Tuesday, December 19, 2017

OpenBSD 6.2 + CDE

If you've noticed a disruption in the time-space continuum recently, it is likely because I have finally been able to compile and install the Common Desktop Environment (CDE) in a current and actively-developed operating system (OpenBSD 6.2 in this case).

This comes after so many attempts (across multiple platforms) that ended up with the build process prematurely stopping itself in its own tracks for a variety of infinitesimal reasons that were beyond my comprehension as a non-programmer, or when there was success it was not without some broken parts. As for the latter, I've been able to build CDE on OpenIndiana Hipster, but with an end product where I'm unable to change the color scheme in dtstyle (because "useColorObj" is set to "False"), with a default color scheme that is low-res and unpleasant. As for changing "useColorObj" to "True", I tried every recommended trick I could find online, but nothing worked.

My recent attempts at installing CDE on OpenBSD (version 6.1) saw the process stop due to a number of errors that are pure gibberish to these naive eyes. While disappointing, it was par for the course within my miserable experience with trying to build this particular desktop environment. As I wrote in this space in November 2015, in the course of explaining part of my imperitive for installing Solaris 10:

And so I have come to think of building the recently open-sourced CDE as being akin to a coffee mug I saw many years ago. One side of the mug read "Turn the mug to see how to keep an idiot busy." On the other side, it read "Turn the mug to see how to keep an idiot busy." I'm through feeling like an idiot, which is partially why I'm on this one-week journey with Solaris 10.

While I thoroughly enjoyed running Solaris 10 on my ThinkPad T61p, and felt a devilish thrill at using it out in the open at my local MacBook- and iPhone-infested Starbucks and causing general befuddlement and consternation among the occasional prying yoga mom, I never felt like I could do much with it beyond explore the SunOS 5.10 command line and watch YouTube videos. While still supported by its current corporate owner (whose name I don't even want to type), it is no longer actively developed and is thus little more than a retro toy. I hated the idea of installing anything else over it, but productivity beckoned and it was time to tearfully and reluctantly drag myself off the dance floor.

In any case, just last week I noticed that the Sourceforge page for the OpenBSD build had some 6.2-specific notes by way of a series of four patches, and so I decided 'what the heck, let's give this puppy another whirl'. After an initial abortive attempt at a build, I surmised that I hadn't applied the four patches correctly. A day or two later, I took a deep breath and tried again, this time resolving to not proceed with the time make World build command until I could see some sign of a successful patch process. (This time around, I downloaded the patches and moved them into the directory containing the CDE makefiles, and issued each patch command as patch <filename.patch and then reading the output carefully to determine which file in the source code was to be patched, and entering the filename when asked.)

Once I had the thing up and running, and with a mind bursting with fruit flavor, I started messing about. The first order of business was to create a custom color scheme modelled after the default color scheme in UnixWare. (Despite any baggage that system carries from its previous ownership under SCO, I adored the aesthetics of UnixWare 7.1.4 two years ago when I installed the free one month trial version on my ThinkPad. For reasons that escape me now, I named my newly-created color scheme in honor of UnixWare 7.1.3.)

Like a proud papa, I immediately tweeted the above screenshot and risked irritating a Linux kid or two in the process, given SCO's anti-climatic anti-Linux patent trolling from way back when. (I'm not out to irritate penguinistas, I just sure like this color scheme.)

Final Thoughts

It may look a little clunky at first, and may be a little bling-challenged, but the more I use CDE and adapt to it, the more it feels like an extension of my brain. Perhaps this is because it has a lot zip and behaves in a consistent and coherent manner. (I don't want to go too much further down that road here, as OSnews's Thom Holwerda already gave a good rundown about ten years ago.)

Now that I have succesfully paired my absolute favorite operating system with a desktop environment that has exerted an intense gravitational hold on me for many, many years, I don't anticipate distrohopping any time soon. And as I attain a more advanced knowledge of CDE, I'll be chronicling any new discoveries here for the sake of anyone following me from behind as I feel my way around this darkened room.