Author Archives: Ken Moore

PC-BSD 10.0.3 Preview: Lumina Desktop

As we are getting ready for PC-BSD 10.0.3, I wanted to share a little preview of what to expect with the Lumina desktop environment as you move from version 0.4.0 to 0.6.2.

To give you a quick summary, pretty much everything has been updated/refined, with several new utilities written specifically for Lumina. The major new utility is the “Insight” file manager: with ZFS snapshot integration, multimedia player, and image slideshow viewer capabilities built right in by default. It also has a new snapshot utility and the desktop configuration utility has been completely rewritten. I am going to be listing more details about all the updates between the versions below, but for those of you who are not interested in the details, you can just take a look at some screenshots instead.…  :-)

Lumina10-0-3--1

 

Lumina10-0-3--2

Lumina10-0-3--3

 

Lumina10-0-3--4

Lumina10-0-3--5

 

==== FULL UPDATE DETAILS ====

(Moving from 0.4.0 to 0.6.2)
Desktop

- A desktop plugin system has been implemented, with two plugins available at the moment (a calandar plugin, and an application launcher plugin).
– The panel plugin system has been refined quite a bit, with transparency support for the panel itself and automatic plugin resizing for example.
– A new panel plugin has been added: the system dashboard. This plugin allows control over the audio volume, screen brightness, and current workspace, while also displaying the current battery status (if applicable) and containing a button to let the user log out (or shutdown/restart the system).
– The user button panel plugin has been re-implemented as well, and incorporating the functionality of the desktopbar plugin. Now the user has quick access to files/application in the ~/Desktop folder, as well as the ability to add/remove shortcuts to system applications in the desktop folder with one click.
– New backgrounds wallpapers and project logo (courtesy of iXsystems).

NOTE: Users of the older versions of the Lumina desktop will have their configuration files returned to the defaults after logging in to the new version for the first time.


Utilities
The new file manager (lumina-fm, also called “Insight”):
Features:
– Browse the system and allow the bookmarking of favorite directories
– Simple multimedia player to allow playing/previewing multimedia files
– Image slideshow viewer for previewing image files
– Full ZFS file/directory restore functionality if ZFS snapshots are available
– Menu shortcuts to quickly browse attached/mounted devices
– Tabbing support for browsing multiple directories at once
– Standard file/directory management (copy/paste/delete/create)
– Supported multimedia and image formats are auto-detected on start, so if a particular file is not recognized, you just need to install the appropriate library or plugin on your system to provide support (none required by default).

The new screenshot utility (lumina-screenshot):
Features:
– Simple utility to create/save screenshots on the system.
– Can capture the entire system, or individual windows.
– Can delay the image capture for a few seconds as necessary
– Automatically assigned to the “Print Screen” keyboard shortcut by default, but also listed in the application registry under utilities.

The configuration utility (lumina-config):
Features:
– Competely new implementation
– Configure desktop appearance (background image, add desktop plugins)
– Configure panels (location, color/transparency, size, manage plugins, up to 2 panels supported per screen)
– Configure right-click menu plugins
– Manage/set global keyboard shortcuts (including shortcuts for adjusting audio volume or screen brightness)
– Manage/set default applications for the system by categories or individually
– Manage session options (enable numlock on log in, play audio chimes)
– Manage/set applications/files to be launched on log in
– Manage window system options (appearance, mouse focus policy, window placement policy, number of workspaces)

The application/file opener utility (lumina-open):
– Update the overall appearance of the application selector window.
– Fully support registered mime-types on the system now, and recommend those applications as appropriate.

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!

Call For Testers: New Major Upgrade Methodology

Hello everyone!

Kris just posted a call for testers for a new methodology for major system upgrades (such as  9.2 -> 10.0 -> 10.1, etc..) and we are looking for people who are still running 9.2  to try it out. The full text of the call for testers is at the bottom of the post, but to give a bit of background we have been generally unimpressed with the reliability of the “standard” FreeBSD update tools (freebsd-update and pkg) when it comes to fetching uncorrupted update files through the internet. This new methodology takes those two utilities out of the general preparations for an update (download/verification of files), as well as a couple other upgrade steps so that there should no longer be an issue with starting an upgrade when only some of the upgrade files were actually retrieved successfully.

 

Please test it out and let us know how it goes!

Remember, always backup your data before doing any major upgrade like this!  The new methodology should automatically create a boot environment for you before doing the upgrade, but better safe than sorry!

 

Here is the full text of request from Kris to the developer mailing list:

I've just finished up some work on a major re-write of our updating
system when "upgrading" between major releases, I.E. 9.2 -> 10.0, 10.0
-> 10.1.

https://github.com/pcbsd/pcbsd/commit/b95e8a83c73511568ae4291a54e0f93f6c67ef30
https://github.com/pcbsd/pcbsd/commit/9a8b3d1945fa67db8e99b0e4e82280b5626aa895

It seems to work well here, but it needs some additional testing from
any users still running 9.2 who want to update to 10. To test this,
first grab the latest from git:

# git clone https://github.com/pcbsd/pcbsd.git pcbsd
# cd pcbsd/src-sh/pc-updatemanager
# make install

Then run:

# pc-updatemanager install fbsd-10.0-RELEASE

This should start the download / upgrade process. If anything fails
during the process, logs are kept in /root, which will assist me in
debugging.

Thanks!

End of the PKG woes

Hey everyone, I just wanted to let you know that the recent issues with package updates should be corrected with the new package set that just came out.

The graphical package manager will not be able to update to the new package set, instead you will need to run the following command manually:

sudo pkg upgrade

If this fails because of a package conflict, you will need to remove the offending package before trying the upgrade again. For instance, a number of user’s have had to run this command first:

sudo pkg remove –f py27-distribute-0.6.35

Once you have updated to the new package set, the graphical package utility will work perfectly fine again (since it got updated itself).

 

General background on the problem:

With the update of the new FreeBSD package utility (pkg) from 1.1.x ->1.2.x, there were a number of errors due to a bunch of backwards compatibility being missing in the new version. This meant that once you updated to the newer version you no longer had access to the packages on the PC-BSD repository (due to the changes in the repo format). Since our new 1.2.x packages were just released on the PC-BSD repo, you should now be able to continue changing your packages again. Another issue that came with 1.2.x was that a number of the utility flags all got changed suddenly — causing our graphical utility to need updating as well. We got that utility updated fairly quickly, but the updated package was in the new 1.2.x format — meaning that you have to use the command line to perform this one upgrade.

 

We are terribly sorry for the inconvenience. Please let us know here or on the forums if you run into any other issues.

Contest: Default PCDM Theme

Calling all creative PC-BSD users! The developers at PC-BSD would like your help in designing a brand new theme for the PCDM login manager. The winning entry will see their own customized skin as the default theme in the next official release of PC-BSD! In addition, we would like to present the winner and runner-ups with these awesome prizes:

1st Prize: A PC-BSD Isotope T-shirt, PC-BSD stickers, BSD wristbands, plus misc FreeBSD swag items.(Total ARV: $40)

Honorable mentions: PC-BSD schwag package (ARV: $15)

Contest start:11:00am PST on June 19th, 2013

Contest end:11:00am PST on July 8th, 2013

Please submit your entries in an email to the PC-BSD developers mailing list[1] along with your email contact information. The format we require is a *.tar.gz archive containing all the image files as well as *.theme file. Please title the subject heading “Entry for PCDM Theme Contest

What

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