Back to 2000-2005: FreeBSD desktop

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A while ago, I had my ${DAYWORK} workstation running NetBSD, and honestly, it did pretty well. Things began to become more painful when there was no more DRI acceleration with the radeon driver, it then did an okay-ish job, but the overall desktop became somewhat laggy.
It was told someone was working on porting KMS/GEM, that was more than a year ago, and as of today, that work -and I guess it is not an easy one- isn’t mature enough to be used as a workstation, I need my desktop to run various tools, and not only terminal-based ones.
Two weeks ago, I asked for a new desktop, more powerful, so I can run more virtual machines with it. That new box was shipped with an nvidia graphic card and various modern components which I knew were not supported by NetBSD. This is one regret I have about that beautiful project, running on VAX, PlayStation 2 and Amiga is fun, but I’ll tell you a little secret: nobody cares anymore about VAX, PlayStation 2 and Amiga.
So I gave FreeBSD 10 a try. And I was not disappointed: everything, and I mean everything worked almost out-of-the-box. Of course there was a bit of fighting with the proprietary nvidia driver, but it worked as expected with 3D acceleration and all.
Not everything is perfect either, but I must say FreeBSD does a great job as a workstation, actually, it does what I needed: display a decent 2014 hardware powered desktop, no more, no less.
Under no circumstances will I replace my NetBSD servers / virtual machines (as long as they still support the underlying hardware!), they do an amazing job and I am quite happy with them, but don’t expect desktop-related commits from me to pkgsrc for the time being…

Update

Well well, this blogpost have bring much unexpected rage. Just to clarify: this is definitely not a troll or whatsoever, only an end user opinion on what’s preventing me of using NetBSD as a desktop at work for the moment.
Read the previous sentence a couple of times and notice the word “work”, the place where you can’t spend countless hours patching / tuning / trying / crashing / rebooting (sounds like a Daft Punk song) before you can reply to an urgent customer inquiry. Yes, that place. The only thing I say is: FreeBSD, as of today, does a better job at being an out-of-the-box modern desktop.
I will continue to use NetBSD as my server OS of choice, because it does rock, because it is stable, simple and fills the task perfectly. As soon as it doesn’t anymore, I’ll switch to something else, that’s what I do. Pragmatic.
So yes, I have the weakness to like shiny desktops that run something else than twm, I like transparency, I like effects when I change my virtual desktop, I like my windows to be displayed and moved rapidly, you know, pretty much like all those BSD developers that actually use OSX because it does all those things.
I will also continue contributing to pkgsrc, because it is in my optinion the most beautifull packaging system around, all I’m saying is that I won’t commit desktop-related tools I can’t really test or use. Nothing more.

2 Responses to “Back to 2000-2005: FreeBSD desktop”

  1. daniel Says:

    You are right. On my new laptop i have a problem to defend Netbsd for missing decent graphic driver. I don’t need full high performance but video or moving windows should not look like on a vintage computer. Why is this so a big problem when OpenBSD have working drivers? I mean they had the gem/nokms drivers, now they have kms intel and radeon and NetBSD has nothing accel. working hardware which is younger than 3 years. And older intel are not in a good shape current mesa.

  2. Emmanuel Kasper Says:

    I don’t see what’s wrong with your post. Maybe if you had it worded like “since the NetBSD project focuses on supporting Vax, Amiga and PS2 and not current X11 then … ”
    I for myself is happy to try NetBSD on that Basement Vaxx. But I stopped using it as my main desktop, for the reasons you mentionned.

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