Running The macOS-Inspired, FreeBSD-Powered helloSystem v0.8 On AMD Zen 4

Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 23 January 2023 at 07:00 AM EST. Page 1 of 2. 38 Comments.

With this weekend's release of helloSystem 0.8 as a macOS-inspired open-source desktop OS built atop FreeBSD, I decided to try out this new release on an AMD Ryzen 9 7950X desktop to see how it would go.

The helloSystem operating system has been covered on Phoronix since its inception a few years ago and has continued to improve with a desktop that reminds one of the macOS desktop user interface from a number of years ago. The helloSystem platform is one of the few out there like MidnightBSD and GhostBSD that are still maintained as an easy-to-use, out-of-the-box desktop distribution built atop a BSD base. PC-BSD/TrueOS was the leader in the desktop BSD space for years while its sad demise has now provided an opportunity for helloSystem to become a leader in this space.

The developers behind helloSystem describe their creation as "a desktop system for creators that focuses on simplicity, elegance, and usability." With the helloSystem 0.8 release they are relying on the current FreeBSD 13.1-RELEASE as its base.

For trying out helloSystem 0.8, I decided to use a modern AMD Zen 4 system -- namely since with Alder Lake / Raptor Lake with the mix of P and E cores is likely calling for trouble on the BSDs with FreeBSD not yet having any optimized support for Intel's hybrid architecture. When booting helloSystem with an AMD Ryzen 9 7950X and ASUS X670E HERO motherboard, it was a smooth process and even the boot splash screen immediately reminded me of macOS...

Right away though I realized the wired networking with the ASUS X670E HERO motherboard was not working. While disappointing, not surprising with the BSD desktop support often lagging behind a bit with the latest consumer hardware. But plugging in a USB Gigabit Ethernet adapter known to work on the BSDs led to an Internet-connected helloSystem.

Besides the networking issue out-of-the-box, the system was using a Radeon RX 6700 XT (RDNA2) graphics card that didn't have working graphics acceleration either out-of-the-box. But that isn't really surprising either with FreeBSD and the BSD graphics support at large often lagging well behind Linux -- after all, when it comes to the open-source Intel and Radeon graphics drivers they are ported over from the Linux kernel and generally quite a number of releases behind upstream (with helloSystem 0.8 there is DRM kernel modules ported from Linux 5.10). NVIDIA graphics tend to be the best for FreeBSD users with NVIDIA providing a proprietary driver for FreeBSD that is similar in quality/performance/features to that of the NVIDIA Linux driver and largely relying on shared sources. If wanting to use Intel or Radeon graphics with a helloSystem, the general recommendation would be to aim for a iGPU/dGPU that's a few generations old to ensure there is good support out-of-the-box and that it's working nicely and in a mature state for the ported DRM snapshot.

Anyhow, even without accelerated 3D drivers running, the helloSystem desktop was snappy and smooth. Running helloSystem was quick to bring back memories of macOS from a decade ago. Many aspects of helloSystem are clearly influenced by Apple design philosophies.

There is no application dock by default with helloSystem 0.8, but there is one under development. The helloSystem desktop is relying on KDE's KWin window manager.

The helloSystem application menu does show an array of different programs by default like Blender, which aren't actually installed by default. But when going to launch them it then prompts for downloading/installation. The helloSystem desktop provides a convenient GUI wrapper around FreeBSD pkg for easy package installation.

As with upstream FreeBSD, Linux binaries can run on helloSystem via the Linuxulator support.

Running helloSystem 0.8 was the smoothest BSD desktop experience I've had out-of-the=box since the days of PC-BSD/TrueOS.

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