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Old 27th January 2014
shep shep is offline
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Default Simple Desktop Environment for OpenBSD 5.4

This is a relatively simple project that I have been tweaking for about a year. The resultant desktop was based on a post in the freebsd forums which I would encourage you to peruse. This differs from the FreeBSD howto by using the OpenBSD base and binary packages.

This was motivated by several factors.

The first was to have a desktop that would function in a basic BSD environment; no wrappers or other cludges for pulseaudio, udev, hal, systemd, compositing etc.

Secondly, it was to try out a new paradigm for a desktop. In contrast to projects that build from Debian, Fedora, FreeBSD, Arch... and then are packaged up as installation images, this project stays within the OpenBSD sphere. The desktop is built using OpenBSD tools and packages. When you are done installing, you still have an OpenBSD desktop. Interestingly, this paradigm can be easily applied to any system where the package manager can be feed a list of packages. One can envision a web site where the user selects a base OS, DE, Browser, email client, etc which then generates an install list and an application menu. I have utilized this basic method to make a similiar desktop in Fedora20.

Third, a resource efficient interface. The most frequent tasks that are effected by a desktop are web browsing and email. In Unix, a terminal is also frequently implemented and each of these tasks can be started by a single click on a large, animated icon. Hotkeys; <Ctl+Alt+b> browser, <Ctl+Alt+e> email, <Ctl+Alt+t> terminal, and <Ctl+Alt+m> system menu, are configured in ~.config/openbox/rc.xml. The animated icons also include a file manager, a launcher for libreoffice and a music player. All applications can be accessed either the <Ctl+Alt+m> hotkey or by a right-click anywhere except the toolbar and the launcher.

What this is not:

It is not a substitute for the OpenBSD FAQ and the man pages. Although I tried to structure the README file to describe the commands that were used; time and space contraints prevented going into detail. The flash plugin is not available although *.flv/*.swf content is accessible.

To get this desktop installed you will need:

1) A base OpenBSD install with a working internet connection.
2) Knowledge of basic editing commands and familarity with file paths/permissions.

What you should end up with:

1) A light, responsive desktop that at idle occupies less than 70mb of RAM.
2) The base security of OpenBSD and the option to use M:tier package updates
3) A user interface that will quickly launch frequently used applications.
4) Unix neophytes will be guided through the basic commands to install and configure.

A brief mention of the included packages. Although I personally use some console based packages, gui based packages were chosen to be newcomer friendly. These packages are added to the base OpenBSD packages and serve as a "place holder" for FreeDesktop application category. Users who wish to utilize a different application, say Thunderbird or Mutt in place of Claws-Mail, can easily install their preferred email client, delete Claws-mail and edit the launcher/menu scripts. More details are provided in the README.

1) Basic Desktop consists of
x11/openbox, /x11/tint, x11/wbar and XDM login manager. The core configuration scripts are provided to enable xdm, start OpenBox, Tint2 and Wbar and provide a base openbox menu. No qt3 or qt4 apps were used although they can be easily added.
2) Broswers are www/mozilla-firefox and lynx. If M:tier updates are added firefox will update to firefox-esr
3) The added email client is mail/claws-mail. This was chosen based on it's stability and flexibility. Claws-Mail can access pop, imap, smtp, and a local /var/mail folder for those who use opensmtpd. Claws-Mail can be further configured by adding plugins most of which are available as OpenBSD packages. System logs still are sent via /var/mail and are accessed via the mail command in a terminal.
4) Terminal. I debated utilizing xterm in order to keep the installation light but went ahead with x11/rxvt-unicode as it has perl extensions, supports changing title bar icons on a per application basis, and can be daemonized.
5) File manager is x11/pcmanfm. This is relatively light and the buggy code of older versions has been fixed.
6) Office Suite - editors/libreoffice with java. productivity/osmo as a Calendar/Scheduler and print/epdfview as a pdf viewer.
7) Multimedia - x11/gnome-mplayer, audio/mpd/audio/sonata and audio/abcde cd ripper.
8) One Game - games/xpat2 solitaire. You can add more from the OpenBSD package repositories.
9) Development - www/bluefish.
10) Editors - vi from the base openbsd install and editors/leafpad as an gui based intuitive editor.
11) x11/obmenu and x11/obconf are provided. Obmenu does not support obenbox menu icons (enabled in openbox => 3.5).
12) An .Xdefaults file is appended to the base .Xdefaults file. The default fonts utilize the Redhat liberation-fonts package. Be aware that .Xdefaults has been deprecated upstream by .Xresources ; adapting these settings to Linux will likely require renaming the file.

Although it would be possible to extract the configuration file to the appropriate directories, I elected to extract to a working directory where the user can review and tweak the file.

Copy/Paste commands for setup are in the README file.

I have trialed this several times and believe I have most of the typos/spelling/grammer fixed. I will put two place holder posts following this post and will gladly accept suggestions/pointers/corrections to the original post. If you find this to be of use and a time saver, please consider supporting the OpenBSD project.

To start, download the following attachment


Addendum 6May2014:
An update for OpenBSD 5.5 is here

to the users home directory of your new OpenBSD 5.4 install and extract with

$ tar xvzf OpenBSD54_SimpleDE.tar.gz. Then change into the OpenBSD54_SimpleDE directory and open the README with your preferred pager.

$ cd ~/OpenBSD54_SimpleDE

$ less README

If this works you should end up with

Name:  SimpleDE.png
Views: 2023
Size:  38.6 KB

Last edited by shep; 8th May 2014 at 02:28 AM. Reason: M:tier updates removed from OpenBSD54_pkglist.txt, typo in README, Corrected menu icon, Removed xft entries in Xdefaults
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desktop, openbsd 5.4

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