Greetings! With EasyPBI 2.0 now available in the FreeBSD ports tree and as a PBI in the AppCafe, I was asked to highlight some of the new features in EasyPBI 2.0, and why you should want to start using it now.
The first new feature that comes to mind is relatively minor, but saves a fair amount of time if you use EasyPBI with any regularity. This is the ability to check when the last time you updated your system ports tree was, and to use portsnap (or svn if appropriate) to update it to the current version. This is easily available from the “System → Get FreeBSD Ports” menu option.
The second new feature is more of a significant overhaul rather than a brand new feature, and that is making the module editor a complete front-end to editing PBI modules. Previously, the editor allowed the user to view and change the most common options for PBI’s, and trying to use smart defaults for the rest. Now, while still recommending smart defaults, it makes all the settings and options for the module available to the user. The is extremely useful for loading modules from other people, as you can now see everything that the module has inside it, with nothing being “hidden” from EasyPBI inside any of the configuration files. This is easily shown with the new “Scripts” tab in the module editor that lets you read through or edit any custom installation scripts that might be in the module. Another example of this is the new functionality in the “XDG Entries” tab that lets you view/edit any of the desktop/menu entries without having to guess what is inside based upon the file name as with the previous versions. Oh, EasyPBI is also able to set up MIME type file associations for menu entries now, making that whole process very simple and no longer requiring that the user know how to write XML files for the different MIME types.
The last new feature that I want to highlight is one that will not be used very often, but has some very powerful possibilities associated with it. This feature is the ability to package non-port programs in the PBI format. What this option does is basically shift the burden of compiling the program and all its dependencies onto the user instead of using the FreeBSD ports framework. To make this work, the user will first have to setup a directory on his system in the exact format that he wants it to have inside the PBI (with lib/ bin/ share/ etc/ sub-directories as appropriate), as if the program got installed into this directory instead of on the base system. Once that is ready, you can then point EasyPBI at that directory, give it a version number and other program information, then have it all be packaged up as a PBI. This will require a bit more “advanced” usage since you will have to setup external-links and desktop/menu entries for the application yourself (since EasyPBI relies on the FreeBSD ports framework for recommendations), but this ability has a lot of very powerful implications. For instance, it should now allow program developers who wish to distribute special closed-source versions of their software to still make use of the PBI format for simple installations and consistent runtime dependencies by their clients. While this next example was not what the PBI format was originally designed for, I could also see this also being used by device manufacturers to release additional closed-source drivers or FreeBSD kernel modules for their devices. This would provide a simple way to distribute and install these drivers without requiring the system users to have extensive knowledge of the FreeBSD system structure or go through the pain of compiling and loading kernel modules on their own.
These are just some of the new features of EasyPBI 2.0 that I think users will appreciate the most. If you have some “killer” feature that you would like to see in the upcoming versions of EasyPBI, please let me know! I can be found on the PC-BSD PBI developers mailing list, or you can send me an email directly.
 ken (at) pcbsd (dot) org
2013 will be an exciting year for PC-BSD, Kris gives a sneak peek into his plans:
If you’ve been following the trac commit list with any regularity, you’ve seen a lot of commits go by in the past months, all having to do with pkgng, and a lot of internal churn to how we do our updates and such. I’ve written an article for the upcoming BSD Magazine detailing some of the reasons for this, and the “new direction” we are taking with regard to PC-BSD releases, but I also want to post here to give everybody a heads up.
First of all, I want to let you know, that I’ve personally not been satisfied with the frequency of PC-BSD releases and updates. With us tracking the upstream FreeBSD releases, it has really tied our hands getting new releases out to the public. The past couple of releases had a delay of almost a year between them, which is WAY too long in my opinion. To further compound the problem, our build system wasn’t designed to do frequent updates of packages and our utilities, which made getting updates out to the community a long and tedious process. This is all going to change. What we are looking at going to now is more of a “Rolling-Release” model, first for our utilities & system packages, and eventually for the FreeBSD base itself.
So what benefits will this change bring? Well, for starters, we will now be able to quickly get new features and bugfixes in our core utilities out to PC-BSD & TrueOS users. Instead of having to wait for the next point release, or some specific targeted bugfix, we can get you running new features in a timely manner. In addition to the PC-BSD utilities, we will also be able to keep your system packages (I.E. any FreeBSD binary package) updated and in sync with the ports tree. This means when the next KDE release hits, or NVIDIA driver, apache, etc, we can now make it available to you within a matter of a few days.
To facilitate all this new rolling-release-goodness, I’ve been neck-deep in converting our build framework into heavily using pkgng. Even all of our PC-BSD utilities and system-modifications will now be distributed as a pkgng package. What this means is not only do you get access to quick updates, but it’ll be possible for the first time to take a vanilla FreeBSD system, switch to our pkgng repo, and turn your system into a PC-BSD or TrueOS box. And this will not be some partial repository, the plan is to offer a *complete* binary package repository, so if you now want to install package X,Y, or Z you can do so without ever having to touch the ports tree or compile by hand. PBI’s will not be affected, so you can run either depending upon personal preference. Plus this keeps us independent from whats happening upstream with FreeBSD packages.
