DragonFly as a desktop

There’s been so much work in DragonFly recently that makes a desktop easier (i915 support, dports, and so on), that I decided to resurrect an older Dell machine and use it as my desktop.

The Dell that I’m using is a leftover from someone else’s workplace; it’s 7 years old, and has “only” 4G of RAM and a Core 2 DuoE6600  CPU in it.  It works, however.

Setting up DragonFly and installing xorg and so on is pretty straightforward.  Using dports makes it crazy quick to add all the packages.  I went for XFCE4 because I could.  Starting X gave me some trouble at first; the default config couldn’t find the mouse and would eventually crash.

Running ‘X -configure’ created a xorg.conf file I could edit, and these lines in /etc/rc.conf gave me a working mouse:


The crashing problem with my radeon-driven video card was fixed by turning off the acceleration – uncommenting this line in xorg.conf did it:

Option     "NoAccel"

Video performance isn’t as nice as I would like it with acceleration, but this is an older machine anyway.

I couldn’t get sound working. Francois Tigeot has a branch of DragonFly that contains newer sound drivers brought over from FreeBSD, here:

git://leaf.dragonflybsd.org/~ftigeot/dragonfly.git (pcm_2014_september branch.)

It doesn’t support device cloning, so I can run Youtube videos and XMMS, but not audio from both at the same time.  (for instance; not that you’d want to do this other than by accident)

I installed x11/webfonts, and web pages look a bit better after changing my default font preferences.

And… that’s about it.  It’s a working desktop.  Digging up a half-height video card that has working acceleration is a next step, but I can’t imagine that’ll be expensive.  I wish I had done this a long time ago.

9 Replies to “DragonFly as a desktop”

  1. Sascha Wildner says:

    If it was master, you should not be needing any moused related lines in rc.conf, as it will start/stop automatically upon mouse plugging/unplugging.

  2. You are correct. I think I needed to do it at the time of my initial install some weeks ago, and a later commit changed that. Or I was just confused. Could be either!

  3. Anon22 says:

    Good post. Maybe create “Troubleshoots” or “DragonFly as a Desktop” wiki page? (or at least add tag :))

  4. Duarte says:

    Someone should start a distro based on DragonFly, could be helpful to spot the wrongs and bring some attention to us (DBSD & general-BSD).

  5. There’s a GUI option to build each release (see src/nrelease) that needs some work; there’d be a ‘distro’ right out of the box if that was fixed up to work with dports.

  6. Duarte says:

    When I said distro, I had in mind a more linux-like definition: pretty GUI installer, splash screen, GUI dports, things of this sort.

  7. Alex Laurie says:

    What about porting in the PC-BSD utilities to help with common gui commands that Dfly inherits from FreeBSD?

  8. Alex Laurie – can you be specific about which tools? I’m asking because it sounds like a good idea overall, but I’m not using PC-BSD right now so I don’t know which ones would be an easy, obvious transition and which ones would be a difficult mess to bring over.

  9. Lars Schotte says:

    When it is a Radeon graphics card it should work and I would first investigate how is it possible that it does not. Older Radeon graphics should all work.

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