Planet FreeBSD

February 28, 2021


HardenedBSD February 2021 Status Report

This month was a busy one, especially for our infrastructure. We purchased and received three refurbished Dell servers and one Cavium ThunderX server. Two of the three Dell servers were deployed. One is being used for our GitLab migration[1][2]. The second one is being set up as the HardenedBSD 14-CURRENT nightly build and package build server.

With the ThunderX server, we now have a production-capable arm64 server. I'm hoping that we can promote arm64 as a teir 1 architecture by the end of March. Though the server is deployed, I still need to copy the build scripts over and perform is final configuration.

FreeBSD recently landed a W^X implementation (congrats!), but it interferes with our PaX-inspired implementation. In addition to infrastructure work, I've been looking into this. I'm only able to reproduce when building packages--when there's a heavy load on the system. I'm working on some candiate patches, but they're not ready for commit.

The new package build server can be reached at [3]. The Tor onion service address is [4].

The next non-hackery item on my list is to reach out to 2020 donors that donated $250 USD or more to HardenedBSD. I need to give them their tax statement in case they itemize their taxes. I also need to reach out to recent donors to see if they want their name listed on our donations page.

I appreciate the help and support from the community. It's because of you that this project is possible. Your donations enable me to serve you.

[4]: http://t3xwovqp3hijxp2wskcg2ot5jqpwjd63uaeodsp3ltduhvpxb47aegad.onion/

by Shawn Webb at February 28, 2021 09:47 PM

February 23, 2021


Upgrade FreeBSD with ZFS Boot Environments

I am known as a strong ZFS Boot Environment supporter … and not without a reason. I have stated the reasons ‘why’ many times but most (or all) of them are condensed here – – in my presentation about it.

The upcoming FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE looks very promising. In many tests it is almost TWICE as fast as the 12.2-RELEASE. Ouch!

The detailed tests are available on the site.

Having 12.2-RELEASE installed I wanted to check 13.0-BETA* to check if things that are important for me – like working suspend/resume for example – work as advertised on the newer version. It is the perfect task that can be achieved by using ZFS Boot Environments.

In the example below we will create entire new ZFS Boot Environment with clone of our current 12.2-RELEASE system and upgrade it there (in BE) to the 13.0-BETA3 version … and there will only be required on reboot – not three as in typical freebsd-update(8) upgrade procedure.

I assume that you have FreeBSD 12.2-RELEASE installed with ZFS (default ZFS FreeBSD install) and its installed in UEFI or UEFI+BIOS mode.

Here are the steps that will be needed.

(host) # beadm create 13                      # create new ZFS Boot Environment
       Created successfully
(host) # beadm mount 13                       # mount new BE somewhere
       Mounted successfully on '/var/tmp/BE-13.z4IanfZt'
(host) # chroot /var/tmp/BE-13.z4IanfZt       # make chroot(8) into that place
  (BE) # mount -t devfs devfs /dev            # mount the devfs(8) in that BE
  (BE) # rm -rf /var/db/freebsd-update        # remove any old patches
  (BE) # mkdir /var/db/freebsd-update         # create fresh dir for patches
  (BE) # freebsd-update upgrade -r 13.0-BETA3 # fetch the patches needed for upgrade
  (BE) # freebsd-update install               # install kernel and kernel modules
  (BE) # freebsd-update install               # install userspace/binaries/libraries
  (BE) # pkg upgrade                          # upgrade all packages with pkg(8)
  (BE) # freebsd-update install               # remove old libraries and files
  (BE) # umount /dev                          # umount the devfs(8) in that BE
  (BE) # exit                                 # leave chroot(8) environment
(host) # beadm activate 13                    # activate new '13' BE
       Activated successfully

I am using mine sysutils/beadm for the process but you as well may use the bectl(8) from FreeBSD base system.

We will also need new FreeBSD loader(8) which will be updated this way – thanks to @JeffSipek for pointing that out.

On my system FreeBSD is installed on ada1 device.

(host) # gpart show -p ada1 | grep efi                # find UEFI msdosfs(5) partition
               40     409600  ada1p1  efi  (200M)     # <-- this one
(host) # mount_msdosfs /dev/ada1p1 /mnt               # mount it under /mnt
(host) # find /mnt                                    # display its contents
       /mnt/efi/boot/bootx64.efi                             # update bootx64.efi file
(host) # cp /boot/boot1.efi /mnt/efi/boot/bootx64.efi # copy from /boot/boot1.efi file
(host) # umount /mnt                                  # unmount /mnt filesystem

There is small chance that you will not be able to mount the efi partition. Even fsck(8) is not able to help here.

Typical errors that some users faced look like that:

(host) # mount_msdosfs /dev/ada1p1 /mnt # error when trying to mount efi partition
       mount_msdosfs: /dev/ada1p1: Invalid argument

(host) # fsck_msdosfs -y /dev/ada1p1    # error when trying to fsck(8) that partition
       ** /dev/ada1p1
       Invalid signature in boot block: 0b6a

If you hit that problem then first backup your current efi partition to for example /BACKUP.ada1p1 file.

(host) # dd < /dev/ada1p1 > /BACKUP.ada1p1 bs=1m

Now we will create fresh efi partition from scratch.

(host) # newfs_msdos -F 32 -c 1 /dev/ada0p1           # create new FAT32 partition
(host) # mount_msdosfs /dev/ada0p1 /mnt               # mount it under /mnt
(host) # mkdir -p /mnt/efi/boot                       # create needed directories
(host) # cp /boot/boot1.efi /mnt/efi/boot/bootx64.efi # copy from /boot/boot1.efi file
(host) # umount /mnt                                  # unmount /mnt filesystem

Now you should have new ‘working’ efi partition.

The last step is to reboot(8) into the new 13.0-BETA3 system.

(host) # reboot

If you find any problems with new bootloader not being able to load your new FreeBSD then you may alternatively copy the /boot/loader.efi instead of /boot/boot1.efi into the /mnt/efi/boot/bootx64.efi place.

Done. You should now see the new FreeBSD loader(8) in all its glory 🙂

You may now enjoy latest FreeBSD 13.0-BETA3 installation.

Same steps will be required to update to soon to be available FreeBSD 13.0-RC* (RC1/RC2/RC3) version and finally FreeBSD 13.0-RELEASE hopefully somewhere in March 2021.

UPDATE 1 – What if Everything Went Fine

You now have most up to date FreeBSD system that should work faster then 12.2-RELEASE and you still has your older 12.2-RELEASE Boot Environment that you can go back to if you find any problems with 13.0 version.

On my system it looks like that:

(host) # beadm list
       BE   Active Mountpoint Space Created
       12.2 -      -           6.5G 2021-02-12 10:15
       13   NR     /          18.8G 2021-02-13 11:32

The Space column is little misleading as it takes into account snapshots space used for example. To get exact information each Boot Environment takes use -D option. This way you will get information about each Boot Environment space separately.

(host) # beadm list -D
       BE   Active Mountpoint  Space Created
       12.2 -      -            9.8G 2021-02-12 10:15
       13   NR     /            9.6G 2021-02-13 11:32

I will be keeping the 12.2-RELEASE Boot Environment for a while – maybe I will delete it a month or so after 13.0-RELEASE is available but if you tested all your needs and feel that 13.0 fulfills all your needs the same way or better then 12.2-RELEASE then you may delete that older Boot Environment with below command.

(host) # beadm destroy 12.2

UPDATE 2 – What if Something Goes Wrong

Generally if the new BE named ‘13‘ does not boot (or hangs at boot) then just select your earlier Boot Environment that you used before the upgrade – the one that has 12.2-RELEASE inside it.

You now have the system that worked for you before we proceed to the upgrade process.

If that fails (or bootloader is broken) then grab the FreeBSD-13.0-BETA3-amd64-memstick.img image and write it on some pendrive with dd(8) command.

# dd if=FreeBSD-13.0-BETA3-amd64-memstick.img of=/dev/da0 bs=1M status=progress

As you now have the pendrive with FreeBSD 13.0-BETA3 then you may boot from it and fix your installation. Pick LiveCD after its loaded. Then type root at login: prompt and hit [ENTER] for empty password.

The list of tasks that can be done now depends on what is broken and I can not guess every possible error and fix scenario so if you hit any problems during that upgrade process then just contact me with your preferred way and we will figure something out.


by vermaden at February 23, 2021 10:50 PM

January 31, 2021

Warner Losh

EPSON QX-10 20MB Hard disk

 EPSON QX-10 20MB Hard Disk

I've been looking for some DEC Rainbow 3rd party hard drives of late. QCS (Quality Computer Services) made an external hard disk for the DEC Rainbow. There's advertisements in Digital Review and other trade magazines at the time. It uses a SASI interface, and likely had a DEC Rainbow specific add-in card that they rewarmed from other designs...

One recently came up for sale on E-Bay. I thought I'd buy it to check it out. There was no interface card with it, alas. But it was a box with a WD1006 SASI to MFM controller in it that could handle two different drives. The drives were LUN0 and LUN1.

SASI, for those that don't know, pre-dates SCSI-1. It's kinda sorta SCSI-1 compatible, if you turn off parity, don't allow the drive to signal attention and restrict yourself to a subset of commands. It also doesn't have INQUIRY so you kinda have to know the size of the drive before hand. Most SASI controller drivers of the day wrote a label to drive with this information since it was always possible to read LBA0 w/o knowing anything else about the drive. Some controllers had ways to at least return a size, though that varied a lot...

Since SASI is kinda hard to interface to modern SCSI controllers, I used a MFM reader board I got from David Gesswein over at to read the drive. I had hoped to find that it was from an old Rainbow and I'd complete my collection of drivers for third party drives...

Much to my surprise, I was able to read it without any errors until it hit the manufacturing tracks (480-489). I pulled a full image, then downloaded it to my FreeBSD box for analysis.

hexdump -C told me it was a CP/M disk (I recognized the directory format). It was clear right away it wasn't a DEC Rainbow disk, however.

The first thing I noticed was the "Bi-Tech Multi Drive Support V4.02" string which indicated who made the driver for it. I also noticed strings like the following
PT.COM for EPSON QX-10 PeachText 5000 date changed - 02/03/84

and similar references to the QX-10 or EPSON CP/M.

So, this was from a Epson QX-10 CP/M system. Looks to be a soft-water service company from South Bend Indiana. All their books and correspondence from the mid 1980s was on it, along with some interesting disk support software. There's even some bits of Z80 assembler, but they are too disjointed to know what they were for.

I've not been able to get cpmtools to read the disk in a structured way, however, so it's hard to share just the interesting bits. Still working on it.

If you have one of these machines, or are interested in preserving software from it, please let me and we may be able to work something out.



by Warner Losh ( at January 31, 2021 07:59 AM

January 20, 2021


FreeBSD Desktop – Part 22 – Configuration – Aero Snap Extended

I like to post new articles and solutions when I think they are ready. Production tested and stable. Well thought and tested … or at least trying to make things as good as possible in the available time window. Perfectionism definitely does not help making often articles on the blog.

Today’s solution is not perfect but I will ‘ship it’ anyway because good and done is better then perfect. I wanted to rework it so many times that I stopped counting … and I really would like to continue the series – thus I have made a conscious decision to finally release it and hope that maybe someone else will have better ideas to make it better. I really wanted to provide pixel perfect solution with as much screen space used as possible but to deliver it as it is I tested it only on the resolution I use the most – the FullHD one with 1920×1080 pixels.

You may want to check other articles in the FreeBSD Desktop series on the FreeBSD Desktop – Global Page where you will find links to all episodes of the series along with table of contents for each episode’s contents.

Aero Snap

Today I would like to share with You what I call Aero Snap Extended. The original Aero Snap was introduced in Windows 7 and this is how it is described in the Wikipedia page – “Dragging a window to the right or left side of the desktop causes the window to fill the respective half of the screen. Snapping a window to the top of the screen maximizes it. Windows can be resized by stretching them to touch the top or bottom of the screen, which fully increases their vertical screen estate, while retaining their width, these windows can then slide horizontally if moved by the title bar, or pulled off, which returns the window to its original height. In spite of the “Aero” moniker, this feature is available if one uses the Classic theme. This feature is also available on Windows 10.”

