX is now free, so you can use that as a base for a server to run whatever you want. On the desktop side, there are always applications that will be Windows-only. So either you run them in a VM, or keep a Windows box around to do so. The latter might be easier, but for me there are so many of these applications that it sure would be nice simply to run them in a different window.

And yes, I do mean as a virtual machine host.

There is an effort to port the most recent version of VMware to FreeBSD, but it is being hung up partially by the unfinished state of the Linux 2.6 layer.
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Old 17th August 2008
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The lack of suspend-to-disk and suspend-to-ram is very important for me. The 3D thing is a non-issue for me as the GPU in my laptop is fully supported by open source drivers, and quite capable of driving blender and compiz.

Adam
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Old 17th August 2008
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FreeBSD is a server operating system, which just happens to run on the destop.
If you want a desktop OS with the features you listed, then choose Windows, or OSX, Or Linux, or whatever.

Quote:
I think that FreeBSD Foundation must pay attention to this, except the Java devotion.
The FreeBSD foundation takes care of the legal and financial side of FreeBSD, it doesn't do any development.
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Old 17th August 2008
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&Carpetsmoker
So U think the FreeBSD is the best solution for any kind of servers(for corporates personal use ant so on)? In which way the BSD are better servers than linux? They are safer, fastest?
Regards
Artur
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Old 17th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carpetsmoker View Post
FreeBSD is a server operating system, which just happens to run on the destop.
Is there an actual statement from the FreeBSD development team that confirms that FreeBSD is, primarily, a server OS?

Adam
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Old 17th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adamk View Post
Is there an actual statement from the FreeBSD development team that confirms that FreeBSD is, primarily, a server OS?
http://www.freebsd.org/
FreeBSD - The Power to Serve

Quite directly, I think, yes.
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Old 17th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Weaseal View Post
http://www.freebsd.org/
FreeBSD - The Power to Serve

Quite directly, I think, yes.
That could simply mean that it's designed to serve the needs of its users.

Adam
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Old 18th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carpetsmoker View Post
FreeBSD is a server operating system, which just happens to run on the destop.
If you want a desktop OS with the features you listed, then choose Windows, or OSX, Or Linux, or whatever.
FreeBSD is a server operating system, none can disagree with this...
Linux currently is very usable as a desktop operating system and shares with FreeBSD the same X windows environment, the same window managers, the most of the available opensource programs, etc.. - so with just a few additions FreeBSD can do the same good job as Linux does.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Carpetsmoker View Post
The FreeBSD foundation takes care of the legal and financial side of FreeBSD, it doesn't do any development.
Exactly this is the key role... I don't except the foundation to develop something but to make a financial agreement with adobe so as the FreeBSD to have the needed player. Browsing the internent nowdays *requires* the flash player, because flash-equiped sites are vast majority of all the sites !!

We are talking about just a f** player after all !!! How much money are needed for this??... We don't need the whole adobe flash suite to be ported to FreeBSD, for God's shake!!

Last edited by harisman; 18th August 2008 at 07:43 PM.
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Old 18th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harisman View Post
FreeBSD is a server operating system, none can disagree with this...
But, aren't all the *BSDs (and even all *nix) server operating systems?
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Old 18th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JMJ_coder View Post
But, aren't all the *BSDs (and even all *nix) server operating systems?
I don't think so. The BSDs and GNU/Linux distributions are multipurpose operating systems that have predominantly been used on servers in the past because they were originally intended as F/OSS replacements for proprietary Unixes, which were also predominantly used on servers. As time passed, the userbase of at least the BSDs and Linux diversified because of how far-reaching F/OSS is. Inter-Unix portability is outstanding, so I think any Unix can be used as a fulfilling desktop operating system. However, some are better than others, depending on what the user(s) expect out of their system.
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Old 18th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ninjatux View Post
I don't think so. The BSDs and GNU/Linux distributions are multipurpose operating systems that have predominantly been used on servers in the past because they were originally intended as F/OSS replacements for proprietary Unixes, which were also predominantly used on servers. As time passed, the userbase of at least the BSDs and Linux diversified because of how far-reaching F/OSS is. Inter-Unix portability is outstanding, so I think any Unix can be used as a fulfilling desktop operating system. However, some are better than others, depending on what the user(s) expect out of their system.
Well then is there some kind of objective criteria that distinguishes between a server, desktop, and general OS? Or is just a subjective title based on what a current operator(s) is using it for?
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Old 18th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harisman View Post
FreeBSD is a server operating system, none can disagree with this...
Linux currently is very usable as a desktop operating system and shares with FreeBSD the same X windows environment, the same window managers, the most of the available opensource programs, etc.. - so with just a few additions FreeBSD can do the same good job as Linux does.
So if FreeBSD shares virtually everything with Linux, why is FreeBSD a server OS only? Granted, I believe the developers focus on server issues and networking but, besides that, what stops anyone from saying FreeBSD is a general purpose OS as good as any of them? (Despite the fact that some apps, like flash, aren't available. Lack of an app does not mean the OS is not capable.)
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Old 27th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harisman View Post
We are talking about just a f** player after all !!! How much money are needed for this??...
Well, in order port the flash player, we would need the flash player source code. I don't see us (legally) getting the flash player source code without purchasing adobe.
Current market capitalization is $23Bn. I'll chip in a few dollars, if you are up for it.
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Old 27th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robbak View Post
Well, in order port the flash player, we would need the flash player source code. I don't see us (legally) getting the flash player source code without purchasing adobe.
Current market capitalization is $23Bn. I'll chip in a few dollars, if you are up for it.
The FreeBSD Foundation could fund Adobe as Sun did/does for the Solaris port. It all comes down to how much money the Foundation has. Currently, there's ongoing discussions on the mailing lists about funding Sun for a VirtualBox port. I've found only one discussion of porting Flash; most people seem to be content with the current state of Flash and are looking forward to Flash 9 on 8.0R (Flash 9 works rather well in the 8-CURRENT branch where Linuxulator is at 2.6.16 by default and has more features). I think that sound virtualization (Xen and Virtualbox) support is more urgent than Flash support. Some people may want Flash, but I doubt even vast majority of people who use FreeBSD as a desktop want Flash support. Our best bets with respect to Flash is swfdec and gnash. It's best for F/OSS to support those in the long-run too. (By the way, I don't care about Flash.)
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Old 22nd August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carpetsmoker View Post
FreeBSD is a server operating system, which just happens to run on the destop.
If you want a desktop OS with the features you listed, then choose Windows, or OSX, Or Linux, or whatever.
I couldn't agree more, FreeBSD's main focus is the server market.
Linux is trying to be a jack of all trades, like windows.
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Old 17th August 2008
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I wouldn't be so quick to say that "FreeBSD is a server operating system," but it has historically been predominantly used as such. The same is true for Linux; only recently has desktop Linux just taken off.

