May
01

Lumina Desktop 0.8.4 Released!

What else is new in PC-BSD 10.1.2? How about a new version of the Lumina Desktop Environment! PC-BSD users who stick to the “Production” branch of packages will find that the Lumina desktop has evolved/improved an incredible amount since the last quarterly update for PC-BSD (10.1.1), so I highly recommend that you try it out! The release notes for this new version are also listed at the bottom of this announcement for those of you who have been tracking along with its development, so please try it out and let us know what you think!

 Package Availability:

  • Users currently running the EDGE package repo can now update their packages via the updater GUI or “pc-updatemanager” utility to be brought up to date. Updates for users on the PC-BSD 10.1.1 / PRODUCTION repo will be available once 10.1.2-RELEASE is announced.

Reporting Bugs

  • Found a bug in Lumina 0.8.4? Please report it (with as much detail as possible) to our bugs database. https://bugs.pcbsd.org

 

Lumina Desktop changes since version 0.8.3:

Panel Improvements:

  • Add mouse tracking support
  • Add support for variable-length panels (a percentage of the screen edge length).
  • Add support for pinning the panel to a particular location on the screen edge (either corner, or centered)
  • Automatically re-scale the panel size if the monitor used in the previous session was a different screen resolution.
  • For hidden panels, have 1% of the panel size be visible on the screen while it is “hidden” (rather than a hard-coded pixel size). This is better for high-resolution screens.
  • Remove the restriction that panels be on opposite screen edges.

New options/usage for lumina-search:

  • Easily change file/dir search preferences on a temporary basis
  • New command-line flags for starting searches instantly
  • Search functionality integrated into the Insight file manager. The Ctrl-F keyboard shortcut or the “Search” menu option will start a search for a file/directory with the current directory as the starting point.
  • A “Search” button has been added to the  home directory browser in the user menu. This will allow the user to easily start searching for a file/dir within the selected directory.

New “Favorites” system backend:

  • This new backend is much faster and more reliable than the old system of sym-links.
  • Your favorites should be automatically converted to the new format when you log into the new version of Lumina.

New Utility: lumina-fileinfo

  • This utility allows the user to view basic file information, such as timestamps, owner/group info, file size, and read/write permissions.
  • If the file is a XDG desktop shortcut (that the user has permission to modify), this utility also provides the ability to make changes to that shortcut.
  • This can easily be used by right-clicking on files in the desktop view plugin or within the Insight file manager and selecting the “Properties” option.
  • A big thank you to contributor William (william-os4y on GitHub) for writing this utility!!

Other Random Improvements:

  • Better application recommendations for files/URL’s (especially for web browsers or email clients).
  • Major cleanup of XCB library usage.
  • Hardware-brightness controls now used for PC-BSD by default (if supported by the system hardware).
  • Putting the system into the suspend state is now supported for PC-BSD/Debian.
  • New clock display formats.
  • A large number of session cleanup improvements
  • A large number of session initialization improvements (including resetting the user’s previous screen brightness and audio volume settings).
  • New default keyboard shortcuts for tiling the open windows on the screen (new user configurations only)
  • Better support for the URL input format when required by an application.
  • Make the user’s “log out” window appear much faster when activated.

Errata:

  • There is a known bug in Lumina 0.8.4 regarding “unlocked” desktop plugins. The close/maximize buttons for the plugin are unresponsive when using Qt 5.4.1, preventing the user from easily removing/maximizing a desktop plugin. We are still looking into this, but at the moment it appears to be a bug in Qt itself. As a temporary workaround, you can simply right-click on the titlebar for the unlocked plugin and select close/maximize from the menu instead.
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Apr
22

PC-BSD and 4K – Oh my!

I had recently seen some chatter on IRC about 4K monitor support. One of the people discussing stated that PC-BSD didn’t support 4K monitors, which was curious to me, since I hadn’t tried it yet. This week I did something about that, and ended up getting two 4K monitors and a new video card (With triple DisplayPort) to do some testing.

