DesktopBSD Day 1

Jan Stedehouder has been reviewing PC-BSD for 30 days in September. Now (November) he’s using DesktopBSD for 30 days and writing about his experience on his blog:

  1. DesktopBSD Day 1 – Getting Started (part 1)
  2. DesktopBSD Day 1 – Getting Started (part 2)

The PC-BSD series was well written, balanced and fair. The PC-BSD has been following the series with great interest and have taken the feedback and suggestions to heart. I’m sure the DesktopBSD team will do the same.

A new day, a new month and a new challenge. For the next thirty days I will again plunge into the world of *BSD, this time using DesktopBSD. This is the second “30 days” series. For those who are interested, the first series was about PC-BSD and can be found here. My aim is to write everyday about my experiences with DesktopBSD, the pros and cons, the good and the bad, the smart and the stupid.

DesktopBSD weekly snapshots (dev)

The release cycle of DesktopBSD is rather slow, since the developers spend a lot of time making sure the release is almost bug-free. For those who are always excited about trying the latest and greatest features, DBSD provides now weekly snapshot ISOs. They are built every Saturday from the latest DesktopBSD Tools, the most recent FreeBSD 6-STABLE sources and an up-to-date ports collection. The ISO contains a live system that can be booted without installing first, an installer that copies the operating system to your hard disk and a large selection of packages for most of your every-day needs.

For now, the snapshots are only available for the AMD64 architecture, but i386 snapshots will soon folow. You can download the ISO files here.


30 Days with PC-BSD and DesktopBSD

Jan Stedehouder used PC-BSD for thirty days to see what living with it is like. On day thirty, he concludes:

Does PC-BSD have the potential to be a serious contender for the open source desktop? I answered that question with a yes, because the potential is there. The solid FreeBSD roots, the very strong and very accessible information, the friendly and mature community and the PBI system provide the foundations for that potential. I don’t think it is ready now and I couldn’t recommend it yet to someone in the early stages of moving away from Windows to an open source desktop. But I do think that the PC-BSD team has the right target audience in mind and is building an system and a support system that addresses it’s needs.

He has now finished that journey and he’s going to do the same with DesktopBSD from Nov 1st.

Check his website for the daily updates.

Flash on FreeBSD/PC-BSD/DBSD

Previously we reported Matteo’s suggestion on how to get Flash and YouTube/Google Video to work on FreeBSD, but now that gnash-0.8.1 is in the ports tree (and hence avilable for FreeBSD, PC-BSD and DesktopBSD), the greasemonkey+mplayer hack is no longer needed to watch these videos.

It seems like Flash it getting better on the BSD desktop (Gnash, swfDec, Adobe Flash) but unfortunately this is only Flash 7. According to this post Gnash still needs a lot of working on. Youtube videos work, but anything more complicated code-wise (eg. Flash games) make Gnash crash.

CNN for instance and a lot of other popular websites use Flash 9, so there’s still a problem for *BSD users. Or not…?

There’s now a PBI available for PCBSD 1.4 of the Windows version of Firefox with Flash 9 (using Wine) which can be downloaded here or here.

However, Gnash, swfDec or the Flash 9 PBI are little hacks in order to get Adobe Flash working on the BSD Desktop. What we want from you, Adobe, is either a BSD Flash version of an open source version of Flash so we can make it work ourselves.

Win4BSD 1.1 in ports


Win4BSD is a PC emulator that runs Windows as a guest at nearly native speed under FreeBSD. It is based on QEMU, a partially open, partially closed source emulator package. However, Win4BSD offers many advantages, including much greater speed, ease of use, more seamless integration with the host OS, and “grabless” mouse transition between the host and Windows guest.

Win4BSD is the latest port of a product that has previously been known as Win4lin and SCO Merge.

This port downloads, extracts and installs the contents of the Win4BSD package. It will work with or without a Win4BSD license. If you do not have a license, Win4BSD will function for a 3 week trial period.

You can download packages (.iso, .tbz, pbi) and user guide from

Install Win4BDS in:

  • FreeBSD: as root /usr/ports/emulators && make install clean
  • PC-BSD: same as FreeBSD or download the PBI
  • DesktopBSD: same as FreeBSD or install with the PackageManager

I use Win4BSD on my PC-BSD system for a few Windows (only) programs and I must say that the speed is reasonably fast and the package as a whole is quite stable; it only crashes occasionally. Recommended, if you can afford $29.99 and want to use *BSD as your primary OS.