This is like the original Aero Snap looks like.


The idea behind original Aero Snap was pretty simple. Its basically these four shortcuts.

[WIN] + [LEFT] – will place window on the left half of the screen.
[WIN] + [RIGHT] – will place window on the right half of the screen.
[WIN] + [UP] – will maximize the window.
[WIN] + [DOWN] – will minimize the window.

Aero Snap Extended

Mine Aero Snap Extended is … well more extended 🙂

As usual its just a small POSIX /bin/sh compatible shell script. There are only two dependencies for it – the /usr/local/bin/xdpyinfo from xdpyinfo package and /usr/local/bin/wmctrl from wmctrl package. At the beginning of the script you will find several ‘settings’ that you may find needed to be tuned to your needs. Most important ones are MARGIN_TOP/MARGIN_LEFT/MARGIN_RIGHT options. Unfortunately MARGIN_BOTTOM is not implemented. Sorry.


Here are the shortcuts that I use for mine version but You may of course use other key then [WIN] for it.

(L) [WIN] + [LEFT] – will place window on the left half of the screen.
(R) [WIN] + [RIGHT] – will place window on the right half of the screen.
(U) [WIN] + [UP] – will place window on the upper half of the screen.
(D) [WIN] + [DOWN] – will place window on the lower half of the screen.

Here is ASCII diagram for its graphical visualization.

+------+------+  +-------------+
|      |      |  |     (U)     |
|      |      |  |             |
| (L)  |  (R) |  +-------------+
|      |      |  |             |
|      |      |  |     (D)     |
+------+------+  +-------------+

… and also a live screenshots.



(SL) [WIN] + [SHIFT] + [LEFT] – will place window on the left half of the screen taking 2/3 space of the screen.
(SR) [WIN] + [SHIFT] + [RIGHT] – will place window on the right half of the screen taking 1/3 space of the screen.
(SU) [WIN] + [SHIFT] + [UP] – will place window on the upper half of the screen taking 2/3 space of the screen.
(SD) [WIN] + [SHIFT] + [DOWN] – will place window on the lower half of the screen taking 1/3 space of the screen.

Here is ASCII diagram for its graphical visualization.

+--------+----+  +-------------+
|        |    |  |    (SU)     |
|        |    |  |             |
|  (SL)  |(SR)|  |             |
|        |    |  +-------------+
|        |    |  |    (SD)     |
+--------+----+  +-------------+

… and also a live screenshots.



The above shortcuts are quite simple and easy to remember.

Now here comes when this is more interesting.

Most keyboards – at least those with the best possible keyboard layout in the world – the ANSI standard keyboard (includes 7-row ThinkPad keyboards – have these three keys one next to another – [CTRL] [WIN] [ALT] – some call the [WIN] key as [SUPER] instead. I use [WIN] as it takes shorter to write and it shows where this key came from.

The 87 keys ANSI stand alone keyboard.


The ThinkPad T420s keyboard.


Now back to topic.

How to use these three keys to send windows to various places of the screen to make it easy to memorize and also not to break existing shortcuts … I think I found a way.

{ [CTRL] [WIN] } [ALT] – these two will send windows to the left side of the screen.

[CTRL] { [WIN] [ALT] } – these two will send windows to the right side of the screen.

Now to the point …

(Q1) [CTRL] + [WIN] + [UP] – will take window to the left and upper part of the screen – taking 1/4 of its space.
(Q2) [CTRL] + [WIN] + [DOWN] – will take window to the left and lower part of the screen – taking 1/4 of its space.
(Q3) [WIN] + [ALT] + [UP] – will take window to the right and upper part of the screen – taking 1/4 of its space.
(Q4) [WIN] + [ALT] + [DOWN] – will take window to the right and lower part of the screen – taking 1/4 of its space.

Now for some the exact 1/4 screen for each of these windows may be not suitable.

Thus I also added a modified versions with [SHIFT] key.

(S1) [SHIFT] + [CTRL] + [WIN] + [UP] – will take window to the left and upper part of the screen – taking 2/3 of horizontal and 2/3 vertical space of the screen.
(S2) [SHIFT] + [CTRL] + [WIN] + [DOWN] – will take window to the left and lower part of the screen – taking 2/3 of horizontal and 1/3 vertical space of the screen.
(S3) [SHIFT] + [WIN] + [ALT] + [UP] – will take window to the right and upper part of the screen – taking 1/3 of horizontal and 2/3 vertical space of the screen.
(S4) [SHIFT] + [WIN] + [ALT] + [DOWN] – will take window to the right and lower part of the screen – taking 1/3 of horizontal and 1/3 vertical space of the screen.

Here is ASCII diagram for its graphical visualization.

+------+------+  +--------+----+
| (Q1) | (Q3) |  |  (S1)  |(S3)|
|      |      |  |        |    |
+------+------+  |        |    |
|      |      |  +--------+----+
| (Q2) | (Q4) |  |  (S2)  |(S4)|
+------+------+  +--------+----+

… and also a live screenshots.



Now you have about 95% variations of needed windows places in the keyboard shortcuts.

There are also several complementary addons like making the window centered on the screen but without making it cover the whole screen. As I already use other originated from Windows [ALT] + [ESC] shortcut to send the current windows to the ‘back’ I also added [WIN] + [ESC] for this feature.

(C) [WIN] + [ESC] – place current window centered on screen covering about 2/3 of its space.

As it was relatively easy and fast I also added fullscreen option.

(F) [CTRL] + [ALT] + [F] – make current window go fullscreen

+-------------+  +-------------+
|             |  | +---------+ |
|             |  | |         | |
|     (F)     |  | |   (C)   | |
|             |  | |         | |
|             |  | +---------+ |
+-------------+  +-------------+

… and also a live screenshot.



The Aero Snap Extended has the following options.

usage: OPTION


  L - place window on left  half of screen
  R - place window on right half of screen
  T - place window on upper half of screen
  B - place window on lower half of screen

  SHIFT-L - place window on left  half of screen taking 2/3 space
  SHIFT-R - place window on right half of screen taking 1/3 space
  SHIFT-T - place window on upper half of screen taking 2/3 space
  SHIFT-B - place window on lower half of screen taking 1/3 space

  TL - place window to left/upper  part of screen
  TR - place window to left/lower  part of screen
  BL - place window to right/upper part of screen
  BR - place window to right/lower part of screen

  SHIFT-TL - use left/upper  part with 2/3 of H. and 2/3 V. space
  SHIFT-TR - use left/lower  part with 2/3 of H. and 1/3 V. space
  SHIFT-BL - use right/upper part with 1/3 of H. and 2/3 V. space
  SHIFT-BR - use right/lower part with 1/3 of H. and 1/3 V. space

  C - center window covering about 2/3 of screen
  F - make current window go fullscreen
  Q - remove fullscreen property from window

The Aero Snap Extended can be downloaded from here – – the usual place for my scripts.

Openbox Integration

Because of WordPress limitation I will not post Openbox configuration here but You will also find a link to that content in the text form below.


Here is this configuration in text form – – from the same location.

More then a year after I implemented this way of tiling on Openbox I found out that its also possible to use that ‘natively’ on Openbox using ‘direct’ Openbox configuration rules.


It definitely should be faster and easier to implement – not to mention that external dependencies will not be available – but a script allows more tuning and flexibility.

Other Window Managers

If you are not into Openbox then you may create these shortcuts using xbindkeys for example.

Future Work

Mine Aero Snap Extended could use some polish and especially testing in the other resolutions the the well tested 1920×1080.



by vermaden at January 20, 2021 05:54 PM

January 16, 2021


October-December 2020 Status Report

The October to December 2020 Status Report is now available with 42 entries.

January 16, 2021 08:00 AM

January 14, 2021


January 01, 2021


HardenedBSD December 2020 Status Report

Happy New Year! On this the last day of 2020, I submit December's status report.

FreeBSD recently switched its source (/usr/src) repo from subversion to git. This switch had a major impact on HardenedBSD. This month was spent almost entirely on that impact. I had planned to work on Cross-DSO CFI this month, but I wasn't able to find any time for that.

I spent some time with my Foundation administrative hat on. I sent emails to recent donors, asking them whether they wanted to be listed on the donor's page. If you have donated and haven't received an email from me, please reach out.

This month alone, the community blew through our 2020 donation goal. We received around $13,000 USD in December 2020. We are immensely thankful for those who contribute. Monetary donations go straight to improving the project. In January, we will purchase a new server to replace our existing self-hosted Gitea server.

It has been an honor to serve you, the HardenedBSD Community, in 2020. I'm grateful for the continued opportunity to serve in 2021. Our Roadmap page hasn't been updated in three years now. In January, I will be updating the roadmap.


by Shawn Webb at January 01, 2021 12:33 AM

December 28, 2020

Adrian Chadd

Repairing and bootstrapping an IBM PC/AT 5170, Part 3

So! In Parts 1 and 2 I covered getting this old thing cleaned up, getting it booting, hacking together a boot floppy disc and getting a working file transfer onto a work floppy disc.

Today I'm going to cover what it took to get it going off of a "hard disk", which in 2020 can look quite a bit different than 1990.

First up - what's the hard disk? Well, in the 90s we could still get plenty of MFM and early IDE hard disks to throw into systems like this. In 2020, well, we can get Very Large IDE disks from NOS (like multi hundred gigabyte parallel ATA interface devices), but BIOSes tend to not like them. The MFM disks are .. well, kinda dead. It's understandable - they didn't exactly build them for a 40 year shelf life.

The IBM PC, like most computers at the time, allow for peripherals to include software support in ROM for the hardware you're trying to use. For example, my PC/AT BIOS doesn't know anything about IDE hardware - it only knows about ye olde ST-412/ST-506 Winchester/MFM drive controllers. But contemporary IDE hardware would include the driver code for the BIOS in an on-board ROM, which the BIOS would enumerate and use. Other drive interconnects such as SCSI did the same thing.

By the time the 80386's were out, basic dumb IDE was pretty well supported in BIOSes as, well, IDE is really code for "let's expose some of the 16 bit ISA bus on a 40 pin ribbon cable to the drives". But, more about that later.

Luckily some electronics minded folk have gone and implemented alternatives that we can use. Notably:

  • There's now an open-source "Universe IDE BIOS" available for computers that don't have IDE support in their BIOS - notably PC/XT and PC/AT, and
  • There are plenty of projects out there which break out the IDE bus on an XT or AT ISA bus - I'm using XT-IDE.
Now, I bought a little XT-IDE + compact flash card board off of ebay. They're cheap, it comes with the universal IDE bios on a flash device, and ...

... well, I plugged it in and it didn't work. So, I wondered if I broke it. I bought a second one, as I don't have other ISA bus computers yet, and ...

IT didn't work. Ok, so I know that there's something up with my system, not these cards. I did the 90s thing of "remove all IO cards until it works" in case there was an IO port conflict and ...

.. wham! The ethernet card. Both wanted 0x300. I'd have to reflash the Universal IDE BIOS to get it to look at any other address, so off I went to get the Intel Etherexpress 8/16 card configuration utility.

Here's an inside shot of the PC/AT with the XT-IDE installed, and a big gaping hole where the Intel EtherExpress 8/16 NIC should be.

No wait. What I SHOULD do first is get the XT-IDE CF card booting and running.

Ok, so - first things first. I had to configure the BIOS drive as NONE, because the BIOS isn't servicing the drive - the IDE BIOS is. Unfortunately, the IDE BIOS is coming in AFTER the system BIOS disks, so I currently can't run MFM + IDE whilst booting from IDE. I'm sure I can figure out how at some point, but that point is not today.

Success! It boots!

To DOS 6.22!

And only the boot sector, and COMMAND.COM! Nooooo!

Ok so - I don't have a working 3.5" drive installed, I don't have DOS 6.22 media on 1.2MB, but I can copy my transfer program (DSZ) - and Alley Cat - onto the CF card. But - now I need the DOS 6.22 install media.

On the plus side - it's 2020 and this install media is everywhere. On the minus side - it's disk images that I can't easily use. On the double minus side - the common DOS raw disk read/write tool - RAWREAD/RAWRITE - don't know about 5.25" drives! Ugh!

