May 12, 2006 7:02 AM PDT

FreeBSD vows to compete with desktop Linux

Linux may soon have a stronger open-source competitor on the desktop if FreeBSD's plans come to fruition.

FreeBSD developer Scott Long told ZDNet UK on Thursday that the operating system, descended from the Unix derivative BSD, is "quickly approaching" feature parity with Linux.

"Lots of work is going on to make FreeBSD more friendly on the desktop," Long said. "Within the year, we expect to have, or be near, parity with Linux."

The main focus of developers is to integrate FreeBSD with the GNOME and KDE desktop environments, and to add plug-and-play hardware capabilities.

"Developers are doing work so you can plug in a USB stick and have it appear on the desktop and just work, without having to mess around with command prompts and work out arcane commands," Long said.

Joe Clarke, who leads the team of developers working on FreeBSD for the desktop, said in a recent interview that developers are primarily working on integrating FreeBSD with GNOME but hope to be able to add KDE support in the future, due to the work that is going on to create a set of common interfaces and tools for the environments.

One of the priorities for developers is to get GNOME's hardware abstraction layer--which handles hardware-specific code--working with FreeBSD, Clarke said in an interview with BSDTalk.

"Getting HAL, the hardware abstraction layer project, successfully working on FreeBSD would be a great win. It's not a silver bullet, it's not going to make us perfect by any means, but it'll go a long way to bringing in some much-needed cool desktop features to FreeBSD," Clarke said in the interview.

One problem that FreeBSD developers have faced is that GNOME developers tend to be focused on Linux rather than considering other desktop operating systems.

"The modules that they're starting to consider don't have FreeBSD (support), don't have Solaris (support)--they're very Linux-specific," Clarke said. "My opinion--and I don't have any evidence to back this up, but from the conversations I hear on the list--is that the majority of the core GNOME developers don't use anything but Linux as a primary GNOME development platform."

The FreeBSD team members are not the only developers working on getting the operating system working on desktops. The DesktopBSD and PC BSD projects are also working on a version of FreeBSD for desktops.

Earlier this week, the FreeBSD team released version 6.1 of the operating system. One of the main features in FreeBSD 6.1 is improved file system stability, which has been made more "solid, fast and sturdy," according to Long.

"The thing we worked hardest on for this release was file system stability," Long said Thursday. "We did stress tests, found some more bugs and fixed them. For users with high-load file servers, this is probably the best release yet for them."

More information on FreeBSD 6.1 can be found on the project Web site.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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21 comments

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Why?
Why bother? And Gnome... come on. The only user interface dumbed down more than XP and OS X.
Posted by ebrandel (102 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Duh!
"Why bother?"

So what's wrong with some competition with GNU/Linux? Maybe it will drive stronger/better products for us all. I hope Sun Solaris steps up as well for *good and easy* a desktop alternative!

As for a "dumbed down" interface, that's a matter of opinion. And if your such a *power user* then what are you using a GUI for anyway?!?!

GO BSD!
Posted by b0gu5 (3 comments )
Link Flag
FreeBSD Desktop
Hi All,

More usable FreeBSD sounds good to me. I have been using FreeBSD for a number of years and while it can be a bear to get installed then tweaked out just the way you want it, it is rock solid after that. I have been using KDE desktop on FreeBSD, while it was not the latest version, it worked very well.

Tighter integration with KDE and Gnome will go a long way to pushing it to the desktop, but if you want you basic user to give it a go, the installer will need some major work.

The FreeBSD installer would give most of the Windows users I know an aneurysm and a regular Linux user who thinks they will just pop in a FreeBSD CD and do an install may shiver in fear at that install screen.

Debian users may feel right at home:)

I would not expect the KDE and Gnome developers to take other OS into consideration though, it is a Linux thing after all. While I have a lot of the KDE / Darwin ports running on my Mac, I would not complain to the KDE developers because things are not as good as they are on Linux.

I'd like to see the Linux and FreeBSD camps join forces more instead of competing. I can't wait to see what they produce in the next couple years, but I'm currently running OpenSuse 10.1 and RHEL 4 and I can say you have a lot of work ahead if you if your competing with that bunch.

Joe
Posted by gunnerjoe (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Installer Needs work
I was going to mention that the installer needs work too. Maybe a project for someone this "Summer of code".

The installer is definitely a trip. The first time I installed years ago really confused me. Now I wonder how I was ever confused cause it seems so easy, but I do remember that confusion.

I would like a nice clean wizard that users can follow, similar to what PC-BSD has or like anaconda.

Even just answerfiles that can be selected that do auto installs would be good. Imagine how easy it would be to select and auto install option and everything is installed with no other user interaction.

I think that it needs features for advanced users to. For example, the install can be automated using an answerfile as I stated before, but answer files are not straight forward. There needs to be an install option that records selected settings to a file, then that file can be used to install other similar machines.