The Hardware

2x – ASUS PB287Q 28-Inch Screen LED-Lit 4K Monitor (Amazon)

Zotac GeForce GTX 960 2GB GDDR5 PCI Express 3.0 HDMI DVI DisplayPort (Amazon)

The Setup

The setup process was thus:

1. Remove the old monitors and video card

2. Connect the new monitors and video card

3. Go into monitor menus – Enable DisplayPort 1.2 mode

4. Boot up, selecting the “Run Display Wizard” option at the boot-loader.

5. Click “Accept”

That’s it! The display wizard properly detected both 4k monitors, and set them up in a proper dual-head configuration. Logging into KDE resulted in it detecting the new monitors, and automatically re-configuring the display to take advantage of the new resolution. At this point the system was fully usable, font-scaling even worked properly for Firefox and such.

Having 4K setup I did find a few minor issues, which are already being fixed in time for PC-BSD 10.1.2 next week, such as changing the mouse cursor to something which supports larger sizes /  resolutions better. The only real hiccup was figuring out that the monitor ships with DisplayPort set to 1.1 mode, only giving 30hz mode out of box. Changing that in the monitors menus to DisplayPort 1.2 mode, enabled 60hz, giving a silky-smooth desktop experience at 4K resolutions. Not sure if that is something typical of all 4K monitors, or just this model in particular, but if you can’t go beyond 30hz, you may want to check that in your monitor documentation.

Anyway, I hope this information is of use to anybody else who is thinking of taking the 4K plunge. Of course I would love additional feedback from other users who are running 4K, to see if there are other tweaks we can make for optimal support out of box. Let us know on the bug tracker, mailing lists or new forums!

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Apr
01

Huge Announcement for PC-BSD

Hey PC-BSDers!

Some of you may have heard the speculation surrounding the last couple weeks of development here at the PC-BSD project, and I’d like to go ahead and address those rumors in today’s post.  We know there has been a large amount of misinformation circulating so we recommend that all of our users please read the following explanation so the information is clear.

For the last couple of months we have been beating our heads against the wall trying to find a way to put us on par with the best Linux distros out there such as Ubuntu.  During a phone meeting on Monday between Kris, Dru, Ken and myself (Josh), we began tossing around ideas on how we can make that happen.  One of the ideas that was presented was making Lumina DE the only supported desktop environment in PC-BSD and by doing so focus all of our development time exclusively on it.  Ken Moore argued that if we could create a desktop environment that everyone loved, and “Unify” the user experience, that no one would have any reason ever to use anything else because it was the best.  Although we did toss the idea around for a while we thought that might be a little bit of an issue with a few of our users that like to use other crappy desktop environments.

After an hour of spirited back and forth debate, many good ideas were presented.  As we all took a moment during our video call to think about the ideas that were just discussed, I interrupted the awkward silence and told the rest of the group about an idea I had been thinking about for a few days.  “What if we could do something even better than Unify the user experience…What if we could make the system boot extremely fast”. I explained that if we could hard code a “boot shim” so to speak into the kernel, that we could be the fastest booting unix-like distribution out there.  We all looked at each other and started to realize this was the “holy grail” so to speak that we had been looking for.  After perusing the internet for about 3 and a half minutes we found out there was already a Linux solution available.

We hammered out the details and now want to present you with our new “Everything Manager” the new SystemBS-D.  Most of you are familiar with how we can port different types of Linux software and run them through our emulation layer.  Using the same emulation magic we have taken what one kid that lives on my street called “the best piece of software ever. The end.”, and ported it over to PC-BSD.  SystemBS-D not only makes your system boot faster, but it can basically manage everything on your system as well.  Sure it still crashes a lot and it has trouble displaying log files, but we’re working on that.  In a discussion with Kris Moore he stated “SystemBS-D may be unstable, but it DID make the system boot super fast.  I feel like that’s a pretty good trade.”

