Posts tagged bsd

Congrats to Gerard van Essen from FreeBSDNews.net

Gerard van Essen I see to be congratulating a lot of different people here in recent weeks. Frankly it's just so uplifting to have so many deserving people to to praise in light of the shenanigans of… well, other people.

On this gorgeous Monday afternoon I wanted to send my belated personal congratulations to Gerard van Essen who's been tirelessly covering the world of FreeBSD and auxiliary projects over at FreeBSDNews.net now for over two years. As someone who struggled for so long to stay on topic on his own blog that he eventually gave up, I hold even more respect for his conviction!

I’ve been running this FreeBSD news blog for exactly 2 years today. FreeBSD and operating systems have developed and evolved a lot since then; reporting and writing about these have been enjoyable.

Many thanks to everybody who’s notified and emailed me about stories, and those that have left comments.

For those who don't know, Gerard is one of the Core Team members of the PC-BSD project which aims to make FreeBSD accessible to more people by configuring hardware and installing a graphical environment automatically. If you don't like Ubuntu or have wanted to try FreeBSD after reading my babble on about here incessantly, you should give it a shot!

I think when we spend so much of our time online digesting news sources and downloading free and open source software, it's easy to forget there are real people behind them that make them possible. I've resolved to give due credit to sites and software I find useful.


Netscape reference in FreeBSD

Netscape Navigator!A reference to Netscape still exists in the latest version of FreeBSD. How nostalgic ^_^.

You can use "whereis" to search standard binary, manual page and source directories for the specified programs. This can be particularly handy when you are trying to find where in the ports tree and application is.

Try "whereis netscape" and "whereis whereis"
— Konstantinos Konstantinidis

The last time I blogged about Netscape was back in 2007 when I was reviewing the final version for Mac OS X, shortly before it was discontinued for good.


FreeBSD 7.2 has been released

FreeBSD 7.2 in VMware Fusion
The all new FreeBSD 7.2 with the all new svelte Xfce 4.6.0 desktop running in VMware Fusion on my MacBook Pro.

If you love FreeBSD as much as me you probably already know about this, but FreeBSD 7.2 has officially been released. I'm really excited about all this good stuff, particularly point 2 shown below in the annoucement. Jails are another reason why I've stuck to FreeBSD instead of GNU/Linux, and now being able to assign mutiple addresses means they're even closer to a virtual machine alternative. Thinking about the possibilities is making my head spin! I'll be looking into it further and posting more about Jails sometime soon.

The FreeBSD Release Engineering Team is pleased to announce the availability of FreeBSD 7.2-RELEASE. This is the third release from the 7-STABLE branch which improves on the functionality of FreeBSD 7.1 and introduces some new features. Some of the highlights:

  • support for fully transparent use of superpages for application memory
  • support for multiple IPv4 and IPv6 addresses for jails
  • csup(1) now supports CVSMode to fetch a complete CVS repository
  • Gnome updated to 2.26, KDE updated to 4.2.2
  • sparc64 now supports UltraSparc-III processors

For a complete list of new features and known problems, please see the online release notes and errata list, available at:

For more information about FreeBSD release engineering activities, please see http://www.FreeBSD.org/releng/.

The BSD DaemonI downloaded the FreeBSD 7.2 DVD image from Internode's mirror because our internet connection here is capped (yuck), but uploads aren't capped so I'll be setting up the torrent from the FreeBSD Bittorrent tracker so I can seed the heck out of it!

As I've said every time, I wish to thank all the people at the FreeBSD project for their tireless efforts. Combined, they continue to create and develop some of the most beautiful software in the world, and I consider it a honour that I'm allowed to use it. Congratulations everyone.


Using Herrie to listen to Whole Wheat Radio

Herrie tuned into Whole Wheat Radio on my Mac

Just finished polishing up the Herrie media player page on the Whole Wheat Radio wiki. Over time I've being going through each media player and adding instructions with screenshots so hopefully any new person who has never tuned in before can get up and running easily.

  1. Download a "Listen" playlist from the sidebar of the wiki
  2. Launch herrie in playlist mode: % herrie -x
  3. Navigate to the saved listen.pls file by using your arrow keys
  4. Add it to your playlist by pressing "A"
  5. Change focus to your playlist by pressing "Tab" then press "X" to start playing!
  6. When you’re done, press "Q" to quit

I think Jim really intended these pages to just be explanations for the players that appear on the Who's listening page, but I figure if at least one person found the information helpful it was worth it. Heck I owe the existence of this blog to that philosophy… right? ^_^


It’s FreeBSD’s documentation, stupid

GNUThe BSD Daemon

As you might remember a few months ago I switched from FreeBSD to Arch Linux on my 2002-era Compaq Armada M300 sub-notebook which I use for downloading torrents and as a coffee shop computer. Since then I might have figured out how to get my wireless card working on FreeBSD after all, but that's for another post.