However! Here's where a bit of hilarious old knowledge is helpful - although the normal DOS installers want to be run from floppy, there's a thing called the "DOS 6.22 Upgrade" - and this CAN be run from the hard disk. However! You need a blank floppy for it to write the "uninstallation" data to, so keep one of those handy.

I extracted the files from the disk images using MTOOLS - "MCOPY -i DISK.IMG ::*.* ." to get everything out  - used PKZIP and DSZ to get it over to the CF card, and then ran the upgrader.

Hello DOS 6.22 Upgrade Setup!

Ah yes! Here's the uninstall disc step! Which indeed I had on hand for this very moment!

I wonder if I should fill out the registration card for this install and send it to Microsoft.

Ok, so that's done and now I have a working full DOS 6.22 installation. Now I can do all the fun things like making a DOS boot disk and recovery things. (For reference - you do that using FORMAT /S A: to format a SYSTEM disk that you can boot from; then you add things to it using COPY.)

Finally, I made a boot disk with the Intel EtherExpress 8/16 config program on it, and reconfigured my NIC somewhere other than 0x300. Now, I had to open up the PC/AT, remove the XT-IDE and install the EtherExpress NIC to do this - so yes, I had to boot from floppy disc.

Once that was done, I added a bunch of basic things like Turbo C 2.0, Turbo Assembler and mTCP. Now, mTCP is a package that really needed to exist in the 90s. However, this and the RAM upgrade (which I don't think I've talked about yet!) will come in the next installment of "Adrian's remembering old knowledge from his teenage years!".

by Adrian ( at December 28, 2020 11:45 PM

December 17, 2020

Adrian Chadd

Repairing and bootstrapping an IBM 5170 PC/AT, part 2

Ok, so now it runs. But, what did it take to get here?

First up - I'm chasing down a replacement fusable PROM and I'll likely have to build a programmer for it. The programmer will need to run a bit at a time, which is very different to what the EPROM programmers available today support. It works for now, but I don't like it.

I've uploaded a dump of the PROM here - .

Here's how the repair looks so far:

Next - getting files onto the device. Now, remember the hard disk is unstable, but even given that it's only DOS 5.0 which didn't really ship with any useful file transfer stuff. Everyone expected you'd have floppies available. But, no, I don't have DOS available on floppy media! And, amusingly, I don't have a second 1.2MB drive installed anywhere to transfer files.

I have some USB 3.5" drives that work, and I have a 3.5" drive and Gotek drive to install in the PC/AT. However, until yesterday I didn't have a suitable floppy cable - the 3.5" drive and Gotek USB floppy thingy both use IDC pin connectors, and this PC/AT uses 34 pin edge connectors. So, whatever I had to do, I had to do with what I had.

There are a few options available:

  • You can write files in DOS COMMAND.COM shell using COPY CON <file> - it either has to be all ascii, or you use ALT-<3 numbers> to write ALT CODES. For MS-DOS, this would just input that value into the keyboard buffer. For more information, Wikipedia has a nice write-up here: .
  • You can use an ASCII only assembly as above: a popular one was TCOM.COM, which I kept here:
  • If you have MODE.COM, you could try setting up the serial port (COM1, COM2, etc) to a useful baud rate, turn on flow control, etc - and then COPY COM1 <file>. I didn't try this because I couldn't figure out how to enable hardware flow control, but now that I have it all (mostly) working I may give it a go.
  • If you have QBASIC, you can write some QBASIC!
I tried TCOM.COM, both at 300 and 2400 baud. Both weren't reliable, and there's a reason it isn't - writing to the floppy is too slow! Far, far too slow! And, it wasn't enforcing hardware flow control, which was very problematic for reliable transfers.

So, I wrote some QBASIC. It's pretty easy to open a serial port and read/write to it, but it's not AS easy to have it work for binary file transfer. There are a few fun issues:

  • Remember, DOS (and Windows too, yay!) has a difference between files open for text reading/writing and files open for binary reading/writing.
  • QBASIC has sequential file access or random file access. For sequential, you use INPUT/PRINT, for random you use GET and PUT.
  • There's no byte type - you define it as a STRING type of a certain size.
  • This is an 8MHz 80286, and .. well, let's just say QBASIC isn't the fastest thing on the planet here.
I could do some basic IO fine, but I couldn't actually transfer and write out the file contents quickly and reliably. Even going from 1200 to 4800 and 9600 baud didn't increase the transfer rate! So even given an inner loop of reading/writing a single byte at a time with nothing else, it still can't keep up.

The other amusingly annoying thing is what to use on the remote side to send binary files. Now, you can use minicom and such on FreeBSD/Linux, but it doesn't have a "raw" transfer type - it has xmodem, ymodem, zmodem and ascii transfers. I wanted to transfer a ~ 50KB binary to let me do ZMODEM transfers, and .. well, this presents a bootstrapping problem.

After a LOT of trial and error, I ended up with the following:

  • I used tip on FreeBSD to talk to the serial port
  • I had to put "hf=true" into .tiprc to force hardware handshaking; it didn't seem to work when I set it after I started tip (~s to set a variable)
  • On the QBASIC side I had to open it up with hardware flow control to get reliable transfers;
  • And I had to 128 byte records - not 1 byte records - to get decent transfer performance!
  • On tip to send the file I would ask it to fork 'dd' to do the transfer (using ~C) and asking it to pad to the 128 byte boundary:
    • dd if=file bs=128 conv=sync
The binary I chose (DSZ.COM) didn't mind the extra padding, it wasn't checksumming itself.

Here's the hacky QBASIC program I hacked up to do the transfer:

OPEN "RB", #2, "MYFILE.TXT", 128

' Note: LEN = 128 is part of the OPEN line, not a separate line!
OPEN "COM1:9600,N,8,1,CD0,CS500,DS500,OP0,BIN,TB2048,RB32768" FOR RANDOM AS #1 LEN = 128

size# = 413 '413 * 128 byte transfer
DIM c AS STRING * 128 ' 128 byte record
FOR i = 1 TO size#
  GET #1, , c
  PUT #2, , c

Now, this is hackish, but specifically:
  • 9600 baud, 8N1, hardware flow control, 32K receive buffer.
  • 128 byte record size for both the file and UART transfers.
  • the DSZ.COM file size, padded to 128 bytes, was 413 blocks. So, 413 block transfers.
  • Don't forget to CLOSE the file once you've written, or DOS won't finalise the file and you'll end up with a 0 byte file.
This plus tip configured for 9600 and hardware flow control did the right thing. I then used DSZ to use ZMODEM to transfer a fresh copy of itself, and CAT.EXE (Alley Cat!)

Ok, so that bootstrapped enough of things to get a ZMODEM transfer binary onto a bootable floppy disc containing a half-baked DOS 5.0 installation. I can write software with QBASIC and I can transfer files on/off using ZMODEM.

Next up, getting XT-IDE going in this PC/AT and why it isn't ... well, complete.

by Adrian ( at December 17, 2020 08:49 PM

December 16, 2020


How to configure a network dump in FreeBSD?

A network dump might be very useful for collecting kernel crash dumps from embedded machines and machines with a larger amount of RAM then available swap partition size. Besides net dumps we can also try to compress the core dump. However, often this may still not be enough swap to keep whole core dump. In such situation using network dump is a convenient and reliable way for collecting kernel dump.

December 16, 2020 11:05 PM

[PL] How play Mario?

Ugh, zaczyna się robić tłoczno, drugi post w przeciągu dwóch miesięcy, nie jest źle ;](warto dodac że post pojawia się za namową pewnej osoby (Pozdro Gyn ;>))... Dzisiaj opisze projekt nad którym ostatnio pracowałem. Pomysł użycia tej technologi chodził za mną już od igk ale dopiero ostatnio zrobiłem coś co by się nadawało do pokazania publicznie.

December 16, 2020 11:05 PM

November 06, 2020


How to run bhyve in a jail

I’ll setup a jail dedicated to run bhyve vms , for jail creation I’ll use bastillebsd

Install bastillebsd to create and manage jails.

# pkg install bastillebsd

Setup bastillebsd

Follow the getting started guide at
I’m using zfs so /usr/local/etc/bastille/bastille.conf I must edit bastille.conf (this must be done before bootstraping a release).

I used this on bastille.conf.


Create a set of rules to allow to run bhyve inside a jail edit /etc/devfs.rules, create it if does not exists.

add include $devfsrules_jail
add path vmm unhide
add path vmm/* unhide
add path tap* unhide
add path nmdm* unhide

Create a new jail that will be use these rules.

sudo bastille create --vnet test-bhyve 12.2-RELEASE em0

Modify test-bhyve jail.conf for this jail:

sudo bastille edit test-bhyve

Now add


So the jail.conf will look like:

test-bhyve {
  devfs_ruleset =25;
  enforce_statfs = 2;
  exec.consolelog = /var/log/bastille/test-bhyve_console.log;
  exec.start = '/bin/sh /etc/rc';
  exec.stop = '/bin/sh /etc/rc.shutdown';
  host.hostname = test-bhyve;
  mount.fstab = /usr/local/bastille/jails/test-bhyve/fstab;
  path = /usr/local/bastille/jails/test-bhyve/root;
  securelevel = 2;
  vnet.interface = e0b_bastille0;
  exec.prestart += "jib addm bastille0 em0";
  exec.poststop += "jib destroy bastille0";

Load the required modules:

kldload vmm
kldload nmdm

Start test-bhyve jail

sudo bastille start test-bhyve

Go inside the new jail

sudo bastille console test-bhyve

Now install vm-bhyve inside the jail follow the vm-bhyve setup at

pkg install vm-bhyve
sysrc vm_enable="YES"
mkdir /vms
sysrc vm_dir="/vms"
vm init
cp /usr/local/share/examples/vm-bhyve/* /vms/.templates/
vm switch create public
vm switch add public vtnet0
vm iso
vm create test
vm install -f test FreeBSD-12.2-RELEASE-amd64-bootonly.iso

by default a vm-bhyve vm has 256mb, if you need more you will need to run

vm config test

And configure how much RAM do you need.


If you are going to use dhcp on the vm, you will need to configure the interface to
According to this post using SYNCDHCP works, but we need to reboot the vm first.

This gives me an interface named vnet0 in my jails that i can then configure through the jail’s rc.conf. for some reason SYNCDHCP works but not DHCP in the guest rc.conf.


by cneirabustos at November 06, 2020 06:38 PM

October 20, 2020

Warner Losh

How to Recover From a BIOS Upgrade

Recovering From Firmware Upgrade

Recently, I booted Windows on my laptop for the first time in a while to play Portal 2 with my son. It asked me to upgrade, and I said 'sure, upgrade the BIOS.'

And then I couldn't boot FreeBSD...  The BIOS upgrade deleted all the BootXXXX variables. So it only booted Windows. I'm stuck, right? I have to download a FreeBSD image and boot off the USB drive. Or did I?

Note: Even the update program called updating the firmware updating the BIOS. BIOS is the generic term for the bit of code that runs before the OS. Sadly, it's also the term people use to describe the pre-UEFI boot environment on PCs, so it can be a confusing term to use. Firmware seems a bit better, but it's also ambiguous because different bits of hardware (like wireless cards) also need firmware loaded.

How to Recover

I was in windows. I needed to mount the system partition (EFI). So, I opened the Administrative Console and got a command prompt from there on the 'Tools' tab. This lead to the familiar C: prompt.  I have no W drive. There I was able to copy FreeBSD's boot loader like so:

C:\WINDOWS\system32> mountvol w: /s
W:\> cd EFI\Microsoft\Boot
W:\EFI\Microsoft\Boot> ren bootmgfw.efi bootmgfw-back.efi
W:\EFI\Microsoft\Boot> copy W:\EFI\FreeBSD\loader.efi bootmgfw.efi

I then rebooted from the menu.

