posted by Trent Townsend on Wed 18th Jan 2006 22:03 UTC

"DragonFly BSD 1.4, 2/2"

The DragonFly CD comes with few third party packages; only enough to allow one to rebuild the CD if required. The reasons for this are that Matthew Dillon wants the CD to remain small enough to be quickly downloaded, and that any packages included would be out of date as soon as the CD image was released. The very same can be said of DragonFly itself, but I digress.

Setting up 1.4 to do anything useful (as a desktop system for example) of course requires a number of third party packages, which currently are in short supply. As of the release of 1.4, no official precompiled packages are available for download, and the package tools do not even have a default path to look for files on the Internet. Although the steps needed to go about getting said packages are documented online, the documentation is all in HTML, and the DragonFly system has no native ability to actually read those files (well, you can, but you'd have to tune out all of the HTML tags). Bad move installing DragonFly without having first saved a plain text copy of the errata and docs on a floppy. The documentation should be on the install CD so it's accessible to people with only one machine to work with.

Although the pkgsrc tools are included on the CD, they serve no immediate purpose due to the lack of working packages, or even a pkgsrc tree on hand with which to attempt to build them. I may have just missed it, but I found no notes on the CD on where to get the pkgsrc tree (not a huge problem for myself as my memory isn't totally shot), and more specifically how to go about downloading it. The CD comes with example CVSup files, why not something for pkgsrc?

Many commonly used software packages do not build on DragonFly at the present time, from my limited experience this includes at least KDE, GNOME, MPLayer, Blackbox (!?!) and some games that I use as quick tests to make sure OpenGL works correctly. Thankfully, X.org *does* build, but that just left me with the GUI equivelent of what I already had; a system I can't use for day to day tasks. A few people from the DragonFly project are working to rectify this situation, but not all of their patches have been merged into the upstream pkgsrc code, and it remains to be seen if that is going to change in the short term.

Final thoughts

While a lot of work has gone into DragonFly since the last release, it is apparent that much more work is required to make it a usable desktop system for people who do not enjoy the challenge of making their computer perform basic tasks. The developers are working to rectify the pkgsrc problems, but it comes far too late for this release.

Aside from that, some very simple things can be done to greatly improve the experience of would be DragonFly users. Simply including a few more useful packages on the install CD (Xorg, a web browser etc), as well as some more accessable and accurate documentation and including recomended files such as /root/.cvsrc (desribed above) by default, instead of leaving it to the user to set up after the system has been installed would go a long way.

About the Author
Trent Townsend is an aspiring geek with few applicable skills (or any obvious knowledge or talent for that matter :P) who is dedicated nonetheless to learning new and interesting things in all areas of science and technology.

Table of contents
  1. "DragonFly BSD 1.4, 1/2"
  2. "DragonFly BSD 1.4, 2/2"
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