One thing I have really noticed using the GNU Project's userland tools on Linux instead of FreeBSD's userland tools on FreeBSD is while the GNU tools generally have more features, the difference in the quality of the bundled documentation, specifically manual pages (Wikipedia) is huge. There's absolutely no comparison, FreeBSD's manual pages are more comprehensive, complete and better written.

As a FreeBSD user who has been spoilt silly and has come to expect this level of documentation, to use GNU/Linux has been somewhat of a shock. Often manual pages for the GNU userland tools contain a blunt dictionary style description of what the tool does, followed by a skeleton explanation of each of the options and a reference to a URL.

For example, check out the first screen of the manual page for the ls command for Linux and FreeBSD respectively, before the options are presented. Given Mac OS X's BSD underpinnings the man page for ls is the same too.

GNU/Linux

NAME
ls – list directory contents

SYNOPSIS
ls [OPTION]…. [FILE]…

DESCRIPTION
List information about the FILEs (the current directory by default). Sort entries alphabetically if one of the -cftuvSUX nor –sort.

Mandatory arguments to long options are mandatory for short options too.

FreeBSD (and Mac OS X)

NAME
ls — list directory contents

SYNOPSIS
ls [-ABCFGHLPRSTW@abcdefghiklmnopqrstuwx1] [file …]

DESCRIPTION
For each operand that names a file of a type other than directory, ls displays its name as well as any requested, associated information. For each operand that names a file of type directory, ls displays the names of files contained within that directory, as well as any requested, associated information.

If no operands are given, the contents of the current directory are displayed. If more than one operand is given, non-directory operands are displayed first; directory and non-directory operands are sorted separately and in lexicographical order.

The following options are available:

What I've since learned is the GNU project eschews manual pages for Texinfo pages which you access with a separate command. According to the Wikipedia page on the subject, Texinfo pages are designed as tutorials as well as general references, meaning they're more like books and less like traditional help files.

While I understand the merits of this approach, I still think this shunning of manpages or the lowering of their development priority is a bit short sighted. Even if the benefits of Texinfo pages are real, I don't see why one should be developed at the expense of the other.

I guess to be fair, this is something I'd get used to eventually if I switched to GNU/Linux as my primary OS.


My belated review of VirtualBox for Mac

FreeBSD, MS-DOS and Windows 2000 in VirtualBox
FreeBSD 7.1 with Xfce, MS-DOS with XTreeGold and Windows 2000

In my quest to find the most useful virtualisation software for Mac I've so far used Parallels Desktop, VMware Fusion and Q.app in various capacities. Today I decided to take a closer look at VirtualBox, the free and open source virtualisation software by Sun Microsystems.

Firstly the good news: VirtualBox is fast. Because it can take advantage of VT-x in the Intel processors of modern Macs the performance is in an entirely different league to QEMU based applications and much closer in performance to expensive (at least in the eyes of a university student!) commercial products from VMware and Parallels.

Because of it's higher performance, VirtualBox can run all current flavours of BSD, Linux and Windows that I've thrown at it just beautifully. Creating machines is a snap, and the shortcut keys for commands such as hard reset (command-R) are the best of any Mac virtualisation product I've used.

The main VirtualBox graphical control window

Unfortunately for me there have been some problems. For starters, considering it's a Sun product I found it disheartening to find OpenSolaris 08.11 can't pass the initial boot stage to install without giving an error which is a shame. FreeBSD has difficulty using the emulated optical drive which in practical usage is fine but it means you need to initally install over a network, no easy install of an ISO is possible. And for my electronic nostalgia, VirtualBox crashes whenever I attempt to load either the EMM386 or UMBCPI upper memory managers in MS-DOS 6.22 or PC DOS 2000 despite exhaustive attempts to map the correct memory addresses.

As I said on my Q.app review, my first generation Core Duo MacBook Pro seems to be a very quirky machine for virtualisation: it seems to have troubles than most Apple people don't seem to have! Keeping this in mind I'm ready to chalk these problems up to my eccentric machine, but it's still a bit disheartening.

VirtualBox has the potential to be an amazing product, and certainly for Windows and Linux it does the job beautifully — especially for the price! Unfortunately for my own current needs though I'm going to have to give it a pass; while it does run Windows 2000 amazingly well I'd prefer not to have to use several higher end virtualisation products for different things.