As for the base system, I am also looking to set us up running our own “freebsd-update” server. This will allow us to create and run two additional “branches” of PC-BSD, based upon FreeBSD -STABLE and -CURRENT. This is a bit farther out, but I’m already moving bits and pieces around to make this happen. This means when you go to the PC-BSD website, you will now be able to download from three sets of images, -RELEASE, -STABLE, -CURRENT, and these ISO’s will be frequently updated with new installer features and packages.
So what if you want to run the same set of packages for a long period of time? Well, the good news is that we aren’t going to force this on you. So if you want to grab an ISO, and run a particular desktop environment version forever, then you can do so. The PBI system will still operate independently, so you can keep running those releases without touching your base system packages.
With all this said, what’s the timeframe? I’m hoping to get the first testing ISO out in the next several weeks, so we can begin beating up the new updating system. I’ll also make available an online update for existing 9.1 users to switch to pkgng and jump on the new repository.
Thanks for reading, and looking forward to an exciting 2013 for PC-BSD!
User Group Connect is a relaxed one day unconference for meeting and interacting with the many technical User Groups in Ottawa. The event runs on Saturday, February 9 from 10:00-17:00 at Shopify in the Byward Market.
There will be a FreeBSD booth which will be giving away swag, PC-BSD 9.1 DVDs, FreeNAS 8.3 CDs, and brochures. If you’re in the Ottawa area, drop by and visit at this free event.
Ken Moore has announced the availability of EasyPBI2:
I am pleased to announce that EasyPBI version 2.0 is now available!
This has been a complete re-write of the original program code. It has a
more streamlined process for working with PBI modules, as well as a
brand new interface and many new features/abilities. See the bottom of
this post for simple instructions on how to get the new version of
EasyPBI, and also how to upgrade your pbi-manager tools (to utilize some
of the new abilities of EasyPBI).
- Packaging a local directory into a PBI (not using FreeBSD ports)
- New Logo (Thanks to Jennifer Rosenburg!)
- Build 32-bit PBI’s on 64-bit systems (Additional build option)
- Complete support for editing installation/wrapper scripts (as well as a basic template for creating new binary wrapper scripts)
- Complete support for XDG desktop/menu entries with easy MIME type integration (full creation/editing of entries with a number of new options available for entries)
- Switch to using the OptionsNG format for setting port build options by default (as well as using a multiple-line format for build options)
- New “Settings” dialog for setting/changing default directory paths, PBI build settings, and any external utilities.
- New “Ports” dialog for downloading/updating the FreeBSD ports tree.
- Displays the last time the ports tree was updated, and simplifies the process of using portsnap (or svn if previously setup that way) to update the system ports tree.
- New “About” dialog for quickly viewing information about EasyPBI (like license information and development history)
- Make sure you are using the latest version of the pbi-manager tools before using the new “local sources” PBI build options (the default PC-BSD 9.1 tools do not have the proper version).
- One of the install scripts (pre-pbicreate.sh) will also not be used unless you have the latest version of the pbi-manager tools.
- Saved settings from earlier versions are not converted into the new format, you will need to reset all of your settings manually from the new “EasyPBI Settings” menu option.
- Desktop/Menu entries and external-links are no longer automatically generated on module creation. These can now be easily added from the module editor afterwards.
- Since it has been added to SVN so recently, most of the translations have not been done yet. Translation is an ongoing process for the PC-BSD sources and the current status can be checked on http://pootle.pcbsd.org
To get EasyPBI 2.0, you will need to have the Development-Qt system
package installed, as well as either the Subversion PBI or the Development-VCS system package. To build and install EasyPBI2, run the following commands as the superuser:
svn co svn://svn.pcbsd.org/pcbsd/current/src-qt4/EasyPBI EasyPBI-source
make install clean
Then, to update your version of the pbi-manager tools, run these commands:
svn co svn://svn.pcbsd.org/pcbsd/current/src-sh/pbi-manager
The press release for PC-BSD 9.1 is now available:
iXsystems is pleased to announce the arrival of PC-BSD 9.1 Isotope Edition, the latest release of the secure and user-friendly operating system based on FreeBSD 9.1. Several new components are introduced in PC-BSD 9.1 Isotope including a revamped Warden jail management tool, improved ZFS support, user interface enhancements, and the new server edition of PC-BSD named “TrueOS”.
The biggest change to come from this update is a complete overhaul of PC-BSD’s Warden jail management utility with support for multiple ports jails, meta-packages, Linux jails, and ZFS snapshot management. Advanced users can now enjoy unlimited FreeBSD ports sandboxes thanks to the integration of the Ports Jail utility with the Warden UI. In addition, the integration of the update manager into Warden and support for meta-packages allow users to install the complex programs available on the PC-BSD installation media, e.g., Samba and Apache, in jails. The ability to install Linux distributions, including Debian and Gentoo, in jails opens up new options for virtualization on PC-BSD. All of these functions are available from both the graphical and command line interfaces.
