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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
DrJ DrJ is offline
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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?
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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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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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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 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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Old 18th August 2008
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here are my thoughts on the matter:
freebsd is meant for server applications. look at all the "desktop" linux distros out there. they configure everything for you. freebsd doesnt do any of this because it is meant to serve a special purpose and allows you to configure from scratch. you dont have to deal with the default configuration of everything. ive used freebsd as a desktop system since 4.6. i do without flash, i do without java. if theres a video on youtube or break or whatever that i absolutely have to see i use a firefox plugin to download the .flv and view it in mplayer.
freebsd allows you to use it in whatever manner you like provided that you know what you want to do with it and how to accomplish this.
the default install and configuration of freebsd is rather bland... and i believe that this is exactly what the freebsd project wishes to accomplish. like i said before... it is designed for the person who knows how to configure it for whatever purpose they need.
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Old 18th August 2008
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This goes to the question that is probably one of the most commonly asked questions in the *nix world.

Is X good enough to be used as a desktop?

Or any number of variants thereof - where X can be any OS (i.e., Linux (or a specific distro), *BSD, Solaris, etc.).


My answer (which most likely is not the majority answer) is this:

For most people, it probably isn't. Most people would be lost outside of the baby's first computer world, which is Windows. If someone is knowledgeable and inclined enough to ask this question - then maybe; give it a shot and decide for yourself. (this next part is the part that is most important for me and least important for you) It is good enough for my needs. My OS's of choice (Slackware and NetBSD) are good enough for what I need them to do. I am happy with them and have them more-or-less configured to tailor fit me.


So give FreeBSD (or any other candidate on your list) a try. I think there are FreeBSD Live CD's available (I don't have a link at the moment though) - so you can test drive it with no commitment.
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Old 18th August 2008
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The first two are nothing to do with FreeBSD. Adobe owns flash, and they refuse to provide usable support outside of windows. The quicker someone does a rm -rf adobe\*, the better. Open source implementations are out there, (swf-dec and gnash), and they are improving, but are not likely to provide a workable situation.
Ditto the 3D accelleration. As ATI releases specs, the xorg crowd will develop good open source drivers, which, if well written, will be quickly ported. rm -Rf nvidia\*, though. They seem a lost cause.

As for your others, most of this can be traced back to errors in ACPI implementations in BIOSes.We are stuck with hacking workarounds to broken hardware - not something that makes a programmer happy, but they know ti has to be done. Try, search and then send a PR or post in the mailing list. That is where things get done.
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Old 18th August 2008
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&LateNiteTV
I can'ta gree with that linux when U install are almost configured and preapred to work. Mayby Ubuntu yes. But for example Slackware or Gentoo or Arch? U have to configure them by yourself and they don't have any GUI configurators(onyl those which are in envarioment). And I think thay are as configurable as *BSD
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Old 18th August 2008
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Default How ´bout...

FreeBSD on the desktop...hasn´t anyone tried PC-BSD or Desktop BSD? I´m using PC-BSD on an old Dell laptop and all but suspend (et [similar] al) work perfectly. ´Didn´t even have to touch the command line to set it all up.

My main home desktop runs OpenSolaris by the way. Low ram and low speed nix the idea of putting it on the portable.

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Old 18th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BSDfan666 View Post
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 was thinking about that as I lay in bed last night. FreeBSD is Unix, after all, so saying FreeBSD is not desktop worthy is like saying Unix isn't either.
Quote:
Is X good enough to be used as a desktop?
Of course it is. Too many people say, "But it doesn't act like Windows". Why should it? These same people say "It's not good enough for my games or watching movies/TV", which comes around to what I've always said, average people do not treat their computer as a work tool but a game box and a TV. If you want to be entertained, get an XBox or Windows. If you want to do work, X is great.

Google had one of their tech talks with two of the X developers and they laid out what X can do and what they plan, along with its shortcomings.
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Old 18th August 2008
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I think the first thing that needs to be defined or agreed upon is what exactly a "Desktop" is?

That aside I've been using FreeBSD as my primary home computer since 4.0. I can get everything I need to get done done. So for me it make a great desktop. I even had a TV card that worked (got rid of it).

Now I see alot of comments that freeBSD needs "3d-accelerated video drivers". My question is other than games, why does the average pers need 3D acceleration other than games? If so then this add fuel to drhowarddrfine theory.

With youtube and google video, I do see the growing need for flash, but I like to download movies and watch them when I want or again and again. So I use clive and gnash has been working well for the dumb video links my friends send.
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Old 18th August 2008
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drhowarddrfine View Post
Of course it is. Too many people say, "But it doesn't act like Windows". Why should it? These same people say "It's not good enough for my games or watching movies/TV", which comes around to what I've always said, average people do not treat their computer as a work tool but a game box and a TV. If you want to be entertained, get an XBox or Windows. If you want to do work, X is great.

Google had one of their tech talks with two of the X developers and they laid out what X can do and what they plan, along with its shortcomings.
I was going to make a similar reply until I realized he used "X" to represent a substitution not X as in the X Windowing system.
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