Apr
26

Quick Lumina Desktop FAQ

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!

Apr
18

Weekly Feature Digest 26 – The Lumina Project and preload

This week the PC-BSD team has ported over preload, which is an adaptive readahead daemon. It monitors applications that users run, and by analyzing this data, predicts what applications users might run, and fetches those applications and their dependencies to speed up program load times. You can look for preload in the next few days in edge packages and grab it for testing on your own system.

There is an early alpha version of the Lumina desktop environment that has been committed to ports / packages. Lumina is a lightweight, stable, fast-running desktop environment that has been developed by Ken Moore specifically for PC-BSD. Currently it builds and runs, but lacks many other features as it is still in very early development. Grab it from the edge packageset and let us know what you think, and how we can also improve it to better suit you as a user!

Other updates this week:

* Fixed some bugs in ZFS replication causing snapshot operations to take
far longer than necessary
* Fixed an issue with dconf creating files with incorrect permissions
causing browsers to fail
* Added Lumina desktop ports / packages to our build system
* PC-BSD Hindi translation 100% complete
* improvements to the update center app
* Update PCDM so that it will use “pw” to create a user’s home directory if it is missing but the login credentials were valid. This should solve one of the last reported issues with PCDM and Active Directory users.
* Bugfix for pc-mounttray so that it properly ignores the active FreeBSD swap partition as well.
* Another small batch of 10.x PBI updates/approvals.

Apr
09

OpenSSL Security Update

Many users have asked us about the recent OpenSSL Heartbleed bug.  This only applies to users of PC-BSD 10.0, users of 9.x and earlier will not be effected.

A patch has gone out this morning to correct the issue, which includes the following FreeBSD security advisories:

http://www.freebsd.org/security/advisories/FreeBSD-SA-14:06.openssl.asc
http://www.freebsd.org/security/advisories/FreeBSD-SA-14:05.nfsserver.asc

By running the graphical “System Updater” you can apply the bug fixes, or via “freebsd-update” at the command-prompt. After applying this fix, please reboot and the systems version should now show 10.0-RELEASE-p9

Feb
28

PC-BSD Weekly Feature Digest 19

Changes to PBI’s

As many of you know there was an issue with PBI’s causing them to freeze at random times during use. Kris went into full-blown hermit programmer mode to track down the issue and you’ll be glad to know a fix was committed that addresses this issue. Kris said of the fix: “it’s faster, cleaner, and allows proper access to all of the filesystem data. It can even be used by FreeBSD users who want to run different sets of packages in a location other than /usr/local”. To test out the new changes you will want to rebuild the pbi-manager backend. For those of you that may not know the pbi-manager utility is a backend that you never see, but is always there managing system interactions when running PBI’s. Follow the instructions below to grab the pc-bsd source and rebuild the pbi-manager to apply the fix.

1. Open a new terminal and paste: git clone https://github.com/pcbsd/pcbsd.git
This will create a directory for the PC-BSD source code

2. type: cd pcbsd/src-sh/pbi-manager/
This will browse directly to the pbi-manager source directory

3. type: sudo make install

4. Restart your system

And you’ve done it! Don’t forget to reset your system! PBI’s will not work until the system is reset. For more information, questions, or thoughts please post below.

Changes to Life Preserver

Life preserver has been updated to bring in some exciting new changes. New automatic snapshot schedules have been added along with new replication schedule options that will allow users more flexibility and control over their Life Preserver snapshot schedules (i.e. Hourly, 30 minutes, 10 minutes). New code has been added to allow the user to change the pop-up notification policy (all, only errors, none). A minor bug was also fixed that was causing non-error messages in the “Message” dialog.

Unifying PC-BSD Utility Chain

Work is continuing on standardizing the PC-BSD utility chain. More information has been added @ (http://wiki.pcbsd.org/index.php/Become_a_Developer/10.1). The changes will also bring in some new keyboard accessibility through hot keys and shortcut keys. There are currently several opportunities available to help update the tool chain, so if you’d like to lend a hand please let us know!

Important changes to Appcafe and PCDM (Release Notes)

AppCafe –

* Finish overhaul of the UI
* Add ability to email the port maintainer
* Add right-click action shortcuts for individual applications
* Add new browser home page with recommended applications
* Move the category browser to a seperate page
* Add ability to install custom PBI’s from your system via File->Add PBI (no internet/repository required)
* General improvements/bugfixes to the backend functions

PCDM –

* Fix backend detection of LDAP/Active Directory users (still needs verification/testing by people with this special type of setup)
* Add option to show an auto-login delay (in which time the user can cancel the auto-login if necessary)
* Add option to disable showing the system users and require that the username also have to be typed in.

