It would never do to return from FOSDEM with the same OS on my laptop as when I left; so now I have been running PC-BSD instead of OpenSolaris for a week; most of the week was chewed up by a board meeting in Frankfurt.
I can be brief about what bothers me most about PC-BSD: there is an error in the Fibonacci sequence in the default wallpaper. It’s hardly visible, but glaring at the same time. Maybe this is a consequence of me reading number theory before going to bed every night.
For the rest I’m bouncing back and forth between “that’s really cool” and “it’s FreeBSD, of course it works.” I won’t comment on the package management system (PBI, alongside the usual FreeBSD ports) or installation (graphical, instead of the FreeBSD text-based one). Instead, it’s the KDE4 that is delivered with PC-BSD.
PC-BSD is interesting because it is a KDE4-only setup; version 7.0 comes with KDE 4.1.3. The whole point of the distro is to deliver a polished, intergrated version of FreeBSD with KDE4 on it. There was recently a question on the dot: “which distro would you recommend?” Well, there’s only one that I know of that wholeheartedly delivers KDE4 and nothing else. That’s a good kind of fixation to have (and of course, portinstall gnome2 is always a possibility; then you get a fairly pristine GNOME2 built from source).
Kris Moore has also been contributing a lot to the upstream – from PC-BSD’s point of view the upstream is the KDE-FreeBSD team, so he’s active on those mailing lists and I can see that KDE 4.2 is coming soon to the platform. The KDE-FreeBSD team is doing pretty darn well, and I’d like to welcome Max B. and Martin W. to the ranks of KDE SVN committers (it’s a lot easier than becoming a FreeBSD committer, that’s for sure). That means we’ve got an OS team working on KDE4 and then a distro team working on polishing, integration and branding.
The branding thing is a bit of a burning issue (ha! well, you would laugh if you’d seen the PC-BSD 7.0 logo); I’m very much unconvinced that the replacement of the KDE menu button with a distro-branded one helps much. And the less obtrusive and less confusing location for branding, namely the badge in the upper-right corner of the K-menu, isn’t used. That is the part of the menu that is specifically built for a branded image and a link to the organization. Here’s a case for a document from the KDE project to distros describing what we (as a group) consider best practices for branding the desktop; I think less is more, there.
So, KDE 4.1.3. What might one say about it except that it’s slightly dated? It actually provides really good comparison material for me so I can check whether my Solaris packages behave properly; FreeBSD is so much closer to Linux and the KDE available on FreeBSD has traditionally been very close to what’s available from source on Linux. So I can check if the systray icons are rendering properly on Solaris, for instance. Well, they’re not rendering correctly on PC-BSD either right now, but that’s something that is fixed with a later KDE version.
Some of my other favourite things with KDE4 show up again as well, like the hands on the clock being weird under a combination of resizing and theme changes. SlimGlow might - just might - be my favourite theme, but it too needs a good hammering to get the gradients out (not relevant for PC-BSD, but for some thin client applications). There’s some inconsistency in the icons .. oh, wait, that’s supposed to be a satellite dish .. for network status, but that is somewhat manageable.
Anyway, this is wandering away from PC-BSD and into KDE 4.1.3 review territory, because it comes down to this: PC-BSD delivers a KDE4 experience very close to what the KDE project itself produces as source. It’s nice. I like it that way.