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Old 9th December 2013
harishankar harishankar is offline
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Default Integrating GUI into the OS?

I see a lot of complaints about modern X desktops not supporting BSD or having broken BSD support by using Linux-isms etc.

The below is not so much a request-for-features, as a general direction in which I hope at least one of the BSDs go:

> I would really wish BSD folks had and maintained their own full-featured X desktop environment which doesn't use Linuxisms and which is feature-rich enough to work similar to modern X desktops on Linux. i.e. compositing, managing peripheral devices with better desktop integration of features such as mounting and unmounting of devices, power management, network management etc. - all done in a cleaner BSDish way rather than hacking at Linux tools like console-kit, policykit, dbus etc.

> I also wish that peripheral hardware support (e.g. usb webcams, scanners, fingerprint readers) etc. improves in BSD. I mean drivers coming out for BSDs as quickly as drivers are developed for the Linux kernel.

> Also a larger collection of software that's written by BSD folk for the BSDs. You cannot forever expect Linux app developers to keep writing portable *nix code. Apart from the BSD userland, almost all the software used on BSD right now are PORTed apps from Linux userland, some of which work well, others which don't due to reliance on Linuxisms.

I agree that a lot of this is due to lack of manpower, but I suspect it's also due to lack of interest in getting the BSDs on desktops. So as much as I'd like to adopt BSD for my desktop, I am unable to do so for the above reasons. If BSD got that unique identity beyond userland and kernel, it has to stop relying on the Linux world for its application base and then complaining that Linux developers don't make their code portable across other UNIX-like OSes.

To me, in the long run, if BSDs can be considered as true-general purpose OSes (i.e. fit for mainstream destkop use as well as servers) the above points may need to be addressed.

Last edited by harishankar; 9th December 2013 at 03:08 PM.
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Old 9th December 2013
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I really don't agree with you, harishankar.
I think you don't really understand the open-source philosophy.

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Originally Posted by harishankar View Post
I would really wish BSD folks had and maintained their own full-featured X desktop environment(...)
I don't see why, with BSDs, you can choose your desktop : Gnome, Kde, Lxde, Xfce, FluxBox, etc...
I don't see the need for a specific Desktop, there is a lot of choice, and this what I love with BSDs.

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> I also wish that peripheral hardware support (...) etc. improves in BSD.(...)
Well, perhaps you don't know, but this is one of the most important part of Theo De Raadt's job !
Drivers can be quickly developed only if the manufacturer shares hardware drivers, and Theo is really doing a wonderful job in this way...

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Also a larger collection of software that's written by BSD folk for the BSDs.
The best softwares are the open-source softwares, written for everybody, not a specific OS.

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I agree that a lot of this is due to lack of manpower, but I suspect it's also due to lack of interest in getting the BSDs on desktops.(...)
And I think you've got a bad idea of the BSDs philosophy.
If you want an OS with the last softwares, the last drivers, etc..., then you're don't need a BSD, but a Linux/Windows/OS X distribution.

The BSD's developers philosophy is more like :
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We made a lot of efforts for you, and you're big enough to learn.
So if you don't find what you need, then you'll have to make efforts to obtain it, compiling it yourself if necessary.
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Old 10th December 2013
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Drivers can be quickly developed only if the manufacturer shares hardware drivers...
The OpenBSD project, in particular, has auditing concerns over all code which is integrated into the kernel. Code which is not available results in unknown blobs, & this practice can potentially jeopardize the overall stability & security of the system. The project will consider integrating in new devices where manufacturers publicly release sufficient documentation for drivers to be written.

Otherwise, devices have to be reverse engineered, & this process is very slow as development progresses through a lot of trial & error.

Part of harishankar's concern is the fact that the Linux community is more commerce-centered & will integrate blobs into that kernel which due to non-disclosure agreements will not disclose source code. Yes, this may mean that community may have faster access to more devices, but the public no longer has an opportunity to review the ramifications of the source code, nor fully substantiate system stability. In general, the *BSD community does not condone this practice.

Fundamentally, the essential difference between the communities is philosophical. The public benefits from having different options available so they can choose which best fits their needs. This is really what needs to be focused upon when comparing one community to another.
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Old 10th December 2013
harishankar harishankar is offline
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I do understand the open-source philosophy, though I think that doesn't have much relevance to the specific issues I raised in my post above.

The real reason I wrote the above post is that I find that, not surprisingly, none of the UNIX-like OSes are desktop oriented in any way at all. All of them have their roots in code written way back in time and Linux also based its philosophy on that. All the desktop enhancements/additions appear to be after-thoughts. The very existence of a separate GUI layer called X Windows is proof of that. I do understand that history plays its part here and that around that time of UNIX development, the very concept of a desktop computer had not yet evolved.

