The Perfect Desktop: FreebSD 8.2 in Virtualbox 4?

Polytropon freebsd at
Sun May 22 19:48:45 UTC 2011

On Sun, 22 May 2011 15:17:50 -0400, Xn Nooby <xnooby at> wrote:
> HowtoForge has a lot of good examples of how to install and configure
> a desktop system using various Linux distributions, but there are none
> on how to create a FreeBSD desktop.  Would someone will be willing to
> put one together?

U think the majority of FreeBSD users who use the system
on their desktop won't agree on "the one desktop", as
everyone I've encountered so far has different preferences
and requirements. So a generalized statement is quite hard.
There are systems with preconfigured desktops, such as
PC-BSD, DesktopBSD and FreeSBIE.

> I envision this more of a how-to than just providing an "appliance".

But that would be a good starting point for learning on
how the inventors of VirtualBSD (to name an appliance)
have done it, and build an own system from there on,
keeping The FreeBSD Handbook at hand.

See for details.

> The goal would be to show how to configure the system on a
> hardware-neutral platform (Virtualbox VM), so that people could use it
> as an example for setting up their own systems. 

I'm sure the handbook's sections about the required
parts can be very easily applied to virtual hardware,
as they are generic enough to cover them.

> I suspect a lot of
> people would use this guide for setting up a laptop, so an
> underpowered VM would be a good proxy.

Due to hardware limitations (incompatible parts) mostly
found in "modern" laptops, I would assume that FreeBSD
users prefer running the system on hardware that is
known to work...

> Some parameters for the guide could be:
>  - uses 8.2 installer
>  - tracks errata branch with FreeBSD update
>  - tracks 8-stable branch for ports

Depends on preferred usage paradigm.

>  - builds from source minimally (laptops are slow!)

There are laptops with resources equal to a fullblown
desktop machine. :-)

>  - demonstrates how to install many desktop apps

That would be covered by "how to install additional
software", which means pkg_add, make install, or a
port management tool. Maybe you refer to how to involve
graphical port management abstractors?

>  - uses a lightweight VM, icewm or openbox ?

Or WindowMaker? :-)

>  - optionally uses a heavyweight WM, Gnome3 ?

Until it stops working. :-)

>  - ideally demonstrates "best practices"

Also depends on requirements, by users or by setting in
which the system should be used (e. g. security policies,
prohibition of standard means of communication and so on).

>  - looks good, with nice fonts

"Looks good" also depends VERY.

>  - optionally supports openGL (desktop users would need that)

Would they? :-)

I know that average desktop users seem to get addicted
to certain "bling", but some lines above, you mentioned
that "laptops are slow", and the resources required for
eye candy... are they included here?

>  - optionally includes tips for upgrading to 8.3+

Also the standard means apply here.

> Here is the page for Debian Lenny as an example:

Yes, a very pictural step-by-step guide. For FreeBSD users
who traditionally are educated in how UNIX in general and
FreeBSD in special case do need to be operated, this may
not be the primary kind of information supply, but I may
be wrong here.

> I know the Handbook has everything it it, but I am looking for
> something that can leverage the fact that in a VM the hardware is
> known in advance.  The instructions could then be very direct, and
> would not have to cover all possible situations.  They would simply be
> "do exactly these commands".

But then this would depend on the VM's settings that
needed to be in the preface, and this would be the same
as keeping instructions generic and giving the additional
advice of "change this if needed".

> Admittedly I am asking for what I need, but there might be others who
> could benefit. 

That's understandable, but could you describe the target
audience a bit better?

> I have been trying to make a script to do these
> automatically, but I am still having problems understanding certain
> things. 

And I may predict that exactly those things are needed to
be understood to get the whole show running. "Learning by
doing" is nothing wrong here, although it requires some

> I could help some, by testing, and I can write an install
> script to automate anything that I can understand.

I know that the default installer "sysinstall" has a
feature for scripting, but you could easily write your
own installer that uses e. g. ZFS or GPT initialisation
for the (virtual) disk instead of the traditional run
of fdisk + disklabel + newfs. Providing packages for
the required software (and ALL their dependencies) would
also be a good step, so installation could even be done
in an offline environment without ending with broken

Magdeburg, Germany
Happy FreeBSD user since 4.0
Andra moi ennepe, Mousa, ...

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