back to article Say helloSystem: Mac-like FreeBSD project emits 0.5 release

helloSystem, a project that gives FreeBSD a user interface reminiscent of macOS, hit the 0.5 landmark with a new build last week. The 0.5 release is based on FreeBSD 12.2 and is progressing nicely. The release notes show a number of important fixes like “sudo su works now”, “fix wrong font sizes” and “fix menu and desktop on …

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  1. Rich 2 Silver badge

    The UI

    I used to have a PPC Mac and I loved it. It did indeed “just work”. But as the os has changed over the years I felt less and less inclined to stick with Mac. These days I find a Mac way too restrictive; stuff that was doable has had the options removed. A good example was when the Apple office suite moved to the on-line shop and became free. Apple removed half the functionality from it.

    On a general note, I find it a bit crap that after, (what?) 40? 50? years, the basic desktop interface has not changed much. You could argue that this means that xerox got it right first time round. Maybe. But it’s a pretty bloody inefficient way to work. These days I use i3wm on Void Linux - not needing to use the mouse so much and the lack of all that overlapping window juggling and other crap makes my life much easier

    1. nematoad Silver badge

      Re: The UI

      "...not needing to use the mouse so much and the lack of all that overlapping window juggling and other crap makes my life much easier..."

      Yes, maybe for you that's the way to go, but it always seems to me to be a mistake in generalising and assuming that what works for you is the only way to do things.

      Speaking for myself I appreciate being able to use a mouse as well a CLI. Being a Linux user I don't have many problems with juggling windows, the virtual desktops I have set up see to that.

      One last thing. In the IT world things that work tend to stay around and if as you say the Xerox Parc developments got it right then the fact that they are still in use must mean that someone somewhere has found a use for them. Otherwise they would have been consigned to a footnote in the history of computing.

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: The UI

        > Speaking for myself I appreciate being able to use a mouse as well a CLI.

        One thing I'm finding increasingly annoying though, is CLI stuff that interacts with the mouse.

        I use Terminator as my terminal, so will sometimes right-click and choose "Split pane" to split the window horizontally and give me another shell.

        Except, if that terminal has htop open, it swallows the right click and doesn't display the menu, and god help you if you've got vim open or something.

        I expect terminator (a GUI application) to interact with my mouse - I don't particularly want CLI programs doing so

        1. Kettle3D

          Re: The UI

          There is something to be said for using the mouse to copy and paste in the CLI, but something like gpm or moused should do that.

      2. Rich 2 Silver badge

        Re: The UI

        “Yes, maybe for you that's the way to go, but it always seems to me to be a mistake in generalising and assuming that what works for you is the only way to do things”

        Absolutely! I fully accept that my way of working is a a bit niche and definitely not for everyone.

        But I’m still surprised/disappointed/whatever that nothing better has come along yet

      3. bombastic bob Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: The UI

        it always seems to me to be a mistake in generalising and assuming that what works for you is the only way to do things.

        THIS is what is WRONG with _SO_ _MANY_ _UI_ _DESIGNS_ these days!!!

        The thing that _I_ noticed right away: screenshot of dialog box had 3D skeuomorphic buttons and borders!!!

        And to me, the 2D FLATTY is an IMMEDIATE DEAL BREAKER!

        So, THANKS to the UI makers for getting *THAT* part *RIGHT* !!

        (and using FreeBSD was a cool idea, too)

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge

          Re: The UI

          Are we still using a goddamned 1980s-era floppy disk as a save icon?

          Why don't we go completely retro and use a tape spool? That'll be democratic and confuse everyone equally.

          Or how about a Gutenberg screw-press for "print"?

          1. Kettle3D

            Re: The UI

            Will you give the same complaint to all the other platforms with a floppy save icon? Think Adwaita icons, Breeze if you use KDE, pretty much every win32 app, most Mac OS apps, they all use floppy drives as save icons. People recognise it!

          2. katrinab Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: The UI

            Because people recognise it as a save icon, even if they don’t realise that it used to represent an actual physical object. I guess kind of like how Chinese symbols evolved over time.

          3. -bat.

            Re: The UI

            Or one of those old 'bellows' type cameras to represent an electronic speed camera, or a steam train to represent a level crossing....