I had remembered from my efibootmgr hacking that the boot loader was here. After I booted to FreeBSD, I was able to confirm:

% sudo efibootmgr -v
Boot to FW : false
BootCurrent: 0001
Timeout    : 0 seconds
BootOrder  : 0001, 2001, 2002, 2003
+Boot0001* Windows Boot Manager HD(1,GPT,f859c46d-19ee-4e40-8975-3ad1ab00ac09,0x800,0x82000)/File(\EFI\Microsoft\Boot\bootmgfw.efi)
                                   nvd0p1:/EFI/Microsoft/Boot/bootmgfw.efi /boot/efi//EFI/Microsoft/Boot/bootmgfw.efi
 Boot2001* EFI USB Device 
 Boot2002* EFI DVD/CDROM 
 Boot2003* EFI Network 

Unreferenced Variables:

I was then able to add FreeBSD back with efibootmgr. I mount the ESP on /boot/efi:

sudo efibootmgr --create --loader /boot/efi/EFI/freebsd/loader.efi --kernel /boot/kernel/kernel --activate --verbose --label FreeBSD
Boot to FW : false
BootCurrent: 0001
Timeout    : 0 seconds
BootOrder  : 0000, 0001, 2001, 2002, 2003
 Boot0000* FreeBSD HD(1,GPT,f859c46d-19ee-4e40-8975-3ad1ab00ac09,0x800,0x82000)/File(\EFI\freebsd\loader.efi)
               nvd0p1:/EFI/freebsd/loader.efi /boot/efi//EFI/freebsd/loader.efi
               nvd0p6:boot/kernel/kernel /boot/kernel/kernel
+Boot0001* Windows Boot Manager HD(1,GPT,f859c46d-19ee-4e40-8975-3ad1ab00ac09,0x800,0x82000)/File(\EFI\Microsoft\Boot\bootmgfw.efi)
                                   nvd0p1:/EFI/Microsoft/Boot/bootmgfw.efi /boot/efi//EFI/Microsoft/Boot/bootmgfw.efi
 Boot2001* EFI USB Device 
 Boot2002* EFI DVD/CDROM 
 Boot2003* EFI Network 

Unreferenced Variables:

Once this is in place, I needed to undo what I'd done to Windows:

% cd /boot/efi/EFI/Microsoft/Boot
% sudo mv bootmgfw-back.efi bootmgfw.efi

I was then able to reboot to FreeBSD. And fun fact: since the boot order is 0000, 0001, that means I can boot to Windows by just typing 'quit' at the loader prompt. This causes the boot loader to exit with an error, which causes the BIOS to try the next BootXXXX variable, in this case windows.

And there it is: I was able to recover my system without downloading a USB image...

by Warner Losh ( at October 20, 2020 04:42 PM

October 03, 2020

Alexander Leidinger

Self-signed certificates and LDAPS (OpenLDAP) in PHP (or python)

This is not about how to generate a self-signed certificate, this is about how to configure an ldap client to connect securely to a ldap server which has a self-signed certificate.

Recently I was searching a lot how to make this kind of setup work, but it seems nobody is using the keywords of the headline in their HOWTOs, or everyone is not really setting up a really secure connection with self-signed certificates. As such here my try to document this for those which are interested in a secure setup.

How OpenLDAP is checking the certificates normally

OpenLDAP is using the certificate store which is configured for OpenSSL. So any certificate which is signed by one of the CAs in the OpenSSL cert-ctore are trusted.

Secure setup

Most of the time you do not expose an LDAP server to the outside where a certificate from one of the trusted-by-default CAs is needed. A certificate from your internal CA is enough, and in some cases a self-signed certificate is sufficient too.

An easy solution could be to add either the root-certificate of your CA or the self-signed certificate into the trust-store of OpenSSL (not every OS / distribution has this in the same location, you have to check where this is for your OS, for FreeBSD 13+ this is /usr/local/etc/ssl/certs/, see also certctl(8) there). But this would mean you trust the certitifacate which you put there additionally to the default certificates (modulo any blacklisting you made yourself). Theoretically this means anyone who is able to get hold of a certificate from a public-CA for your LDAP server, could perform a man-in-the-middle attack (you need to consider yourself how feasible this is in your infrastructure setup and how likely this is to happen).

More secure operation

Let’s say you run a service which needs to be able to make TLS sessions to systems which use certificates from public CAs and you want to make sure a connection to the LDAP backend can not use certificates from public CAs.

To tighten the setup in this case, you need to specify that the client which uses OpenLDAP-client libraries is using a different trust-store for the certifcate validation.

For the openldap client utilities there is a global config file for this (on FreeBSD this is /usr/local/etc/openldap/ldap.conf). For other tools, like PHP, this needs to be done in the per-user config file ~/.ldaprc. Both file have the same syntax.

With php-ldap you normally run the service either in php-fpm or in an apache-php-module. In both cases the process which runs is configured to run as a non-root user which may or may not have a home directory (in FreeBSD the www user which is typically used for that has no home directory).


  1. create a home directory
  2. create a separate trust-store for LDAP
  3. configure php-ldap / py-ldap to make use of the separate trust-store

Step 1 – create a home directory

Chose a place which is suitable, and create a directory there. It doesn’t need to be in /home, it can be anywhere. The important part is, that it is readable by the user which runs the application which is using php-ldap. It does not need to be writable by this user. In there you need to create the .ldaprc file (again, needs only be readable by the user) with the content from step 3.

Step 2 – create a separate trust-store for LDAP

In FreeBSD the global ldap config is in /usr/local/etc/openldap/ldap.conf. Theoretically you can put the trust-store for LDAP in any place wou want. In my setup I consider it to belong into /usr/local/etc/openldap/ssl/. So make a directory – like /usr/local/etc/openldap/ssl – for the trust-store, and copy the certificate of the LDAP server there.

Attention! Only the public certificate, not the private key! If you only have one file on the server for this, it is the combined key+certificate (if you don’t know or are able to deduct by looking into the file how to get rid of the key… there is a lot of info out there in the WWW which explains it). The directory and the certificate need to be accessible (read for the file, execute for the directory) by any user which shall make use of this. It does not hurt to have it accessible by everyone (you made sure there is not the private-key from the server, right?).

Step 3 – configure php-ldap / py-ldap to make use of the separate trust-store

If you use php-fpm, you need to configure a home directory in the FPM pool configureation section. As already said above, it does not need to be inside /home, but it dpends upon your needs. Here in this example let me use /home. The FPM config line to add is then something like:
env[HOME] = /home/php-fpm
You could achieve the same via changing the home directory in the password database, but this would have an effect on all processes run with this user, whereas here it is just for the php-fpm processes (and childs).

If you use apache instead of php-fpm, you need to configure something similar for the corresponding virtual host:
SetEnv HOME /home/php-fpm

With this you can now configure /home/php-fpm/.ldaprc to point to the LDAP trust-store:
TLS_CACERT /usr/local/etc/openldap/ssl/ldap_server_cert.pem
TLS_CACERTDIR /usr/local/etc/openldap/ssl

If you use some python based application, you have to do something similar… if all else fails, it needs to be via a real home directory in the password database.

If you want to use the ldap client tools with any user, you need to add those lines to the /usr/local/etc/openldap/ldap.conf file too (there you can also set the default BASE – e.g. “BASE dc=example,dc=com” – and URI – e.g. “URI ldaps://″).

After restarting php-fpm or apache, you should now be able to make really secure connections to the ldap server.

Some important things

  • Every time you change the certificate of the LDAP server, you need to update the certifacte in the clients.
  • There are two TLS modes for the LDAP server, one is “ldaps”, and one is “ldap+starttls”. If you have your LDAP server running in ldaps-mode (typically on port 639), you do not need to specify in your php-ldap using application to enable TLS (which is doing a starttls after connecting… typically on port 389), but you need to specify “ldaps://servername:639” (assuming it runs on port 639) instead of just “servername” at the place in your application where you are told to enter the server name. For py-ldap I have checked just one application (netdata), and there TLS needs to be enabled, and the server name has to be without “ldaps://” as netdata is prefixing the “ldaps://” itself if tls is enabled.
  • Some places in the internet are telling to add “TLS_REQCERT never” into ldap.conf / .ldaprc. Technically this is not needed. Depending on your point of view this can either be good or bad (specifying it saves some CPU cycles on the server and the client, and some transfer time over the network – not specifying it allows to validate the certificated received to be compared to the certifcate being available locally, but I do not know if OpenLDAP is doing this, nor did I spend some time to evaluate if this improves security (if the important parts of the certificate are out-of-sync, the connection will fail)).
Send to Kindle


by netchild at October 03, 2020 11:08 AM

September 20, 2020

Colin Percival

On the use of a life

In a recent discussion on Hacker News, a commenter posted the following question:
Okay, so, what do we think about TarSnap? Dude was obviously a genius, and spent his time on backups instead of solving millennium problems. I say that with the greatest respect. Is this entrepreneurship thing a trap?
I considered replying in the thread, but I think it deserves an in-depth answer — and one which will be seen by more people than would notice a reply in the middle of a 100+ comment thread.

September 20, 2020 10:10 PM

July 30, 2020


Audio subsystem hardware internals

I wrote an introductory article on how the audio subsystem on SBCs work: CODECs, I2S, DTS, whole nine yards. WordPress editor didn’t seem to be a very convenient tool for this kind of write up so I gave asciidoc a try and so far liked it.

Link to the article:

by gonzo at July 30, 2020 07:13 AM

June 04, 2020


yubikey-agent on FreeBSD

Some time ago Filippo Valsorda wrote yubikey-agent, seamless SSH agent for YubiKeys. I really like YubiKeys and worked on the FreeBSD support for U2F in Chromium and pyu2f, getting yubikey-agent ported looked like an interesting project. It took some hacking to make it work but overall it wasn’t hard. Following is the roadmap on how to get it set up on FreeBSD. The actual details depend on your system (as you will see)

The first step is to set up middleware for accessing smart cards (YubiKey implements CCID smart-card protocol). The pcsc-lite package provides a daemon and a library for clients to communicate with the daemon. ccid is a plugin for pcsc-lite that implements the actual CCID protocol over USB. devd rules are to make the daemon re-scan USB devices on hotplug

sudo pkg install ccid pcsc-lite
sudo mkdir -p /usr/local/etc/devd
sudo tee /usr/local/etc/devd/pcscd.conf << __EOF__
attach 100 {
        device-name "ugen[0-9]+";
        action "/usr/local/sbin/pcscd -H";
detach 100 {
        device-name "ugen[0-9]+";
        action "/usr/local/sbin/pcscd -H";

sudo service devd restart
sudo sysrc pcscd_enable="YES
sudo service pcscd start

go and git are build requirements for the app. go get command is required because FreeBSD support was only recently merged into piv-go and the latest release, referenced in go.mod, still does not have it. go install command installs the app in ~/go/bin/. When new version of piv-go is released and yubikey-agent switches to using it, all these commands can be replaced with single go get command.

sudo pkg install go git
git clone
cd yubikey-agent
go get
go build
go install

The binary is in ~/go/bin/ directory, you can add it to your $PATH to type less.

The next step is setting up a Yubikey, it’s well documented on the official site. One caveat though is if PIN length is less than 6 chars the setup fails with the somewhat confusing message: “‼ The default PIN did not work.”

The actual usage of yubikey-agent depends on your setup. First of all, yubikey-agent is a “eventually GUI” app. At some point, when entering PIN is required it starts pinentry command which task is to present user with a dialog entry, get PIN, and pass it to the app. There are multiple pinentry flavors, with different front-ends: TTY, Qt, GTK. gopass module used in yubikey-agent does not work with plain TTY backend, and requires pinentry to be a GUI app. On Debian/Ubuntu users can switch between flavors and make /usr/bin/pinentry point to either Qt5 or GTK version, but in FreeBSD /usr/local/bin/pinentry is always TTY one. I worked around it by installing pinentry-qt5 package and making symlink.

sudo pkg install pinentry-qt5
sudo ln -s /usr/local/bin/pinentry-qt5 /usr/local/bin/pinentry

If you need /usr/local/bin/pinentry to be TTY version for some other stuff, there may be a problem. How to work around this depends on your requirements. I don’t have a ready recipe.

