PC-BSD has long been very flexible about how you can install software. You have PBI’s, packages, and ports available with just a couple clicks or via a couple of simple terminal commands. For a long time the PBI format has served as an excellent solution for people who may need an offline package install, or just simply prefer the ease and simplicity the PBI format has to offer especially via the AppCafe. Perhaps the “Achilles’ Heel” of this situation is that we have also been severely limited on the amount of software that the AppCafe has to offer as packages had to first be converted into the PBI format.
This week we are announcing a radical change that we think will benefit all PC-BSD users in ways that were previously unthinkable. The PC-BSD team has begun work during the last couple of weeks redesigning our PC-BSD utilities (AppCafe, Update Center) to work with our pkgng software repository that we are currently building to contain detailed information about all the software available through packages and PBIs. What this means for you is that in the near future PC-BSD will have a much broader software pool to pull from, and will not be limited anymore by only having a small subset of PBI’s. You will now be able to install packages and PBI’s in one place, while also being able to update and manage both in one place.
You may be asking yourself “why the change?”. Over the last several months we have noticed a considerable amount of our time has been going into compatibility and fixes for PBIs. So much time in fact that other important development had to be postponed and / or sidelined while we worked on bringing PBIs up to speed. We are hoping by adopting appcafe and the PBI format to work in tandem with pkgng, that we will be able to refocus our efforts on other important endeavours.
We will have more information available soon as development continues on how you can get involved with testing out the new features and submitting ideas to help the project along. Let us know what you think about the changes. Are we headed in the right direction? Do you have ideas related to the redesign that you’d like to contribute? Let us know!
Much larger software library. Instead of 800 available appcafe applications think more like 10000+
Detailed information on all the software available including packages in one place
Ability to search and filter your results to show
Improved compatibility across desktop environments
New rating system is being developed for grading the quality of packages in the AppCafe library
I am seeing lots of interest and questions about Lumina since it was mentioned in the PC-BSD weekly update last week, so I am just going to try and answer some of the big questions that I have been seeing.
(1) What is Lumina?
Answer: Lumina is a lightweight, BSD licensed, standards-compliant desktop environment based upon Qt and Fluxbox. It is being developed on PC-BSD, and is being packaged for distribution on the PC-BSD package repository as well (although I believe the FreeBSD port is going to be submitted to the FreeBSD ports tree by the PC-BSD project as well).
(2) How complete is it?
Answer: It is currently alpha version 0.1, so lots of things are still unfinished. It has full backend XDG-compliance through the “lumina-open” utility for launching applications or opening files/URLs, but the graphical interface is still being fleshed out. It also has a plugin framework for toolbars, toolbar plugins, and desktop plugins already written, even though there is not many plugins written to actually use yet.
(3) Since it is an alpha, is it usable?
Answer: Yes, if you are used to very minimalistic desktops. I would currently label it a step above pure Fluxbox for usability, since it uses the XDG compatibility to provide access to system applications and desktop files, and is tied in to xdg-open on PC-BSD so that individual applications can open files/URLs using the current system default for that type of file/URL. The main thing is that the interface is extremely bare at the moment (no desktop icons/plugins yet), so you just end up with a background and toolbar(s). It is also still missing some configuration utilities, so you might be stuck with the current defaults for the moment.
(4) Why create a new desktop environment? Whats wrong with KDE/GNOME/XFCE/<other>?
Answer: There are many reasons for needing a new desktop environment instead of using the existing ones, mainly because all the major existing DE’s are developed on/for Linux, not BSD. This causes all sorts of problems on BSD, and I am going to try and list a few of the big ones here:
(4-a) Porting time
Since the DE’s are written on/for linux, they have to be ported over to BSD, and this introduces a (sometimes significant) time-delay before updated versions are available (GNOME 3 anyone?).
(4-b) Porting quality
It takes quite a bit of time/effort to port a DE over to BSD, and I have to give lots of thanks to the people who volunteer their time and energy to make them available. The problem is that quite often “linuxisms” still bleed through the porting process and cause system instability, desktop/X crashes, and loss of usability on the part of the user. This is particularly true when you start looking at KDE/GNOME/XFCE because of the large number of individual pieces/applications/plugins that have to be checked during the porting process, and it gets quite difficult to check everything while doing the port.
(4-c) Linux development trends
As Linux trends continue to diverge from BSD through reliance on Linux kernel functions or Linux-specific systems/daemons, the porting process over to BSD is going to get even more difficult and take longer to accomplish. This means that if we want to have a reliable/stable desktop on BSD going forward, we have to have one designed specifically for the BSD’s.
(4-d) Linux dependency bloat.
If you look at current DE dependency lists, it is easy to see that when you install a desktop, you might be getting a lot more than you bargained for (such as additional compilers/programming languages, network libraries/daemons, audio/video daemons/applications, etc). While there might be some debate on this, my opinion is that it comes from the Linux distro mentality. Just as a Linux distribution is the Linux kernel + the distro’s favorite packages, the desktop environment is becoming the graphical interface for the system + all the favorite applications/libraries of the developers, whether or not they are actually necessary for satisfying the actual purpose of a desktop environment.
