Some considerable time ago I wrote up instructions on how to set up a FreeBSD machine with the latest KDE Plasma Desktop. Those instructions, while fairly short (set up X, install the KDE meta-port, .. and that’s it) are a bit fiddly.

So – prompted slightly by a Twitter exchange recently – I’ve started a mini-sub-project to script the installation of a desktop environment and the bits needed to support it. To give it at least a modicum of UI, dialog(1) is used to ask for an environment to install and a display manager.

The tricky bits – pointed out to me after I started – are hardware support, although a best-effort is better than having nothing, I think.

In any case, in a VBox host it’s now down to running a single script and picking Plasma and SDDM to get a usable system for me. Other combinations have not been tested, nor has system-hardware-setup. I’ll probably maintain it for a while and if I have time and energy it’ll be tried with nVidia (those work quite well on FreeBSD) and AMD (not so much, in my experience) graphics cards when I shuffle some machines around.

Here is the script in my GitHub repository with notes-for-myself.

Installing FreeBSD is not like installing a Linux distribution. A Linux distro hands you something that will provide an operating system and more, generally with a selection of pre-installed packages and configurations. Take a look at ArcoLinux, which offers 14(?) different distribution ISOs depending on your preference for installed software.

FreeBSD doesn’t give you that – you end up with a text-mode prompt (there’s FreeBSD distributions, though, that do some extra bits, but those are outside my normal field-of-view). So it’s not really expected that you have a complete desktop experience, post-installation (nor, for that matter, a complete GitLab-server, or postfix-mail-relay, or any of the other specialised purposes for which you can use FreeBSD).

I could vaguely imagine bunging this into bsdinstall as a post-installation option, but that’s certainly not my call. Not to mention, I think there’s an effort ongoing to update the FreeBSD installer anyway, led by Devin Teske.

So to sum up: to install a FreeBSD machine with KDE Plasma, download script and run it; other desktop environments might work as well.