A Quick Look at the Upcoming PC-BSD 9

The March issue of BSD Mag includes an article by Kris Moore on pages 14-15. The text of that article is reprinted here with permission:

Even though the release of PC-BSD 9.0 is still a little ways off in 2011, there has already been countless hours of work put into it, bringing many exciting new changes and features.

Probably the biggest and most noticeable change will be the ability to select from a variety of desktops/window mangers. Historically PC-BSD has only offered KDE, starting with version 3, and later version 4 as a users main desktop. While KDE still offers a very complete desktop environment, there are a large number of users who prefer to use an alternative on their system. This is often for a variety of reasons, such as size, speed, design, or just personal preference. In order to provide a more satisfactory desktop experience to a larger audience, starting in version 9.0, users will provided with a easy-to-use desktop selection screen, which will allow PC-BSD to be customized with the desktop packages of the users choice.

Currently some of the desktops being offered include KDE, GNOME, XFCE and LXDE. In addition to these desktops, some common packages are also offered for installation, such as NVIDIA drivers, HPLIP and MythTV. After an installation, sometimes a user may need to add or remove various packages and PC-BSD 9 provides a mechanism for this as well. By running the included System Manager tool, a user can quickly change the installed meta-pkgs again to their preference, by inserting the original DVD/USB media, or by installing from the Internet.

In order to accommodate this large shift from a single desktop environment, almost all of the PC-BSD management tools have had to either be fixed, or in some cases replaced entirely. Since most of the desktops have a variety of different configuration managers, or none at all, it was decided to create our own PC-BSD control panel, which could provide a consistent interface for common configuration tasks. From this new control panel, a user can easily perform tasks such as setting up networking, add/removing users, controlling the firewall, browsing & installing software (PBIs) and more.

This brings us to the last major change to PC-BSD 9, the PBI package management system. In previous releases of PC-BSD, the PBI system had been developed with QT/KDE and was tied into that particular desktop in many ways. However, with the possibility of a user not even having KDE installed on their system, this meant our PBI system would need to change as well. It was decided to re-implement the PBI format entirely as command-line applications, so that it would be agnostic to the particular desktop being used, as well as be able to function on traditional FreeBSD systems, which may not even have X11 installed.

Since the entire PBI format was going to be overhauled for 9, we have also taken the opportunity to enhance it with a number of new features. Since a PBI file includes all the required libraries/dependencies included within it, there is a potential for file duplication between applications. In order to reduce this from occurring, the revamped PBI format includes intelligent management of libraries, and is able to share identical copies between applications. We have also added other important features, such as repository management, digital signature verification, off-line repository browsing and more. All these features are available via a command-line interface for power-users, while a new GUI front-end provides users of previous PC-BSD versions with a familiar framework for management.

Even though PC-BSD 9 is still early in the development cycle, it has already undergone some dramatic changes, and is shaping up to be a large step forward for BSD on the desktop. Testers or curious users are welcome to follow the development of this release by watching our new blog.

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Written by dru. Posted in 9.0

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Comments (8)

  • […] PBI 9 will be part of the upcoming PC-BSD 9.0 and Kris has written up an article in the lasted BSD Magazine on his progress and what new features we can expect: A quick look at the upcoming PC-BSD 9. […]

  • Jim Heard
    March 21, 2011 at 9:27 am |

    I am excited to hear that the 9 series will make it easy to use different desktop environments. I have long been curious about FreeBSD, and even done an install from scratch, but prefer the simpler approach taken in PC-BSD of having a ready-made GUI. Unfortunately, I do not like KDE, which has kept me from seriously considering PC-BSD until now. I look forward to the release.

  • shwany
    March 21, 2011 at 2:21 pm |

    Excellent News,

    I have always wanted to use PC-BSD, but didnt get on with KDE.

    I can’t wait!

  • Erik Stanway
    March 23, 2011 at 6:09 pm |

    Very good news for PC-BSD. IMHO, the were becoming eclipsed by newer FreeBSD flavors like MidnightBSD and GhostBST simply because KDE is such a bloated beast. Many FreeBSD’er are very supportive of the lesser known *BSDs (especially in this Age of Linux) and prefer GNUStep or GNOME, respectively referring the the previous distributions, and like the quick action of a light window manager with immediate response time from the terminal, all the while having access to the ports collection.

    This will be the second burden PC-BSD needs to overcome as the .pbi’s are troublesome as hell. Either they don’t work on initial installation and you need to delete whatever downloaded when you installed it the first time (or whatever part of it did install) OR you install a .pbi after installation, then wrestle with the same problem (a half-installable app is a bitch to delete and start over due to the dependencies). Ports is much easier, but then there’s the time factor.

    I hope the team at PC-BSD has addressed these issues and I look forward to the next release. Best to Kris and the Team. /Erik

  • Zenny
    April 12, 2011 at 1:14 am |

    I wish this release supports i3-wm and i3status ( as I find it most comfortable tiling windows manager to tweak.

    Also, I could not figure out how to get rid of the sound lag in PCBSD-8.2 (also reported at In my case the sound lags even in flash-supported browsers as well as while running mplayer.

    I tried 9 alpha DVD iso, but it could not boot at all (Reported here :

    Thanks Kris and team.

    • April 12, 2011 at 5:47 am |

      I added a PBI request for i3 at I don’t think that i3status has been ported to FreeBSD–if you wish, you can also request that it be ported on the Ports Requests forum (

      Have you retried booting with a newer snapshot to see if the issue has been fixed yet? If it still doesn’t, please post more information about your hardware to help us figure out what is preventing the boot.

  • Petr Topiarz
    May 21, 2011 at 4:44 am |

    New environments are definitely welcome, but….!

    1. The choice of KDE wasn’t bad, kde3 was fast and comfortable and ran much faster then KDE3 on linux. The problem came with kde4, which in PC-BSD for some unknown reason is much slower then KDE4 on linux. Generally KDE4 is slow and system consuming.

    2. With the new environments, a lot of things will either not be as polished as it was, or if they put power into polishing, things will not work well. Simply, unless they get more people (which they could with the new environments) the overall level of the system will go down. You cannot do twice the work with the same number of people and maintain the same quality.

    So, let’s see how they fare…


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