[PC-BSD Testing] Testing PCBSD-x86-Mon.iso 24-Apr-2007 10:20

Radu-Cristian FOTESCU beranger5ca at yahoo.ca
Wed Apr 25 14:00:03 PDT 2007

Hi there, 

Although I am not a fan of Alphas/Betas, I gave a try to the latest 1.4-dev
Monday snapshot ISO (Apr-24), because I am trying to make my mind whether
I'll install FreeBSD 6.2-RELEASE or PC-BSD 1.4-dev on my home systems.

A few impressions follow.

*** There is a thing unchanged since PC-BSD 1.3, as experienced in January,
see http://beranger.org/index.php?article=2255 -- namely: the installer works
if I let it to automatically partition the disk, but if I want to adjust it
manually (because the 1GB swap is too much for 256MB RAM and 9.5GB the full
disk size), it fails to run newfs on the / partition!

*** Bash is _not_ installed! Should you set it as the shell for the regular
account, it won't allow you to log in.

*** I like the start button w/o the 'Start' text! I like the style/theme too.

*** How is John Doe supposed to install binary packages in other ways than
from a PBI or building from ports? Some GUI wrapper for pkg_*?

*** The X config is good for a mouse, but the Synaptics Touchpad works like a
PS/2 mouse, that is: no scrolling, no tapping. Any Synaptics driver for

*** The previous KDE exit problems I've experienced with are fixed

*** A strange problem which doesn't appear in Linux and wasn't here in 1.3
either: if I remove the USB mouse then I reinsert it later, the system starts
making noise like a machine gun! Killing X temporarily fixes it -- the CLI is
silent. But starting X brings back the noise, even if the USB mouse is not
reinserted once again. To really fix it, a *cold* reboot is needed *with* the
USB mouse inserted *before* the kernel boots!

I know it might be a hardware imperfection in the design of this HP Omnibook
XE3-GC, but this problems doesn't appear with the CentOS4.3 LiveCD I am using
right now to post this!

*** There is then a much more delicate issue with regards to fonts and screen
DPI, which tends to become philosophical. 

As you should know, the usual screen resolution is 96 DPI in Linux and
Windows, and 72 DPI on Mac, _but_ the X server usually reports it as 75 DPI
in both Linux and BSD:
$ xdpyinfo | grep resolution
  resolution:    75x75 dots per inch

There are two approaches here:
(1) The 'classical' approach is to *force* the resolution to 96 DPI.
-- In GNOME, the GConf key '/desktop/gnome/font_rendering/dpi' is set to 96
by default, and it overrides the 75 DPI from the X server. This has the
tendency to change lately, see
-- In KDE, you have in the Control Center an option to Force the resolution
of 96 DPI (or 120 DPI).
-- DE-agnostic, there are builds of Firefox where in the Fonts section you
could force 96 DPI too -- and there are builds of Firefox where you can't do

(2) The 'purist' approach is to 'fix' the DPI to *physically* match the
pixel-per-inch resolution of the screen. This means that if you have a 15.1"
LCD with 1280x800, the physical resolution is 100 DPI, but for the same
screen size with 1680x1050 pixels, you have 130 DPI.

The effect is that instead of having a font of 10 pt of about 13 pixels high
(10*96/72, where 72 comes from the relation with the typographical twips),
you will have the same 10 pt font having something like 18 pixels high.

While this might be seen as good, because when the physical pixel is smaller
(higher resolution), having a font occupying a fixed amount of pixels makes
it difficult to read, I personally believe that this is wrong.

People are *used* to set the default fonts to 12-13pt on a 1400x1050 screen
instead of using the same 10pt as it was with 1024x768 or 1280x1024. People
are *used* with _fixed_ DPI values! (96 DPI)

Vista has changed this: while XP has it fixed to 96 DPI (try to see the
default Tahoma 8 pt on a Dell laptop at 1680x1050!!!), in Vista the DPI is
physically matching the screen resolution (i.e. DPI ==

There are attempts to do the same in GNOME, and possibly in KDE4 too.

Now, what's the deal with the KDE in PC-BSD 1.4-dev?

The default fonts were looking good at 12pt and 75 DPI (the "Force 96 DPI"
was *unchecked*), but then Firefox had _huge_ fonts!

Checking the "Force 96 DPI" in KDE Control Center made all the fonts huge in
KDE... so that I have to change everything that was 12pt to 10pt.

This made the fonts OK, except for the KDE panel, which needed to be
restarted (restarting KDE fixed *all* the fonts).

My personal advice is to:
-- force in KDE to 96 DPI (instead of 75 DPI set by X);
-- have the defaults to 10 pt in KDE (10pt is what you would use in other OS

Setting the fonts to 12pt was the wrong fix!

*** A last unpleasant thing: the pixel subhinting was *unset* in KDE, however
the fonts were using it, and I dislike to see colored traces around the
letters! I guess it was hardcoded in freetype2, or maybe it was in

Going into FreeBSD 6.2 is the right thing to do, now that we know 6.2 is
really a good release, but I guess you should not only have tri-weekly
builds, but some official Alpha/Test builds to be put on other mirrors too.

A last question: any plans to add the new "package manager" (actually, ports
manager) from DesktopBSD 1.6-RC2?


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