But I find that BSD folks seem to bitterly resent that fact that Linux has a lot of abstractions and "bolted-on" features that make it easier to work as a desktop OS and are tied down to Linux, but when it comes to solutions, I don't see any BSD developers putting their hands up to work on true desktop features. I understand that their itch is different and that they aren't interested in making BSDs more desktop oriented. I just wanted to know why.

But the surprising fact is that, in the modern era, barring a few, there seems to be no real OS that is single-user, desktop based written from the ground up.

Even Windows or MacOS X are not truly desktop oriented OSes from the ground up. I think Mac Classic is probably the most prominent commercial and proprietary desktop OS.

The only other example I can find of a truly 'from-scratch' attempt at a modern desktop OS with at least a bit of visibility appears to be BeOS in the last decade of the 20th century.

Although considering that the desktop market has grown to be a significant part of the computing industry in the last couple of decades, the only reason I can see for this is that OS development is one of the biggest challenges in computing requiring huge manpower and resources, particularly for mainstream usage.

Why not an Open Source OS that is based on the BSD kernel but built to be a desktop OS from scratch and thus cleanly coded? Are there any technical challenges in this, apart from the obvious issues of manpower, developer interest etc?

Last edited by harishankar; 10th December 2013 at 01:54 AM.
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Old 10th December 2013
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But I find that BSD folks seem to bitterly resent that fact that Linux has a lot of abstractions and "bolted-on" features that make it easier to work as a desktop OS and are tied down to Linux...
All I can offer is an opinion; I do not speak for the overall community.

The prevailing attitude nearly a decade ago was that third-party applications needed to target their code to POSIX criteria. If this was done, then porting to whatever Unix-like operating system should be similar as everyone agreed (to some extent...) that POSIX was to be considered the lowest common denominator.

However, a number of developers in the better known applications in the Unix world migrated to Linux, & eventually the attempt to stay agnostic to the target operating system was seen to be a boat anchor. Just write to Linux since this was seen to be the dominant target audience. I would say this is a nit which doesn't mesh in the *BSD world very well. Traditionally open & universal applications are narrowing their focus.
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I don't see any BSD developers putting their hands up to work on true desktop features. I understand that their itch is different and that they aren't interested in making BSDs more desktop oriented. I just wanted to know why.
I suspect you have already answered this question when you acknowledged above that the *BSD developer community is small, & that they have to pick & choose what battles they can or will fight. Beyond that, I again state that I am not a spokesperson for the community. All I can offer are observations.
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But the surprising fact is that, in the modern era, barring a few, there seems to be no real OS that is single-user, desktop based written from the ground up.
Perhaps this says something about those who are project developers, or perhaps this says something about their priorities.
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Even Windows or MacOS X are not truly desktop oriented OSes from the ground up. I think Mac Classic is probably the most prominent commercial and proprietary desktop OS.
I suspect what you are observing here is that it takes significant time for the development & stabilization of operating systems. I would wager that those in the Unix community value stability, & working with a vetted source base such as the descendents from AT&T and Berkeley Unix has its advantages. Yes, a new environment could & can be developed, but given the time & expense, using something which has already been tempered by decades of use is seen to be good enough.

Coming full circle, I suspect this is the reason for using X Windows, a "bolted-on" third-party graphical layer. Originally, it was written to be platform-agnostic, it was a known protocol, & those that needed it could install it; those that didn't (the embedded community...) were not forced to swallow code bloat which wasn't needed.

However, I suspect your core complaint is that there isn't a lot of standardization -- yet. Yeah, I agree.

The true value of Unix is that it is open & flexible. The core system is small, & can be adapted to lots of uses. Does this fit the needs of the desktop market? Personally, I don't see much agreement in what is considered to be a "desktop". I do know that in general, OpenBSD fits my needs. I suspect this sentiment can be inductively extrapolated to the community at large too.
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Old 10th December 2013
harishankar harishankar is offline
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Yes, if there was one word that I can coin to describe that process of de-POSIXification of Linux application development, it would have to be "Ubuntuization".

I believe there are a lot of Linux users who equally resent this. But I don't blame only open source application developers, commercial entities, for this. This rapid push away from core UNIX and to the mainstream desktop acceptance has come from both distribution developers, Linux-based commercial entities, and the Linux kernel devs. Apart from userland, I believe a lot of what went into the Linux kernel is also resented by the BSD community, for example ALSA as a replacement to OSS and consequently a lot of userland multimedia applications being un-portable or hard-to-port to BSD because of this.

