BSD DevCenter
oreilly.comSafari Books Online.Conferences.


Using DesktopBSD
Pages: 1, 2

It's useful to know what happens behind the scenes so you can understand the results of your upgrade. FreeBSD provides two methods for installing software. The first is the packages system, where a package is similar to a Windows installer program: it downloads the executable, documentation, and everything the program needs to run. Packages are really quick to install, but aren't always available for the latest version of software as someone has to create the package. The second method is the ports system; a port is the instructions needed to build a program. Ports tend to be available before packages but it can take a long time for a port to build the application. A long time can be anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours (and sometimes a few days) depending upon the size of the application and the speed of your CPU. For example, KDE and OpenOffice are very large applications and can take a very long time to build.

The default upgrade method for DesktopBSD's Package Manager is to upgrade packages. This means your upgrades will be very quick, but you will most likely receive some errors as not every application will have a new package available. If you receive an error, you have two choices. You can either try again in a week or so to see if there is a new package, or you can try to build the port.

If you decide to try building the port, go into the Packages menu->Settings->Binaries and Source. Change "Binary packages only" to "Binary packages whenever possible." Then, in Advanced, check (at least) two options:

[x]Always upgrade the packages required by the specified packages as well.
[x]Always upgrade the packages depending on the specified packages as well.

Repeat your upgrade, which will take a while. You should check on it every now and then as sometimes it will pause and wait for you to select from a menu of options. Also be aware that sometimes a port will fail to build. The reason for the failure often pertains to something you should have read in the file which appeared before starting the upgrade.

Note: if you're curious, the name of that file is /usr/ports/UPDATING.

You can do much more than upgrade your software using this utility. To see what software is installed, select the Group by...None button under Installed Packages. To install software, click on the Available Packages tab. Here you will find a search utility where you can search by package name or by description. Alternately, click on the x to clear the search and bring up the categories to browse manually. If you select an application, it will give a short description and the latest version. Other buttons allow you to see the long description, view the website for the application, and install the application. When you click install, the application will be added to the Pending Operations pane. This allows you to select multiple applications; the installations will occur when you click the Start button.

After the install, you will have the opportunity to add menu entries for the new applications. If you say Yes, click the Scan button when Kappfinder opens. I've found Kappfinder to be a bit flaky, so it may or may not find the application you just installed. I prefer to click on K menu (the red DesktopBSD icon in the far left of the taskbar), then Settings->Menu Editor to review and modify the K menu.

Should you wish to uninstall an application, the safest way is to click the Deinstall button. You will see the message:

Welcome to the deinstallation wizard! Most packages need other software to work properly. When you deinstall such packages, previously required software may remain on the system and consume disk space unnecessarily. This wizard guides you through the deinstallation of packages and no longer required software.

When you select the application(s) you wish to deinstall, you may need to select other applications which came with that application. Clicking on the Calculate button will tell you how much disk space this operation will free and clicking Finish will perform the deinstallation(s).

Note: this utility won't let you uninstall software that other applications require. This allows novices to safely uninstall applications without messing up the system.

The Security tab will show known vulnerabilities for applications you can install using Package Manager, allowing you to decide if you wish to install or keep already installed applications with known outstanding security issues.

Finally, the Clean button will start another wizard:

Welcome to the cleaning wizard! When you install new software, installation files remain on your system. They can be useful for later reinstallations and upgrades, but in most cases they unnecessarily consume disk space. This wizard helps you to remove such files from your system.

If disk space is an issue, its not a bad idea to periodically run this wizard as it can free up some disk space.

Configuring Remote Places

The System icon provides another method for accessing your Home Folder and Trash. It also provides shortcuts to Storage Media and Users Folders. I'd like to spend some time on the Add a Network Folder wizard found within its final shortcut: Remote Places. Double-clicking that shortcut will allow you to make shortcuts to FTP, Windows network drive, and SSH connections.

For example, I configured an SSH shortcut to a SSH server running inside my network as follows:

Name: server
User: dru
Port: 22
Folder: /usr/home/dru
[x] Create an icon for this remote folder

When I pressed Save & Connect, a SSH Authorization menu prompted me for my password and gave an option to Keep password. Because I asked to save password, KWallet opened:

Welcome to KWallet, the KDE Wallet System. KWallet allows you to store your passwords and other personal information on disk in an encrypted file, preventing others from viewing the information. This wizard will tell you about KWallet and help you configure it for the first time.

I pressed Next to enter Basic setup (recommended) and received another message:

Various applications may attempt to use the KDE wallet to store passwords or other information such as web form data and cookies. If you would like these applications to use the wallet, you must enable it now and choose a password. The password you choose cannot be recovered if it is lost, and will allow anyone who knows it to obtain all the information contained in the wallet.

I checked [x] Yes, I wish to use the KDE wallet to store my personal information. and entered a password. It prompted me to enter that password to access the wallet. It then finished connecting to the SSH server and opened my home directory on that system in Konqueror.

The next time I wish to connect to server, I can simply double-click its icon in Remote Places.

Hint: If you prefer to make a desktop icon, right-click the icon in Remote Places, select to copy and right-click on the Desktop and choose Paste URL.

Once you start creating and using your connection shortcuts, your Recent Connections will show in the drop-down menu in the Network Folder Wizard.

System Tray Icons

There are several convenient icons in the right side of the system tray, next to the clock. Klipper keeps track of your copy operations, making it easy to paste text between applications. Mixer gives quick access to sound volume. Korganizer is a full-featured personal calendar--spend some time poking about its Events and Settings menus. Right-clicking the Mounted Devices icon gives quick access to CDs, DVDs, floppies, and file systems. If you right-click Network Control and select Configure, you can view the status of your NICs, customize your TCP/IP settings and scan for wireless networks.

I'll leave it to you to explore the KDE menu on your own as there is much there to see. There is one last note to mention: if you decide to Switch User and Start a New Session, find your first session at Alt-F9 and your new session at Alt-F10.


If you have been hesitant to try FreeBSD because you heard the install was difficult or were afraid you would have problems configuring the GUI or sound or networking, now is a great time to take the plunge. Both PC-BSD and DesktopBSD provide you with a fully configured, ready to use system so you can be up and running in under half an hour. Both include features to help you install software and keep up to date. I recommend you try both to see which one you prefer for yourself. Since both provide FreeBSD under the hood, all of the documentation at the FreeBSD website as well as the many tutorials and howtos on the internet will apply to your desktop operating system.

Dru Lavigne is a network and systems administrator, IT instructor, author and international speaker. She has over a decade of experience administering and teaching Netware, Microsoft, Cisco, Checkpoint, SCO, Solaris, Linux, and BSD systems. A prolific author, she pens the popular FreeBSD Basics column for O'Reilly and is author of BSD Hacks and The Best of FreeBSD Basics.

Return to the BSD DevCenter.

Sponsored by: