FreeBSD quick news and links (21/07/2010)

I Super-accurate computer clock created
A free pies of software that allows computers to keep phenomenally accurate time has been developed by researchers in Melbourne. The software, called RADclock, should improve everything from Skype conversations to the tracking of subway trains.

For computers to communicate effectively keeping accurate time is vital. Every application or service that relies on computers collaborating implies that the computers are synchronised,” Julien says.

The problem is, while the clocks built into most computers keep time well, they’re not 100 per cent accurate. These clocks monitor how many times per second a quartz crystal inside the computer vibrates. But this ‘crystal frequency’ is a little different for every crystal, and changes all the time, due to variations in temperature, for example. “And that can make a big difference when errors accumulate,” he says.

At the moment, RADclock works only with open source software, such as Linux and FreeBSD, but a Windows version may be available in the future.

Read more:  Super-accurate computer clock created

II SIFTR Committed
On July 3, Lawrence Stewart committed SIFTR (Statistical Information For TCP Research) to HEAD. SIFTR was part of the Improvements to the FreeBSD TCP Stack project that the Foundation funded last year. SIFTR is a kernel module that logs a range of statistics on active TCP connections to a log file. It provides the ability to make highly granular measurements of TCP connection state, aimed at system administrators, developers and researchers. (source: FreeBSD Foundation)

III New jail utility “qjail” published for public usage
This is a news announcement to inform people who have interest in jails, that a new jail utility is available.

Has a file suitable for the pkg_add command or the port make files can be downloaded and a “make install” run.

Qjail [ q = quick ] is a 4th generation wrapper for the basic chroot jail system that includes security and performance enhancements. Plus a new level of “user friendliness” enhancements dealing with deploying just a few jails or large jail environments consisting of 100’s of jails. Qjail requires no knowledge of the jail command usage.

Source and more info: New jail utility “qjail” published for public usage

IV HOW-TO: Install Apache Tomcat 6 on FreeBSD 8.0
Calebscreek writes: On a recent whim, I decided to spend a Saturday morning attempting to install Apache Tomcat 6 on FreeBSD 8.0. It turned out that it’s not as straightforward as some GNU/Linux distros*; particularly those that are Debian-based. Through some trial and error, though, I got things working as I liked.
Step-by-step guide: Install Apache Tomcat 6 on FreeBSD 8.0

V New FreeBSD Committers

  • Joseph S. Atkinson (ports)
  • Tijl Coosemans (src)

VI iXsystems Introduces New iX-TB4X2: Triton TwinBlade Blade Servers
iXsystems, the company sponsoring PC-BSD‘s development, has introduced the iX-TB4X2.
The new Triton TwinBlade Server from iXsystems is the ideal solution for system administrators who need energy efficiency, density, and ease of management in Linux and FreeBSD environments. The iX-TB4X2 delivers the most energy-efficient blade server in the industry with four N+1 redundant, high-efficiency (94%) 2500W power supplies.

“Unlike other server companies, iXsystems’ focus is on open source hardware design. That’s why we know that finding the right hardware that is compatible with a software solution is of critical importance to open source system administrators. Our customers can have full confidence that the new iX-TB4X2 is fully pre-tested for compatibility with their desired OS and won’t encounter problems post-deployment.”

says Andrew Madrid, product marketing manager, iXsystems, Inc

Full Press Release: iXsystems Introduces New iX-TB4X2: Triton TwinBlade Blade Servers

VII GhostBSD 1.5 beta amd64 is out

VIII DuckDuckGo: A New Search Engine Built from Open Source
DuckDuckGo is a new search engine focused on relevant results and respecting user privacy. Actually a mash-up of several other sites like Wikipedia, About, Bing, and Yahoo, DuckDuckGo also uses it’s own web crawler: the DuckDuckBot. DuckDuckGo uses what it calls Zero-click search results to try to guess what you are looking for and give it to you directly in your search results. I’ve been using DuckDuckGo for a few weeks now, and I’m impressed. What further impresses me is that the entire site is built on open source tools, ranging from FreeBSD for the operating system to good old-fashioned Perl for the logic.

FreeBSD DAHDI driver project announcement

The FreeBSD Foundation has announced it will sponsor Max Khon to finish the DAHDI FreeBSD driver port.

DAHDI (Digium/Asterisk Hardware Device Interface) is the open source device interface technology used to control Digium and other legacy telephony interface cards.

“The purpose of DAHDI/FreeBSD project is to make it possible to use FreeBSD as a base system for software PBX solutions.

