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