Lumina Desktop Status Update/FAQ

With the amount of changes to the Lumina desktop environment and the increasing number of questions/comments we are receiving, I thought it would be a good time to post a status report about it and answer many of the commonly asked questions.

As always, please post any bug reports or feature requests on the PC-BSD Bug tracker.

If you wish to get involved in the development of the Lumina Desktop Environment, you can find the source code in our repository on GitHub.

Lumina Desktop FAQ/Status Update:

What is the Lumina Desktop Environment?

  • The Lumina Desktop Environment (sometimes referred to as Lumina-DE or just Lumina) is a BSD-licensed, FreeDesktop-compliant graphical interface for a desktop operating system.
  • It has been written from scratch in C++/Qt5 (it is not based on any existing DE code-base). It uses Fluxbox for the window management in the background and xscreensaver for screensaver/screenlocking functionality. The only other runtime dependencies are a couple of small X11 utilities (xnumlock, xbrightness, xterm, xrandr).
  • This results in a very lightweight, very smooth desktop experience with minimal system overhead.

What is the current development status?

  • While the current version (0.8.4) is still considered to be “Beta” quality, that is primarily because there are still a couple external utilities which have not had in-house replacements written yet (Fluxbox and xscreensaver primarily).
  • In its current state it is very stable and completely usable on a daily basis for both developers and non-developers alike.
  • The only caveat for its “beta” status is that since there are some backend systems which are still in major development, we reserve the right to break a user’s customized settings during the transition to these new systems (the window manager and screensaver settings are where I anticipate this happening once the replacement systems are in place). However, we already have a good track record of backwards compatibility with older settings formats, and will continue to work on ensuring a smooth transition between different versions of the desktop (even during heavy development/backend changes).

What are some of the features of Lumina?

  • Restore files from ZFS snapshots directly through the Insight file manager (lumina-fm).
  • View picture slideshows or play multimedia files through the Insight file manager.
  • Completely configurable – the interface is designed around a plugin-based mentality where everything you see/use is a compiled-in plugin (ensuring that every plugin is guaranteed to work). This means that you can create an interface custom-tailored to your specific needs.
  • Easy-to-use configuration utility (lumina-config). This single utility controls all the different configuration options for the desktop in one simple location.
  • Total system search capabilities through the lumina-search utility (without having a daemon eating memory in the background).
  • Screenshot functionality through the lumina-screenshot utility (also tied to the “print screen” key by default).
  • Multi-monitor support through xrandr (every monitor is treated as a distinct screen, with it’s own background, interface, etc..). Lumina also provides a graphical utility for adding/removing monitors from within the Lumina session (lumina-xconfig).
  • Simple system controls through the “System Dashboard” for things like audio volume, screen brightness, battery status/notifications, and workspace switching.
  • Easily select which application to use when opening a file and set that as the default for the next time. If you happen to remove that default application, it will automatically re-open the application selection dialog the next time you open that type of file again. This utility (lumina-open) is also tied into the commonly used xdg-open utility so that 3rd party applications will automatically use this utility for opening files outside of the application scope.

How is it different from other desktop environments?

  • Designed on PC-BSD, specifically for the BSD community at large (although it is easily ported to any OS, including Linux distros).
  • Does not require any of the commonly-used desktop implementation frameworks (DBUS, policykit, consolekit, systemd, HALD, etc..).
  • Does not come bundled with any “end-user” applications (web browsers, email clients, multimedia software, office suites, etc..). The only utilities that Lumina brings to the table by default are the ones written specifically for the project and are generally for background/utilitarian functionality (the largest utility is the file manager).
  • Simple text-based configuration file for setting system-wide defaults for new users. This allows distributors of the desktop to easily pre-set the system defaults/interface so it just works for the end user.
  • Plugin-based interface design. This allows the user to make the desktop as light/heavy as desired (within reason) simply by choosing which plugins to have running on their desktop/panels.

Are there any PC-BSD specific features?

  • Hardware-level screen brightness control (sysctl control through pc-sysconfig on PC-BSD 10.1.2+).
  • Links to the PC-BSD Control Panel and AppCafe are embedded directly into the Lumina interface for system control/modifications.
  • Detects when system updates are in progress and prevents the user from shutting down the system until that is complete (you can log out of Lumina and then shutdown the computer from the PCDM login manager if absolutely necessary) .
  • Designed to work hand-in-hand with the PC-BSD utilities (mounttray, AppCafe, Life Preserver, etc.) preventing conflicts between DE and OS utilities.

Is it available for any other operating systems?

  • There are currently source files in the project for building/using Lumina on: FreeBSD/PC-BSD, OpenBSD, DragonFlyBSD, kFreeBSD, Debian, and generic “Linux” distributions.
  • Please contact the package management/distribution team for your particular OS to determine the availability of pre-compiled packages.