DAHDI (Digium/Asterisk Hardware Device Interface) is an open-source device driver framework and a set of HW drivers for E1/T1, ISDN digital and FXO/FXS analog cards ( Asterisk is one of the most popular open-source software PBX solutions.

The project includes porting DAHDI framework and HW drivers for E1/T1, FXO/FXS analog and ISDN digital cards to FreeBSD. This also includes TDMoE support, software and HW echo cancellation (Octasic, VPMADT032) and HW transcoding support (TC400B). The work is ongoing in the official DAHDI SVN repository with the close collaboration with DAHDI folks at Digium.

The project is nearing its completion: DAHDI framework and HW drivers telephony cards has been ported and tested. There are a number of success stories from early adopters who use E1/T1 and FXO/FXS cards on FreeBSD for several months.”

Congratulations, Max, for receiving the grant. It’s great to see FreeBSD branching out into another specialist area. AskoziaPBX used to be based on FreeBSD, but hardware support issues made the team decide to move to a Linux based PBX solution. Hopefully we will soon see another fully FreeBSD based PBX system (Askozia, Michael Iedema?)

NYCBSDCon 2010 – Call for Papers

The New York City BSD Conference (NYCBSDCon) is the main technical conference on the US East Coast for the BSD community to get together to share and gain knowledge, to network with like-minded people, and to have fun. This event is organized by members of the New York City *BSD Users Group (NYC*BUG).

This bi-annual event will be held at Manhattan’s prestigious Cooper Union on November 12-14, 2010.

The NYCBSDCon program committee is now accepting submissions presentations surrounding the BSD operating systems. The committee is looking to attract a wide range of speakers and attendees.

Each talk is expected to be 45-50 minutes, including a few minutes for questions and answers. All presentations will be recorded for audio and video. Presenters will have audio/visual and network connectivity.

Check the Schedule and Presentations:  New York City BSD Conference 2010

FreeBSD Core Team 2010 Elected

One of the features that sets FreeBSD apart from other open source opeating systems, is its governance structure. FreeBSD is not owned by a company, though many companies use it and contribute code back, but yet is run as if it were a company, with the Core Team taking decisions and steering the Project.

The FreeBSD Core Team would be equivalent to the board of directors if the FreeBSD Project were a company. The primary task of the Core Team is to make sure FreeBSD, as a whole, is in good shape and is heading in the right directions. It is also responsible for approving new sourc committers, resolving disputes between developers, and appointing sub-committees for specific purposes, including responsibility for security advisories (the Security Officer Team), release engineering (the Release Engineering Team) and managing the ports collection (the Port Manager team). The Core Team has been elected by FreeBSD developers every 2 years since 2000.

The FreeBSD Project has completed the 2010 FreeBSD Core Team election, with the following developers elected:

Congratulations to all (re)elected and we wish the new team the best for the next 2 years.  May FreeBSD 9 and FreeBSD 10 become the best open source systems ever.

How the FreeBSD Project works

FreeBSD Security Advisory (mbuf)

The FreeBSD Security Team have identified a little bug in FreeBSD where a lost mbuf flag can result in data loss.

“I. Background

An mbuf is a basic unit of memory management in the FreeBSD kernel inter-process communication and networking subsystem. Network packets and socket buffers are dependent on mbufs for their storage.

Data can be embedded directly in mbufs, or mbufs can instead reference external buffers. The sendfile(2) system call uses external mbuf storage to directly map the contents of a file into a chain of mbufs for
transmission purposes. The mbuf object supports a read-only flag that must be honored to prevent modification or writes to buffer data in cases like these.

II. Problem Description

The read-only flag is not correctly copied when a mbuf buffer reference is duplicated. When the sendfile(2) system call is used to transmit data over the loopback interface, this can result in the backing pages
for the transmitted file being modified, causing data corruption.

III. Impact

This data corruption can be exploited by an local attacker to escalate their privilege by carefully controlling the corruption of system files. It should be noted that the attacker can corrupt any file they have read
access to.”