PC-BSD 9.1 improves ZFS support in the installer and throughout the system, adding many new features. The installer simplifies the task of disk layout, including support for ZFS mirror and up to triple-parity software RAID. ZFS users can now use the ‘beadm’ utility to back up the boot environment before an upgrade or major system change and restore it if necessary. In Warden on ZFS, entire jails (including Linux jails) may be cloned and rolled back. These advanced administrative tools help PC-BSD live up to its reputation as a powerful and versatile desktop operating system.
“PC-BSD has made stunning progress and is rapidly becoming the Unix workstation OS we have all been waiting for,” says Michael Dexter, the editor of CallForTesting.org and a long-time BSD lecturer and advocate. “From including ZFS and elegant management tools to being completely GUI-agnostic, PC-BSD embraces and extends FreeBSD in dramatic yet respectful ways and the result is a great desktop experience for not only end users but also administrators and developers.”
Several other improvements continue to ensure that PC-BSD 9.1 remains user-friendly and accessible to everyone. Set-up is easier than ever with the new, simplified installer that requires as few as four clicks for the default installation. The new installer also separates pre-installation and post-installation tasks, allowing OEMs to install the system and leaving final configuration to the end user. An “About” icon has been added to the Control Panel, making it easy to determine the PC-BSD version and which desktops and version of X Window System have been installed. The new release supports KDE 4.9.3 and improves support for wifi and Intel video.
One of PC-BSD 9.1’s most exciting and anticipated new features is the new server installation option. The regular installer now presents the option to install TrueOS, a custom server edition of PC-BSD. TrueOS provides command line versions of PC-BSD utilities (including Warden, Meta-package Manager, and PBI Manager tools) in addition to the base FreeBSD install. It’s an excellent choice for users who want to avoid the overhead of even the lightest-weight window manager but want to take advantage of the powerful tools available in PC-BSD. iXsystems offers Professional Software Support for TrueOS and PC-BSD.
“With the new TrueOS server option, system administrators and enterprise users of Linux will immediately feel more at home being able to install a system with packages such as Bash, Apache, or Samba available out of box,” says Kris Moore, founder and lead developer of the PC-BSD project. “This, coupled with command-line versions of the ‘Warden’ jail management tool, meta-package manager, update manager and others, makes running a BSD-based server easier than ever.”
PC-BSD is a fully functional, user-friendly desktop operating system based on FreeBSD. It runs on the latest FreeBSD version 9.1 with a desktop interface of the user’s choice and graphical system installer. Its PBI system, developed for PC-BSD and also available on FreeBSD, allows users to download and install their applications in a self-extracting and self-installing format.
iXsystems is the all-around FreeBSD company that builds FreeBSD-certified servers and storage solutions, oversees FreeNAS development, and is the corporate sponsor of the PC-BSD Project. iXsystems is an employee-owned and operated, open source-centric, customer focused organization dedicated to providing the highest-quality built-to-order enterprise rackmount server solutions, pre-configured server appliances, and scalable storage solutions to our customers around the globe.
Kris has just announced the availability of 9.1:
The PC-BSD team is pleased to announce that version 9.1 is now available! This release includes many exciting new features and enhancements, such as a vastly improved system installer, ZFS “Boot Environment” support, TrueOS (A FreeBSD based server with additional power-user utilities), and much more!
DVD, USB and Virtual Machine disk images are now available for download.
Highlights for 9.1-Release
- FreeBSD 9.1.
- TrueOS: A new server option with PC-BSD utilities such as the Warden available via the CLI.
- New system installer! Greatly simplified for desktop and server installs.
- Support for ZFS mirror / raidz(1,2,3) during installation.
- Support for SWAP on ZFS, allowing entire disk ZFS installation.
- Support for setting additional ZFS data-set options, such as compression, noexec, etc.
- Warden jail management integrated into system. Allows creating jails via GUI, adding packages and other administration.
- Support for Warden to create Linux Jails
- New “Sound Configuration GUI”
- New “Hardware compatibility” GUI
- First boot setup wizard allows OEM installs to be easily performed.
- New Bluetooth pairing tray / GUI utilities.
- New EasyPBI utility, allows building PBIs via a GUI interface.
- New AppCafe improvements and preferences.
- Improvements to wireless networking utilities.
- Fixed bug causing untranslated strings to show up empty.
- Numerous bug-fixes to PC-BSD related utilities.
- Support for creating PXE boot server for remote desktop and installation.
- ZFS beadm support.
- Improved mirror auto-detection for roaming devices, such as laptops.
- And much more!
Want to help out the PC-BSD project? Found a bug you need to report? You can do so by joining us on our Forums! PC-BSD welcomes new contributors, testers, or simply feedback on how a particular piece of hardware works with BSD.
The 9.1 version of the PC-BSD 9.1 Users Handbook is available in HTML, EPUB, and PDF formats. The PDF version will also be available as an icon on the desktop after a desktop installation.