I feel like the approach on BSD is quite different because the OS is a complete entity, independent of the packages that get added later, and simply provides the framework for the user to do whatever they want with system. By this same approach, a desktop environment should simply provide the graphical framework/interface for the user to easily interact with the system, independent of what applications are actually installed on the system. Now, I understand that at this point in time a user expects that certain types of applications are expected to be available out-of-box (such as a file manager, audio/video player, pdf viewer, text editor, photo viewer, etc..), but is that really the realm of the DE to decide what the defaults are, or should it be left to the distributor of the OS? I think a point can be made that the file manager is considered essential to integrate with the DE appropriately, but I think that things like audio/video applications, text editors, pdf viewers and such are really up to the preferences of the distributor, not the DE. The DE just needs to provide a simple framework to setup those initial default applications for the distributor, not require a ton of additional applications by default. Because of this, I am taking the approach that Lumina will have a very limited number of applications included by default (there are only about 2-3 that I can think of, all written from scratch for Lumina), and will try to include basic user-level functionality within these few applications to try and cover 90% of standard user needs (at a basic level) without any additional dependencies. For example, the Lumina file manager will have basic audio/video playing and image viewing capabilities built-in because those types of abilities are available through the Qt framework without many/any additional dependencies.
(5) What kind of graphical appearance are you planning for Lumina?
Answer: Highly configurable… 🙂
By default, I am planning for Lumina to have a single toolbar on the top of the primary screen with the following item (from left to right): UserButton, DesktopBar, TaskManager, SystemTray, and Clock. This toolbar can be configured as the user desires (or completely removed), and other toolbars can also be added as well (only two per screen at the moment, one on top and one on bottom).
I do *not* plan on having the desktop be covered with the traditional desktop icons (that is taken care of with the DesktopBar toolbar plugin). Instead, it is simply a graphical canvas for the user to place all sorts of desktop plugins (directory viewers, picture viewers, notepads, application launchers, and other “stuff”). I have not decided on any default desktop plugins yet, simply because I have not written any yet.
(6) What is the “User Button”?
Answer: This is what would correspond to the “Start” button on other desktops. This provides a central place for the user to do things like launch an application, open up one of their directories, configure their desktop settings, or close down their desktop session. Basically, an easy way for the user to interface with the system.
(7) What is the “Desktop Bar”?
Answer: This is a toolbar plugin that takes the place of the traditional system of desktop icons. The original purpose of desktop icons was to provide quick shortcuts for the user to open applications or put links to commonly-used files/directories, but quickly became abused with people putting everything on the desktop – destroying the intended purpose of the desktop by forcing the user to spend a lot of time trying to find the particular item they need in the chaos that became the desktop (I am sure you have all seen this many times). The desktop bar takes the original purpose of the desktop, and refines it to provide the quick access the user needs even if there is tons of “stuff” in the ~/Desktop folder. It does this by an intelligent system of sorting/categorization, splitting up the desktop items into three main categories: application shortcuts, directories, and files. Each of these three categories gets it’s own button on the toolbar with items sorted alphabetically (if there is anything in that category), so that it is easily accessed by the user at any time, even if you have the desktop covered with open windows, or you have a lot of that type of item. Additionally, it also separates out the actual files in the desktop folder by type: audio files, video files, pictures, and “other”. This should also help people find “that one file” that they need with a minimum of effort.
(8) Is Lumina the new default desktop for PC-BSD?
Answer: NO!!! While Lumina is now available on the PC-BSD package repository, it is by no means the new default desktop.
(9) Will it become the default desktop for PC-BSD eventually?
Answer: Possibly, it really depends on how well the development on Lumina goes and if the PC-BSD development team decides to make the switch to it at a later date.
(10) Will it become the *only* supported PC-BSD desktop?
Answer: Definitely not!! PC-BSD will continue to support multiple desktop environments and window managers through both the installer and the post-installation package manager.
I hope this help to clear up some of the questions you have!
Most of you have already heard of the Heartbleed vulnerability, the flaw in OpenSSL encryption. For any of you that may not be aware (which is probably precious few), the Heartbleed vulnerability is basically a flaw that may allow a malicious user to gain access to information that is supposed to be kept safe through OpenSSL. The good news is that the FreeBSD project and PC-BSD have both released fixes that will apply to versions 10.x. If you are currently running a machine with PC-BSD 9.x you are using an earlier version of openSSL that does not have the vulnerability, so no action is necessary to protect yourself from this. If you are running PC-BSD version 10.x make sure to use the “system updater” to apply the security patch to openSSL. After applying the fix reboot your computer and you should be good to go.
Kris has finished a new PBI run-time that will fix a number of stability issues users may have been experiencing while using PBI’s. The fix has also subsequently helped speed up load times for some of the larger PBI’s that may have been hanging or taking a long time to load.