RoFreeSBIE 1.3 RC4 Released

Dan Angelescu has announced the availability of a public release candidate of RoFreeSBIE 1.3, a FreeBSD-based live DVD:

rofreesbie.pngRoFreeSBIE 1.3RC4 has been released. It is based on FreeBSD 6.2-STABLE based. It has improved start-up, backup and restore scripts. Using backup and restore scripts you can save the system settings to a floppy or an USB storage device and restore them at start-up. Almost all settings can be restored (network configuration, firewall, even menus on the desktop or the way system logs in). It includes also a unique feature – the possibility to activate and deactivate NVIDIA drivers on the fly. Also thanks to the DesktopBSD project and its developer, Peter Hofer, a new graphical installer has been included. Many bugs have been corrected and the final release will be available soon.

DesktopBSD 1.6-RC3 Released

DesktopBSD logoDesktopBSD 1.6 RC 3 is now available for download from our mirrors or via BitTorrent. This release candidate is considered a large step towards a final release 1.6 with major changes such as:

  • X.Org release 7.2, improving support for modern graphics hardware
  • NVIDIA graphics driver, providing hardware 3D acceleration for NVIDIA video cards
  • Latest FreeBSD 6-STABLE as base system with High Definition Audio (HDA) support
  • More up-to-date software packages from the DesktopBSD build servers
  • Many small bug fixes and optimizations

Upgrades from 1.0 and previous release candidates are supported. An additional language CD and 64-bit (AMD64) DVD will be released soon.

DesktopBSD vs PC-BSD review

Fareast has written a quick comparison of DesktopBSD and PC-BSD on

DesktopBSD logoAfter reading a very not-nice review of DesktopBSD a couple of weeks ago, and in light of the fact that I just adore PC-BSD, it’s a bit strange that I would be reviewing it here.

Still the hunger to try out some new and untried open source system got the better of me, and I downloaded the latest release 1.6, just to see what the deal really was. I installed the system under vmware-server, allotting 256M ram, and a bit over 2G hard drive space, just to make things more interesting.

The idea behind DesktopBSD is the same as that of PC-BSD; to make an easily installable version of the FreeBSD open source operating system through a graphical interface, coupled with a nice shiny front end to run it all on. This is significant because FreeBSD, while not that difficult to get up and running, is a considerable time hog when you want to get a modern day window manager running on it, i.e., downloading and compiling KDE from source (a huge package), with a conservative estimate being anywhere from fifteen to twenty hours just for that alone.

I have to admit that by setting up the specs so tough, that I kind of wanted DesktopBSD to choke; I’m really into the way that PC-BSD has their pbi directory set up with the install wizards, plus the ability to use the traditional ports method of FreeBSD to update your system, that I didn’t want to see anything endangering that crown.

Sadly, I was let down. If anything, DesktopBSD is easier and faster to setup than PC-BSD, and the speed that it showed with so little ram was nothing less than astonishing. I pulled up Firefox, surfed over to youtube and Flash was working out of the box; opened up a BBC news story and scrolled around, and it was very smooth.

One thing sorely lacking in the install were any office suite apps of note–no open office, no abiword or gnumeric or really anything; considering that DesktopBSD is just FreeBSD with the nice desktop, and no pbi directory like PC-BSD, means that if you want open office you need to compile it from source, just like in a normal,vanilla FreeBSD.

Does the system have the ability to do what I want it to do without a huge amount of effort, those things being: playing music, surfing the web (Flash included), using email, watching vids, and a bit of eye-candy thrown in, or at least some of the shiny on a slower machine? If the answer is yes to those simple requirements, then we have a winner, and a system that I want to install to my machine. Joe Sixpack/Average User can use Windows Vista if that is what is best for him, and I’m none the worse for wear.

PC-BSD LogoAnd PC-BSD, with the ability to do both the traditional compile from source, as well as offering the packages through their nifty pbi directory has DesktopBSD beat in this category. Make no mistake, DesktopBSD is an excellent system that offers all the strength and flexibility of a vanilla FreeBSD setup with a huge time savings, it’s just that PC-BSD is that brilliant, and in comparison, there simply is none.

Read the full review here. Bold by me.

There’s more detailed information on the differences and similarities between PC-BSD and DesktopBSD on the FBSD Projects Page.