DesktopBSD 1.7

Although the official name of this blog is Desktop Linux Reviews, we will occasionally be looking at non-Linux operating systems too. Such is the case with DesktopBSD 1.7 which is a version of the FreeBSD operating system. DesktopBSD is, as you can tell from its name, geared toward desktop users.

Here’s some background on FreeBSD from Wikipedia:

FreeBSD is a free Unix-like operating system descended from AT&T UNIX via the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD). FreeBSD currently has more than 200 active developers and thousands of contributors.

FreeBSD has been characterized as “the unknown giant among free operating systems.” It is not a clone of UNIX, but works like UNIX, with UNIX-compliant internals and system APIs. FreeBSD is generally regarded as reliable and robust.

FreeBSD is a complete operating system. The kernel, device drivers and all of the userland utilities, such as the shell, are held in the same source code revision tracking tree, whereas with Linux distributions, the kernel, userland utilities and applications are developed separately, then packaged together in various ways by others.

Unfortunately, according to the DesktopBSD site this will be the last and final release of DesktopBSD.

This is the last and final release of the DesktopBSD project. I find myself having less and less time to spare lately and no longer desire to keep developing and maintaining this project. However, because DesktopBSD is based entirely on FreeBSD, further support for the operating system and availability of up-to-date software for DesktopBSD 1.7 is ensured.

Thanks to everyone who helped prepare this release!

While I’m very sorry to hear that, I think it’s worth looking at DesktopBSD if for no other reason then to give the DesktopBSD developer a pat on the back and a thank you for making the effort to create it in the first place.

So with that said, read on…

DesktopBSD is a nice alternative to the usual desktop Linux distros.
DesktopBSD is a nice alternative to the usual desktop Linux distros.

What’s New In This Release
Here’s a list of some of what’s new in this release of DesktopBSD 1.7:

FreeBSD 7.2 as stable and secure base system
KDE 3.5.10 as mature and easy-to-use desktop environment 3.1.1 as feature-rich office suite
Pre-installed Java SE 6 environment
X.Org release 7.4 with extensive graphics support
Large number of enhancements and fixes

Requirements & Installation
In order to use DesktopBSD, here’s what is recommended on the DesktopBSD site:

We recommend a computer with at least a 1.5 GHz CPU, 1024 MB of memory and 20 GB of disk space. Less is possible, but will result in lower overall performance.

Access to a broad-band internet connection is recommended for installing additional software over the internet.

For more information about supported hardware, please read the FreeBSD 7.2 hardware notes.

I booted into the LiveCD version of DesktopBSD. The Live CD DesktopBSD experience compares favorably with that of most Linux distros. You’ll be able to get a good taste of what DesktopBSD has to offer by using the Live CD.

I had no problems installing DesktopBSD in VMWare. It’s about as difficult as installing any version of Ubuntu though it seemed a bit slower.

The DesktopBSD installer is actually fairly elegant and looks pretty slick. Just follow the prompts on each screen and you shouldn’t have any problems getting DesktopBSD installed even if you’ve never used it before.


desktopbsdinstall3Desktop & Apps
Since DesktopBSD comes with KDE you’ll feel right at home if you’ve used KDE on Linux distros at some point. The overall look and feel of generic KDE is mostly preserved in DesktopBSD so you won’t encounter any wild customizations that mar the KDE experience.

DesktopBSD comes with quite a lot of software, I was very pleased when I first noticed it after the Live CD version finished loading. The installed version is just as good in terms of software.

Here’s some of what you’ll find available after you install DesktopBSD:



Knode (News Reader)
Kontact PIM
Pidgin IM
Thunderbird Mail
Krfb (Desktop Sharing)

K3B CD & DVD Burning
VLC Media Player
Noatun Media Player

Office (Spreadsheet, Word Processor, Drawing, Presentation, Database)

There’s quite a bit to choose from and most everything you’ll need is there and ready to go after you install DesktopBSD. I ran into some problems with the DesktopBSD package manager (more on that later) so I wasn’t able to add more software or update my system.

DesktopBSD uses KDE 3.5 as its desktop environment.
DesktopBSD uses KDE 3.5 as its desktop environment.

What I Liked Most
I think my favorite thing about DesktopBSD is that it’s not Linux. Now hear me out before you get ready to flame me in the comments section, okay? I love Linux and I enjoy reviewing Linux distros (obviously or this blog wouldn’t even exist) but it’s refreshing to take a look at something different.

I also liked the bundled selection of software. DesktopBSD pretty much hit all the right marks.

Problems & Headaches
Bear in mind that if you’re the type that has to have the latest & greatest version of KDE then DesktopBSD might disappoint you since it’s using KDE 3.5. Frankly, I don’t mind it at all as there are some things about KDE 4.3 that I don’t care for but your mileage may vary.

