[nycbug-talk] BSD on a desktop
scottro at nyc.rr.com
Sat Jul 31 00:41:23 EDT 2004
On Fri, Jul 30, 2004 at 09:05:00PM -0400, G.Rosamond wrote:
> I'm working on a outline of making FreeBSD a useful desktop. It's
> aimed at those who have told me face-to-face so many times that they'd
> love to try out a BSD, but have so many basic functions that aren't
> fulfilled by BSD on a desktop.
> It may become a meaty piece of documentation for our documentation
> project, or maybe a serialized piece in Daemon News, or who knows what.
> . .
> I'd appreciate any input anyone has in terms of their favorite X
> packages to run. . .and using which window manager. I'm not going to
> cover Gnome or KDE environments, but rather focus on XFCE, FVWM, MLVWM,
> WindowMaker, etc. . .
I'm assuming from this, you'd like input on the list. Feel free to use
anything here if it's useful.
There are various threads on the BSD forums about BSD as a desktop,
(including lists of people's favorite apps.)
For myself, to attempt to be objective, Linux is still probably a bit
better for the desktop, but as I use FreeBSD for almost everything, it
was worth it to me to do the extra research to get it working as an
Using Linux opera, getting flash and java working was fairly trivial.
One problem I have run into (and haven't yet solved) was the fact that
though opera now works with cups (despite notes in their help section
sayng it doesn't) there does seem to be a problem with linux-opera and
cups--I guess it's trying to to print to something in the /usr/compat
linux section--I thought it could be easily solved by symlinking lp or
lpr, but that didn't do the trick. (If one does want java working with
linux-opera, I recommend installing the linux-blackdown jdk--there's no
need to manually install anything as there is with some of the native
versions of java, one can simply do make install clean from ports).
There are minor glitches still--for instance, if you open up a page
using java, suddenly keyboard input switches--open an xterm type anyting
(including exit) in the terminal, and keyboard input works again.
Haven't played with firefox and java, I keep firefox native in case I do
need to print a web page. (With linux-opera, one can simply print to a
file then run the file to lp).
It's easy to set it to work with either xpdf or acroread, so that pdf
pages open without intervention.
FreeBSD's version of lbreakout2 is way behind Linux's, but as I just use
it to kill time while waiting for things, I can deal with that. The
only other game I use at all is penguin-command which seems to be about
the same in both.
The quality of sound in FreeBSD seems to be a bit less. I've used
mplayer for DVD's without too much trouble. My feeling is always that
it's better to use a 150 dollar DVD player than a $1,000 computer that
doesn't do the job as well, so I've not really gotten involved in it too
deeply. Seems that after I install mplayer, I had to do a bit of
configuring--which is a bit annoying to me, it's not one of those things
that I enjoy researching, I want it to just work like it does on my
wife's Mac. On the other hand, with Linux, I think I have the same
problem, and xine can never find the DVD player, so it might even be
something borked with the hardware.
For word processing, I use OpenOffice--I basically just need
compatibility with MS .doc and .xls formats and I also need Japanese.
I've only been able to print Japanese using OpenOffice--last time I
tried, AbiWord wouldn't even enable me to properly input it. As this is
an infrequent need, I keep meaning to put in Abiword again, just to keep
for simply .doc format when I don't need Japanese or other features of
OpenOffice. Again, FreeBSD is a bit behind Linux--OpenOffice now has a
version 1.2 (and a 2.x snapshot--though I've heard that is back to being
slow) 1.2 does seem much faster than the 1.1 versions. Trying to do it
from ports is a major nuisance, and openoffice.org does have a package
for 1.1.2, which is a bit faster than 1.1.0 and 1.1.1 (which is, IIRC,
the latest offered through ports).
My desktop needs are fairly minor, mostly, I use the desktop for some
web browsing and to have several terminals open. I use mutt as my
emailer, though Sylpheed seems to be the equal of most GUI mail clients
I've run into--again, I don't know how good it is if someone has more
sophisticated needs, but it enables filtering etc. If we're comparing
to Linux, I think it's equal.
I use fluxbox as my window manager--I'm a bit of a wm slut, but keep
coming back to it. Mainly, I want to be able to move terminals around
and open applications with keystrokes, and flux allows me to do this, as
well as allowing me to open and navigate its root menu with keystrokes
as well. Again, compared with Linux, it seems equal.
So, the only advantages to me, at least, in using Linux are a nicer
version of lbreakout2, slightly better sound quality (though I have one
box where Linux will simply not work with the onboard AC97 sound card
and FreeBSD does--as my wife confiscated the speakers to that box for
her Mac, it's become a moot point.). Opera will work directly with cups
in Linux. (FreeBSD's native opera will also do so, but with native
opera, it was too much trouble to get java and flash working).
Japanese is as easy, or easier, to get working in FreeBSD (due to the
ports--for instance, it's quicker to get Japanese working in FreeBSD
than Debian. Deb is not hard at all, but there's a few extra steps one
has to take). I realize that's a fairly esoteric need, but it is a need
My desktop needs are perhaps less than the average person. However, I
think that FreeBSD is pretty easy to get working as a more than adequate
Hope this is of use (and if not, I apologize to the list for the long
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