Which begs the interesting question: is it possible for a UNIX-like OS to stay true to its POSIX roots and still develop as a modern desktop OS?

Last edited by harishankar; 10th December 2013 at 02:51 AM.
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Old 10th December 2013
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Personally, I don't see much agreement in what is considered to be a "desktop".
I agree. I think that's why we see such a large number of WM's / DE's today. Many of them are very different from each other, because everybody wants something different. I don't think it would be possible to create a single (POSIX BSD-focused) WM/DE and have more than 10% (or whatever) of the users happy with it. So we may be stuck with porting Linux-isms, or developing niche solutions (e.g., cwm).
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Old 10th December 2013
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I agree. I think that's why we see such a large number of WM's / DE's today. Many of them are very different from each other, because everybody wants something different. I don't think it would be possible to create a single (POSIX BSD-focused) WM/DE and have more than 10% (or whatever) of the users happy with it. So we may be stuck with porting Linux-isms, or developing niche solutions (e.g., cwm).
I don't think it's as vague as that. I think at least the following are expected of a desktop system as opposed to a mere graphical workspace for GUI applications that a WM provides:

* tighter integration with some essential OS level services providing a consistent interface, exposed via GUI tools like network management, display and power management, screen management, filesystem monitoring, device management etc. (i.e. automated way to detect and support plug-and-play external drives, devices, configure printers, scanners etc)
* a minimal or common set of utilities for file management, web browsing, personal information management, e-mail, image viewing, document viewing, multimedia player, text editing, calculator etc.
* provides session management i.e. remember previous user sessions, User interface settings etc.
* provides a consistent graphical look-and-feel for applications including information sharing mechanisms (clipboard management etc).

Note that I'm not even talking of features like 2d or 3d video acceleration and desktop compositing, which are just visual frills.

All the above make it easier to use a personal computer or a laptop as opposed to having to revert to command line or console for achieving the desired results, which is the case with mere window managers. This usage is clearly separate from what people would need in a server-based system.

I think most users would tick at least a couple of the above to mean a desktop as opposed to a WM or a graphical workspace.

Last edited by harishankar; 10th December 2013 at 04:20 AM.
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Old 10th December 2013
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* tighter integration with some essential OS level services providing a consistent interface, exposed via GUI tools like network management, display and power management, screen management, filesystem monitoring, device management etc. (i.e. automated way to detect and support plug-and-play external drives, devices, configure printers, scanners etc)
You appear to be advocating a GUI-oriented interface, which is fine. I want you to have the tools which you find work for you.

However, I tend to use the console exorbitantly. I typically have numerous consoles open simultaneously along with multiple tabs within a browser. This works for me, & I have no intention on forcing my style upon anyone else.

While I will concur that we know more about GUI design today, there are applications with horrible graphical interfaces out there too. This is true on all operating systems.

Refining/focusing earlier statements, the advantage of the Unix platform has been the abundance of choices available. It is a hotbed of experimentation. Let users find what works for themselves. Let developers attempt to push the envelope. Choice is good.

Will a common graphical interface evolve? Perhaps, but neither do I believe that Microsoft nor Apple have it all figured out in pushing their unified solutions as they are today. I believe this is IdOp's point too. One size doesn't fit all.
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Old 10th December 2013
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Yes, my point was that it isn't simply your style or mine evolved from a vaccuum, but simply a consequence of the traditional UNIX interface that is the basis of modern UNIX-like operating systems such as BSD and Linux.

A lot of user interface habits reflect which OS we were introduced to and we worked with for a longer time.

Linux has, to some extent, deviated from the strict UNIX paradigm, while the BSDs seem far more faithful to stick to it.

My only question is that whether BSD can remain faithful to the old model, while accepting the new...
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Old 10th December 2013
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I think a major issue when people bring up "modern desktop" is a generation disconnect and I think it can be seen in this thread.

I'm older so this has an older person bias. When I hear the word desktop that does not automatically translate to GUI tools in my mind. It translates more to what a home user would do on there PC. Since when I started using home computers everything was DOS or a proprietary DOS like operating system without a GUI maybe this is why the term does not invoke GUIs for changing hardware settings. To me there is nothing more frustrating then getting a call from the 65 year old neighbor lady asking me to get her printer to work, because I'm a computer programmer, and not being able to do anything but click the setup icon and next over and over and repeat again for an hour and continually getting the setup successful message and then the printer not found error.

Now we have generations that are coming along that have always been exposed to the Windows type GUI OS so this is what comes to mind when the word desktop is used. All the abstraction of what goes on behind the GUI to make thing work is nowhere in their mind. "I click this and it works." "I install this driver and it works."

