BSD Heritage

Project Trident is a desktop-focused disribution of TrueOS, which in turn is a variation of the FreeBSD operating system which was officially started in the early 1990’s but is itself a direct decendant of the original AT&T UNIX.

Rather than re-iterate the history of the FreeBSD and TrueOS projects, this page focuses on the similarities and differences between Project Trident and TrueOS/FreeBSD.

General Overview

graph BT A[FreeBSD Ports] --> C[TrueOS Ports] C -->|Regular Builds| E{Project Trident} B[FreeBSD Source] -->|CURRENT Branch| D[TrueOS Source] D -->|Stable Releases| E C -.-> A D -.-> B style A stroke:red style B stroke:red style C stroke:black style D stroke:black style E stroke:blue


The base operating system and kernel are identical between the various projects, as they are all built directly from the same source code, although at different times or from different branches of the source repositories. This includes the kernel, hardware drivers, file systems, and more.

All of the applications which are available in the form of packages are built from the exact same “ports tree”, which is a source repository of build instructions for over 35000 applications, libraries, and more. These “ports” generally result in binaries which are compiled to run specifically on different FreeBSD-based operating system architectures.


FreeBSD itself supports multiple types of computer architectures (i386, amd64, various flavors of ARM, etc..), but TrueOS and Project Trident are specifically focused on the amd64 architecture (often called x86-64, or “64-bit”), but also include the support capabilities to directly run i386 binaries (“32-bit”).


Due to the addition of OpenRC to TrueOS for service management, the TrueOS project maintains a version of the FreeBSD ports tree which includes many additional files. These extra files ensure that OpenRC versions of service files are available alongside the traditional rc.d service files from FreeBSD. They also provide a testing area for other TrueOS changes before submission back to FreeBSD, including new ports, new versions of ports, and more. TrueOS also uses GitHub for managing it’s ports repository[1], whereas FreeBSD still uses a privately-hosted SVN repository[2].

[1] TrueOS ports repository [2] FreeBSD ports repository

Differences From TrueOS

Note: Differences listed here also generally apply to other TrueOS-based distributions

Being a desktop-focused distribution, Project Trident provides many different graphical solutions for common tasks on TrueOS based systems:

  • Graphical front-end to the “pc-sysinstall” utility from TrueOS for managing the installation.
  • Graphical system setup
    • While this is typically a manual task on TrueOS/FreeBSD, Project Trident provides a suite of scripts and utilities which handle all of the setup and maintenance of the graphical systems. These utilities run during the bootup routine and dynamically provide these features:
      • Automatic “best-driver” setup for your hardware based upon which graphical drivers are installed and whether they match the type of GPU contained by your hardware.
      • Automatic failover to one of two different graphical drivers (vesa or scfb) if the main graphics driver fails to work for some reason.
      • Dynamic loading of the video driver and any associated kernel modules on bootup. This allows the system hard drive to move between systems as needed with little or no loss of functionality. This requires that the video drivers for both systems are installed already, or one of the failover drivers can be used.
  • Graphical utilities for common tasks
    • The PCDM login manager.
    • The Lumina Desktop Environment is pre-installed and pre-configured for out-of-box usage.
    • A graphical system-update utility has been written just for Project Trident. This provides easy access to configuring and performing updates in addition to the ability to roll-back a system update as desired.
    • Removable media detection and on-demand usage is provided via integrations between Project Trident and the Lumina Desktop.
  • Stable OS, Rolling Ports
    • Project Trident uses the “stable” branches of TrueOS for the OS-components themselves. This ensures there are no radical changes or binary compatibility issues for a 6-month period of time.
    • Project Trident also builds and provides a package repository of every “port” contained in the TrueOS ports repository. This package repository is also updated every week, ensuring a steady stream of new or updated applications very soon after they appear in FreeBSD/TrueOS.
    • Project Trident uses a customized build configuration for both OS and ports. Everything in Project Trident is built specifically to be used for a graphical operating system.

Differences From FreeBSD

Many of these differences from FreeBSD actually come from the TrueOS project, so this list will change over time as the TrueOS and FreeBSD projects continue to evolve.


TrueOS provides the OpenRC system for managing services on the OS in place of the “legacy” RC system currently used on FreeBSD. This difference is most notable in a few key ways:

  • Faster bootup - OpenRC starts up services much faster and with better dependency handling than FreeBSD.
  • Better status reporting. The rc-status utility provides an instant look at all system services and their current status.
  • Service files are located in [/usr/local]/etc/init.d rather than [/usr/local]/etc/rc.d.
  • Some services have different names: dhcpcd instead of dhclient, network instead of netif.
  • Many OpenRC services are “multiplexed” for individual device/profile management.
    • Example: The network.wlan0 service controls the first wifi device, and should be started/stopped instead of the network service when re-configuring the Wi-Fi settings.
  • The [service-name]_enable=“YES” entries on FreeBSD are no longer needed to enable services on bootup. Instead, OpenRC provides a method for grouping services together (called “runlevels”), and the rc-update utility is used to add/remove bootup registrations for services within these groups.
    • Example: rc-update add dbus default adds the dbus service to the default runlevel and enables it to automatically start on bootup.
    • Example 2: rc-update delete dbus default removes the dbus service from the default runlevel and prevents it from starting during bootup.
  • The “service” utility is used identically to FreeBSD for interacting with services.
    • Example: service dbus stop stops the dbus service when it is running.
    • Example 2: service network.wlan0 restart restarts the networking associated with the first wireless device.

Base Packages

TrueOS uses the package system for installing the OS itself in addition to the pre-compiled “ports”. This functionality is called “base packages” and allows a single package repository to contain both the OS and all the available applications in a single, unified collection of files. This functionality provides these features:

  • The OS and packages are always in sync. A single system update can be used for the entire end-to-end update of the system, even when OS changes like a new kernel are provided during a major release cycle.
  • System updates are fast and clean. All updates are performed within a new Boot Environment, ensuring the live system is never touched while in use. Reboot to finish the update procedure and boot into the newly-updated system.