We’ve been seeing a lot of confusion and questions about the PBI changes that were recently pushed out those of you running the Edge package sets, and Ken Moore was nice enough to break the changes down in this week’s PC-BSD weekly digest.
First, a little history about the PBI system.
It was initially created when the only/primary application distribution method for FreeBSD was the ports system — meaning that any FreeBSD user who wanted frequent updates to their applications needed to manually compile/install any application through the FreeBSD ports tree on a fairly regular schedule. The PBI system was designed as an alternative to provide simple application packages that could easily be downloaded and installed without the need for the user to compile any source code at all. As an added benefit, the PBI system installed these applications into a seperate container on the system — leaving all the “complicated” system configuration and integration to still be run through the FreeBSD ports system. This allowed PC-BSD to have a stable base system for a release (because the base system packages would almost never get touched/updated), while at the same time provide the ability to keep the main end-user applications up to date between releases.
Now fast-forward a bit to the PC-BSD 10 series.
At this time the FreeBSD ports system, while still existing for the “hardcore” users, has mainly been replaced by the pkgng distribution system for general system/application usage. This has provided quite a bit of confusion for PC-BSD users, because they now had two different ways to install applications, and each application on the system would behave differently depending on how that particular application was installed. To make the distibution model simpler for PC-BSD, the PBI files were already being created from pkgng packages (ensuring that there was a lot less compiling done on the build servers), and those packages were simply being collected into “fat files” with a few compatibility scripts and such thrown in for good measure.This meant that there was a lot of duplication between the pkg and PBI systems, resulting in a lot of effort to maintain compatibility between the two systems. The main problem however, was that the special PBI runtime container itself was causing all sorts of system stability issues. Since the release of PC-BSD 10.0 we have actually tried 3 or 4 different types of application runtime containers, each of which was designed to solve a critical flaw in the previous version, but always kept running into large limitations/problems with each new type of container.
At this point we decided to take a step back and refocus on what the PBI system was originally intended to do — provide a “Push Button Installer” to install and run applications while keeping things as simple as possible for the end user. With this definition for the PBI system, it makes perfect sense that the pkgng system should be chosen as our default application installation method for a couple reasons:
1) Integration with the system environment for things like setting up and running default applications works a lot better (mimetype integration/use).
2) Startup/runtime speed. Applications installed to the base system simply startup and run a lot faster than the ones that are installed into the containers.
3) User Confusion. Lots of people simply did not understand that the “contained” application libraries/files were not installed to the normal location on the system, and that an application in a container could not easily see or use the system-installed applications.
The next-generation PBI system.
This re-implementation is designed so that it no longer uses the “PBI Containers” exclusively and instead returns to its original goal — to provide a simple interface for the end user to install/use applications of all types and in all ways. This means that it is now a system that uses the pkgng packages as it’s basis — but provides all sorts of other information/functionality that the pkgng system does not fully support yet (such as mimetype integration, desktop/menu entries, and graphical information like icons for applications). Additionally, it also provides a number of enhancements to how the user can utilize the different pkgng packages, mainly through how the packages get installed.
1) Standard pkgng installation to the base system.
This allows the user a simple interface to install/remove application on the base system while providing a number of additional safety checks to prevent random “foot-shooting”.
2) Jail management.
By running the AppCafe on the base system, you can now manage all the applications/packages in any of the running jails on your system. Combined with the Warden for creating/managing different kinds of jails, the user now has a simple way to manage and run applications that (for security reasons) should never be installed/used from the base system (such as web servers or network-facing services).
3) Application containers with plugins!
By using the “portjail” creation options in the Warden, you now have a method to safely contain a graphical application while also allowing for a system of installing/removing optional packages into that jail for plugin support without touching your base system packages (very similar to our previous container system, but with a few more layers of separation between the jail and the system).
4) Other installation methods.
Because the PBI system is now installation-method agnostic (almost), we can provide support for alternate types of installation methods (such as into specialized containers like our previous PBI versions have had). While we do not have any other installation methods included at the moment, we can add new methods relatively easy in the future if those installation methods do not break system stability.
So what does this mean for a PC-BSD user?
1) Access to thousands more applications and plugins by default through the AppCafe. The “PBI” applications will show up with things like screenshots, available plugins, nice looking icons, user ratings/tips, and more while you also have the ability to install and use the “raw packages” (which will always have the icon of a box/package) even if the nicer recommendations and information is not available for that raw package.
2) Less confusion about application installations. Since applications will always be installed/integrated into the local system by default, this will prevent a lot of confusion in people who are used to the standard FreeBSD/Linux/Unix installation methods and file locations for applications.
3) Greater flexibility for different installation methods to suite your specific needs. System installation, traditional jail installation, portjail installation, additional future types of installations, it give the user freedom to truly run the system as you need, rather than forcing you to use a particular system that might not be what you were looking for.
28 — Photos of the new AppCafe re-design.">Weekly Feature Digest 28 — Photos of the new AppCafe re-design.
Hey everyone just a quick update tonight as much of the work has been the same as last week :). I’ve uploaded a couple of pics to show how the new AppCafe integration with pkgng will look. In the first picture below you’ll see a similar looking app information screen with some sweet new features. The biggest thing you might notice right away is the 5 star rating system in the top left corner under “Firefox”. In the new AppCafe clicking the stars will immediately pop-up the app’s wiki page allowing you to rate the program. We are also looking into the ability to add comments as well that will also populate into AppCafe. Also many programs (especially GUI based applications) will have screenshots in AppCafe to allow you to check them out before you download them to your system.
Notice below right this is the main “installed applications” screen. Here you’ll be able to view all of your installed apps and also filter them based on a few presets built into AppCafe. Similar to the package manager, the new AppCafe will pull more information from the package repository about installed packages for you to review.
Important Correction: I realized after talking with Kris and Ken that I was slightly confused over the new role of pkgng and how it will affect PC-BSD going forward. pkgng is replacing the PBI system in future versions of PC-BSD and AppCafe. PBI’s will be immediately & automatically converted over to use pkgng instead once users update to the next big PC-BSD release. If you have any further questions we will be glad to answer them for you, and I aplogize for the information discrepancy!
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!
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.
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