Taking a look at ArchBSD

[UPDATE 06/2016: The project has changed its name and is now known as PacBSD. I’ll leave the rest of the post as-is.]

Today’s post will deal with ArchBSD, a rather young project which brings the familiar Arch way to the FreeBSD world.

Edit: Sorry for the delay in making this post public. Just like with the previous post I was having problems with the images. Also had to replace some of them.

Prerequisites and Installation

First go here and download the iso. This post was done with the new iso released in the beginning of this month.

If you’re going to try out ArchBSD in VirtualBox you better enable the IO APIC function first. Otherwise the FreeBSD kernel won’t boot and it’s not even going to give you any error message.

Enableing IO APIC in VirtualBox.

Let’s boot the iso! The new boot loader (GRUB 2) is looking nice. The previous iso still came with another boot loader.

ArchBSD’s boot loader on the live iso: GRUB 2.

It’s a good idea to follow the official install guide. I only have two things to add:

  1. Be sure to replace daX with adaX when referring to the hard disks.
  2. If you’re as lazy as me and use auto-completion even for /mnt, be sure to remove the tailing slash since the command ‘pacstrap /mnt/ base‘ won’t work.

Mind that and you should be ok. I won’t cover more of the installation here; except for those two things the guide is fine and the installation procedure is typical nowadays Arch-style.

Pacstrapin’ the “base” group.

The installation is a bit faster than that of ArchLinux since the base system is (currently) a little smaller. As you can tell from the packages and their download sizes, ArchBSD could more or less be called “FreeBSD with pacman“.


After setting it all up and rebooting we’re greeted by the ArchBSD boot screen. It features some very nice ASCII art and has a clean look. This is how things should be. Great work if you ask me!

The ArchBSD boot screen.

The FreeBSD kernel boots a little slower than we’re used to with the Linux-based system. But when the system is up we find a familiar Arch environment where little shows that this is not Linux.

ArchBSD has started.

Working with a distribution following a rolling release model our system is already up to date after installation and doesn’t have to be updated. So what to do next? Let’s see if ArchBSD provides Xorg! Does it? Of course it does. However it does not currently have twm available so we can’t simply get the traditional X11 – but who seriously uses that today?

So far nobody has packaged GNOME or KDE but since this is a nice slim system it’s not like I’d miss them here. Currently I have the choice between Xfce or LXDE if I want a full DE. LXDE is fine for me.

Installing the “lxde” group.

Just having LXDE installed, we really have a fairly light graphical system: Just look at the menu! There’s almost nothing there (which is good since that means we can install whatever we want).

LXDE running on ArchBSD.

Alright. Next we have to populate that bare system a bit, right? One of the most important things today surely is a web browser. ArchBSD currently offers Chromium and Links. Both are nice browsers in their own regard, the first one probably a bit too heavy, the later a bit too minimalistic. I’d like something in between – and that probably makes for a good next step! Let’s install the development group and links so I can get some PKGBUILDs from the ArchLinux site.

Installing “build-devel” and downloading PKGBUILDs.

Now things are getting a little more interesting. Just building the FLTK packages on ArchBSD using the ArchLinux PKGBUILD doesn’t work. The sed utility from the BSD world works differently and packagers for ArchBSD are to translate the lines calling sed. Since I have no experience with BSD sed, I’d have to read how to do it. Fortunately ArchBSD comes with gsed, too, the familiar GNU sed utility. It’s deprecated to use that but since I’m not an official packager and just want to get FLTK running, I guess it will be ok to just use that. After calling gsed and commenting out the lines installing the LICENSE files as a quick and dirty “fix”, FLTK compiles nicely and the packages are built.

Let’s install FLTK and try to build Dillo, a very light-weight FLTK based browser. The default ArchLinux configuration wants OpenSSL which is not (currently) available on ArchBSD. So for this quick look at the system it will suffice to just build Dillo without SSL support. It works perfectly and after the package is built, I can run the application:

Running the freshly built Dillo.

Well, obviously building packages on ArchBSD works well. You can easily run into problems (like with the OpenSSL package), though since the BSD world is quite a bit different from Linux under the hood. In cases like that a bit of deeper knowledge is required.

You have some time on your hands? You like what you’ve just seen? And think you’re cool enough to be part of BSD? Why not give ArchBSD a try then? Head over to their forums sign up there and lend them a hand! They will surely appreciate it.

What’s next?

The next post will be something special. I won’t spoil it here – but it has something to do with my favorite light-weight DE. Guess which one that is!

2 thoughts on “Taking a look at ArchBSD

    1. While I was aware of the name change, it might be a good idea to update this post and point to the new project URL. Thanks for bringing this to my attention again!

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