Relevance of pkg-descr for misc/tmux, sysutils/screen

Peter Jeremy peterjeremy at
Wed Sep 23 21:39:55 UTC 2009

I am often in the position where I want a tool to do something but
don't know whether a suitable tool exists.  My first port of call is
generally to grep the ports INDEX and pkg-descr files for likely
keywords.  In most cases, this seems to work, however I've just found
an example where, IMHO, the most important feature in the port isn't
mentioned at all.

Since I have never used either tmux or screen, the currently running
bikeshed in -arch and -current prompted me to have a look at both
tools.  Reading the pkg-descr for screen, I get four pieces of
1) "full-screen window manager that multiplexes a physical terminal
   between several processes" - unless I am using a headless server,
   why would I bother when FreeBSD supports multiple VTYs or xterms.
2) "VT100 superset" - same as VTY and xterm
3) "scrollback history buffer for each virtual terminal" - same as VTY/xterm
4) "a copy-and-paste mechanism" - same as VTY and xterm.

The pkg-descr for tmux basically says "BSD licensed version of screen".

At this point, I was left wondering why the longest bikeshed I've seen
for a _very_ long time was arguing over the inclusion of a tool that
had no apparent usefulness in FreeBSD unless you are running a
headless server.  Even allowing for the inverse relationship between
the length of a bikeshed and its importance, as well as the number of
people who run headless servers (I do myself) there seemed to be
something missing...

Following a discussion on IRC, I discovered that screen (and tmux)
allows you to detach from a process and reattach to it later - very
useful when you want remote or intermittent access to a long-running
process - I use misc/dtach to do this with my IRC client.  Unlike the
documented features, this _is_ something that doesn't exist in
FreeBSD by default.  It's a pity that you'd never know about it by
reading the pkg-descr file.

Peter Jeremy
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