Because yubikey-agent is “eventually GUI” you can either start it in .xsession or .xinitrc files or start it some other way with DISPLAY env variable set. Other than that official documentation is a good source of information on how to use it.

by gonzo at June 04, 2020 07:03 AM

May 31, 2020

Colin Percival

Some new FreeBSD/EC2 features: EFS automount and ebsnvme-id

As my regular readers will be aware, I've been working on and gradually improving FreeBSD/EC2 for many years. Recently I've added two new features, which are available in the weekly HEAD and 12-STABLE snapshots and will appear in releases starting from 12.2-RELEASE.

May 31, 2020 03:50 AM

March 31, 2020

Erwin Lansing

Enjoy the view

Even if we cannot enjoy the view from the air, we can enjoy it from the ground. Here’s to keeping our spirits at least 30.000 ft high.

KLM KL1128 leaving Copenhagen (CPH)
on March 31, 2020

The post Enjoy the view appeared first on Droso.

by erwin at March 31, 2020 03:12 PM

March 19, 2020

Alexander Leidinger

Fighting the Coronavirus with FreeBSD (Folding@Home)

Photo by Fusion Medical Animation on Unsplash

Here is a quick HOWTO for those which want to provide some FreeBSD based compute resources to help finding vaccines. I have not made a port out of this and do not know yet if I get the time to make one. If someone wants to make a port, go ahead, do not wait for me.

UPDATE 2020-03-22: 0mp@ made a port out of this, it is in “biology/linux-foldingathome”.

  • Download the linux RPM of the Folding@Home client (this covers fahclient only).
  • Enable the linuxulator (kernel moduls and linux_base (first part of chapter 10.2) is enough).
  • Make sure linprocfs/linsysfs are mounted in /compat/linux/{proc|sys}.
  • cd /compat/linux
  • tar -xf /path/to/fahclient....rpm
  • add the “fahclient” user (give it a real home directory)
  • make sure there is no /compat/linux/dev or alternatively mount devfs there
  • mkdir /compat/linux/etc/fahclient
  • cp /compat/linux/usr/share/doc/fahclient/sample-config.xml /compat/linux/etc/fahclient/config.xml
  • chown -R fahclient /compat/linux/etc/fahclient
  • edit /compat/linux/fahclient/config.xml: modify user (mandatory) / team (optional: FreeBSD team is 11743) / passkey (optional) as appropriate (if you want to control the client remotely, you need to modify some more parts, but somehow the client “loses” a filedescriptor and stops working as it should if you do that on FreeBSD)
  • If you have the home directories of the users as no-exec (e.g. seperate ZFS datasets with exec=off): make sure the home directory of the fahclient user has exec permissions enabled
  • cd ~fahclient (important! it tries to write to the current work directory when you start it)
  • Start it: /usr/sbin/daemon /compat/linux/usr/bin/FAHClient /compat/linux/etc/fahclient/config.xml --run-as fahclient --pid-file=/var/run/ >/dev/null 2>&1

Per default it will now pick up some SARS-CoV‑2 (COVID-19) related folding tasks. There are some more config options (e.g. how much of the system resources are used). Please refer to the official Folding@Home site for more information about that. Be also aware that there is a big rise in compute resources donated to Folding@Home, so the pool of available work units may be empty from time to time, but they are working on adding more work units. Be patient.

Send to Kindle


by netchild at March 19, 2020 08:47 AM

October 22, 2018

Dag-Erling Smørgrav

DNS over TLS in FreeBSD 12

With the arrival of OpenSSL 1.1.1, an upgraded Unbound, and some changes to the setup and init scripts, FreeBSD 12.0, currently in beta, now supports DNS over TLS out of the box.

DNS over TLS is just what it sounds like: DNS over TCP, but wrapped in a TLS session. It encrypts your requests and the server’s replies, and optionally allows you to verify the identity of the server. The advantages are protection against eavesdropping and manipulation of your DNS traffic; the drawbacks are a slight performance degradation and potential firewall traversal issues, as it runs over a non-standard port (TCP port 853) which may be blocked on some networks. Let’s take a look at how to set it up.

Basic setup

As a simple test case, let’s set up our 12.0-ALPHA10 VM to use Cloudflare’s DNS service:

# uname -r
# cat >/etc/rc.conf.d/local_unbound <<EOF
# service local_unbound start
Performing initial setup.
/var/unbound/forward.conf created
/var/unbound/lan-zones.conf created
/var/unbound/control.conf created
/var/unbound/unbound.conf created
/etc/resolvconf.conf not modified
Original /etc/resolv.conf saved as /var/backups/resolv.conf.20181021.192629
Starting local_unbound.
Waiting for nameserver to start... good
# host is an alias for has address has IPv6 address 2610:1c1:1:606c::50:15 mail is handled by 0 .

Note that this is not a configuration you want to run in production—we will come back to this later.


The downside of DNS over TLS is the performance hit of the TCP and TLS session setup and teardown. We demonstrate this by flushing our cache and (rather crudely) measuring a cache miss and a cache hit:

# local-unbound-control reload
# time host >x
host > x 0.00s user 0.00s system 0% cpu 0.553 total
# time host >x
host > x 0.00s user 0.00s system 0% cpu 0.005 total

Compare this to querying our router, a puny Soekris net5501 running Unbound 1.8.1 on FreeBSD 11.1-RELEASE:

# time host gw >x
host gw > x 0.00s user 0.00s system 0% cpu 0.232 total
# time host >x
host gw > x 0.00s user 0.00s system 0% cpu 0.008 total

or to querying Cloudflare directly over UDP:

# time host >x      
host > x 0.00s user 0.00s system 0% cpu 0.272 total
# time host >x
host > x 0.00s user 0.00s system 0% cpu 0.013 total

(Cloudflare uses anycast routing, so it is not so unreasonable to see a cache miss during off-peak hours.)

This clearly shows the advantage of running a local caching resolver—it absorbs the cost of DNSSEC and TLS. And speaking of DNSSEC, we can separate that cost from that of TLS by reconfiguring our server without the latter:

# cat >/etc/rc.conf.d/local_unbound <<EOF
# service local_unbound setup
Performing initial setup.
Original /var/unbound/forward.conf saved as /var/backups/forward.conf.20181021.205328
/var/unbound/lan-zones.conf not modified
/var/unbound/control.conf not modified
Original /var/unbound/unbound.conf saved as /var/backups/unbound.conf.20181021.205328
/etc/resolvconf.conf not modified
/etc/resolv.conf not modified
# service local_unbound start
Starting local_unbound.
Waiting for nameserver to start... good
# time host >x
host > x 0.00s user 0.00s system 0% cpu 0.080 total
# time host >x
host > x 0.00s user 0.00s system 0% cpu 0.004 total

So does TLS add nearly half a second to every cache miss? Not quite, fortunately—in our previous tests, our first query was not only a cache miss but also the first query after a restart or a cache flush, resulting in a complete load and validation of the entire path from the name we queried to the root. The difference between a first and second cache miss is quite noticeable:

# time host >x 
host > x 0.00s user 0.00s system 0% cpu 0.546 total
# time host >x
host > x 0.00s user 0.00s system 0% cpu 0.004 total
# time host >x
host > x 0.00s user 0.00s system 0% cpu 0.168 total
# time host >x
host > x 0.00s user 0.00s system 0% cpu 0.004 total

Revisiting our configuration

Remember when I said that you shouldn’t run the sample configuration in production, and that I’d get back to it later? This is later.

The problem with our first configuration is that while it encrypts our DNS traffic, it does not verify the identity of the server. Our ISP could be routing all traffic to to its own servers, logging it, and selling the information to the highest bidder. We need to tell Unbound to validate the server certificate, but there’s a catch: Unbound only knows the IP addresses of its forwarders, not their names. We have to provide it with names that will match the x509 certificates used by the servers we want to use. Let’s double-check the certificate:

# :| openssl s_client -connect |& openssl x509 -noout -text |& grep DNS
DNS:*, IP Address:, IP Address:,, IP Address:2606:4700:4700:0:0:0:0:1111, IP Address:2606:4700:4700:0:0:0:0:1001

This matches Cloudflare’s documentation, so let’s update our configuration:

# cat >/etc/rc.conf.d/local_unbound <<EOF
# service local_unbound setup
Performing initial setup.
Original /var/unbound/forward.conf saved as /var/backups/forward.conf.20181021.212519
/var/unbound/lan-zones.conf not modified
/var/unbound/control.conf not modified
/var/unbound/unbound.conf not modified
/etc/resolvconf.conf not modified
/etc/resolv.conf not modified
# service local_unbound restart
Stopping local_unbound.
Starting local_unbound.
Waiting for nameserver to start... good
# host is an alias for has address has IPv6 address 2610:1c1:1:606c::50:15 mail is handled by 0 .

How can we confirm that Unbound actually validates the certificate? Well, we can run Unbound in debug mode (/usr/sbin/local-unbound -dd -vvv) and read the debugging output… or we can confirm that it fails when given a name that does not match the certificate:

# perl -p -i -e 's/cloudflare/cloudfire/g' /etc/rc.conf.d/local_unbound
# service local_unbound setup
Performing initial setup.
Original /var/unbound/forward.conf saved as /var/backups/forward.conf.20181021.215808
/var/unbound/lan-zones.conf not modified
/var/unbound/control.conf not modified
/var/unbound/unbound.conf not modified
/etc/resolvconf.conf not modified
/etc/resolv.conf not modified
# service local_unbound restart
Stopping local_unbound.
Waiting for PIDS: 33977.
Starting local_unbound.
Waiting for nameserver to start... good
# host
Host not found: 2(SERVFAIL)

But is this really a failure to validate the certificate? Actually, no. When provided with a server name, Unbound will pass it to the server during the TLS handshake, and the server will reject the handshake if that name does not match any of its certificates. To truly verify that Unbound validates the server certificate, we have to confirm that it fails when it cannot do so. For instance, we can remove the root certificate used to sign the DNS server’s certificate from the test system’s trust store. Note that we cannot simply remove the trust store entirely, as Unbound will refuse to start if the trust store is missing or empty.

While we’re talking about trust stores, I should point out that you currently must have ca_root_nss installed for DNS over TLS to work. However, 12.0-RELEASE will ship with a pre-installed copy.


We’ve seen how to set up Unbound—specifically, the local_unbound service in FreeBSD 12.0—to use DNS over TLS instead of plain UDP or TCP, using Cloudflare’s public DNS service as an example. We’ve looked at the performance impact, and at how to ensure (and verify) that Unbound validates the server certificate to prevent man-in-the-middle attacks.

The question that remains is whether it is all worth it. There is undeniably a performance hit, though this may improve with TLS 1.3. More importantly, there are currently very few DNS-over-TLS providers—only one, really, since Quad9 filter their responses—and you have to weigh the advantage of encrypting your DNS traffic against the disadvantage of sending it all to a single organization. I can’t answer that question for you, but I can tell you that the parameters are evolving quickly, and if your answer is negative today, it may not remain so for long. More providers will appear. Performance will improve with TLS 1.3 and QUIC. Within a year or two, running DNS over TLS may very well become the rule rather than the experimental exception.

by Dag-Erling Smørgrav at October 22, 2018 09:36 AM

April 09, 2018

Dag-Erling Smørgrav

Twenty years

Yesterday was the twentieth anniversary of my FreeBSD commit bit, and tomorrow will be the twentieth anniversary of my first commit. I figured I’d split the difference and write a few words about it today.

My level of engagement with the FreeBSD project has varied greatly over the twenty years I’ve been a committer. There have been times when I worked on it full-time, and times when I did not touch it for months. The last few years, health issues and life events have consumed my time and sapped my energy, and my contributions have come in bursts. Commit statistics do not tell the whole story, though: even when not working on FreeBSD directly, I have worked on side projects which, like OpenPAM, may one day find their way into FreeBSD.

My contributions have not been limited to code. I was the project’s first Bugmeister; I’ve served on the Security Team for a long time, and have been both Security Officer and Deputy Security Officer; I managed the last four Core Team elections and am doing so again this year.

In return, the project has taught me much about programming and software engineering. It taught me code hygiene and the importance of clarity over cleverness; it taught me the ins and outs of revision control; it taught me the importance of good documentation, and how to write it; and it taught me good release engineering practices.

