Linked by Uri Sharf on Mon 2nd May 2005 20:23 UTC
PC-BSD PC-BSD is a new FreeBSD 5.3 distribution, with a graphical installer and KDE 3.4 as its desktop. A new beta version was just released, and though I can't say I have much experience with FreeBSD, or any *BSD for that matter, I was curious enough to try it. And I'm glad I did. From a desktop user's point of view, completely oblivious to the many virtues and sound foundation of all things BSD, all I really ever wanted was an OS that is solid, easy to install and, well ... fun to work with.
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Problems
by molnarcs on Tue 3rd May 2005 20:51 UTC

If PC-BSD wants to be a viable DESKTOP OS, it needs to deal with two problems: Flash and JAVA.

If I were them, I would ship an OS ready for both. linux_load="YES" in /boot/loader and options PSEUDOFS in the kernel for supporting linux's procfs. Entry in the fstab. libmap.conf set up in /etc/ for browser plugins (it's harmless even if you don't have linuxpluginwrapper).

1) Flash
The problem: no native flash from macromedia. Currently there is only flash6 support using linux binaries, but users have to edit a bunch of files and install a few dependencies (linux-base for instance) to get it working properly. Not that it is difficult, the instructions are pretty clear, it's just not as smooth as installing other apps. So PC-BSD should present a custom graphical installer for both flash and JAVA, explaining the situation. I have something simple in mind: a next next kind of wizard that first installs linux-base, then by pressing next, the pluginwrapper and the linux rpms.

2) JAVA. This is more difficult - and FreeBSD devs can do nothing about it. RMS, Perens, etc is right. JAVA is not free enough - FreeBSD cannot distribute JAVA binaries, so JAVA is usually build by hand (so there is native JAVA both 1.4.x and 1.5 - it just needs to be built). Correction: FreeBSD can distribute 1.3 JAVA - my question is: is that OK? I mean: does it work for all JAVA enabled websites? Because if it does, installation is simple enough. Install menu should offer a direct link to the site where the user can click to accept the licence, than download should be done automatically (or semi-automatically - a custom konqueror window would do the trick).

If however, 1.3 sucks too much, a user can be informed of the situation, and might be offered a choice: install JAVA when he or she can spare the time it needs to be built (or rather, his/her computer can spare the time). Java build needs 4GB space, so user might choose a partition with enough space to build it (offer it automatically, or display a message if there is no such partition). Remember the location, pass the variable to make, offer the easiest possible way to download/install linux-jdk (for bootstrap) - and the needed sources for the native build. This LOOKS like a very involved process, but if the installer is carefully thought out, it is not as complex as it may seem from my description:
1) Install Java button
2) Menu comes up with brief description (max 6-7 lines) of what will happen.
3) If user chooses to do it, next screen with "Now you'll be taken to a website where you must accept the licence" > take him/her there
4) Download/install automatically
5) Next step in the process - another EULA (yeah, see how free is JAVA) than automatic download of the needed files, begin build process, with estimated ETA (based on the characteristics of the machine - which might be presented at the beginning of the process, informing the user that he may leave his/her pc on for the weekend/night/whatever time period.

I know, this sucks, support Perens/RMS/whomever is complaining to SUN to rectify the situation. Petition Macromedia to provide native flash version (it shouldn't be too difficult).