As I noted earlier in this review, the developer has decided to call it quits so using DesktopBSD over the long run might not be a good idea. However, he has addressed the issue of updates with this comment:

“…because DesktopBSD is based entirely on FreeBSD, further support for the operating system and availability of up-to-date software for DesktopBSD 1.7 is ensured.”

So that should provide some comfort for those who might fall in love with DesktopBSD and decide to keep it on their computers as their main operating system.

I also encountered some kind of bug when trying to start the software applications app (package manager). It asked me for the root password so I typed it in but the app didn’t start. So I was not able to update my DesktopBSD system or install more software. I’m not sure what the problem is here but that’s a pretty bad bug to have in a desktop system.

I logged out and tried to log in directly as root but DesktopBSD does not allow direct root logins apparently.

DesktopBSD comes with a pretty good selection of desktop applications.
DesktopBSD comes with a pretty good selection of desktop applications.

Where To Get Help
You can always post a note in the Desktop Linux Reviews Forum and we’ll do our best to offer feedback or at least point you in the right direction. You might also want to check out the DesktopBSD Wiki or the DesktopBSD forum.

Final Thoughts & Who Should Use It
As I noted earlier, it’s a shame that the developer of DesktopBSD has decided to call it quits. I had a mostly positive experience with it and I’d recommend it to anybody looking for an interesting alternative to the usual array of Linux distros.

Intermediate and advanced Linux users should have no problems with DesktopBSD. Beginners can still play with it but I do not recommend that DesktopBSD be used by beginners as their main desktop operating system.

So I give DesktopBSD a thumbs up. Perhaps the developer will change his mind and simply take a break for a while instead of hanging it up altogether.

Summary Table:

Product: DesktopBSD 1.7
Web Site:
Price: Free
Pros: Great selection of software, very easy install.
Cons: This, apparently, is the last release of DesktopBSD. The developer is retiring. Note also that it uses an older version of KDE (3.5) not the latest version (4.3). Package manager did not start so I could not update my system or add more software.
Suitable For: Intermediate and advanced users.
Summary: Great selection of bundled software and an easy install. A potential alternative to the usual array of desktop Linux distros. Package manager bug needs to be fixed ASAP though.
Rating: 3/5

15 thoughts on “DesktopBSD 1.7

  1. @ Goddard:

    You are an idiot, and sound no better than the apple fanboys. FreeBSD is NOT just for servers. One look at the FreeBSD site and you will see that many, many ,many people use it on their home desktops. Also, BSD systems have proven to be more stable and reliable than linux systems, and can run linux binaries, so it would seem that BSD is a better choice.

    As for your teen girlish drooling and fawning over XFCE or LXDE, you need to remember that those are desktop envioronments, NOT the latest pop star. Everyone had a preference, and to be so vicious with your words over a DE, wow…you are showing your relative immaturity.

    As for Desktop BSD, it does look like it is not coming back, as the email address no longer works, and their are no updates in the forums or the website. Newbies and the less tech inclined need not fear though, PcBSD has just released Verion 9 RC3, which is a big improvement, and offers stability and funcionality for those just starting, and Unix veterans. It includes your choice of many Desktops and window managers, and yes Goddard, even your precious XFCE and LXDE. I am a little sad to see Desktop BSD go, it was a good system, and the one that helped springboard me into BSD systems. I am now running FreeBSD, (not PcBSD) which shows that a good, n00b friendly BSD system can indeed help someone become proficient in BSD as a whole. IMHO, PcBSD has surpassed Desktop BSD, especially with the 9 isotope release. XOXO Natalie

  2. I wish I could share the joy of a newly installed perfectly functioning DesktopBSD system. But, neither the installation nor the end result comes anywhere close to that.

    1) The installation starts with an ultimately annoying, uncontrollable run-up screen. Just because this problem have been swept under the rug in the past thirty years, it is not less waxing when you really wish to grab the disappearing information.

    2) For a 17" 1280×1024 CRT monitor the only available resolution is 1400×1050 whereas I usually set it to 1152×864.

    3) In the configuration phase following the first restart the system is asking for the second CD or the DVD, but it is unable to recognize the very same DVD located in the very same drive then it was used during the installation.

    4) The installed system is KDE dominated so much so that the two vitally most important items are unreachable, specifically, configuring the Internet access through PPPoE, and using a terminal window. What is the use of all those Internet applications if Internet access

    is denied? How one can deal with any system, or configuration-related issues if no terminal window is available?

    I feel being caged in with this monster that does not allow me either to look into the system, or establish any contact with the outside word. Gentlemen, is this an acceptable state?! Any idea how to brake free??

