Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

DesktopBSD day 15 – Getting the GNOME desktop

My attempts to get a working version of GNOME on my PC-BSD box were unsuccessful. GNOME 2.20 was installed, but I couldn’t get the window manager running in the time I had available. No matter how much I begin to appreciate the KDE desktop, I still find it a nice idea that the graphical work environment is a matter of choice and just a few mouse-clicks away from being altered. The webpage of the FreeBSD GNOME project indicated that installing GNOME 2.20 shouldn’t pose more problems than entering # pkg_add -r gnome 2 in the command line interface.

Installing GNOME 2.20

The DesktopBSD team didn´t develop the tools for nothing and I decided to use the Package Manager to deal with the task of installing GNOME 2.20 with just the gnome2 metapackage and only from binaries with the option “Force processing of further packages even if prerequisite packages have failed to upgrade” enabled. About four hours later I received the notification that the installation had finished. Lo’ and behold, I didn’t see any error messages waiting for me as well.

Logging out, selecting the GNOME desktop and logging in again revealed to me the GNOME 2.20 desktop. It was ugly, the fonts were hard to read and the icon set wasn’t really shining from the screen. But it worked! I could launch applications and it was simply functional. The only annoyance is a crash report about problems with the screen saver at log in.

desktopbsd-day15-gnome2-1.png

Fixing the GNOME desktop

After making a couple of victory dances for being successful (though I didn’t really do anything to make it successful) I sat down to fix the desktop. The GNOME look website is my one-stop-shop to get the needed eye candy. I downloaded a few themes and found a couple of icon sets that seemed to fit the wallpaper I ‘designed’ earlier.

Customizing the GNOME desktop isn’t difficult after that. I opened the “Appearance preferences” window (System -> Preferences -> Appearance) and simply dragged-N-dropped the downloaded themes and sets. Applying them immediately didn’t happen automatically. but clicking on “Customize” and selecting the correct settings solved that problem.

desktopbsd-day15-gnome2-2.png

However, this didn’t improve the fonts in the panel and the menu. They remained horrible and unpleasant to work with. Even selecting other fonts and changing their size didn’t really help. In the tab Fonts there is a button “Details” and there I found the solution. The default resolution was 72 dots per inch and when I increased the resolution the whole desktop looked much better.

desktopbsd-day15-gnome2-3.png

There wasn’t a need to fix the menu. All KDE applications were put under a separate KDE entry already. Of the various DesktopBSD tools I only found the Package Manager. Besides this there are a few remaining annoyances and tweaks. For instance, I can’t use the tools under System -> Administration due to insufficient rights (without asking for a root password).

Extending GNOME

The final step of the experiment was to install the other metapackages, which are described at the project webpage:

The GNOME 2 Fifth Toe (x11/gnome2-fifth-toe) consists of stable GNOME 2 applications that many users expect to find in a functional desktop environment. This includes image manipulation applications, chat and instant messenger applications, and music and multimedia players
The GNOME 2 Hacker Tools (devel/gnome2-hacker-tools) consists of applications developers would need to create and maintain GNOME software projects. This includes IDEs, interface builders, “hacker” editors, and code generation tools.
The GNOME 2 Office (editors/gnome2-office) consists of applications that are commonly found in office or productivity suites. This includes a spreadsheet application, word processor, project management application, database access application, groupware suite, and diagramming application.
The GNOME 2 Power Tools (x11/gnome2-power-tools) consists of utilities and applets for the technically-minded GNOME user. It also contains many useful add-on utilities for some of the applications found in the Desktop and Fifth Toe.

I know I have installed some of these applications (like Abiword and Gnumeric) in the earlier days of this month, but for the sake of the experiment I decided to select the four metapackages. It may sound weird but all of them failed and couldn’t be downloaded. Ah well, I’ll try again later.

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