My belated review of Q.app

Q running Windows NT 4.0, FreeDOS with OpenGEM and MS-DOS 6.02 with Windows 3.11
Q running retro Windows NT 4.0, FreeDOS with OpenGEM and MS-DOS 6.22 with Windows 3.11

Due to some silly distractions I had to postpone my reviews of Mac virtualisation software. Today's review is for Q.app, a free and open source native Mac port of the QEMU processor emulator.

Q.app can be described in one word: svelte! In a download that weighs in at under 10MiB, this tiny application can create and run fully contained virtual machines; it's very impressive! It's also clear a lot of care and attention has been put into the interface: because it's a native Cocoa port the interface feels like a real Mac application and the guests you create are bundled into native OS X packages.

ASIDE: As a matter of disclosure, I am not affiliated with the Q.app project or QEMU, nor was I given a financial incentive to positively review their application, though now it’s after the fact I would be more than happy to accept such payments. Thank you.

Q.app iconBecause Q.app uses QEMU it doesn't have the sophisticated performance or graphics of much heavier (and far more expensive) apps like VMware Fusion which I've previously blogged about, but apps that require those kinds of resources aren't the intended use of it anyway.

Provided you use more modest operating systems instead of trying to shoehorn Windows 7 or Ubuntu with Gnome into it, it's very usable. Windows 2000, the BSDs and lighter distributions of GNU/Linux run just fine. Windows 95 and DOS (including the latest FreeDOS) absolutely scream! As with any VM software, the key is finding the oldest OS that can run the software you need, unless you intend on using the Internet in it for security reasons.

Q running Windows 2000 and FreeBSD 7.1-R
Windows 2000 and FreeBSD 7.1-R also run just fine.

I have had some stability issues with Q on my first generation Core Duo MacBook Pro, and the Q drivers to enable a Samba share between my Windows 2000 guest and my Mac stubbornly refuse to work, but I'm willing to chalk both these problems up to a problem with the operator not necessarily the software! My iBook G3 was obviously slower, but didn't have either of these issues.

If you need to run a application written for another OS (or with caveats perhaps even another processor!) and you don't have time or inclination to register for and download a huge product like Fusion or Parallels, or if you're like me and just want to run a ton of older OSs for silly nostalgic reasons, you can't go wrong with Q.app. The folks behind this app have done a great job.


On sneezing and webhost downtime

SegPub

As some of you would no doubt remember, with my previous webhost Servage it was quite normal for the database or web server backing this blog to go offline for anywhere between several hours to several days. For those who have only just stumbled upon my bizarre mix of whatnot here, I'm not exaggerating with those downtime figures!

My new webhost sent me this message this afternoon:

Dear Ruben,

On Sunday 19th April 2009 we will be performing scheduled maintenance on our shared hosting servers. The maintenance will be starting at 3:00PM and finishing at 5:00PM (GMT+10).

We expect minimal downtime, however you may notice your website unavailable for a period of 2-3 minutes during this time. No email will be affected, only your website.

Best Regards,
Segment Publishing Customer Support

The BSD Daemon You read that right… 2-3 minutes. My old webhost would have blamed an outage of 2-3 minutes on the fact I sneezed and subsequently closed my eyes for the duration of that time. Or worse still, they would have claimed it was the result of me setting my permissions wrong. That was their answer to everything. Hehe, sneeze.

Earlier today I talked about how the best way to treat an online visitor or customer is the same as with any other industry: with respect. I guess having lived without it for so long online, now having it feels weird.

I'm forming a theory that FreeBSD people not only have a better server OS than others, but that they're cooler too. SegPub is a FreeBSD webhost… perhaps I'm onto something. Or perhaps I'm just on something. I wish I were witty, then I'd have wit.


Online monetisation is a misnomer at best

AdBlock Plus in Firefox
I didn't think ABP was necessary to make the web usable until I went to a machine that didn't have it!

It's another case of someone else saying exactly what I've been thinking for a very long time, but because they're not Ruben Schade they're able to articulate what they mean in a few words instead of a bloated paragraph such as the one you're reading now. In fact this whole paragraph could have been condensed into one simple line: "look at what this person said on Twitter".

“monetization” is an evil, ugly word that has infested the internet with hollow promises and broken dreams

~BrainDouche

The way I see it, when people start thinking they need to monitise their weblog, their podcast, their time-shifted programming (I agree Jim, it's a silly name), their cat, the cold water tap on their kitchen sink and so on, except in a few select cases they inevitably cause more damage and in the long run hurt their chances of making money.

