Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

PC-BSD Day 29: Back to GNOME, the bleeding edge and virtualization

In the course of this month there were various issues that couldn’t be solved immediately. In the comments there were quite a few suggestions on how to solve them and it is only fair to explore the solutions and fix the problems.

The bleeding edge in packages

In one the early articles I noticed the difference in being up to date between the ports and the packages. The program I tested -Bibletime- was available as 1.4.x in the packages and 1.6.x in the ports. Manolis then suggested to change the PACKAGESITE environment variable so that it would use the latest available packages.

I have been using Konsole with a root shell this month and it was enough to enter the following line:


After running a # echo $PACKAGESITE I was sure the new settings were accepted. The next step was to install Bibletime on this new box with # pkg_add -r bibletime, which led to a nice 1.6.4 version on my system. One thing I did notice. Before changing the PACKAGESITE environment variable there were already quite a few second and third digit dependency warnings which led to some programs that wouldn’t launch. Moving to the bleeding edge of packages only widened the gap between what was required and what was installed. This would lead to the conclusion that PC-BSD is a little behind on FreeBSD. I can imagine this is caused by a freeze some months ago on the part of the PC-BSD team after which they focused on ironing out the PC-BSD specific issues. For instance -as will be shown by the next sub heading- GNOME has a series of xorg 7.3 dependencies, while PC-BSD is shipped with xorg 7.2.2. In most cases the issue is limited to warning messages, in others it did result in non-functional programs.

GNOME issues

Installing GNOME on PC-BSD was easy enough (# pkg_add -r gnome2), but that left me a desktop with a window manager that wouldn’t accept any keyboard inputs. This problem was a familiar one to DrJ. When running as root the window manager -metacity- was running, but as a regular user it wasn’t. The issue should be solved by executing # metacity in a terminal window. However, I don’t have the ability to enter commands while under GNOME.

With the new PACKAGESITE settings on a fresh PC-BSD install I decided to install GNOME again. This process ended with a broken pipe error message. Nevertheless I could select GNOME in KDM and launch it. As expected it wouldn’t accept keyboard inputs. I thought it could be related to the KVM switch I am using and plugged in a PS/2 keyboard directly (after closing down the system of course 😉 ). Unfortunately it made no difference, which left this experiment without a good result I will try it again when running FreeBSD later this year.


In of his comments DrJ refers to using virtual machines under FreeBSD. I was interested because the FreeBSD handbook gave the impression that using FreeBSD as host OS wasn’t really supported, apart from having vmware3 in the ports collection. DrJ gave a reference to the BSDNexus website. In the forums I found some very interesting guides on how to install, setup and use QEMU and VMware 3 on a FreeBSD box.


VMware 3

Both articles are well-written and describe each step in sufficient detail. I will give both solutions a try later this year when I start working with FreeBSD proper. However, I don’t think QEMU and VMware 3 are good solutions for the desktop user that I have in mind. When discussing W2L migration (or W2BSD in this case) there is always a small set of programs that some users need and which are not supported (i.e. the functionality is not available or insufficient in open source programs) thus requiring either emulation (wine) or virtualization. To get QEMU and VMware 3 up and running requires a lot more background knowledge and command line intervention than most W2l/W2BSD migrators would have.

Another option is the PBI for Win4BSD. Strange enough the link to that package has disappeared from the PC-BSD PBI referral page. The new Win4BSD website also doesn’t make it easy to download a trial or demo version, but in the FreeBSD mailing list there is still a link to the testing FTP server (

After doing a search on the website I found this notification by Kris Moore and the ‘ official’ download link:

I downloaded the content of the whole directory (just in case). By the way, it turned out the direct link was ‘hidden’ in the section Support. Anyway, launching a PBI isn’t much of a challenge anymore. After that it is a matter of clicking the Win4BSD icon and the One-Click-2-Windows window pops up.

What is One-Click-2-Windowsâ„¢?
Win4BSD Pro’s One-Click-2-Windowsâ„¢ is the world’s easiest way to install Microsoft® Windows® on your FreeBSD desktop. Once you have completed the Preparing for Installation step above, you can use One-Click-2-Windowsâ„¢ to install a Windows desktop as easily as just clicking the Install… button.
One-Click-2-Windowsâ„¢ installs Windows directly from a supported Windows CDROM, so you don’t have to load the media first as with the traditional installation method. This is particularly useful if you only intend to install one version of Windows, or one guest configuration. One-Click-2-Windowsâ„¢ installs the session under the default configuration winpro.

At this moment I wanted to grab the Windows CD, only to find out that it is no longer on the shelves in my study. Actually, there isn’t much of anything on my shelves anymore since everything is packed for our moving house next week. I did have a Windows 2003 test version lying around, but Win4BSD wouldn’t accept that. Ah well, nothing to be done about that.


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