Last but not least, it has provided me with the opportunity to work with some of the best people in the field. I have the privilege today to count several of them among my friends.

For better or worse, the FreeBSD project has shaped my career and my life. It set me on the path to information security in general and IAA in particular, and opened many a door for me. I would not be where I am now without it.

I won’t pretend to be able to tell the future. I don’t know how long I will remain active in the FreeBSD project and community. It could be another twenty years; or it could be ten, or five, or less. All I know is that FreeBSD and I still have things to teach each other, and I don’t intend to call it quits any time soon.


by Dag-Erling Smørgrav at April 09, 2018 08:35 PM

February 05, 2018

Remko Lodder

Reponse zones in BIND (RPZ/Blocking unwanted traffic).

A while ago, my dear colleague Mattijs came with an interesting option in BIND. Response zones. One can create custom "zones" and enforce a policy on that.

I never worked with it before, so I had no clue at all what to expect from it. Mattijs told me how to configure it (see below for an example) and offered to slave his RPZ policy-domains.

All of a sudden I was no longer getting a lot of ADS/SPAM and other things. It was filtered. Wow!

His RPZ zones were custom made and based on PiHole, where PiHole adds hosts to the local "hosts" file and sends it to (your local machine), which prevents it to reach the actual server at all, RPZ policies are much stronger and more dynamic.

RPZ policies offer the use of "redirecting" queries. What do I mean with that? well you can force a ADVERTISEMENT (AD for short) site / domain to the RPZ policy and return a NXDOMAIN. It no longer exists for the end-user. But you can also CNAME it to a domain/host you own and then add a webserver to that host and tell the user query'ing the page: "The site you are trying to reach had been pro-actively blocked by the DNS software. This is an automated action and an automated response. If you feel that this is not appropriate, please let us know on <mail link>", or something like that.

Once I noticed that and saw the value, I immediately saw the benefit for companies and most likely schools and home people. Mattijs had a busy time at work and I was recovering from health issues, so I had "plenty" of time to investigate and read on this. The RPZ policies where not updated a lot and caused some problems for my ereaders for example ( was used by them, see another post on this website for being grumpy about that). And I wanted to learn more about it. So what did I do?

Yes, I wrote my own parser. In perl. I wrote a "rpz-generator" (its actually called like that). I added the sources Mattijs used and generated my own files. They are rather huge, since I blocked ads, malware, fraud, exploits, windows stuff and various other things (gambling, fakenews, and stuff like that).

I also included some whitelists, because msfctinc was added to the lists and it made my ereaders go beserk, and we play a few games here and there which uses some advertisement sites, so we wanted to exempt them as well. It's better to know which ones they are and selectively allow them, then having traffic to every data collector out there.

This works rather well. I do not get a lot of complaints that things are not working. I do see a lot of queries going to "banned" sites everyday. So it is doing something .The most obvious one is that search results on google, not always are clickable. The ones that have those [ADV] sites, are blocked because they are advertising google sponsored sites, and they are on the list.. and google-analytics etc. It doesn't cause much harm to our internet surfing or use experience, with the exception of the ADV sites I just mentioned. My wife sometimes wants to click on those because she searches for something that happends to be on that list, but apart from that we are doing just fine.

One thing though, I wrote my setup and this article with my setup using "NXDOMAIN" which just gives back "site does not exist" messages. I want to make my script more smart by making it a selectable, so that some categories are CNAMED to a filtering domain and webpage, and some are NXDOMAIN'ed. If someone has experience with that, please show me some idea's and how that looks like and whether your end-users can do something with it or not. I think schools will be happy to present a block-page instead of NXdomain'ing some sites 🙂

Acknowledgements: Mattijs for teaching and showing me RPZ, ISC for placing RPZ in NAMED, and for having such excellent documentation to RPZ. The perl developers for having such a great tool around, and the various sites I use to get the blocklists from. Thank you all!

If you want to know more about the tool, please contact me and we can share whatever information is available 🙂

by Remko Lodder at February 05, 2018 11:09 PM

November 25, 2017

Erwin Lansing

120. Red ale

5,5kg Maris Otter
500g Crystal 60L
450g Munich I
100g Chocolate malt

Mash for 75 minutes at 65°C

30g Cascade @ 60 min.
30g Centennial @60 min.
30g Cascade @ 10 min.
30g Centennial @ 10 min.

Bottled at January 7, 2018 with 150g table sugar

White Labs WLP001 California ale yeast
OG: 1.052
FG: 1.006
ABV: 6,0%

The post 120. Red ale appeared first on Droso.

by erwin at November 25, 2017 05:34 PM

August 29, 2017

Remko Lodder

FreeBSD: Using Open-Xchange on FreeBSD

If you go looking for a usable webmail application, then you might end up with Open-Xchange (OX for short). Some larger ISP's are using OX as their webmail application for customers. It has a multitude of options available, using multiple email accounts, caldav/carddav included (not externally (yet?)) etc. There are commercial options available for these ISP's, but also for smaller resellers etc.

But, there is also the community edition available. Which is the installation you can run for free on your machine(s). It does not have some of the fancy modules that large setups need and require, and some updates might follow a bit later which are more directly delivered to paying customers, but it is very complete and usable.

I decided to setup this for my private clients who like to use a webmail client to access their email. At first I ran this on a VM using Bhyve on FreeBSD. The VM ran on CentOS6 and had the necessary bits installed for the OX setup (see: I modified the files I needed to change to get this going, and there, it just worked. But, running on a VM, with ofcourse limited CPU and Memory power assigned (There is always a cap) and it being emulated, I was not very happy with it. I needed to maintain an additional installation and update it, while I have this perfectly fine FreeBSD server instead. (Note that I am not against using bhyve at all, it works very well, but I wanted to reduce my maintenance base a bit :-)).

So a few days ago I considered just moving the stuff over to the FreeBSD host instead. And actually it was rather trivial to do with the working setup on CentOS.

At this moment I do not see an easy way to get the source/components directly from within FreeBSD. I have asked OX for help on this, so that we can perhaps get this sorted out and perhaps even make a Port/pkg out of this for use with FreeBSD.

The required host changes and software installation

The first thing that I did was to create a zfs dataset for /opt. The software is normally installed there, and in this case I wanted to have a contained location which I can snapshot, delete, etc, without affecting much of the normal system. I copied over the /opt/open-xchange directory from my CentOS installation. I looked at the installation on CentOS and noticed that it used a specific user 'open-xchange', which I created on my FreeBSD host. I changed the files to be owned by this user. Getting a process listing on the CentOS machine also revealed that it needed Java/JDK. So I installed the openjdk8 pkg (''pkg install openjdk8''). The setup did not yet start, there were errors about /bin/bash missing. Obviously that required installing bash (''pkg install bash'') and you can go with two ways, you can alter every shebang (#!) to match /usr/local/bin/bash (or better yet #!/usr/bin/env bash), or you can symlink /usr/local/bin/bash to /bin/bash, which is what I did (I asked OX to make it more portable by using the env variant instead).

The /var/log/open-xchange directory does not normally exist, so I created that and made sure that ''open-xchange'' could write to that. (mkdir /var/log/open-xchange && chown open-xchange /var/log/open-xchange).

I was able to startup the /opt/open-xchange/sbin/open-xchange process with that. I could not yet easily reach it, on the CentOS installation there are two files in the Apache configuration that needed some attention on my FreeBSD host. The Apache include files: ox.conf and proxy_http.conf will give away hints about what to change. In my case I needed to do the redirect on the Vhost that runs OX (RedirectMatch ^/$ /appsuite/) and make sure the /var/www/html/appsuite directory is copied over from the CentOS installation as well. You can stick it in any location, as long as you can reach it with your webuser and Alias it to the proper directory and setup directory access).

Apache configuration (Reverse proxy mode)

The proxy_http.conf file is more interesting, it includes the reverse proxy settings to be able to connect to the java instance of OX and service your clients. I needed to add a few modules in Apache so that it could work, I already had several proxy modules enabled for different reasons, so the list below can probably be trimmed a bit to the exact modules needed, but since this works for me, I might as well just show you;

LoadModule slotmem_shm_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule deflate_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule expires_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_connect_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_http_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_scgi_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_wstunnel_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_ajp_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule proxy_balancer_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule lbmethod_byrequests_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule lbmethod_bytraffic_module libexec/apache24/
LoadModule lbmethod_bybusyness_module libexec/apache24/

After that it was running fine for me. My users can login to the application and the local directory's are being used instead of the VM which ran it first. If you notice previous documentation on this subject, you will notice that there are more third party packages needed at that time. It could easily be that there are more modules needed than that I wrote about. My setup was not clean, the host already runs several websites (one of them being this one) and ofcourse support packages were already installed.

Updating is currently NOT possible. The CentOS installation requires running ''yum update'' periodically, but that is obviously not possible on FreeBSD. The packages used within CentOS are not directly usable for FreeBSD. I have asked OX to provide the various Community base and optional modules as .tar.gz files (raw) so that we can fetch them and install them on the proper location(s). As long as the .js/.jar files etc are all there and the scripts are modified to start, it will just work. I have not (yet) created a startup script for this yet. For the moment I will just start the VM and see whether there are updates and copy them over instead. Since I did not need to do additional changing on the main host, it is a very easy and straight forward process in this case.


There is no support for OX on FreeBSD. Ofcourse I would like to see at least some support to promote my favorite OS more, but that is a financial situation. It might not cost a lot to deliver the .tar.gz files so that we can package them and spread the usage of OX on more installations (and thus perhaps add revenue for OX as commercial installation), but it will cost FTE's to support more then that. If you see a commercial opportunity, please let them know so that this might be more and more realistic.

The documentation written above is just how I have setup the installation and I wanted to share it with you. I do not offer support on it, but ofcourse I am willing to answer questions you might have about the setup etc. I did not include the vhost configuration in it's entirely, if that is a popular request, I will add it to this post.

Open Questions to OX:

So as mentioned I have questioned OX for some choices:

  • Please use a more portable path for the Bash shell (#!/usr/bin/env bash)
  • Please allow the use of a different localbase (/usr/local/open-xchange for example)
  • Please allow FreeBSD packagers to fetch a "clean" .tar.gz, so that we can package this for OX and distribute it for our end-users.
  • Unrelated to the post above: Please allow the usage of external caldav/carddav providers


I have found another thing that I needed to change. I needed to use gsed (Gnu-sed) instead of FreeBSD-sed so that the listuser scripts work. Linux does that a bit differently but if you replace sed with gsed those scripts will work fine.

I have not yet got some feedback from OX.

by Remko Lodder at August 29, 2017 07:48 AM

April 11, 2017

Eric Anholt

This week in vc4 (2017-04-10): dmabuf fencing, meson

The big project for the last two weeks has been developing dmabuf fencing support for vc4.  Without dmabuf fences, when passing buffers between devices the user needs to manually wait for the job to finish on one (say, camera snapshot) before letting the other device get started (accumulating GL commands to texture from the camera snapshot).  That means leaving both devices idle for a moment while the CPU accumulates the command stream for the consumer, but the bigger pain is that it requires that the end user manage the synchronization.

With dma-buf fencing in the kernel, a "reservation object" generated by the dma-buf exporter tracks the fences of the various devices using the shared object, and then the device trivers get to look at that list and wait on on each others' fences when using it.

So far, I've got my reservations and fences being exported from vc4, so that pl111 display can wait for vc4 to be done before actually putting a new pageflip up on the screen.  I haven't quite hooked up the other direction, for camera capture into vc4 display or GL texturing (I don't have a testcase for this, as the current camera driver doesn't expose dmabufs), but it shouldn't be hard.

On the meson front, rendercheck is now converted to meson upstream.  I've made more progress on the X Server:  Xorg is now building, and even successfully executes Xorg -pogo with the previous modesetting driver in place.  The new modesetting driver is failing mysteriously.  With a build hack I got from the meson folks and some work from ajax, the sdksyms script I complained about in my last post isn't used at all on the meson build.  And, best of all, the meson devs have written the code needed for us to not even need the build hack I'm using.

