Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

PC-BSD Day 8: Demons and Pirates?

It may seem like I am only busy with software management in this first week and the impression is correct. The graphical workspace -KDE by default on PC-BSD- is something I will focus on later, but first I wanted to delve into something I had no prior knowledge of. Besides, I already had a list of favorite applications that I want and need on any desktop, whether that desktop is Windows, Linux, Mac OSX or BSD. Thirdly, the FreeBSD system for software management is interesting enough to spend time with and the PBI system that PC-BSD uses to set itself in the limelight deserves consideration.

When it comes to software management there are two items that I needed to look into: the non-official PBI’s and Freshports.

Non-official PBI’s

Personally I believe that developing, using and promoting open source and free software is the right thing to do. In a previous article I gave some arguments why I think the GPL v3 is a good thing. From the more pragmatic viewpoint of an end-user that needs to get work done today I also believe that in the course of W2L migration (or W2B migration) intermediate solutions are needed to run closed source applications with functionalities that are not or not sufficiently enough provided for by the current open source applications. Any rational migration strategy for desktop users should include emulation/virtualisation options.

The PBI webpage includes a link to Win4BSD with which you can install a virtual Windows box under BSD. Personally I use VMware server to run my virtual Windows and I tried VirtualBox which is a great product. I could be mistaken but neither the VMware website nor the VirtualBox site mention anything about it being installable under BSD. The ports collection does refer to vmware3, but it looks like that one hasn’t been updated in a while.

Wine is always a good tool to try and the list of supported applications is growing, but even that is sometimes a hit-and-miss exercise. Matt Hartley’s articles pointed to another solution: a set of non-official PBI’s that promised the install of Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Microsoft Office, among others. He wondered whether this was a case of software piracy, maybe because the site also provides a link to torrents that are hosted on ThePirateBay.


Part of those PBI’s concern software that can be downloaded legitimately because they are free closed-source applications. uTorrent -which was the torrent communities love baby for some time but seemes to loose it’s luster-, WinAMP and the Internet Explorer. Downloading and installing them was simple enough, but I was curious about the how. I navigated to the Programs directory that contains the PBI installed software and checked the new packages. Each package is installed in it’s own Wine bottle and -from the viewpoint of the desktop user- seamlessly integrates in the PC-BSD system.


Now, as a writer, I would fall short in my task if I wouldn’t at least take a look at the other packages that promised to install commercial applications. Was it really a case of piracy? Hoping that my status as online writer on an investigative trail would protect me for the software piracy police I downloaded all the non-official PBI packages.

One thing I have to say about the provided packages. They concern slightly outdated versions of the commercial software: Dreamweaver MX, Photoshop 7 and Office 97. I know these packages can be installed via Wine. Firing up the Dreamweaver PBI and following the steps left me stranded in a screen that asked for my serial number. I tried ZendStudio 5.5. Aha, the install finished without asking anything. Nope, running ZendStudio for the first time ran into the stonewall of having to provide a serial number.


The non-official PBI’s have nothing to do with software piracy, but have everything to do with making the closed source applications available and easily installable for the end-user that doesn’t want to bother with the commandline. As such it is comparable to the Wine Doors project , but that project is still in it’s infant stage.


Freshports is a very interesting source of information about security vulnerabilities in packages and about updated ports. Maybe I have never looked for it but I don’t think there is a counterpart in the realm of Linux that gives such a complete and accessible insight in the ongoing development and status of available software for the operating system.

Each entry gives some information about the program, it’s website, how to install it and what has been changed by the committer. With each new commit you can also check which files have been altered.

Is it useful for the desktop user? I don’t think so, but it does prove one thing. The development of the software on your desktop is an ongoing process, with ports and packages being updated continuously. Hence the need to run an update every now and then.


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