            ...oh, actually, we do those too don't we ? :-)

          4. Jaybus

            Re: The UI

            Isn't that how a written language works? We have been using the symbol 'A' as the first letter of the English language for centuries. A red traffic light means stop. Are you saying that its been red for so long and now that we have LEDs we should think about changing it to a shade of purple. The floppy icon for save has only been used for a few decades. It's not old. It's practically brand new.

      4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: The UI

        "One last thing. In the IT world things that work tend to stay around and if as you say the Xerox Parc developments got it right then the fact that they are still in use must mean that someone somewhere has found a use for them. Otherwise they would have been consigned to a footnote in the history of computing."

        Looking back to the early days of windowing type systems, I don't recall seeing any other GUI systems that used anything different. Commodores Workbench and DRs GEM, Acorns Arthur and it's successors, Lisa and MacOS, GeOS and all the stuff using X-Windows as a base all more or less does what Xerox PARC originally came up with . I don't recall anything using a radically different paradigm. We;ve had many, many years of windowing systems and there are lots of clever people in the world, but no one seems to have come up with anything significantly different. Even in Science Fiction, where the weird and whacky can be played with, the visuals used in TV and film are still generally window based, even if they sometimes turn it in to some sort of "lets dive down into the data and travel down this 3D looking tube of random images and textual stuff"

        1. Kettle3D

          Re: The UI

          What if everyone used a 3D VR window manager?

    2. ThomH Silver badge

      Re: The UI

      Pedantically: Xerox got a lot wrong; it's the descendants that built a lot of what we now recognise as a desktop.

      The Xerox machines used fixed-location icons, fixed-location windows and was fully modal for all manipulations — no drag and drop anywhere, ever, including something as simple as moving files from one directory to another. Everything on-screen is so fixed in place that the machine doesn't even offer pull-down menus.

      I'm not even you could call the modern desktop nailed into place until the 1990s: Mac OS was single-application prior to System 5 — you'd launch an application, it'd get the whole screen, you'd exit it to go back to the Finder, etc — and still so by default prior to System 7, and Microsoft kept inside its Program Manager box rather than offering the desktop as much more than wallpaper prior to Windows 95.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: The UI

        Is this the bit where I mention the Amiga, launched in 1985?

        1. IGotOut Silver badge

          Re: The UI

          Is this the bit I mention the ST was released before the Amiga?

          /flameon

          1. Dan 55 Silver badge

            Re: The UI

            But as TOS/GEM was single tasking and choc-full of modal dialogs it doesn't really count.

          2. Jaybus

            Re: The UI

            Oh yes! The Jackintosh. So named because it seemed it would be a cheaper knock-off of the Macintosh, Atari being lead at the time by Jack Tramiel, who headed Commodore through the Pet, Vic-20, and Commodore 64 years and was famous for ultra low cost consoles.

      2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
        Megaphone

        Re: The UI

        Valid but Quibble :

        MacOS was multiapp from 1987 onwards via MultiFinder: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/MultiFinder

        A truly magnificent hack, btw.

        For some fascinating background by the legend coder Andy Hertzfeld:

        https://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?project=Macintosh&story=Switcher.txt&sortOrder=Sort+by+Title

        > The 512K Macintosh, with four times the memory of the original, had just started shipping a few weeks ago. I had considered trying to run multiple applications simultaneously on the 512K Mac, but I was stymied by low memory conflicts and other potential gotchas. But now, as I observed Memory Shift in action on John's PC, I suddenly saw a simple way to do it, which didn't seem to be too hard to implement.

        And here's the Mac in 1981 (yes, 1) and the introduction of mini apps, Desk Accessories:

        https://www.folklore.org/StoryView.py?story=Desk_Ornaments.txt&topic=Personality&showcomments=1

        MultiFinder Easter eggs: http://www.mackido.com/EasterEggs/SYS-System6.html

        Larger view of MultiFinder, including caveat that it really needs 2mb(!) to be useful for the bigger apps. But also note his notes re legend Andy's reworking AND fundamental changes in UI:

        https://macfolkloreradio.com/fulltext/1988-01-iconoclast-tales-of-the-multifinder.html

        1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Warning / Recommendation!!