What does it look like?

  • Due to the flexibility of the interface design and the ease with which the themes may be customized, the Lumina desktop can take many various forms. Here are a just a few of the variations that I have assembled on my system:

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  • As we continue to create more plugins with every new version of Lumina, the variability of the interface just continues to grow. If you have a particular plugin/feature that you would like, please post a feature request on the PC-BSD bug tracker!

What plugins are currently available (as of version 0.8.4)?

  • Panel Plugins: AppLauncher, AppMenu, BatteryMonitor, Clock, DesktopBar, DesktopSwitcher, HomeButton, Spacer, SystemDashboard, SystemTray, TaskManager(with or without grouping), UserButton.
  • Desktop Plugins: AppLauncher, AudioPlayer, Calendar, DesktopView, Notepad
  • Menu Plugins: AppLauncher, AppMenu, LineBreak, OpenTerminal, OpenFileManager, SettingsMenu, WindowList
  • More plugins are being created all the time!

What is being worked on right now?

  • Right now, we are mainly focused on expanding the scope of the desktop through creation of new plugins and enhancement of the existing plugins.
  • The next “big” change planned is the move to a new window manager which is in the process of being written right now.  This change will correspond with version 0.9.0.
  • We are also working on tweaking the default themes and colors right now, and are looking into adding new themes & color schemes “out of box” for people to be able to simple select and use.

A new window manager? Is something wrong with Fluxbox?

  • Fluxbox is a great WM, and the Lumina project will be still be using it for quite some time yet while the replacement is being written. The main reason a new WM is planned is for better integration with the Lumina desktop in the following areas:
    • Interface/font scaling
    • Keyboard shortcuts (particularly with using the default application registrations in Lumina)
    • Addition of WM “modes” for use on various types of devices.
    • Allow compositing between windows (for better transparency effects)
    • Uniform Theme/Appearance
  • In addition, having a custom WM specifically for Lumina allows us to be able to combine the functionality of a few common background daemons into a single utility (since at their core they all revolve around responding to particular base system events).
    • Window Manager (ICCCM/EWMH events)
    • Screensaver/Screen Locker (All Input Events – transparent watcher)
    • Keyboard shortcuts (Keyboard Input Events)
    • Application message logger/viewer (some EWMH events – transparent watcher)
    • Power management (system events through devd/HALD/other)
  • Having all these systems within the same utility allows us to be able to create a much tighter level of inter-functionality between them. For a few quick examples:
    • Temporarily disable the screensaver while a window is full-screen (such as when watching a video)
    • While the screen is locked, prevent the window manager from showing any new windows on the screen and stop all keyboard shortcut handling (preventing possible security issues), while still allowing some notifications and background procedures.
    • Enable different levels of power management while the screen is locked or the screensaver is active.
  • This is a fairly massive undertaking, so I want to re-iterate that I expect it to be quite some time until this new window manager is ready for use and we will continue to use Fluxbox in the meantime. The Lumina desktop will remain within the 0.8.x series of version numbers while this new utility is in development.

How can I get involved?

  • If you are a C++/Qt developer, there are tons of areas where you could contribute! Some of them are: finding/fixing bugs, writing new interface plugins, adding functionality to existing plugins, and more!
  • If you are a CSS developer, then you might be interested in making new themes for Lumina (using QSS: it is very similar to CSS but specifically for Qt applications/widgets). These themes can be created/modified directly within the Lumina configuration utility, and also provides an easy way to directly implement the user’s current color scheme. Once you have a theme put together that you like, you can just send us that file (located in ~/.lumina/themes) and we can get that included with any future versions of the desktop.
  • If you want to create new color schemes, you can do so via the Lumina configuration utility. Once you have one that you like, just send in that file (located in ~/.lumina/colors) and we can get that included with any future versions of the desktop.
  • If you found a bug or have an idea for a cool new feature, you can post bug reports or feature requests on the PC-BSD bug tracker!

How can I contact the developer(s) with questions/comments/snide remarks?



Great FAQ Rewrite Has Begun

Something else that should keep us busy for the next few months is updating the FAQS. There are currently several hundred and nearly all of them are out-of-date. Part of our evil plan is to have the FAQS available as an off-line version that can be included with every release. Having the FAQS available as a document means it will also be easier to provide translations for all of the FAQS, once that document becomes stable.

During the rewrite, there will be two FAQ locations. The rewritten and up-to-date FAQS will be available on the wiki. If you are looking for the answer to a question, go here first. The original (not updated yet) FAQS will be at the FAQ website. If you can’t find your answer on the wiki, try that website but be forewarned that the answer may not apply to current versions of PC-BSD.

If you need the answer to an FAQ that is outdated or that does not exist at either location, post your question here so it can be prioritized in the rewrite.

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