Now, I think we are at the point in time where these generations are coming together and although they think they are discussing the same thing they really are not.

As someone that has used *BSD as an exclusive home desktop machine for 15 years now, I read these threads trying to see why people actually feel that the *BSD are not useable desktops or not easy to use as desktop machines. And to me it is seeming to come do to what generation they are from.

And just to touch on hardware drivers for a minute, I can not speak of hardware support in Linux since I have not used it since 1997, but as for Windows and OSX compared to the *BSD, I would make a case that the *BSD have better hardware support as you don't have to get brand new printers or video cards because the newest version of the OS does not support your hardware any more. Or at least as often. And in the case of the Microsoft they dictate to the hardware manufactures hence your win devices.

This is all just my opinion and they why I see it, but I think Lady Gaga is a talentless corporate creation and millions find it otherwise.
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Old 10th December 2013
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I'd like to add my own comments to this discussion, which I have not yet joined, regarding hardware support.
  • Commodity hardware manufacturers want to sell as much product as they can to as many customers as possible, all at the lowest possible cost. If they perceive "Unix-like systems" as a market at all, commodity manufacturers see them as secondary to their primary market, Windows, and most perceive this market as "Linux". Unix and other Unix-like systems that are not "Linux" are not mass markets. As ocicat mentioned, they are able to address the largest portion of that secondary market by writing drivers for Linux. They can keep their driver closed source, and provide binary executable files only, or if they need to they can partner with the key players in the market (e.g.: Redhat) via NDAs.
  • The BSDs are usually not invited to this party. OpenBSD would refuse the invitation, per its stated policies on NDAs and closed source material.

Last edited by jggimi; 10th December 2013 at 02:42 PM. Reason: typo, clarity
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Old 10th December 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by roddierod View Post
I think a major issue when people bring up "modern desktop" is a generation disconnect and I think it can be seen in this thread.

I'm older so this has an older person bias. When I hear the word desktop that does not automatically translate to GUI tools in my mind. It translates more to what a home user would do on there PC. Since when I started using home computers everything was DOS or a proprietary DOS like operating system without a GUI maybe this is why the term does not invoke GUIs for changing hardware settings. To me there is nothing more frustrating then getting a call from the 65 year old neighbor lady asking me to get her printer to work, because I'm a computer programmer, and not being able to do anything but click the setup icon and next over and over and repeat again for an hour and continually getting the setup successful message and then the printer not found error.

Now we have generations that are coming along that have always been exposed to the Windows type GUI OS so this is what comes to mind when the word desktop is used. All the abstraction of what goes on behind the GUI to make thing work is nowhere in their mind. "I click this and it works." "I install this driver and it works."

Now, I think we are at the point in time where these generations are coming together and although they think they are discussing the same thing they really are not.

As someone that has used *BSD as an exclusive home desktop machine for 15 years now, I read these threads trying to see why people actually feel that the *BSD are not useable desktops or not easy to use as desktop machines. And to me it is seeming to come do to what generation they are from.

And just to touch on hardware drivers for a minute, I can not speak of hardware support in Linux since I have not used it since 1997, but as for Windows and OSX compared to the *BSD, I would make a case that the *BSD have better hardware support as you don't have to get brand new printers or video cards because the newest version of the OS does not support your hardware any more. Or at least as often. And in the case of the Microsoft they dictate to the hardware manufactures hence your win devices.

This is all just my opinion and they why I see it, but I think Lady Gaga is a talentless corporate creation and millions find it otherwise.
It may be a generation thing, but on the other hand, I learnt computers on MSDOS based machines (DOS 6.22) and only graduated to Windows 3.11 later. At school I was introduced to computers only in the context of programming languages like BASIC and C. Only later did the aspect of computers as entertainment boxes came into being.

So in a sense, I am used to the "GUI Layer separate from the OS" concept from way back, even though the technology is different from the *nix world.

But for all that, my expectations have been raised by "modern Operating Systems" and because of the wider scope of computing tasks and computing power in our hands today, compared to those days.
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Old 10th December 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by harishankar View Post
So in a sense, I am used to the "GUI Layer separate from the OS" concept from way back, even though the technology is different from the *nix world.

But for all that, my expectations have been raised by "modern Operating Systems" and because of the wider scope of computing tasks and computing power in our hands today, compared to those days.
So then by "modern Operating Systems" are you saying just GUI desktop integrated into the OS? And that this inherently better for such computing?

If so, wouldn't this approach effectively give *BSD user even less choices on the desktop since now you can only have the one desktop, I'm saying one because given the limit resources now if the GUI can't be a separate layer now everything is going to have to vetted by the core developers.

