Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

DesktopBSD Day 1 – Getting started (part 1)

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. This coincides with another insane challenge: to write a book in one month, the so-called NaNoWriMo. Since I also have to do some real work over the next thirty days I guess it will be a matter of sacrificing some sleep here and there.


It might be good to explain something about the perspective from which this series is written. My main focus is W2L migration. What is needed to stimulate Windows end-users to migrate to an open source desktop? I have a group of Windows users in my mind that use it everyday. It’s a group that partly consists of people that have no clue about the intricacies of operating systems, hardware, software etc. For them, the computer is simply a tool to get work done. Another part are the more experienced Windows users who like to play and tinker with their boxes. It’s group I regularly see at lectures and workshops.

I will use both these groups and their use of their computers as reference for most of my experiments and testruns. This means I will sometimes deliberately do ‘stupid’ things or just blunder my way around in the graphical workenvironment. On the other hand, I do have some more experience with *BSD now (thanks to the previous series) as well as extensive experience with Linux. So don’t be shocked if I use that to get things done well.

“You are insane! *BSD for the average end user?”

Insanity is a matter of definition, don’t you think, but the question is valid nonetheless. With all the reports about Linux still being a too big a leap for most end users, wouldn’t *BSD be on the other side of the moon for them? In my opinion the situation is less bleak concerning Linux as some might think, though do agree that most Linux distributions today are not suited to support a migration to an open source desktop. In order to qualify for that I believe the following criteria should be met:

  1. the open source desktop needs to a recognizable and easily understandable graphical work environment;
  2. the open source desktop should have a complete set of graphical tools for systems- and software management that can be used intuitively;
  3. the open source desktop should support multimedia activities and peripheral devices without too much hassle, even if this can only be achieved by a pragmatic approach towards non-free software components;
  4. the users of the open source desktop should have access to business-grade professional support if that is desired;
  5. maintaining and developing the open source desktop should not be dependent on a single person or a relatively small group of developers and maintainers;
  6. migration to the open source desktop will require re-training of end users and some level of real time support during the process. This means that good and accessible documentation should be at hand as well as easy access to end user support;
  7. the open source desktop should have a solid track record for quality, stability and solid progress over the last few years.

With these criteria in mind only three Linux distributions come to mind:

  1. Ubuntu;
  2. Novell/ Suse/ OpenSuse;
  3. Red Hat/ Fedora.

Feel free to disagree with this list and make the case for your own favorite distribution.

Anyway, after working with PC-BSD for a month, digging into the FreeBSD documentation and having had a first glimpse of the DesktopBSD tools I am more than inclined to add these three as number 4 to the list. FreeBSD always had a stronger desktop focus and projects like PC-BSD and DesktopBSD are building on that foundation. It doesn’t mean they are yet prime and mainstream candidates for the open source desktop, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it wouldn’t take long either. That is why this series will also focus on the things that might need improvement to make this happen.


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2 thoughts on “DesktopBSD Day 1 – Getting started (part 1)

  1. Pingback: DesktopBSD Day 1 « FreeBSD - Reliable, Flexible and Secure

  2. Pingback: Guess what! UNIX bits | F!XMBR

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