Posts tagged freebsd

BSDInstall is just wonderful

The new partition editor, showing wonderful options

Been trying the FreeBSD 9.0 release candidate for several days now, and I've been absolutely blown away.

So simple and lovely!

When I first read on the mailing lists that sysinstall was to be replaced with something else, I'll admit I was a little terrified. In a world of overly complex, flaky and resource heavy graphical installation tools, sysinstall was visually unappealing but it got the job done even on modest hardware. I'd seen some screenshots of a FreeBSD graphical installer, and like the curmudgeon I am, I took a disliking.

Fortunately, the bsdinstall system that has replaced it assuaged all my fears. In a word, it's beautiful. Simple, clean, elegant, quintessentially BSD. That was more than one word, forgive me I couldn't resist. As someone who also dabbles in NetBSD from time to time, it's my opinion FreeBSD finally has an installer equally as nice.

Visually, the navigation is clearer and the screens more logically laid out. For someone coming from Linux the lack of a graphical install may seem jarring, but I'd argue the new installer is just as easy to use — perhaps a little moreso — than any I've used on Linux.

Guided Partition Editor

The new Guided Partition Editor is a pleasure to use even if you're not a beginner, for one primary reason that rhymes with "kernel" and "blurnal". Wait, that's not a word.

If you've ever done that hack of setting up multiple swap partitions so you can reboot and create gjournals, the installer now lets you define softupdates as well as softupdate journals (UFS SU+J which has made its appearance in FreeBSD 9, more on that in a future post). TRIM support is also built in and selectable from the installer now. As I said on Twitter, I jumped up and started dancing!

Easy to install jails

I also haven't had time to check this out yet, but this one line in the BSDInstall manpage made my jaw drop.


jail destination
Sets up a new chroot system at destination, suitable for use with jail(8). Behavior is generally similar to auto, except that disk partitioning and network setup are skipped and a kernel is not installed into the new system.

For those who are unaware, jails are one of the most wonderful and elegant features of FreeBSD, and the #1 thing I miss when I use Linux. I run my torrent client, web server and file servers in their own jails on my headless server, they're infinitely simpler to set up and maintain than VMs and provide excellent security. Now they'll be even simpler!

FreeBSD is a beautiful operating system, and with the addition of this new installer, I'm hoping more people will give it a try :).

Stay tuned for more commentary and fun with FreeBSD 9. As I said on Twitter, I haven't been this excited by a FreeBSD release in a long while. I might even give it a try on my ThinkPad again, given the latest release of Fedora broke my graphics.

Merging KDE icons into the Task Manager

KDE icons merged with the Task Manager widget

I keep discovering new and wonderful things about KDE again since moving back! These tips are probably already well known, but just in case :).

The problem

If you use KDE like me, you probably have a series of launcher icons in your panel for easy access. The problem with this is on lower resolution displays they take up a lot of horizontal space, which reduces the amount of space your Task Manager widget can use to display window titles:

KDE icons merged with the Task Manager widget

The answer

The clever solution is to let the Task Manager widget handle your shortcuts instead.

  1. Remove all your application launcher icons
  2. Launch the application you use frequently
  3. Right click its button in the task bar
  4. Choose the Advanced menu
  5. Click “Show A Launcher For X when It Is Not Running”

Icons will appear to the left of the task bar as before, but when you launch applications, their corresponding launcher disappears. This quickly saves large amounts of precious screen real estate when you have many different windows open.

As Kmahjongg said to me in 2007:

Kmahjongg: You have won!

libcxxrt C++ runtime now available under BSD licence

The NetBSD Foundation Press Release: libcxxrt C++ Runtime Now Available Under BSD License. This is big news!

The FreeBSD Foundation and the NetBSD Foundation announced that they have acquired a non-exclusive copyright license to the libcxxrt C++ runtime software from PathScale, a leader in high performance Fortran, C, and C++ compiler products for AMD64, Intel64, and MIPS. This software is an implementation of the C++ Application Binary Interface originally developed for Itanium and now used for the x86 family by BSD operating systems. Libcxxrt will be available under the 2-clause BSD license.

Interesting that they chose the 2-clause BSD licence which FreeBSD uses, over the 3-clause BSD licence that NetBSD uses, or at least used last time I checked. But I digress.

Why is this so cool? Well for one, I've used it before in bidness! Secondly…

“This work complements other work done in the community and is a further step in letting us adopt alternative toolchains in FreeBSD,” said Robert Watson, a FreeBSD committer and Director at the FreeBSD Foundation.

Alternative toolchains != GPL, which for the otherwise BSD licenced NetBSD and FreeBSD operating systems can only be a Good Thing™.

There have been lots of interesting developments in this area recently. The GNU toolchain has served us well, but there are leaner, faster and more liberally licenced compilers, linkers, libraries and tools coming out now, and with Apple backing LLVM in a big way now (for example) this movement can only gain further momentum.


Doing my bit to spread the cheer! :D Well, that and seeding the torrents!

The FreeBSD Release Engineering Team is pleased to announce the availability of FreeBSD 8.2-RELEASE. This is the third release from the 8-STABLE branch which improves on the functionality of FreeBSD 8.1 and introduces some new features. Some of the highlights:

  • Xen HVM support in FreeBSD/amd64 and Xen PV support in FreeBSD/i386 improved
  • ZFS on-disk format updated to version 15
  • aesni(4) driver for Intel AESNI crypto instruction set
  • BIND and OpenSSL updates
  • Gnome updated to 2.32.1, KDE updated to 4.5.5
  • Many misc. improvements and bugfixes

Enlightenment E17 at 1.0!