Update Center is moving foward, and has received some fine-tuning this week to help bring it into PC-BSD as the one-stop utility for managing updates. We’d like to add a special thanks to the author Yuri for primary design and layout for the update center. Ken will also be working to help smooth out GUI design elements and help with integrating it fully into PC-BSD.
Other Updates / Bug Fixes:
* Updated openssl packages for 10.0 PRODUCTION/EDGE
* Patched issue with KRDC using FreeRDP version in ports
* A new 9.2 server has been spun up and building PBIs for 9.2 again. (Server failed earlier this week)
* Started work on PBI runtime for Linux compat applications
* Another large chunk of work on Lumina
* Bugfixes for pc-mixer (showing the proper icons)
* Life-Preserver bugfixes
* Large update to the available 10.x PBIs. All updates are finished, a few new applications were also added.
* Bugfixes on a number of PBI’s (waiting on rebuilds to test/approve the new fixed apps)
* Hindi translation project now about 75% complete
Another week bites the dust and we’ve got some fantastic new features heading your way. Just a quick update this week so let’s get right to it. The FreeBSD mailing list has put a call out to the community to know if you are interested in having some custom DirectX patches applied to wine. You can view the e-mail here if it interests you. If you’d like to respond directly to the e-mail list you can do so @ firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Tons of new PBI updates for 10.0
* Committed the new PBI runtime implementation for 10.x
* Fixed some edge cases with new runtime and particular apps
* Added support for running 32bit apps in new PBI runtime
* Patched RTLD and pushed out freebsd-update to prepare systems
* Added improved callback functionality for PBIs to run system commands
* Added umplayer as the new out-of-box default CD audio / DVD video player
* Merged latest FreeBSD ports and Gnome3 / Cinnamon ports
* Added options to set exec= and suid= options on ZFS datasets to installer
* Added “vagrant” development environment utility to PC-BSD base system
* Began builds of EDGE packages with all the above fixes
* Fixed issue with missing English dictionary in KDE text-processing apps
* Fixed bug with Life-Preserver which was pruning snapshots too
aggressively with replication enabled
* Don’t provide localization option to FAT mounting routine for english locales
* Clean up the usage of ntfslabel to make sure that extra outputs don’t get included in the name for Win8 NTFS devices.
Hey PC-BSDers! This week we’re coming at you with some pretty sweet updates to PC-BSD. The mount tray has seen some significant improvement and is now able to mount most audio / dvd formats without a problem. Also windows partition types are now showing up correctly on my test system after building the new mount tray from source. The mount tray will also prompt you to open your disc with a program and will offer you correct suggestions based on the proper package / PBI. Ultimately the mount tray will most likely replace the built in mounting systems in the desktop environments. This is still a little ways off in the future, but the direction we are heading in.
We heard that there were some users that were experiencing problems upgrading and believe we have found the guilty party. I was able to duplicate the same package upgrade problem that was causing updates to 10.0.1 to fail, and asked Allan over at Scale Engine to give us a hand. Allan was able to track down the issue to a faulty distribution server that was interrupting connections and preventing the upgrades randomly. This server has been removed from service at this time and further work is going into preventing this from happening again in the future.
Work has begun to localize PC-BSD into the Hindi language. We’d like to give a shout out to the newest member of our translation team Simran. Thanks for your help and we are excited at the prospect for even more people to be able to use PC-BSD. Our estimated date of completion is 3 weeks from now. If you have an interest in this language please help us spread the word!
Other News / Projects for this week:
* Merged latest ports and gnome3 patches into ‘master’
* Merged in latest VirtualBox versions
* Wrote a userland replacement for the FUSE module to execute PBIs in a faster and less unstable manner (about 90% complete)
* Kicked off new -STABLE builds
* Update 9.x PBI’s
* Add new XDG-compatibility classes in libpcbsd (scanning/listing/filtering system applications)
* New Utility: pc-systemflag (shell) – pc-systemflag is used to set a flag/message on the system for cross-application communication
* Rewrite the pc-systemupdatertray utility to use the new SystemFlagWatcher. Is much simpler and more streamlined now.
* Add system flag usage to pc-softwaremanager for PBI update availability
* Add system flag usage to the pbi-manager (“pbi_update –check-all” usage only)
* Add system flag usage to pc-updatemanager (for all package and system updates/checks)
The week is finally almost over and we’re back for another update on PC-BSD! The majority was spent squashing bugs and performing minor updates to PC-BSD utilities (as well as recovering from the Jet lag from AsiaBSDcon for Kris and Dru)! To check out pictures from the big event have a look at IXsystem’s facebook page here. For a list of some of the changes and updates this week have a look below.
* Fixed missing RDP support for krdc
* Fixed issue installing src / ports for server installs
* Enabled “lz4” compression on root FS by default
* Disabled some FUSE file-cache functionality in PBIFS
* Investigated issues with calls to “vflush” causing fuse to never finish unmounting
* Imported latest stable/10 and started builds
* Imported latest gnome3 / cinnamon changes
* Finished building next Edge package set
* Finished GUI updates and changes to bring them up to our new / current standards
* Added accessibility / shortcut keys for PC-BSD utilities