Taking cues from other popular software companies we have also thought about integrating a really cool storefront into PC-BSD and making people look at it before they can go to their desktop.  We could also consider locking down the user’s system with “grub-lock” so no other operating systems could be installed on it… oops I meant “secure” the user’s system.

We look forward to hearing your feedback on these new developments.

P.S. if you thought any of this was real look at the date on your computer.  Happy 1st!

Best Regards,

Josh

 

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Mar
31

Lumina Desktop 0.8.3 Released!

The next version of the Lumina Desktop Environment has just been released!

This is mainly a bugfix release to correct an urgent issue with the system tray on FreeBSD 11, but there are a number of other slight improvements/updates included as well. The full list of changes is included at the bottom of this announcement, but the notable changes are as follows:

  • New Panel Plugin: “Application Launcher”
    • This allows the user to pin the shortcut for an application directly to a panel.
  • New Utility: “lumina-xconfig”
    • This utility allows the user to easily enable/disable additional monitors/screens within the desktop session.
  • Fix the issue with transparent system tray icons on FreeBSD 11
  • Add support for the XDG autostart specifications.

 

The FreeBSD port has already been updated and this version will be included in the next set of PC-BSD package updates (“Edge” packages being created now) as well as included in the next PC-BSD 11 image for April (coming soon).

 

Reminder: The Lumina desktop environment is still considered to be “beta-quality”, so if you find things that either don’t work or don’t work well, please report them on the PC-BSD bug tracker so that they can get fixed as soon as possible. Feel free to also post tickets for any feature requests or improvements that you think might be useful!

 

Lumina-0.8.3

 

Changes Since 0.8.2

FreeDesktop Standards Compliance:

  •  A number of bugs related to detecting/using XDG mimetypes were fixed.
  • Support for the XDG autostart specifications was added (usage only  – more work is still necessary to convert the current Lumina autostart spec over)
  •  Add some additional fallback routines to account for possible errors in *.desktop files.

 

New Utility: “lumina-xconfig”

  •  This utility is a graphical front-end to xrandr, and allows the user to easily add/remove screens from the current X session.
  • Shortcuts to this utility are available in the user button plugin, and the settings menu plugin

 

Insight File Manager:

  •  Add support for creating new (empty) files.
  •  Add an option for enabling/disabling the use of image thumbnails (useful if you have massive directories of pictures – just be sure you disable thumbnails *before* loading the directory).
  •  Add initial drag-and-drop support for moving files/dirs within a directory.
  •  Load the specific icon for any application shortcuts.
  •  Add the ability to view checksums of files.
  •  Add some additional checks/excludes for copy/move operations in the background to prevent the user from performing illegal operations (such as moving a directory into itself).
  •  Add support for listing statistics about the current directory on the window (number of files, total size of files, percent of the filesystem which is used).
  •  Streamline the frequency of the background directory checker – now it runs much less often.

 

Desktop Changes:

  •  Disable the shutdown/restart options on PC-BSD if the system is in the middle of performing updates. The system may still be shutdown/restart from within PCDM – this just adds an extra layer of safety for users.
  •  Have the shutdown/restart options use the “-o” option on FreeBSD/PC-BSD so that the system performs the action much faster.
  •  Add support for thumbnails, increasing/decreasing icon sizes, removing files, and  cut/copy files to the “desktopview” desktop plugin (the plugin which provides traditional desktop icons).
  •  Add support for increasing/decreasing the icon size for the application launcher desktop plugin.
  •  Update the icon used for the “favorites” system in the user button and the file manager.
  •  Add the ability to display alternate timezones in the system clock. This does *not* change the system time at the moment, it is just a setting for the visual clocks/plugins.
  •  Add a new panel plugin for pinning application shortcuts directly to the panel. (just like the “applauncher” desktop plugin, but on the panel).
  •  Perform the initial search for applications on the system within the session initialization. This ensure that buttons/plugins are responsive as soon as the desktop becomes visible.
  •  Fix an issue with transparent system tray icons on FreeBSD 11, and convert the system tray embed/unembed routines to use the XCB library instead of XLib.
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Mar
04

A look at the upcoming features for 10.1.2

If you’ve been an EDGE user in the past few weeks, or following our Roadmap items for the upcoming 10.1.2 release, you may have noticed a number of new security and privacy related items. I wanted to take a moment to clarify what some of these new features are and what they will do.