Be still my beating heart. Enlightenment E17 is at 1.0.

Finally after a long time coming, we are pleased to announce the 1.0 release of the core [Enlightenment Foundation Libraries] (With the exception of Eet at 1.4).

In my opinion, Enlightenment is the most beautiful window manager for *nix systems, hands down. Long before Compiz and KDE4, Enlightenment squeezed out some pretty darn impressive graphics out of modest hardware.

In the bad old days, I moved from it to Xfce purely because I used mostly GTK+ apps and wanted visual consistency. Always had a soft spot for Enlightenment though, think it'll be getting an install again :).

A barely qualifying post on DSLness

Beastie! This barely qualifies as a post, but I'm simply far too excited to contain myself. Having had DSL just provisioned today, this is what I've been able to do:

  • Finally downloaded FreeBSD 8.1 and Sabayon Five Point Three!
  • Run portsnap, portaudit, portmaster and freebsd-update on 3 machines
  • Run port -v selfupdate on 2 Macs
  • Updated 3 iTelephones to iOS 4.1
  • Downloaded a two month backlog of podcasts
  • Scrobbled a ton of cached music plays
  • Jabbered to two people
  • Wrote three blog posts (including this one!)
  • New desktop backgrounds!
  • Got my father’s Singapore VPN working
  • Returned emails for 31 people (41 if you count simple thank-you’s)
  • Uploaded a bunch of personal project revisions (HUGE!)
  • Built a crude time machine and interfaced it with an online flux capacitor

Thank you, and goodnight!

I’m an uncool computer scientist


As with my social life, I seem to instinctively pick things that aren't "cool" in computer science. Or so I've been repeatedly told :P. Here's a list I was typing on my phone over the course of this morning.

The listy thing

What’s Cool What I Prefer
GNU/Linux FreeBSD, Mac OS X
bash, zsh tcsh
elinks links
emacs Vim
mutt [Al]pine, TBird
Rijndael Twofish
Triple DES Plaintext
Eclipse NetBeans, TextMate
git Mercurial
Gnome Terminal LilyTerm
Nautilus emelFM2, Thunar, ROXFiler
OOo, Google Docs Gnumeric, AbiWord
Google Reader Bloglines (but I caved in!)
PathFinder Finder
Licence qualms TrueCrypt
IPv6 Not compromising privacy
Konqueror (KDE 3.x) Dolphin (KDE 3.x)
xterm urxvt
Xmonad dwm
Apache Lighty
Ubuntu Sabayon, Fedora
Chrome Firefox, NoScript
Photoshop The Gimp
Illustrator Inkscape
LaTeX DocBook (for plain text)
QuickTime X QuickTime 7 Pro
Ruby On Rails … erubis?
Svelte Apple keyboards Buckling spring Unicomp
Android iOS
iPads Old ThinkPad X40
C#.NET Borland C++ (back in the day!)
Praising Windows 7 Hating on Windows 7
Windows Aero Windows "Classic"
Tumblr Extra blog entries
Client-side JavaScript Server-side processing
Beautiful, premade blog themes Self made, terrible blog theme :)
Lady Gaga Marian Call
Akiyama Mio Kotobuki Tsumugi (pictured)
The Pocket Tiger Minori
C.C. Kallen
Chocolate Vanilla
Blond Black, brown
Drunkenness Calm lucidity
Loud Quiet
Clear days Overcast days
Blog posts with a point Blog posts… like this

The question thing

Are there any things you use or prefer over a so called "cooler" alternative?

FreeBSD 8.1 freshly toasted


The world's greatest operating system (in my humble opinion!) has been updated. Grab your copy from their tracker, or check out the mirrors. And don't forgot to follow @freebsd on Twitter.

FreeBSD 8.1-RELEASE is now available. Please be sure to check the Release Notes and Release Errata before installation for any late-breaking news and/or issues with 8.1. More information about FreeBSD releases can be found on the Release Information page.

freebsd-update fetch install fun :)

hptrr: no controller detected FreeBSD error


Just a quick post about a FreeBSD problem I solved, for what it may be worth.

After adding a new FireWire 800 PCI card that also draws power from a small floppy drive Molex connector, the older Athlon XP 2800+ host started hanging on boot with the following error:

hptrr: no controller detected

A quick Google search showed it was a hard drive related problem, which was strange considering the drive had been operating just fine.

After much head scratching, I determined the relatively crappy PSU simply couldn't take one more peripheral, so I upgraded it from a 350W to a 450W. FreeBSD now detects and boots from the hard drive just fine, and my FireWire PCI card works.

Lesson learned: if you encounter the above error it's most likely the result of a recent hardware addition, and that even though a hard drive error may be a symptom, it may not be the cause. That counts as that whole Lateral Thinking thing, right?

Caution: filename not matched unzip error

Torchlight ZIP icon

Quick tip I picked up this afternoon. If you try to extract a series of archives with unrar or unzip and you get this error:

% unzip *zipcaution: filename not matched

… you can get around it by escaping the asterisk.

% unzip *zip

I wonder why it works like this when virtually nothing else does?

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