          That folklore.org site is wonderful.

          Massive flashback city, plus you get to see how so much of what we now regard as standard, was actually arrived at after painstaking and rigorous assessment, evaluation, and decisions between widely competing alternatives.

          So expect to lose way more time in it than you expected :D

  2. oiseau Silver badge
    WTF?

    More than enough

    “... we want to run apps from ‘unidentified developers’ ..."

    " ... building in security “makes the system more complex, cumbersome, and less fun to use, while the benefit is questionable ... "

    That's more than enough to not even have a look at this OS.

    O.

    1. J__M__M

      Re: More than enough

      >That's more than enough to not even have a look at this OS....

      Mom?

      Anyway, yeah, because having "web security" baked into your OS is so great.

      Now if you'll excuse me I have an airgapped mac nagging for a password again, probably icloud.

      1. Kettle3D

        Re: More than enough

        The problem we face is not insecure operating systems with paranoid devs, otherwise Windows wouldn't be a thing, it's ignorant users not realising that clicking on an app you download from the Internet can go badly.

        With that said, it is hard to tell between an app bundle with the mimetype/pdf icon and a name ending in .pdf, and an actual PDF. I don't know how helloSystem could fix this.

        1. Ilsa Loving

          Re: More than enough

          And that's exactly why security is necessary. Decent security will, if not block the malware in the first place, at least minimize the damage it causes and let you audit what was affected so it can be cleaned up.

          And it's not even "ignorant users". It could also be a very knowledgable user who just happened to not have enough coffee that morning. Crap happens.

          I concur with the grandparent. Not having even basic security is flat out idiotic and I won't go near this thing, no matter how nice it looks.

          1. Anonymous Kiwi

            Re: More than enough

            The author of this article does make some misinterpreted remarks about security, and the quote given had very litte to do with security. This was brought up by Simon Peter on the Matrix channel for helloSystem, and what he meant was that you can't aim for total security: the user ends up with no freedom, the system becomes a maze, and in days new malware gets released that finds another hole to exploit.

            Look at Apple: macOS and iOS are locked down to the point of barely being usable, and _still_ have security holes.

  3. katrinab Silver badge
    Meh

    "His list of technologies “not wanted in this project” includes:

    "touch interfaces;" - Fair enough

    ""the btrfs file system;" - Pretty reasonable, zfs is much better

    "Gnome and KDE (considered too complex);" - Fair enough, he's doing his own desktop environment

    "Wayland, which “makes things more complicated”;" - Fair enough

    "Pipewire audio;" - Fair enough

    "and package managers for end-user applications." - Why? A package manager makes things so much easier.

    Also, would it not be better if I could install it on a vanilla Free BSD system with "pkg install helloSystem"? And provide an alternative installer that does that for you?

    Also, building security into the system is pretty important.

    1. Smirnov

      ""the btrfs file system;" - Pretty reasonable, zfs is much better

      ZFS is much more complex than BTRFS, its memory-intensive, and still lacks capacity expansion (RAIDz expansion was just announced to become available somewhere next year while outside ZFS capacity expansion functionality has been commonplace for decades). And while ZFS is pretty robust, if things go wrong then there isn't much a user can do to recover aside from rebuilding the storage setup and restoring from the last good backup (which hopefully exists).

      BTRFS on the other side is equally reliable (just stay away from it's built-in RAID5/6 functionality and use dmraid or hw RAID instead), less resource hungry (and performs better on systems with limited resources), there are tools to repair file system damage and it has had basic features like capacity expansion for ages. The fact that it's been the default (and fully supported) file system for SUSE Enterprise Linux for several years now just shows that BTRFS today is nothing like it was 10 years ago.

      ZFS is great for a storage system which doesn't have hardware RAID, but for a desktop system it's overkill.

    2. _andrew

      package systems and security

      Package systems really are a bit of a crutch for the disorganised approach that modern Unix has become. Sure, they can do anything, by design, but is that what you really want? I don't know helloSystem yet, but early (PPC) vintage OSX (pre macOS) gave a considerable nod to application installation via App bundles, which was a slight warming-over of RiscOS application directories, which was a slight dilution of Plan-9 application mounts (which are arguably re-imerging in a drug-induced hallucination that is SNAP apps). Keep things self-contained and recursively mirror the Unix bin, dev, etc, lib, var, (src) hierarchy. Union mount to avoid PATH mangling for extra kudos.