It's so nice to be using a build system that's an actual living software project.

by anholt at April 11, 2017 12:48 AM

March 27, 2017

Eric Anholt

This week in vc4 (2017-03-27): Upstream PRs, more CMA, meson

Last week I sent pull requests for bcm2835 changes for 4.12.  We've got some DT updates for HDMI audio, DSI, and SDHOST, and defconfig changes to enable SDHOST.  The DT changes to actually enable SDHOST (and get wifi working on Pi3) won't land until 4.13.

I also wrote a patch to enable using more than 256MB of CMA memory (and not require any particular alignment).  The 256MB limit was due to a hardware bug: the binner's memory allocations get dereferenced with their top 4 bits set to the top 4 bits of the tile state data array's address.  Given that tile state allocations happen after CL setup (while the binner is running and throwing overflow interrupts), there was no way to guarantee that we could find overflow memory with the top bits matching.

The new solution, suggested by someone from the set top box group, is to allocate a single 16MB to 32MB buffer at HW init time, and return all of those types of allocations out of it, since it turns out you don't need much to complete rendering of any given scene.  I've been mulling over the details of a solution for a while, and finally wrote and tested the patch I wanted (tricky parts included freeing the memory when the hardware was idle, and how to track the lifetimes of the sub-allocations).  Results look good, and I'll be submitting it this week.

However, I spent most of the week on converting the X Server over to meson

Meson is a delightful new build system (based around Ninja on Linux) that massively speeds up builds, while also being portable to Windows (unlike autotools generally).  If you've ever tried to build the X stack on Raspberry Pi, you know that autotools is painfully slow.  It's also been the limiting factor for me in debugging my scripts for CI for the X Server -- something we'd really like to be doing as we hack on glamor or do refactors in the core.

So far all I've landed in this project is code deletion, as I find build options that aren't hooked up to anything, or code that isn't hooked up to build options.  This itself will speed up our builds, and ajax has been working in parallel on deleting a bunch of code that makes the build messier than it needs to be.  I've also submitted patches for rendercheck converting to meson (as a demo of what the conversion looks like), and I have Xephyr, Xvfb, Xdmx, and Xwayland building in the X Server with meson.

So far the only stumbling block for the meson conversion of the X Server is the sdksyms.c file.  It's the ugliest part of the build -- running the C preprocessor on a generated .c that #includes a bunch of .h tiles, then running the output of that through awk and trying to parse C using regular expressions.  This is, as you might guess, somewhat fragile.

My hope for a solution to this is to just quit generating sdksyms.c entirely.  Using ELF sections, we can convince the linker to not garbage collect symbols that it thinks are unused.  Then we get to just decorate symbols with XORG_EXPORT or XORG_EXPORT_VAR (unfortunately have to have separate sections for RO vs RW contents), and Xorg will have the correct set of symbols exported.  I started on a branch for this, ajax got it actually building, and now we just need to bash the prototypes so that the same set of symbols are exported before/after the conversion.

by anholt at March 27, 2017 10:43 PM

October 25, 2016

Murray Stokely

FreeBSD on Intel NUCs

I've been away from FreeBSD for a few years but I wanted some more functionality on my home network that I was able to configure with my Synology NAS and router. Specifically, I wanted:

  • a configurable caching name server that would serve up authoritative private names on my LAN and also validates responses with DNSSEC.
  • a more configurable DHCP server so I could make the server assign specific IPs to specific MAC addresses.
  • more compute power for transcoding videos for Plex.

Running FreeBSD 11 on an Intel NUC seemed like an ideal solution to keep my closet tidy. As of this week, $406.63 on Amazon buys a last generation i3 Intel NUC mini PC (NUC5I3RYH), with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage. This was the first model I tried since I found reports of others using this with FreeBSD online, but I was also able to get it working on the newer generation i5 based NUC6i5SYK with 16GB of RAM and 256GB of SSD. The major issue with these NUCs is that the Intel wireless driver is not supported in FreeBSD. I am not doing anything graphical with these boxes so I don't know how well the graphics work, but they are great little network compute nodes.


I downloaded the FreeBSD 11 memory stick images, and was pleased to see that the device booted fine off the memory stick without any BIOS configuration required. However, my installation failed trying to mount root ("Mounting from ufs:/dev/ufs/FreeBSD_Install failed with error 19."). Installation from an external USB DVD drive and over the network with PXE both proved more successful at getting me into bsdinstaller to complete the installation.

I partitioned the 128GB SSD device with 8GB of swap and the rest for the root partition (UFS, Journaled and Soft Updates). After installation I edited /etc/fstab to add a tmpfs(5) mount for /tmp. The dmesg output for this host is available in a Gist on Github.

Warren Block's article on SSD on FreeBSD and the various chapters of the FreeBSD Handbook were helpful. There were a couple of tools that were also useful in probing the performance of the SSD with my FreeBSD workload:

  • The smartctl tool in the sysutils/smartmontools package allows one to read detailed diagnostic information from the SSD, including wear patterns.
  • The basic benchmark built into diskinfo -t reports that the SSD is transferring 503-510MB/second.
But how well does it perform in practice?

Rough Benchmarks

This post isn't meant to report a comprehensive suite of FreeBSD benchmarks, but I did run some basic tests to understand how suitable these low power NUCs perform in practice. To start with, I downloaded the 11-stable source from Subversion and measured the build times to understand performance of the new system. All builds were done with a minimal 2 line make.conf:


Build Speed

Build CommandEnvironmentReal Times
make -j4 buildkernel/usr/src and /usr/obj on SSD10.06 minutes
make -j4 buildkernel/usr/src on SSD, /usr/obj on tmpfs9.65 minutes
make -j4 buildworld/usr/src and /usr/obj on SSD1.27 hours
make buildworld/usr/src and /urs/obj on SSD3.76 hours


In addition to the build times, I also wanted to look more directly at the performance reading from flash and reading from the NFS mounted home directories on my 4-drive NAS. I first tried Bonnie++, but then ran into a 13-year old bug in the NFS client of FreeBSD. After switching to Bonnie, I was able to gather some reasonable numbers. I had to use really large file sizes for the random write test to eliminate most of the caching that was artificially inflating the results. For those that haven't seen it, Brendan Gregg's excellent blog post highlights some of the issues of file system benchmarks like Bonnie.

Average of 3 bonnie runs with 40GB block size
ConfigurationRandom I/OBlock InputBlock Output
Seeks/SecCPU UtilizationReads/secCPU UtilizationWrites/secCPU Utilization

The block input rates from my bonnie benchmarks on the SSD were within 5% of the value provided by the much quick and dirtier diskinfo -t test.

Running Bonnie with less than 40GB file size yielded unreliable benchmarks due to caching at the VM layer. The following boxplot shows the random seek performance during 3 runs each at 24, 32, and 40GB file sizes. Performance starts to even off at this level but with smaller file sizes the reported random seek performance is much higher.

Open Issues

As mentioned earlier, I liked the performance I got with running FreeBSD on a 2015-era i3 NUC5I3RYH so much that I bought a newer, more powerful second device for my network. The 2016-era i5 NUC 6i5SYK is also running great. There are just a few minor issues I've encountered so far:

  • There is no FreeBSD driver for the Intel Wireless chip included with this NUC. Code for other platforms exists but has not been ported to FreeBSD.
  • The memory stick booting issue described in the installation section. It is not clear if it didn't like my USB stick for some reason, or the port I was plugging into, or if additional boot parameters would have solved the issue. Documentation and/or code needs to be updated to make this clearer.
  • Similarly, the PXE Install instructions were a bit scattered. The PXE section of the Handbook isn't specifically targetting new manual installations into bsdinstall. There are a few extra things you can run into that aren't documented well or could be streamlined.
  • Graphics / X11 are outside of the scope of my needs. The NUCs have VESA mounts so you can easily tuck them behind an LCD monitor, but it is not clear to me how well they perform in that role.

by Murray ( at October 25, 2016 03:27 AM

April 07, 2016

FreeBSD Foundation

Introducing a New Website and Logo for the Foundation

The FreeBSD Foundation is pleased to announce the debut of our new logo and website, signaling the ongoing evolution of the Foundation identity, and ability to better serve the FreeBSD Project. Our new logo was designed to not only reflect the established and professional nature of our organization, but also to represent the link between the Project and the Foundation, and our commitment to community, collaboration, and the advancement of FreeBSD.

We did not make this decision lightly.  We are proud of the Beastie in the Business Suit and the history he encompasses. That is why you’ll still see him make an appearance on occasion. However, as the Foundation’s reach and objectives continue to expand, we must ensure our identity reflects who we are today, and where we are going in the future. From spotlighting companies who support and use FreeBSD, to making it easier to learn how to get involved, spread the word about, and work within the Project, the new site has been designed to better showcase, not only how we support the Project, but also the impact FreeBSD has on the world. The launch today marks the end of Phase I of our Website Development Project. Please stay tuned as we continue to add enhancements to the site.

We are also in the process of updating all our collateral, marketing literature, stationery, etc with the new logo. If you have used the FreeBSD Foundation logo in any of your marketing materials, please assist us in updating them. New Logo Guidelines will be available soon. In the meantime, if you are in the process of producing some new literature, and you would like to use the new Foundation logo, please contact our marketing department to get the new artwork.

Please note: we've moved the blog to the new site. See it here.

by Anne Dickison ( at April 07, 2016 04:40 PM

February 26, 2016

FreeBSD Foundation

FreeBSD and ZFS

ZFS has been making headlines lately, so it seems like the right time to talk about the longstanding relationship between FreeBSD and ZFS.

For nearly seven years, FreeBSD has included a production quality ZFS implementation, making it one of the key features of the FreeBSD operating system. ZFS is a combined file system and volume manager. Decoupling physical media from logical volumes allows free space to be efficiently shared between all of the file systems. ZFS introduced unprecedented data integrity and reliability guarantees to storage on FreeBSD. ZFS supports varying levels of redundancy for tolerance of hardware failures and includes cryptographic checksums on all data to guard against corruption.

Allan Jude, VP of Operations at ScaleEngine and coauthor of FreeBSD Mastery: ZFS, said “We started using ZFS in 2011 because we needed to safely store a huge quantity of video for our customers. FreeBSD was, and still is, the best platform for deploying ZFS in production. We now store more than a petabyte of video using ZFS, and use ZFS Boot Environments on all of our servers.”

So why does FreeBSD include ZFS and contribute to its continued development? FreeBSD community members understand the need for continued development work as technologies evolve. OpenZFS is the truly open source successor to the ZFS project and the FreeBSD Project has participated in OpenZFS since its founding in 2013. FreeBSD developers and those from Delphix, Nexenta, Joyent, the ZFS on Linux project, and the Illumos project work together to continue improving OpenZFS.

FreeBSD’s unique open source infrastructure, copyfree license, and engaged community support the integration of a variety of free software components, including OpenZFS. FreeBSD makes an excellent operating system for servers and end users, and it provides a foundation for many open source projects and commercial products.

We're happy that ZFS is available in FreeBSD as a fully integrated, first class file system and wish to thank all of those who have contributed to it over the years.

by Anne Dickison ( at February 26, 2016 03:23 PM

February 20, 2016

Joseph Koshy

ELF Toolchain v0.7.1

I am pleased to announce the availability of version 0.7.1 of the software being developed by the ElfToolChain project.

This release offers:
  • Better support of the DWARF4 format.
  • Support for more machine architectures.
  • Many bug fixes and improvements.
The release also contains experimental code for:
  • A library handling the Portable Executable (PE) format.
  • A link editor.
The release may be downloaded from SourceForge:
Detailed release notes are available at the URL mentioned above.

Many thanks to the project's supporters for their contributions to the project.

by Joseph Koshy ( at February 20, 2016 12:06 PM

January 25, 2015

Giorgios Keramidas

Some Useful RCIRC Snippets

I have started using rcirc as my main IRC client for a while now, and I really like the simplicity of its configuration. All of my important IRC options now fit in a couple of screens of text.