Also, what happens when enterprises start using BSD Desktops...how do they deal with the computer names and ldap and all that. Sysprep doesn't really exist...I guess it could be scripted...
Posted by rhyous (2 comments )
Link Flag
FreeBSD
FreeBSD is a lot like Mac OS X.

It's very good, runs my servers well, gets along with my OS X
networked PCs, and so forth and so on.

I do have Linux-based PCs hooked up, as well and numerous XP
PCs. I enjoy the Macs most for the easiest OS ever, with the
FreeBSD PCs coming in second, since both OSs are BSD based.

If they want to take on the Linux crowd, good for them.
Posted by fakespam (239 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Already 15+ Millions BSD Desktop Users
They're running OS X:

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://images.apple.com/macosx/pdf/MacOSX_UNIX_TB.pdf" target="_newWindow">http://images.apple.com/macosx/pdf/MacOSX_UNIX_TB.pdf</a>

How many Linux desktop users are there?

Not trying to be a wise-guy. I would be genuinely interested to know the installed base of Linux Server and Linux Desktop machines.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Reply Link Flag
..
The article is talking about FreeBSD in particular, not all BSD's.

I would also like a breakdown of the install base of Linux machines.
Posted by fromz (3 comments )
Link Flag
the mystery of "free"...
Okay, here's where I don't get it about "open source" stuff. Only about 4% of desktops sold worldwide have some version of Linux on them (according to an article earlier this year on CNET)and everyone involved with this seems to spend their time writing new operating systems to compete with the operating systems that nobody is using anyway, so does anyone in this movement work for a living? How can you get paid for not selling anything? Are you guys hobbyists who do this in your garage on the weekends or are these "developers" making a living from this? Who is paying for these unwanted projects? Someone help me unravel these mysteries...
Posted by Razzl (1318 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Tech support = $$
Open source developers get paid by making their UI so complicated that ordinary users can't figure anything out without spending loads of $$ on the so-called "experts" to fix and/or manage the system. The "cost of acquisition" may be nil, but the "cost of ownership" is rather steep.

I would love to see Linux become mainstream, but that will never happen unless the open source community stops programming FOR programmers and start programming FOR USERS.

This would cut into their tech support scam as well as their Slashdot uber-ness, so I don't see it happening anytime soon.
Posted by Take the Red Pill (46 comments )
Link Flag
It's not that complicated really
First, there are very few people that are working on "new" operating systems. There are lots of people working to improve the ones that are currently available. Second, open source software is not limited to operating systems. An O/S would be nearly useless if there were no applications to actually do useful work.

There are several reasons why the open source movement came to be, particularly the Unix variations. I would say that first and foremost, a lot of the "techie" people did not want to be chained to the alters of Redmond or Bell Labs. If you really want to know all the historical details, you will need to do your own digging. I will at least direct you to the Free Software Foundation as a starting point. One of the first things you find at this web site is that "open source" does not necessarily mean free as in no money.

An analogy for writing open source software in some respects can be made with sports. Lots of people play, lets say, baseball, mostly because it is fun. Very few get paid for it and fewer still get paid really well. Just because I don't get paid for playing the game doesn't mean that I can't enjoy it. And I would much rather play than watch.

I happen to work as a Software Engineer for a good company and I get paid really well for what I do. But my employer pays me to do what THEY want me to do, not what I want to do, or in some cases, as well as I would like to do it. With open source, I can look at the source code to learn how it works, and if I want, I can make changes to the code so the program works differently or better or the way I want it to. But it also has a certain level of appeal. I can't see the source code for Internet Expolorer (and I'm not sure I care to) so I can't see how the code works and I can't fix it. There is an army of people in the world that work on open source to make improvements and fix bugs. Because people can look at the code, the problems can be found and fixed faster. Some people find very clever solutions to problems and get recognition from their peers. Some people are so good at it that a company will hire them for their skills. But just because they have a good job and a good pay check doesn't mean that they stop working on open source. Some people create a product that catches on and a lot of people want it. They may even have the opportunity to make a few dollars supporting their product.

As for your "Who pays for these unwanted projects?" question, you may not find the software useful, but there are plenty of people that do. And you would be surprised to learn how much open source technology finds its way into common technology that you are familiar with. One notable example is Apple's OS X, which has its' roots in FreeBSD. Even MicroSoft has been known to use and build off of open source as well.
Posted by (63 comments )
Link Flag
It runs the world
These so called "unwanted projects" that "nobody is using" run 80% of the internet and such unwanted things like Yahoo, government agencies, NASA, IBM and universities around the world. Many programs are created for individuals or specialized work but then distributed for free when they contain useful things or source code. Windows itself is a copy of "unwanted projects". Nothing original is in Windows that didn't come out of the labs and open source.
Posted by drhowarddrfine (67 comments )
Link Flag
It runs the world
These so called "unwanted projects" that "nobody is using" run 80% of the internet and such unwanted things like Yahoo, government agencies, NASA, IBM and universities around the world. Many programs are created for individuals or specialized work but then distributed for free when they contain useful things or source code. Windows itself is a copy of "unwanted projects". Nothing original is in Windows that didn't come out of the labs and open source.
Posted by drhowarddrfine (67 comments )
Link Flag
Linux and its kin are everywhere
Desktops are not everything. Although Linux is an extremely powerful and flexible destop solution.