      Security: the FreeBSD 12.x that helloSystem is using has capsicum. Not sure if they're using it much, but that's a really good foundation to build from, if you want to head towards a modern, zero-trust security model.

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

        Re: package systems and security

        Package Managers and all the faffery you mention here, solve a problem that literally didn't exist on MacOS.

        You just drag an app in. Job done.

        Move it anywhere you want. It Just Works.

        I used to drag all my apps to a single disk/volume, all my data on another, then multiple OS versions on multiple other volumes. Backups trivial and trivially segregated by type and hence frequency land size). Switch OSs, all my apps and data work immediately and identically. It all Just Worked.

        Hell, there was a while (7? 6? Both?) where you could actually switch OSs on the fly without bothering open apps + data! (Open new System folder, hold down errr just the Command key I think, and double-click on Finder. Done.)

        1. Anonymous Kiwi

          Re: package systems and security

          That is exactly what the devs are aiming for.

          1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

            Re: package systems and security

            Oh fan fucking TAS tic!

            Add a magickey-doubleclick option eg command or control, to auto open the resource editor, and maybe throw in a tree interface option on it, and you've got the best of both worlds!

            Next, tweak Aliases so they work like they _used_ to (as simple as adding an inode reference record, and using it first, then failover to symlink, then failover to showing user Search on basename symlink), and all sorts of rationality opens up again in terms of user control of files.

    3. 2+2=5 Silver badge

      > Also, building security into the system is pretty important.

      Agreed but maybe his point about not doing security (which was quoted from an older interview rather than the one accompanying this release) was meant to be taken from a user visibility point of view?

      So security like Windows Defender which happens in the background and is pretty much invisible to the average user equals 'good'. Security like the current Macos where you get multiple popups asking permission for various things that the average user doesn't really understand equals 'bad'.

      For the moment I'm happy to give him the benefit of the doubt and see how it progresses.

      1. yetanotheraoc

        All security is good security

        I agree Windows Defender is good. It's hard to believe it's an MS product. Maybe they still have a small A-team working in some basement.

        I don't agree macOS multiple popups are bad. It's a totally different use case. I think they are carefully designed where it's not enough to click OK | OK | OK to get around the baseline security. You have to go online and research, then go into System Preferences and change some setting, then go back to your downloaded application and click Do-It-Anyway. The ignoramuses trip over the research step, and only the educable get to override the default security. My mom's Windows desktop was pwned, since she switched to a Mac (not my idea) the amount of malware she has downloaded/installed has remained at zero.

        Certainly the Apple way is better than the MS way where if you logon as Administrator then it just does whatever you say with at most a single OK button.

        Linux has a decent enough security model if you are an expert user, so I see what you mean giving him the benefit of the doubt. But installing on-demand from github gives me the heebie-jeebies. To me that's anti-security.

        1. Graybyrd
          Big Brother

          Re: All security is good security

          carefully designed where it's not enough to click OK | OK | OK to get around the baseline security. You have to go online and research, then go into System Preferences and change some setting, then go back to your downloaded application and click Do-It-Anyway. The ignoramuses trip over the research step, and only the educable get to override the default security.

          Yeh, a real boon for the average user. LIke a "smart" refrigerator (internet-connected, of course) with an LCD panel that "beeps" and alerts that the insertion of a plate of left-over meatloaf is "hazardous" and the refrigerator door locks open until the user 1) enters the CDC URL and references "safe food storage practices" and 2) opens the LCD panel "authorization screen" and checks off a list of answer boxes to assure the device that the user will comply with programmed safeguards.

          Such a feature! It will sell millions! And think of the lives saved!

        2. J__M__M

          Re: All security is good security

          Re: Windows Defender, can you help me find the off button?

          1. Anonymous Kiwi

            Re: All security is good security

            M_I_C_R_O_S_~_1 w i l l d e f e n d y o u f r o m E_V_E_R_Y a p p, i n c l u d i n g o n e s y o u p r o g r a m .