You know what most people appreciate online? Being treated line an adult, and being treated with respect. Huge flashy banner advertisements to me are a glowing sign that states they're more interested in making a quick buck than respecting you.

Mourning the death of common sense
Common sense, we hardly knew thee…

Obviously if a site isn't interesting people won't go to it, so the chances for them to make money is reduced. Therefore even if we're just talking about the narrow view of making money, it's in their interest (I love pointless puns) to make their sites engaging and… not irritating!

I'd be interested to see the before and stats on sites that have put up splash screen advertisements you need to click before going to the rest of the site (I hate those!) and sites that have replaced discreet Google AdWords or something similar with huge banner ads. I'd hedge (another horrible financial pun) my bet that they've done themselves a disservice.

RichardDawkins.net
Proudly powered by FreeBSD: The Power To Serve
The extent of the advertising on my own site

As a real world example, since last year my site has had a silly "Buy Ruben a Cup of Coffee" button on the side for those to contribute to if they like something they've read here or if they've found something useful. I've had more than a dozen cups bought for me, which is far more money than I made from having text advertisements on my pages for a couple of years. The former is far less intrusive, and I like to think it means I treats my visitors like adults rather than just drones to market stuff to.

I also display a couple of banners gratis at the bottom of my page here for RichardDawkins.net and for FreeBSD, but that's because I appreciate their causes and want to help. Given the search queries people enter into Google to get here a large percentage of my readers would be interested in them anyway.

In a round about way, what I'm saying is: people like honesty. I guess despite my age group being one of the the "target demographics" I'm old fashioned in that regard.


Reading Google Reader in the dark on Linux, BSD

Screenshot of my Armada M300 as a lean, mean Google Reading machine!
Screenshot of my Armada M300 as a lean, mean Google Reading machine!

Given this is Sunday (as of two minutes ago), I thought it would be logical to post a Sunday blog post. That was an entirely irrelevant and superfluous sentence; then again so was this one. And this one too.

I’ve started getting into the habit in Adelaide where I’m studying to catch up on my latest Google Reader and Bloglines feeds first thing in the morning and before I go to bed on my cute 2002-vintage Armada M300 subnotebook in my room because it’s interesting but also relaxing. At these times of day there isn’t much light out so I have an even lower tolerance for Blazing White® website themes, so I decided to completely re-theme the entire interface of the machine to accommodate my picky eyes.

ASIDE: This bizarre post is mostly geared towards Linux, FreeBSD and whatnot, but the browser specific whatnot could be adapted if you have a Mac user or if you use that obscure operating system a small software company in Redmond makes.

Firstly, if you’re a Mozilla Firefox or Opera user with Greasemonkey or an equivalent user style engine, I’ve found the Google Reader Dark-Blue-Grey user style by hronir to be by far the most readable dark theme. If your machine has limited screen real estate like mine, the Google Reader Maximize Vertical Space script by Chase Seibert makes a huge difference, and plays well with the colour changes — an important consideration!

Showing detail

Next the browser itself: I first downloaded the beautiful MidnightFox Dark Firefox Theme which I’ve had lots of success with on my MacBook Pro, but then I thought I might as well take advantage of the fact Firefox is a GTK+ application and use a theme that would affect all the applications I use. I really love the dark Xfce-dusk theme, so I downloaded the Xfce theme package and added the following line to my ~/.gtkrc-2.0 file. If you’re using a desktop environment you’d probably want to use it’s theme selector.

On Linux
include "/usr/share/themes/Xfce-dusk/gtk-2.0/gtkrc"

On FreeBSD
include "/usr/local/share/themes/Xfce-dusk/gtk-2.0/gtkrc"

On NetBSD or other systems with pkgsrc
include "/usr/pkg/share/themes/Xfce-dusk/gtk-2.0/gtkrc"

Finally I customised the window manager. I use dwm on my Armada M300 because it’s ridiculously fast and lightweight even when running on very modest hardware, plus it automatically tiles windows. In the config.h file in the dwm build directory I changed the following lines then recompiled and installed (you could substitute these hex colours into whichever window manager you’re using too):

[…]
static const char normbordercolor[] = #404e63;
static const char normbgcolor[]     = #404e63;
static const char normfgcolor[]     = #000000;
static const char selbordercolor[]  = #222a36;
static const char selbgcolor[]      = #222a36;
static const char selfgcolor[]      = #ffffff;
[…]

The results are what you saw at the beginning of the post. I love this colour scheme so much I’ve even started using it for when I’m writing code and assignments because it’s so easy on my eyes when stared at for hours on end. Good times ^_^.

Icon from the Tango Desktop project Icon from the Tango Desktop project Icon from the Tango Desktop project


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