It would seem to me that only a commercial company can pull off something like this because of the time and resources, in which case we are back to OS X.
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Old 10th December 2013
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So then by "modern Operating Systems" are you saying just GUI desktop integrated into the OS? And that this inherently better for such computing?

If so, wouldn't this approach effectively give *BSD user even less choices on the desktop since now you can only have the one desktop, I'm saying one because given the limit resources now if the GUI can't be a separate layer now everything is going to have to vetted by the core developers.

It would seem to me that only a commercial company can pull off something like this because of the time and resources, in which case we are back to OS X.
I'm not saying that. But certainly for desktop systems, a tighter integration between OS level functionality and the user interface (graphical in this case) seems to be the key to relieve the users to focus on actual productive tasks. Linux is currently using abstraction layers/services to achieve this, while keeping the OS and GUI separate. It appears not to be appreciated by BSD developers for reasons already gone into.

Maybe one of the BSDs can achieve this in a cleaner way. As you say OS X is a commercial product for a closed hardware system and it cannot be used on hardware other than that produced by Apple Inc, legally.
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Old 10th December 2013
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I am separating out this specific discussion of GUI integration from its parent:

http://www.daemonforums.org/showthread.php?t=7018

Although this discussion is more or less on the same topic as the original ("What features need to be added to *BSD?"), this side discussion is specific to GUI integration. Readers may wish to visit the original thread referenced above for a broader context.
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Old 10th December 2013
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...a tighter integration between OS level functionality and the user interface (graphical in this case) seems to be the key to relieve the users to focus on actual productive tasks.
You may be interested in the following splinter project from FreeBSD:

http://www.pcbsd.org/

...as it attempts to provide a desktop-oriented solution. As this discussion has progressed, it appears that you are looking for something similar to Ubuntu, but in the *BSD world. Perhaps PC-BSD provides something towards that solution.

Could the other *BSD family members provide something similar? Yes, but I have no knowledge of such efforts are taking place. The desktop environment has different needs from the embedded or server market(s), & I suspect the projects see the desktop as a special, specific application environment.
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Old 11th December 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ocicat View Post
I do know that in general, OpenBSD fits my needs.
The same for me.


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Originally Posted by harishankar View Post
Linux is currently using abstraction layers/services to achieve this, while keeping the OS and GUI separate. It appears not to be appreciated by BSD developers for reasons already gone into.
Exactly, it's not appreciated because it would be an obstacle to freedom.

All the BSDs would depend of only one GUI ?
Some Linux companies already develop softwares that only works with particular distributions...

And this is the worrying thing...
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Old 11th December 2013
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The same for me.



Exactly, it's not appreciated because it would be an obstacle to freedom.

All the BSDs would depend of only one GUI ?
Some Linux companies already develop softwares that only works with particular distributions...

And this is the worrying thing...
Obstacle to freedom in what way? If one of the BSDs decide to make their OS more GUI centric, how would it affect other BSDs? Or else, should all BSDs work together to find a cleaner way to integrate GUI into the OS without losing the existing flexibility and code cleanliness so treasured by the BSD community?

By the way, I don't consider the existing GUI options in BSD as "integration". None of the desktops work as full featured in BSD as they work on Linux. It is merely bits and pieces code, some taken from linux (like Consolekit, Policykit, dbus, etc.) which works in some ways and breaks in other ways.

Either approach would work fine. The biggest problem appears to be the mindset resistance which you have shown, and which appears to be shared be the BSD developer community.
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Old 11th December 2013
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You may be interested in the following splinter project from FreeBSD:

http://www.pcbsd.org/

...as it attempts to provide a desktop-oriented solution. As this discussion has progressed, it appears that you are looking for something similar to Ubuntu, but in the *BSD world. Perhaps PC-BSD provides something towards that solution.

Could the other *BSD family members provide something similar? Yes, but I have no knowledge of such efforts are taking place. The desktop environment has different needs from the embedded or server market(s), & I suspect the projects see the desktop as a special, specific application environment.
Yes, PC-BSD is a start.

But it does only package the existing desktop solution on top of FreeBSD, which have the limitations I stated above.

Anyway, it may appear I came across as aggressive in some of my posts. It is not my intention to inflame passions or to criticize the developers. I am just expressing what I feel seems to be a much neglected area of the BSD world for some time. I understand the historical, technical and political reasons for this as well. Around the time when I tried out FreeBSD 5, there wasn't as much difference between Linux and BSD on the desktop. But since then, the gap appears to have widened a lot.

Last edited by harishankar; 11th December 2013 at 07:22 AM.
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