Login Manager Configuration Utility (pc-dmconf)
* Update to reflect the new PCDM configuration options
* Fix a bug where a blank auto-login username could be set

Jan
10

PC-BSD Weekly Feature Digest

Bug fixes, code freezes, and PBI speed increases!  There’s lots of exciting news this week in PC-BSD so let’s have a look.

PC-BSD 10.0 Release has entered into the “code freeze” phase of development.   In order to increase stability and focus on prioritizing bug fixing, major feature changes under the hood should no longer be committed for 10.0 Release.  Trac ticket owners are encouraged to finish and submit your cosmetic / general bug fixes as soon as possible.

PC-BSD release candidate 4 (p3) is currently being built and is expected to be finished sometime over the weekend.  Please click here to check and see if the latest image is currently available.  If it is not available please check again later.

The PC-BSD update system has received quite a bit of new stability improvements in the form of additional code.  Users can expect to see an improvement in the form of less errors during updates and an overall smoother update transition between builds.

Here’s a quick recap of some other awesome new features / bug fixes that have been committed over the last week.  Please test and report any problems as quickly as possible so we can make sure 10.0 Release will be ready to roll (no pun intended) when the time comes.

  • Most recent package set for 9.2 is currently being uploaded
  • Improved Nvidia video card detection routines
  •   The PBI format received a substantial upgrade over the course of the week allowing for PBI load times to be reduced in some cases up to 40%.
  • A fix has been implemented for the virtualbox driver
  • New wine PBI’s have just finished testing, and should be available in the next couple of days
  • Fixes have been committed for missing shortcut keys in the PC-BSD installer
  • Keyboard layout issues have been resolved for multiple desktop environments
  • Auto-mount detection has been improved for multiple desktop environments

That’s it for this week folks.  Please keep us informed if you have problems that are persisting in the newest Release Candidate image.

Best Regards,

-Josh

 

Jan
03

PC-BSD Weekly Feature Digest

2013 is gone, and a new PC-BSD image is here.  We are now in 10.0 Release Candidate 3 (p2) and are moving very quickly towards final release.  There is still some fine tuning that we are working on, so keep those bug reports coming.  There are some awesome new key features / support features that have been added so let’s have a look at what’s new in PC-BSD land.

The guys and gals at the PC-BSD project continue to push the envelope on cutting edge features.  This week a new detection routine was finished that will offer simple detection on ATI Hybrid Graphics enabled laptop computers.  The new detection system was tested on a Samsung NP350 that would stall during installation because X was not able to detect either graphics card properly during the installation and first start-up respectively.  Now if the first video card fails X detection, a message will be displayed that it could not be started.  It will then try the next one.  More research and development is needed to see if we can apply this same fix to laptops using Nvidia as well.

For any of our testers out there that want to stay as cutting edge as possible and also assist in the current development in PC-BSD 10 Release, please go ahead and upgrade to the newest image by clicking here.  We are in a time crunch now, but we want to make sure we find any major / critical bugs and get them squashed ASAP.  Also I am still looking for testers to help us isolate any issues with the HPLIP package when installed while other printers (i.e brother, epson, etc) are installed as well.   The goal is too possibly add more printer support to PC-BSD, however please understand this is something for down the road and will not be a quick fix.  If you need more specific information about our goals with this side project please send me an e-mail at joshms@pcbsd.org.

New logic has been added to handling disk detection during PC-BSD installation.  There was an issue in the gui install as well as text install where the 4k sector size option was causing an installation failure.  If you were experiencing this issue and would like to test out PC-BSD 10.0 please go ahead and download the latest image and give it a go.

Special shout out to our Indonesian translation team for translating PC-BSD entirely into Indonesian Bahasa.  Thanks for the hard work, and…record time for a translation to be completed.  When I said “run with it” I didn’t actually know you were going to be able to finish it in 5 days.  We went from having around 20% translated a few days ago to completely localized now, and we couldn’t be happier at the potential for reaching an entirely new market for us.

Due to the state of upstream support for Linux jails in FreeBSD we are re-classifying Linux jails as unsupported / experimental.  The decision comes after frequent breaks in the way jails are handling the linux scripts and also the inability to handle advanced linux programs.  We are hoping this is something that we can again start supporting in 10.1, but currently it is just too darned clunky to be called a supported feature.  One thing Kris also mentioned to me in passing was that Linux jails were never meant to be pushed as far as they are sometimes pushed.  We will continue to monitor the state of progress on this upstream and keep you informed on any information that comes our way.

That’s it for this week.  You crazy kids stay out of trouble.

– Josh

 

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