Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

PC-BSD Day 25: Updating the system

I was getting annoyed by the long string of error messages pointing to second or third digit dependencies that weren’t met. For a freshly installed PC-BSD system I expected it to be a bit more up to date. One could argue – as is done in the PC-BSD forums- that this version of *BSD is meant for desktop users who should restrict themselves to using the PBIs and leave updating the system to the Online Update Manager (Settings -> Software & Updates). At the same time the Quick Guide does explain the packages and ports systems to install new software. But how do you keep PC-BSD in sync with the developments in those two systems, when -as I experienced- installing packages is accompanied by error messages and broken installs and the Online Update Manager tells me the system is up to date?

Checking the PC-BSD forums

How would the current group of users deal with this issue? For that I went to the PC-BSD forums and searched to any clues on how to update and/or upgrade the PC-BSD system. I must say that the overall picture isn’t heart warming nor encouraging. Upgrading from 1.3.4 to 1.4 is not recommended. Upgrading from a 1.4 beta release to the final release is not recommended.

What does the FreeBSD handbook say?

Chapter 4.5.4 explains how to upgrade the ports with various tools. The portupgrade utility is a command line tool with which you can upgrade the entire system or just an application. It is recommended first to run the #pkgdb -F instruction to fix any problems in the package database. The portupgrade instructions can look like this:

# portupgrade -a which will update all outdated ports on the system
# portupgrade -aP which will update all outdated ports on the system and use a package instead of a port if one is available (saving a ton of compile time)
# portupgrade -R firefox which will update Firefox but first will update all the ports required by it.

Another tool that can be used is portmanager. With # portmanager -u the whole system will be updated.

And what about the GUI tools?

I have the DesktopBSD-tools installed on my system. One very annoying problem I encounter is the message that there are conflicts in the package database, but no real information on how to fix this. Fortunately, I found this thread in the PC-BSD forum. Anyway, I opted to update all the outdated ports and DesktopBSD-tools started to handle them. It took somewhat more than an hour and -sad to say- this again showed a long list of errors and unsolved dependencies.

The unavoidable comparison

For most of the time I want to test PC-BSD on it’s own merit and not compare it to -for instance- Ubuntu Linux, but today I couldn’t really avoid it. I am spoiled by Ubuntu and the update utility. It tells me when new updates are available and then it is simply a matter of clicking the update icon and entering the root password. Dependencies are taken care of. I can do the same via the commandline, refresh the resources and update the whole thing. The graphical interface to update an Ubuntu box are simple enough for most desktop users. It’s that simplicity I miss on PC-BSD. Only when a desktop user stays away from the ports and packages he/she won’t notice the dependency errors, but then he/she is completely dependent on the PBI collection. At that point the benefits of the packages and ports are gone and would it be wiser not even to mention it in the quick guide anymore.

And at the end of the day…

I didn’t have a graphical desktop anymore. My LCD tells me that the input is not supported and running the wizard (option 6 from the bootloader) didn’t solve the problem. My my. I guess something went seriously wrong.


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7 thoughts on “PC-BSD Day 25: Updating the system

  1. I agree with you about pc-bsd. It is much harder to install applications. I am looking for kmymoney but every time I see it I get an error message. I was hoping that this would be the system that I could train my mother to use. I did an install of PCLinuxOS 2007 and was quite impressed with it but did not play around with it. I wanted some thing secure from the ground up. It is a shame that this can be broken as well and reinstalled. You have a lot more patience then I do as if I went through what you have gone through I would not have continued on for the 39 days. Hopefully pcbsd is keeping an eye on all this.

  2. Hi John. I do think the PC-BSD team is keeping an eye on this series of articles. There is a lot of traffic coming in from various parts of the PC-BSD website and earlier comments indicate they do pay attention.
    I promised to stick with PC-BSD for the whole 30 days and I am not someone who likes to come back on a promise. In the end I will have gained a lot and definitely can make some solid conclusions on the strengths and weaknesses of PC-BSD. It is my little contribution to improving this desktop oriented *BSD. I know I have sometimes deliberately blundered into things, imitating the behavior of quite a few Windows users I know. There is one drawback to being an experienced Linux and/or BSD user: you forget that Windows users have learned a different “logic”. Maybe because of this series the next iteration of PC-BSD comes a little bit closer for your mother’s needs. I’ll settle for that and endure any hardship this phase might incur.

  3. Flatland_Spider on said:

    I think PC-BSD is only supposed to get “official” updates from the mothership. There is a setting in the control panel that can be set to check for updates, but they are a rather rare occasion.

    I tried updating PC-BSD with portupgrade once too, and ended up with a broken system as well. That’s actually why I ditched it for vanilla FreeBSD with everything installed from ports, it just works so much better. It’s time consuming, but I have my Ubuntu laptop in the meantime.

    The thing about Ubuntu is that it is tightly controlled. Everything comes from Canonical or is built against a build from Canonical. It’s Debian, but it’s not Debian.

    This is the problem with PC-BSD. It’s FreeBSD, but it’s not FreeBSD. Their solution to the control problem is PBIs, but they have the problem, which they are trying to solve, of how to deliver up to date PBI packages. Once that gets worked out it will be a much better system. Historically, I would compare PC-BSD to Red Hat when RPM first came out, which was a long time ago (late, late 90s?).

  4. You also have to realize, Linux in general has a larger assortment of software than BSD. However a larger assortment isn’t what BSD should focus on, just how many broken packages and repositories exist for Linux? It may have an automated system but is also twice as likely to break dependencies or if not careful the OS itself. What BSD needs to focus on is creating a packaging system that out does Linux, BSD already claims it’s as easy to install things like MS Windows I think now is the time they capitalized on the idea and actually made it work.

    • My my, it is always interesting to see a comment on an article written 4 years ago 😉

      But, I think you are wrong. The difference between Linux and BSD as to the assortment of software isn’t that much. What you describe as dependency-hell for Linux, in my opinion doesn’t exist anymore for the casual user who sticks to the official repositories and uses the tools provided by the distribution.

      • Dave on said:

        Unfortunately, the dates on this blog come without years. I was disagreeing with many things here, until I noticed this is talking about a version of PC-BSD released 5 years ago…

      • Yep, it is really hard to miss the “Posted on September 30, 2007” message at the bottom of the article, or the “2007” at the previous comments, or the “2007” in the URL. What can I say.

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