New to FreeBSD - Some questions

Waitman Gobble gobble.wa at
Fri Jun 22 19:28:57 UTC 2012

On Jun 22, 2012 10:42 AM, "Eitan Adler" <lists at> wrote:
> On 21 June 2012 04:24, Fred Morcos <fred.morcos at> wrote:
> >
> >                     Introduction and background
> > q) Is it possible to run a FreeBSD system without much building? In
> > other words, can I survive by depending on packages and only resorting
> > to ports when really needed?
> To an extent. It is currently possible to use only packages, but they
> tend to be out of date and upgrading is non-easy without a third party
> tool (such as portmaster or portupgrade).
> There is currently active work to fix these issues in a project called
> pkgng. This will likely become the default in the next couple of
> months.
> > q) Where does the FreeBSD project stand on this matter? From what I
> > noticed is that the base system seems to adhere to the tranditional
> > flat text files for configuration and simple tools that do a good job,
> > leaving it up to the user to combine those small tools to create
> > larger, more complex ones (a UNIX inheritance).
> FreeBSD tends to be conservative. The project won't implement a
> complex daemon without clear benefits and specific discussion on the
> pros and cons.
> > q) Is a FreeBSD stable base system with "current" high-level
> > components possible? Will it avoid the issues I experienced on
> > Linux-based systems?
> Generally, yes. There will likely be some adjustment period as you
> learn how FreeBSD works, but most people have few problems.
> > q) I would assume UFS with J+SU is "fast enough" for a laptop?
> Yes. Most people call it "SU+J" ;).
> Don't use it for an SSD though
> > q) Does ZFS make sense on a laptop? Any advantages of using it over
> > USF with J+SU? I am not interested in any striping or mirroring on
> > the laptops, but the compression features is very attractive for the
> > HDDs in the first laptop.
> ZFS is ram hog. How much ram does your laptop have?
> > q) The second laptop has an SSD, would UFS with/without J and
> > with/without SU or ZFS make more sense for it?
> Make sure to enable TRIM support if your SSD supports it.
> > q) Can I live with a desktop environment (Gnome or KDE) and desktop
> > applications (Firefox, Libreoffice, etc) by relying only on packages?
> Sort of. With pkgng this will become a lot easier.  If you are
> currently willing to deal with out of date packages until pkgng
> becomes default (or want to work with non-default technology now) it
> will be possible.
> > q) Does the NVIDIA binary driver work reliably? I would like to hear
> > personal experiences with that.
> Yes. This has never been the cause of any problem for me
> > q) Does the bsdinstall align partitions to device blocks by default
> > for optimal speed? If not, I have found that I can use gpart with -a
> > and -b which will require me to calculate the start and end offsets of
> > each partition manually. Is there a tool that can automatically do
> > that for me?
> You said you had an SSD: it doesn't matter.
> > q) Adding tmpmfs="YES" to /etc/rc.conf is analogous to a tmpfs /tmp on
> > Linux-based systems, correct?
> Yes.
> > Any other directories that might make
> > sense to have as an mfs (ie, in /var)?
> Don't use tmpfs for anything in /var
> > q) Is there a place where all sysctl variables are documented? It
> > occurred to me when I was trying to find the memory usage on my system
> > but `sysctl -a | grep mem' shows a whole bunch of stuff.
> You can try sysctl -ad but most of the systls are either documented in
> man pages or not at all. :(
> > q) How can I set proxy settings system-wide? Same for PACKAGESITE (for
> > the pkg_* tools), how can I set a mirror system-wide? /etc/profile?
> Same as any other unix system. It depends on what shell you use.
> > q) I noticed all file/data-sizes are in bytes (ls, dd, etc), is there
> > a way to change that system-wide to be in human-readable format?
> usually adding -h (for "human") helps. Also try setting BLOCKSIZE.
> each program might have some more explanation in the man page.
> >
> >                                System
> >
> > To assess my understanding, the system is split into kernel, base,
> > documentation, games, lib32 (on 64-bit systems) and ports.
> This distinction is rarely used. The only place that cares for these
> differences is the installer.
> > There is
> > another split between base and ports where base includes everything
> > previously mentioned minus ports.
> This is the one that matters
> >Now, there are 3 "branches" of the
> > base system: RELEASE, STABLE and CURRENT. RELEASE means 9.0 and stays
> > that way until 10.0 is released. STABLE means 9.0, 9.1, 9.2,
> > etc. CURRENT means "trunk" in SVN terms. Is all that correct?
> This is incorrect.
> RELEASE are all releases: There is 9.0, 9.1, 9.2, etc.
> STABLE is a misnomer: it is a *development* branch but the ABI / KPI
> is kept stable.
> CURRENT is "HEAD" and where new commits go before being "MFCed" or
> Merged From Current to -stable. Releases are branched from -STABLE.
> -STABLE is branched from -HEAD.
> > Also,
> > when somewhere is mentioned `make world', this means to rebuild all
> > installed ports which doesn't include base, I assume?
> "make world" is always wrong. "make buildworld" is closer.
> In source land "world" is everything but the kernel. Ports are not
> > q) The files in /etc/rc.d are all executable, from my understanding,
> > those files will get executed and it is their duty to check the
> > variable `<rc-script-name>_enable' for whether they should start or
> > not. Wouldn't it be more efficient to chmod -x or +x them to
> > disable/enable?
> For a variety of reasons, no. They do more than just check *_enable in
> complex cases.
> > q) Is there a tool that can test a set of mirrors for connection time
> > and speed (for packages and ports)? Analogous to Archlinux's
> > rankmirrors?
> looks in ports-mgmt/ there is fastestmirrors or something like that. I
> ran it once and forgot about it ;)
> > q) Is it possible for the pkg_* tools (especially pkg_add -r) to
> > display progress?
> no.
> > q) I noticed in the ports collection that there were some outdated
> > packages (skype-2.2, gimp-2.6), should I report that and where? (A
> > PR?)
> skype is out of date cause the newer ones don't work.
> Generally, reporting out of date ports as PRs with patches (or to
> ports at without patches might help) is a good thing.
> Larger ports tend to be actively maintained. For gimp try asking
> gnome at for progress.
> > q) Is it possible to have the ports system compile into an mfs (to
> > avoid disk access)?
> Yes. Set WRKDIRPREFIX in /etc/make.conf to a mfs disk
> > q) Is it possible to have the user asked to change their password the
> > first time they log in (using an OTP) in a simple way? I looked at
> > OPIE but it seems to be much more complex than what I need.
> Look at pw -e ?
> Hope I helped and didn't disappoint too much :)
> --
> Eitan Adler
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packages in /current/Latest are generrally up to date, sometimes trail
ports a couple of days.

its quite easy to pkg_delete --force and pkg_add new version to upgrade...
i've been doing this for some time without problems. its trivial to make a
python script to check for latest version avail and upgrade, i haven't
timed it but 700 or so package updates take about 30 mins..

i look forward to pkgng, on low power devices build from ports can take a
week and then some. :)

Waitman Gobble
San Jose California USA

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