FreeBSD 11.0 and Plasma 5 HowTo

Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting a machine with FreeBSD 11 in it, running X, and KDE Plasma 5 Desktop and KDE Applications. It’s the latest thing! (Except that 11-STABLE is in the middle of the pack of what’s supported .. but the KDE bits are fresh. I run 10.3 with KDE4 or Plasma 5 on my physical machines, myself, so the FreeBSD version isn’t that important except that packages are readily available for 11-STABLE, not for 10-STABLE.)

TL;DR: get FreeBSD + X running; switch to packages; pkg install kde.

Image of FreeBSD boot schreen

  • Download a 11.0 installation image (e.g. the bootonly ISO).
  • Build a machine with at least 32GB of disk, 4GB of RAM, and one or more processors. I had an AMD A10-5745M board lying around, which is an €85 board that just needs memory and a disk.
  • Put the installation CD in the drive, or plug in the memstick — whatever.
  • Boot it.

It boots to the extremely old-school FreeBSD installer (the irony is not lost on me, relative to what I do the rest of the week).

Installation selection

  • Go through the installer. Install lib32, ports and src, because you’ll need those later.
  • If you have the bootonly ISO, you’ll need to configure networking.
  • Which filesystem layout you pick doesn’t really matter either. I go for ZFS with 1-disk striping (i.e. no redundancy) because then I get ZFS snapshots later, which is convenient for messing around with the system state and possibly starting over.

Wait for the install to finish.

  • Set the system timezone.
  • Set a root password.
  • Disable services you don’t need (I generally disable remote syslog and sendmail; enable clear /tmp. The security-options are up to you.)
  • Create a user.
  • Reboot. While the machine reboots, eject the CD or unplug the memstick. (Have I mentioned I really like KDE Neon’s feature of auto-ejecting the disk?)

  • Log in as root, and do post-installation updates, to wit:
    portsnap fetch extract update
    freebsd-update fetch install
  • install an initial-but-minimal working system, starting with pkg(8), the packaging system itself:
    pkg bootstrap
  • Developer’s basic toolkit (and I prefer bash for an interactive shell):
    pkg install git bash gmake cmake pkgconf gettext-tools binutils
    echo fdesc /dev/fd fdescfs rw 0 0 >> /etc/fstab
    echo proc /proc procfs rw 0 0 >> /etc/fstab
  • An X Server and a backup X11 environment (ancient):
    pkg install xorg xterm twm
  • Desktop technologies (modern):
    pkg install hal dbus
    echo hald_enable=YES >> /etc/rc.conf
    echo dbus_enable=YES >> /etc/rc.conf
  • Clean up
    pkg autoremove
    pkg clean
    rm /usr/ports/distfiles/*
  • Reboot again.

Log in as your regular user and run startx.

Image of TWM

Aren’t you glad you installed twm? Remember, exiting the top-left xterm will exit your X session.

  • If running with ZFS, it’s a good idea to snapshot now, just so you can easily roll back to the it-works-with-basic-X11 setup you have now.
    zfs snapshot -r zroot@x11
  • Now swap out the default FreeBSD package repository, for the KDE-FreeBSD community one. This is documented also on the Area51 page.
    mkdir -p /usr/local/etc/pkg/repos
    cd /usr/local/etc/pkg/repos
    cat > FreeBSD.conf <<EOF
    FreeBSD: { enabled: no }
    cat > Area51.conf <<EOF
    Area51: {
    url: "",
    priority: 2,
    enabled: yes
  • Tell pkg(8) to refresh itself (it may install a newer pkg, too), then install something nicer than xterm + twm, and then do some post-install configuration:
    pkg update
    pkg install konsole plasma5-plasma-desktop
    echo cuse_load=YES >> /boot/loader.conf
    echo webcamd_enable=YES >> /etc/rc.conf
  • Log in as your test user, and set up .xinitrc to start Plasma 5:
    cat > .xinitrc <<EOF
    #! /bin/sh
    /usr/local/bin/xterm -geometry +0+0 &
    test -x $KDE && exec /usr/local/bin/ck-launch-session $KDE
    exec /usr/local/bin/twm
    chmod 755 .xinitc

If you really want, you can run startx, but this isn’t the complete Plasma 5 desktop experience .. and KDE Applications are not installed, either. So you get a bare xterm (useful to kill X or start konsole) and kwin and not much else. Good thing that getting the rest of KDE Plasma 5 Desktop and KDE Applications is pretty easy (and we could have skipped the intermediate step with konsole and gone straight to the finish:

  • pkg install kde

This metaport will pull in another 2GiB of stuff, for all the KDE Applications and a complete Plasma desktop. There are intermediate metaports for slightly-less-heavy installations, but this one is easy to remember and will almost certainly get you what you want. So it really comes down to installing X, dbus, hal, and then the kde package. Voila!

Screenshot of Plasma 5 desktop

PS. The screenshot shows a machine with 10.3, not 11-STABLE. It comes down to the same process; I have the 10.3 packages built locally so i’ts faster for me this way. The 11-STABLE screenshots were taken in VirtualBox, but I have not had any recent success with VirtualBox and OpenGL and FreeBSD. I can’t run any Qt applications: they all fall over when trying to load shared OpenGL libraries that simply aren’t there in VirtualBox.

3 thoughts on “FreeBSD 11.0 and Plasma 5 HowTo

  1. Thanks for the instructions and sorry for rant-ish response to the last post.

    I was just about to switch the pkg repos and do a fresh install of the packages, however, it seems the area51 package mirror contains only KDE (and dependencies)… is that right?
    Since one has to deactivate the main repo, this leaves one without a lot of essential packages… Is there any chance of getting a weekly or bi-weekly build of the entire repo+kde5?


    • That’s really something to take up on the regular KDE-FreeBSD channels, not as comments on some random blog. Send mail to kde@, for instance. Swills runs the package-builder, so it’s kind of up to him to decide if that is feasible.

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