As was already said, the vast majority of the internet runs on linux/unix/ect. Tons of embedded devices you see in places like hospitals, engineering labs, even your home(TiVO, for one) are all linux. Imagine a piece of medical equipment or something at NASA that lives depend on running windows. That is frightening. Besides, windows is not configurable enough to be put on small devices. Hell, windows can't run on an XBox, but linux can and it makes a nice little server.

There is a ton of money in open source. Many do donate their free time but many more get paid to do so. Red Hat, Novell, IBM, and many more large corporations, not too mention the smaller shops that are solely open source.

"Developers"? The "" should be put around "MS developers". These people you scorn were doing things 10+ years ago that MS has yet to properly implement.

These are not unwanted projects, but serious work, that really is leading the industry. For one example, everything MS has done in the past few years and everything they are working on is a reaction to what is going on in open source. Your characterizations shows your ignorance, perhaps you should educate yourself a bit?
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
Re; Mystery Of Free
Hi All,

First, just because a vendor does not support Linux and "Sell" Linux does not mean Linux does not get installed, take Dell for instance. I load Linux on Dell Laptops, desktops and severs all the time and they only sell Linux for servers and I've never used there Linux Distro either.

An OS no one uses, man get a glove and get in the game, FreeBSD has been around for many years, it drives some of the most heavily loaded systems in the world. Their talking about making the desktop environment more user friendly, like what is happening in the Linux camps now.

Linux has the dominate position in servers, supercomputers and clusters and now eying the desktop. Linux runs on everything from, cell phones to the big iron.

Backup slowly from your Windows machine and take a look around; the Global Community is pushing Open Source software in every direction imaginable.

Most of the guys / girls that develop Open Source software out of a passion for doing so. Lets say they have a job for company XYZ doing some lame and boring coding, but hey it pays the bills.

But what they would like is to work on something that interest them; the Open Source world provides 1000's of projects to choose from, with some of the top programmers in the world to work with, that is why they do it. Many of these Open Source projects are tracked closely by Corporate America and the programmers are finding new job offers through their involvement on these projects.

Money is made on services, support and/or software or features you run on top of the OS.

Joe
Posted by gunnerjoe (6 comments )
Link Flag
I say go for it FreeBSD
I am a free man. I truly am because I use Free Software. It doesn't really matter for me if my operating system is GNU/Linux or FreeBSD or even OpenSolaris and the coming Haiku OS, as long as I have freedom. I do have a problem with Windows, Mac OS X and other OS's that do not allow me this freedom.

That is why I am happy to see that in this Free World created by Free Software we are already seeing competition - one that will never feature the horrors of monopolies because of the principles that Free Software upholds.

You can find more about these principles on <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.fsf.org" target="_newWindow">http://www.fsf.org</a> They set the foundation for a truly free market, true competition that indeed does benefit the end user - and you know everyone is an end user, even companies and developers.

This freedom is also what moves Free Software. It is that underlying magic that one of the previous poster was calling to define.

Thank you
Daniel
Posted by cosmicall (27 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So even though this is an old post, it is top on Google's search and if new FreeBSD users come here to look, they probably want new data on how to setup a FreeBSD 8 desktop. So here is a link.
http://rhyous.com/2009/12/18/how-to-install-and-configure-a-freebsd-8-desktop-with-xorg-and-kde/
Posted by karwinlee (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So even though this is an old post, it is top on Google's search and if new FreeBSD users come here to look, they probably want new data on how to setup a FreeBSD 8 desktop. So here is a link.
&lt;a href="http://rhyous.com/2009/12/18/how-to-install-and-configure-a-freebsd-8-desktop-with-xorg-and-kde/"http://rhyous.com/2009/12/18/how-to-install-and-configure-a-freebsd-8-desktop-with-xorg-and-kde/&lt;/a&gt;
Posted by karwinlee (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
So even though this is an old post, it is top on Google's search and if new FreeBSD users come here to look, they probably want new data on how to setup a FreeBSD 8 desktop. So here is a link.
&lt;a href="http://rhyous.com/2009/12/18/how-to-install-and-configure-a-freebsd-8-desktop-with-xorg-and-kde/"&gt;http://rhyous.com/2009/12/18/how-to-install-and-configure-a-freebsd-8-desktop-with-xorg-and-kde/&lt;/a&gt;
Posted by karwinlee (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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