All the rcirc configuration options are wrapped in an eval-after-load form, to make sure that rcirc settings are there when I need them, but they do not normally cause delays during the startup of all Emacs instances I may spawn:

(eval-after-load "rcirc"


     (message "rcirc has been configured.")))

The “rcirc-setup-forms” are then separated in three clearly separated sections:

  • Generic rcirc configuration
  • A hook for setting up nice defaults in rcirc buffers
  • Custom rcirc commands/aliases

Only the first set of options is really required. Rcirc can still function as an IRC client without the rest of them. The rest is there mostly for convenience, and to avoid typing the same setup commands more than once.

The generic options I have set locally are just a handful of settings to set my name and nickname, to enable logging, to let rcirc authenticate to NickServ, and to tweak a few UI details. All this fits nicely in 21 lines of elisp:

;; Identification for IRC server connections
(setq rcirc-default-user-name "keramida"
      rcirc-default-nick      "keramida"
      rcirc-default-full-name "Giorgos Keramidas")

;; Enable automatic authentication with rcirc-authinfo keys.
(setq rcirc-auto-authenticate-flag t)

;; Enable logging support by default.
(setq rcirc-log-flag      t
      rcirc-log-directory (expand-file-name "irclogs" (getenv "HOME")))

;; Passwords for auto-identifying to nickserv and bitlbee.
(setq rcirc-authinfo '(("freenode"  nickserv "keramida"   "********")
                       ("grnet"     nickserv "keramida"   "********")))

;; Some UI options which I like better than the defaults.
(rcirc-track-minor-mode 1)
(setq rcirc-prompt      "»» "
      rcirc-time-format "%H:%M "
      rcirc-fill-flag   nil)

The next section of my rcirc setup is a small hook function which tweaks rcirc settings separately for each buffer (both channel buffers and private-message buffers):

(defun keramida/rcirc-mode-setup ()
  "Sets things up for channel and query buffers spawned by rcirc."
  ;; rcirc-omit-mode always *toggles*, so we first 'disable' it
  ;; and then let the function toggle it *and* set things up.
  (setq rcirc-omit-mode nil)
  (set (make-local-variable 'scroll-conservatively) 8192))

(add-hook 'rcirc-mode-hook 'keramida/rcirc-mode-setup)

Finally, the largest section of them all contains definitions for some custom commands and short-hand aliases for stuff I use all the time. First come a few handy aliases for talking to ChanServ, NickServ and MemoServ. Instead of typing /quote nickserv help foo, it’s nice to be able to just type /ns help foo. This is exactly what the following three tiny forms enable, by letting rcirc know that “/cs”, “/ms” and “/ns” are valid commands and passing-along any arguments to the appropriate IRC command:

;; Handy aliases for talking to ChanServ, MemoServ and NickServ.

(defun-rcirc-command cs (arg)
  "Send a private message to the ChanServ service."
  (rcirc-send-string process (concat "CHANSERV " arg)))

(defun-rcirc-command ms (arg)
  "Send a private message to the MemoServ service."
  (rcirc-send-string process (concat "MEMOSERV " arg)))

(defun-rcirc-command ns (arg)
  "Send a private message to the NickServ service."
  (rcirc-send-string process (concat "NICKSERV " arg)))

Next comes a nifty little /join replacement which can join multiple channels at once, as long as their names are separated by spaces, commas or semicolons. To make its code more readable, it’s split into 3 little functions: rcirc-trim-string removes leading and trailing whitespace from a string, rcirc-normalize-channel-name prepends “#” to a string if it doesn’t have one already, and finally rcirc-cmd-j uses the first two functions to do the interesting bits:

(defun rcirc-trim-string (string)
  "Trim leading and trailing whitespace from a string."
  (replace-regexp-in-string "^[[:space:]]*\\|[[:space:]]*$" "" string))

(defun rcirc-normalize-channel-name (name)
  "Normalize an IRC channel name. Trim surrounding
whitespace, and if it doesn't start with a ?# character, prepend
one ourselves."
  (let ((trimmed (rcirc-trim-string name)))
    (if (= ?# (aref trimmed 0))
      (concat "#" trimmed))))

;; /j CHANNEL[{ ,;}CHANNEL{ ,;}CHANNEL] - join multiple channels at once
(defun-rcirc-command j (arg)
  "Short-hand for joining a channel by typing /J channel,channel2,channel,...

Spaces, commas and semicolons are treated as channel name
separators, so that all the following are equivalent commands at
the rcirc prompt:

    /j demo;foo;test
    /j demo,foo,test
    /j demo foo test"
  (let* ((channels (mapcar 'rcirc-normalize-channel-name
                           (split-string (rcirc-trim-string arg) " ,;"))))
    (rcirc-join-channels process channels)))

The last short-hand command lets me type /wii NICK to get “extended” whois information for a nickname, which usually includes idle times too:

;; /WII nickname -> /WHOIS nickname nickname
(defun-rcirc-command wii (arg)
  "Show extended WHOIS information for one or more nicknames."
  (dolist (nickname (split-string arg " ,"))
    (rcirc-send-string process (concat "WHOIS " nickname " " nickname))))

With that, my rcirc setup is complete (at least in the sense that I can use it to chat with my IRC friends). There are no fancy bells and whistles like DCC file transfers, or fancy color parsing, and similar things, but I don’t need all that. I just need a simple, fast, pretty IRC client, and that’s exactly what I have now.

by keramida at January 25, 2015 08:41 AM

January 07, 2015

Murray Stokely

AsiaBSDCon 2014 Videos Posted (6 years of BSDConferences on YouTube)

Sato-san has once created a playlist of videos from AsiaBSDCon. There were 20 videos from the conference held March 15-16, 2014 and papers can be found here. Congrats to the organizers for running another successful conference in Tokyo. A full list of videos is included below. Six years ago when I first created this channel videos longer than 10 minutes couldn't normally be uploaded to YouTube and we had to create a special partner channel for the content. It is great to see how the availability of technical video content about FreeBSD has grown in the last six years.

by Murray ( at January 07, 2015 11:22 PM

December 26, 2013

Giorgios Keramidas

Profiling is Our Friend

I recently wrote a tiny demo program to demonstrate to co-workers how one can build a cache with age-based expiration of its entries, using purely immutable Scala collections. The core of the cache was something like 25-30 lines of Scala code like this:

class FooCache(maxAgeMillis: Long) {
  def now: Long = System.currentTimeMillis

  case class CacheEntry(number: Long, value: Long,
                        birthTime: Long) {
    def age: Long = now - birthTime

  lazy val cache: AtomicReference[Hashmap[Long, CacheEntry]] =
    new AtomicReference(HashMap[Long, CacheEntry]]())

  def values: Hashmap[Long, CacheEntry] =
    cache.get.filter{ (key, entry) =>
      entry.age <= maxAgeMillis }

  def get(number: Long): Long = {
    values.find{ case (key, entry) =>
      key == number && entry.age <= maxAgeMillis
    } match {
      case Some((key, entry)) =>
        entry.value                // cache hit
      case _ =>
        val entry = CacheEntry(number, compute(number), now)
        cache.set(values + (number -> entry))

  def compute(number: Long): Long =
    { /* Some long-running computation based on 'number' */ }

The main idea here is that we keep an atomically updated reference to an immutable HashMap. Every time we look for entries in the HashMap we check if (entry.age <= maxAgeMillis), to skip over entries which are already too old to be of any use. Then on cache insertion time we go through the ‘values’ function which excludes all cache entries which have already expired.

Note how the cache itself is not ‘immutable’. We are just using an immutable HashMap collection to store it. This means that Scala can do all sorts of optimizations when multiple threads want to iterate through all the entries of the cache looking for something they want. But there’s an interesting performance bug in this code too…

It’s relatively easy to spot once you know what you are looking for, but did you already catch it? I didn’t. At least not the first time I wrote this code. But I did notice something was ‘odd’ when I started doing lookups from multiple threads and looked at the performance stats of the program in a profiler. YourKit showed the following for this version of the caching code:

JVM Profile #1

See how CPU usage hovers around 60% and we are doing a hefty bunch of garbage collections every second? The profiler quickly led me to line 17 of the code pasted above, where I am going through ‘values’ when looking up cache entries.

Almost 94% of the CPU time of the program was spent inside the .values() function. The profiling report included this part:

|                           Name                            | Time   | Time |
|                                                           | (ms)   | (%)  |
| demo.caching                                              | 62.084 | 99 % |
| +-- d.caching.Numbers.check(long)                         | 62.084 | 99 % |
|   +-- d.caching.FooCacheModule$FooCache.check(long)       | 62.084 | 99 % |
|     +---d.caching.FooCacheModule$FooCache.values()        | 58.740 | 94 % |
|     +---scala.collection.AbstractIterable.find(Function1) |  3.215 |  5 % |

We are spending far too much time expiring cache entries. This is easy to understand why with a second look at the code of the get() function: every cache lookup does old entry expiration and then searches for a matching cache entry.

The way cache-entry expiration works with an immutable HashMap as the underlying cache entry store is that values() iterates over the entire cache HashMap, and builds a new HashMap containing only the cache entries which have not expired. This is bound to take a lot of procesisng power, and it’s also what’s causing the creation of all those ‘new’ objects we are garbage collecting every second!

Do we really need to construct a new cache HashMap every time we do a cache lookup? Of course not… We can just filter the entries while we are traversing the cache.

Changing line 17 from values.find{} to cache.get.find{} does not do cache-entry expiration at the time of every single lookup, and now our cache lookup speed is not limited by how fast we can construct new CacheEntry objects, link them to a HashMap and garbage-collect the old ones. Running the new code through YourKit once more showed an immensely better utilization profile for the 8 cores of my laptop’s CPU:

JVM Profile #2

Now we are not spending a bunch of time constructing throw-away objects, and garbage collector activity has dropped by a huge fraction. We can also make much more effective use of the available CPU cores for doing actual cache lookups, instead of busy work!

This was instantly reflected at the metrics I was collecting for the actual demo code. Before the change, the code was doing almost 6000 cache lookups per second:

-- Timers -------------------------------
             count = 4528121
         mean rate = 5872.91 calls/second
     1-minute rate = 5839.87 calls/second
     5-minute rate = 6053.27 calls/second
    15-minute rate = 6648.47 calls/second
               min = 0.29 milliseconds
               max = 10.25 milliseconds
              mean = 1.34 milliseconds
            stddev = 1.45 milliseconds
            median = 0.62 milliseconds
              75% <= 0.99 milliseconds
              95% <= 4.00 milliseconds
              98% <= 4.59 milliseconds
              99% <= 6.02 milliseconds
            99.9% <= 10.25 milliseconds

After the change to skip cache expiration at cache lookup, and only do cache entry expiration when we are inserting new cache entries, the same timer reported a hugely improved speed for cache lookups:

-- Timers -------------------------------
             count = 27500000
         mean rate = 261865.50 calls/second
     1-minute rate = 237073.52 calls/second
     5-minute rate = 186223.68 calls/second
    15-minute rate = 166706.39 calls/second
               min = 0.00 milliseconds
               max = 0.32 milliseconds
              mean = 0.02 milliseconds
            stddev = 0.02 milliseconds
            median = 0.02 milliseconds
              75% <= 0.03 milliseconds
              95% <= 0.05 milliseconds
              98% <= 0.05 milliseconds
              99% <= 0.05 milliseconds
            99.9% <= 0.32 milliseconds

That’s more like it. A cache lookup which completes in 0.32 milliseconds for the 99-th percentile of all cache lookups is something I definitely prefer working with. The insight from profiling tools, like YourKit, was instrumental in both understanding what the actual problem was, and verifying that the solution actually had the effect I expected it to have.

That’s why profiling is our friend!

by keramida at December 26, 2013 04:38 AM

September 25, 2012

Joseph Koshy

New release: ELF Toolchain v0.6.1

I am pleased to announce the availability of version 0.6.1 of the software being developed by the ElfToolChain project.

This new release supports additional operating systems (DragonFly BSD, Minix and OpenBSD), in addition to many bug fixes and documentation improvements.

This release also marks the start of a new "stable" branch, for the convenience of downstream projects interested in using our code.

Comments welcome.

by Joseph Koshy ( at September 25, 2012 02:25 PM