  3. Hey crybabies, a BSD with such an "idiot-friendly" desktop environment as KDE is simply ridiculous. It should have either XFCE or LXDE.

    BTW, FreeBSD is for servers, not for home PCs. Forget about them. Use Linux, instead.

    There are many wonderful Linux distros with XFCE: PCLinuxOS, Dreamlinux, Wolvix, etc.. Search for details.

    Byebye DesktopBSD! Do the PC world a favor: never come back!

  4. Hi, could be wrong but the reason you might have been having issues installing BSD on your systems could be related to this (from the pcbsd guide) :

    "Be aware that BSD operating systems, and hence PC-BSD, only recognise primary partitions and consider any logical partitions as a whole primary partition. Trying to install on a logical partition will convert your extended partition into a primary partition and erase all logical partitions of your system. PC-BSD can be installed on any primary partition; it doesn't necessarily have to be on the first one. Be careful and make sure you have a backup of your data."

    Just a thought and thanks for the reviews!

  5. Im a newbie in these things and I have windows XP,pcBSD 7.1.1 and Ubuntu 9.04 in the same hdd (plus a partition for files).

    I installed them in that order: first XP, then pcBSD and Ubuntu and its grub in the last place.

    The truth is that I can see my pcBSD partition from linux (read only, no writting), but I cant see my ext4 linux partitions from pcBSD (Ive got 2 of them, one mounts at / and the other one mounts at /home), but thats one of the reasons why I create another extended logic partition in FAT32, just to share files among my 3 OSes

    I will miss desktopBSD :sad: , Its a real shame

  6. Even though I am a Linux user (Ubuntu) I have kept across the news of Desktop BSD. I am also sad to see it go. I preferred Desktop BSD to PCBSD but it didn't seem to have the momentum.

  7. Hi Dragonmouth,

    I didn't pre-create the slices; just created one new partition using GParted (unformatted, as GParted doesn't/didn't support creation of UFS) at the end of my primary slave disk, of which the remainder was filled with Ext 3 partitions and a Linux swap partition. I then ran the Desktop BSD installer and pointed it at that unformatted partition; then created the slices from within the installer. It's probably not relevant to the discussion, but I skipped the bootloader install, as I already had GRUB on the machine.

    It was a long time ago that I installed Desktop BSD, so I don't remember the exact details, but I had no problems at all with it. Your posts were actually the first I'd heard about Ext 3 etc not being recognised.

  8. I've used 1.6 quite a bit and have been very impressed. It's solid and easy to use. Sad to see there'll be no more after 1.7.

    Not quite sure about the comments on multi-boot environments with Linux, though. Perhaps I'm not understanding the nature of the posts correctly, but I have Desktop BSD 1.6 installed on the same physical disk as OpenSuSE and it works with no problems (just got the partitioning ready before the BSD install and pointed the installer to the right place).

    In any case, I'll definitely have a look at 1.7 and head over to the forums to thank the developers.

  9. Good point, Dragonmouth. I cannot install FreeBSD, PC-BSD, DesktopBSD, or any other BSD version or derivative unless I have a separate disk or a virtual instance. That has actually been the reason why I don't run the BSDs more often. The other reason is that I find the BSDs kernel scheduler tends to be well tuned for server performance but it not optimized as Linux is for desktop use – which has been the case since the 2.6 Linux kernel – which has been a few years now.

    I like the BSDs, and they are actually the UNIX flavor from which I came – not FreeBSD, but BSD 4.2, which formed the basis for ULTRIX, the original SunOS (before the AT&T UNIX System V R3 inspired Sun Solaris), and a few of the other variations I used in the now distant past.

  10. DesktopBSD is more of a true FreeBSD-based system with the desktop environment conveniently configured, whereas PC-BSD is a drop in, self contained system based on FreeBSD that uses independent, stand alone packages (with PBI, the Push Button Installer).

    I was a fan of DesktopBSD a few years ago, but I'd noticed how dormant the development had been so I stopped following it. I do generally try PC-BSD every release or two and generally like it.

    Guess if I ever want to try DesktopBSD again, now is the time!

    Thanks for once again going outside of the usual confines to locate and test some of the less well known systems. Though I have not yet tested this version, I have found previous releases to be quite easy to install and very stable, and I am hoping that is once again the case.

  11. Hi David,

    Yeah, it's a real shame. I hope that the developer reconsiders his decision to stop updating DesktopBSD. You never know. Stranger things have happened. Maybe he just needs a break from it for a while.


  12. It's very much a shame to hear desktopBSD is ending. I had thought desktopBSD had a better approach to making a user friendly FreeBSD desktop, and especially for commercial uses, than PC-BSD did.

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