  4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    AWEsome AIdDevelopments for Heavenly Palaces*

    Applications on the menu install on demand, so, for example, if you select Blender for the first time, a dialog reads “Blender needs to be downloaded before it can be used. Do you want to download it now?” Click Yes and it installs ready for use.

    That's with AI a SMARTR Application of Leading Components for Future ProgramMING Projects.

    * And whenever deployed and employed and enjoyed in service of a SinoSoviet Treat is it considered much more as a Phantom Threat to be countered and opposed rather than engaged and embraced for JOINT** Programming Projects delivered and supplied from Live Operational Virtual Environments.

    Something for the President to seek clarification on from the President whenever they can chat freely today in Geneva.

    **..... JOINT Operations Internetworking Novel Technologies

  5. Disgusted Of Tunbridge Wells
    Paris Hilton

    Package manager bad?

    1. Smirnov

      Package manager bad?

      Sounds like pretty much anything that goes over DOS with a nice desktop UI on top is considered bad.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      User accessible package manager, from what I read. The fact that it will ask to download a programme you've asked for but not yet used implies there is a package manager "under the bonnet"

      1. Anonymous Kiwi

        It currently uses pkg, but I have something up my sleeve for that, https://github.com/linuxkettle/aPpShOp/.

        Anyway, the point is that all is done with the Filer rather than the Terminal we've all gotten so used to.

    3. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

      > Package manager bad?

      See my note above. If he can manage close MacOS-ness, it becomes literally meaningless.

  6. Blackjack Silver badge

    Everyone copies everyone

    Remember last year that new "theme" for Windows 10 that looked a lot like one of the default themes of Linux Mint? Only it was supposed to he an official theme?

    1. Anonymous Kiwi

      Re: Everyone copies everyone

      What, sUn vAlLeY?

  7. Jay 2

    “sudo su works now”

    At work I've tried to stamp out use of sudo su (and variants like sudo su - username) as much as I can. They're a bit too open-ended and the cause of much grief, usually along the lines of "who did that?". Instead I try and work on the basis of least privilege and limit sudo to either a service user or a specific set of commands.

    It's a long slog, as many users complain they can't do what they need to do or are too lazy to type/alias sudo -u whatever. But I'd rather not go back to the days when someone tried to install an EL7 RPM on an EL6 dev server, got a glibc error, copied over some glibc libs from elsewhere and then wondered why the server stopped working.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: “sudo su works now”

      > when someone tried to install an EL7 RPM on an EL6 dev server, got a glibc error, copied over some glibc libs from elsewhere and then wondered why the server stopped working.

      We had a fun one a while back - someone wanted Python 3, so forcible removed Python 2.7 (or was it 2.4)? Why, I dunno.

      But, they were surprised to learn that yum relies on Python....

      1. Jay 2

        Re: “sudo su works now”

        Ooh ouch. We've managed to avoid that one. It's got to the point where we now have our own in-house built version of python that lives in a special place (eg not under /usr anywhere) that the application people can target and use whatever modules they like. And then everyone is (mostly) happy with the versions of Python at their disposal.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Proof, if it were needed,...

    ...that Open Source can't innovate, only duplicate.

    How long before Apple, who did all the reasearch and hard work to create this UI in the first place, throws a copright claim their way?

    1. bombastic bob Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Proof, if it were needed,...

      Open Source can't innovate, only duplicate.

      Seriously? Gnome and KDE had multiple desktop support around 2005-ish, as I recall. 'vtwm' even had it, a short time later [if I remember correctly], and all of the 'box' managers after that. This same feature took 10 years to show up in Windows. That is *ONE* example where innovation (in this case, for usability and productivity) came to open source FIRST.

      Countless other examples exist. Where did that (obviously inaccurate) concept even COME from?

      (I do recall some kind of 'powertool' for XP that came AFTER the multi-desktop support in gnome and KDE and it _attempted_ to provide multi-desktop support in XP, but it was brittle and sloppy and generally unusable)

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Proof, if it were needed,...

        "Where did that (obviously inaccurate) concept even COME from?"

        The Apple marketing department? Apple are very good at polishing things up and then implying they invented it. And the fanbois lap it up and spread the message.

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