If you look at FreeBSD's userbase, then I'm willing to bet that the lack of a native Adobe Flash player doesn't matter to at least half of them. I've encountered complete indifference to Flash and sometimes outright hatred of it on the IRC channel and on here. Flash only matters to those who need it. I've been happily running swfdec for a while, and I appreciate that Flash content on a website doesn't load automatically. Flash is annoying; I use it only for Youtube and Google Video, which swfdec and Gnash handle very well.

What's wrong with open source drivers? There was an announcement on NVNews about a month ago that Nvidia would be releasing drivers for FreeBSD 64-bit in about six months. The git version of the radeon driver for Xorg supports upto and through X1000 series cards with accelerated graphics. That branch will be completing support for HD2000 series cards in about three months, as ATi will be releasing documents in about a week. I have not looked into the Intel driver, but I don't see too much of a problem. Maybe I'm not too picky.

I do agree with DrJ that the lack of quality virtual machine software is definitely hindering sometimes, especially considering that FreeBSD is still predominantly used in server environments where virtual machine software is often necessary. Progress in ongoing to port VirtualBox to FreeBSD, and I suppose the big thing would be to get Xen Dom0 support. DomU is a step forward, but Dom0 is the most important thing. It would give FreeBSD a good virtualization framework that it has lacked for quite a while. Xen and VirtualBox are the only options I see because VMWare remains woefully ignorant that we even exist, most understandably though.

As for suspend, here is the zzz manual page:

Code:
ZZZ(8)                  FreeBSD System Manager's Manual                 ZZZ(8)

NAME
     zzz -- suspend an ACPI or APM system

SYNOPSIS
     zzz

DESCRIPTION
     The zzz utility checks for ACPI or APM support and then suspends the sys-
     tem appropriately.  For APM,

           apm -z

     will be issued.  For ACPI, the configured suspend state will be looked
     up, checked to see if it is supported and,

           acpiconf -s <state>

     will be issued.

SEE ALSO
     acpi(4), apm(4), acpiconf(8), apm(8)

AUTHORS
     This manual page was written by Nate Lawson <njl@FreeBSD.org>.

FreeBSD 7.0                      July 13, 2003                     FreeBSD 7.0
I haven't looked into suspend, but it seems that the framework has been there for a while. It could be useful assuming you'd have acpi issues.

The last item in "Important" referring to "tv/video" is definitely only important to a select few, if that even, maybe only you.

As far as FreeBSD Foundation's role in getting a Flash player goes is that they could pay to have Adobe port it over. That's how Solaris has been supported because Sun initially paid them to port it over. However, I doubt the FreeBSD Foundation has those kinds of financial resources to make that possible, so that brings me to the most reasonable alternative, which is to use the Linux version via linuxulator (compatibility layer) with nspluginwrapper. The current version in the 7 branch is at 2.4.2, but the version in 8-CURRENT is 2.6.16, which apparently needs a bit of cleanup. According to the mailing lists, Flash 9 also works "rather well" in 8-CURRENT, so there's hope for it.

What's important and what's not important in an operating system is subjective upon the user. You can't generalize like this. Most of the things you listed I don't particularly care, and you'll find many more users like myself who barely give a hoot about Flash, suspend, or the media framework you suggest.
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Last edited by ninjatux; 17th August 2008 at 11:02 PM.
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Old 17th August 2008
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adamk is correct, "The Power to Serve" means exactly what it says... "to render assistance; be of use; help."

I can't say I agree with Carpetsmokers opinion, all of the BSD's are multipurpose, it's up to the user to define that purpose.

I use OpenBSD on all my workstations... as for the "important features" the OP mentioned, I happen to think they're completely irrelevant.
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