For a workaround and steps to fix this, have a look at the announcement

FreeBSD quick news and links (08/07/2010)

I Running old binaries on -current

Did you know you can old FreeBSD binaries on recent versions? As strange as it may sound, all FreeBSD versions have an ABI compatibility with previous versions, and you can run files compiled years ago. However, there seems to be a little problem now with running 1.0 packages on Current (9.0). Should be fixed soon. (via)

II Benchmarks of FreeBSD 8.1 RC2 against FreeBSD 8.0, Ubuntu Linux 10.10

Phoronix has tested the above three operating systems and compared them. It’s maybe like comparing apples with pears, but nonetheless interesting benchmarks: Benchmarks Of FreeBSD 8.1 RC2 Against FreeBSD 8.0, Ubuntu Linux

FreeBSD 8.1 is slated to be released this month as the first significant update to FreeBSD since the rollout of the 8.0 release last November. With the second release candidate of FreeBSD 8.1 having just been made available a few days back, we have conducted a set of tests comparing the performance of FreeBSD 8.1 RC2 versus FreeBSD 8.0 and an Ubuntu 10.10 development snapshot.FreeBSD 8.1 is slated to be released this month as the first significant update to FreeBSD since the rollout of the 8.0 release last November. With the second release candidate of FreeBSD 8.1 having just been made available a few days back, we have conducted a set of tests comparing the performance of FreeBSD 8.1 RC2 versus FreeBSD 8.0 and an Ubuntu 10.10 development snapshot.

III MeetBSD 2010 Poland Pictures

The MeetBSD 2010 conference (Kracow, 2-3 July) has finished. You can read the presentation summaries and view the photos (day 1 and day 2)

IV Something More Revelant then

Generally is only known by BSD users (and definitely not by all of them), so even having BIG stats out there is more or less pointless.

But there is other way to ‘impress’ other people with BSD stats … portal. It mainly focuses on Linux distributions but it also gathers stats for BSDs and OpenSolaris/Solaris ‘distributions’.

How to do this: Something More Revelant then


I came across warBSD the other day. Has anybody ever used it and if so, what is your experience. Please share in the comments below.

WarBSD was an attempt at using FreeBSD with the PicoBSD build scripts to make a *BSD based war driving kit.

Serve an anonymous shell via Tor

“While most people use Tor simply for anonymous web browsing, Tor also provides a slick way to host a service (web site, IRC chat server, etc) called a Hidden Service. These services are “hidden” because they are only accessible via the Tor network, and are under the same anonymity umbrella as Tor clients — unless they accidentally expose information about themselves, it is essentially impossible to determine the source location of the service.” continues

KDE 4.4.5 in ports

As of 29/06 KDE 4.4.5 is available in the FreeBSD ports directory. KDE 4.4.5 announcement

FreeBSD Foundation funded projects (Jail, DTrace)

One of the ways the FreeBSD Foundation supports FreeBSD, is by funding FreeBSD development (e.g. the Jail based virtualisation project). The Foundation has agreed to fund two more projects:

I Resource Containers Project

This project will be undertaken by Edward Tomasz Napierala. “Unlike Solaris zones, the current implementation of FreeBSD Jails does not provide per-jail resource limits. As a result, users are often forced to replace jails with other virtualization mechanisms. The goal of this project is to create a single, unified framework for controlling resource utilisation, and to use that framework to implement per-jail resource limits. In the future, the same framework might be used to implement more sophisticated resource controls, such as Hierarchical Resource Limits, or to implement mechanisms similar to AIX WLM. It could also be used to provide precise resource usage accounting for administrative or billing purposes.”

“It’s great that the Foundation decided to fund this project. It will make jail-based virtualization a much better choice in many scenarios, for example for Virtual Private Server providers.”

Edward noted.

II DTrace Userland Project

Rui Paulo has been awarded a grant to add DTrace userland support to FreeBSD.

DTrace is a general purpose and lightweight tracing framework that allows administrators, developers and users to investigate causes of system failure or performance bottlenecks. The FreeBSD operating system has had support for kernel-only DTrace since FreeBSD 8.0, but DTrace userland support was missing. Having userland support in DTrace allows inspection of userland software itself and its correlation with the kernel, thus allowing a much better picture of what exactly is going on behind the scenes.

This project will first concentrate on adding libproc support for symbol to address mapping, address to symbol mapping, breakpoint setup and the rtld interactions with DTrace. Next it will focus on DTrace process control, importing the pid provider and adapting it to FreeBSD and porting the userland statically defined probe provider (usdt). Finally it will bring in the plockstat provider.

“By having userland DTrace support, companies can make their products perform much better on FreeBSD due to the fact that they now have access to this amazing tool. When we mix the userland support with the kernel side DTrace support, we can also make FreeBSD a better operating system because we can investigate performance bottlenecks much easier.”

said FreeBSD developer Rui Paul

Well done to Rui and Edward. We’re looking forward to testing the results of their work at the end of the year. If you wish to see more of these sort of projects, you can donate to the FreeBSD Foundation.