 

— PersonaCrypt —

The first of the new features is a new CLI utility called personacrypt. This command will allow the creation and usage of a GELI backed encrypted external media for your users $HOME directory. We are using it internally to keep our user profiles on USB 3.0 – 256GB hybrid SSD / flash memory stick (Coarsair flash Voyager GTX specifically). This is tied into the PCDM login manager, and user manager, so when you create a new user account, you can opt to keep all your personal data on any external device. The device is formatted with GPT / GELI / ZFS, and is decrypted at login via the GUI, after entering your encryption key, along with the normal user password.

Additionally, the personacrypt command uses GELI’s ability to split the key into two parts. One being your passphrase, and the other being a key stored on disk. Without both of these parts, the media cannot be decrypted. This means if somebody steals the key and manages to get your password, it is still worthless without the system it was “paired” with. PersonaCrypt will also allow exporting / importing this key data, so you can “pair” the key with other systems.

— Tor Mode —

We’ve added a new ability to the System Updater Tray, so you can with a single-click, toggle between running in Tor mode, and regular “Open” mode. This switch to Tor mode, will do the following:

1. Launch the Tor daemon, and connect to the Tor network
2. Re-write all the IPFW rules, blocking all outgoing / incoming traffic, except for traffic to and from the Tor daemon
3. Re-route all DNS / TCP requests through Tor using its transparent proxy support

This allows applications on the system to now connect to the internet through Tor, without needing explicit SOCKS proxy support.

Obviously this alone isn’t enough to keep your identity safe on the Internet. We highly recommend that you read through their excellent FAQ and wiki articles on the subject.

https://www.torproject.org/docs/faq.html.en#AnonymityAndSecurity

— Stealth Mode —

One of the features we just added to personacrypt is something we are calling “stealth” mode. It is integrated into PCDM, and does the following:

During the login, if stealth mode is selected, the users $HOME directory will be mounted with a GELI backed ZVOL with GELI’s onetime key encryption. This $HOME directory is setup with the default /usr/share/skel data, and is pretty much a “blank” slate, allowing you to login, and run apps as if on a fresh system each time. At logout the dataset is destroyed, or should the system be rebooted, the onetime key is lost, rendering the data useless. Think of it as a web browser’s “private” mode, except for your entire desktop session.

— LibreSSL —

We’ve made the switchover to convert our ports to use LibreSSL by default instead of the base systems OpenSSL. (Thanks to Bernard Spil for his work on this). Our hope is that LibreSSL will help make the system security better, and reduce the number of OpenSSL exploits that our packages may be vulnerable to.

— Encrypted Backups —

The Life-Preserver utility has had the ability for a while now to replicate your system to another box running FreeBSD, such as FreeNAS. This backup is done via ZFS send/recv using SSH, but the data on the remote end was stored un-encrypted and could be read by whomever was administrating the remote box. To provide an extra measure of security to backups, we are in the process of adding support for fully-encrypted backups, using GELI backed iSCSI volumes. This allows us to use ZFS send/recv over the wire, with all the data leaving the box already being encrypted via GELI. Your data on the remote side is fully-encrypted, and only accessibly with the key file you have stored on the client side. This is still in active development and should show up in the EDGE repo in the upcoming weeks, along with some additional details on usage.

 

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed this sneak-peek of whats happening with PC-BSD development right now. As always, we love people to test these features in our EDGE repo, and let us know of issues via our bug tracker:

https://bugs.pcbsd.org

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