Death of a FreeBSD contributor: John Birrell

Craig Rodrigues writes that his friend and colleague John Birrell passed away.

John has contributed much to the Free code over the years:

  • port of Sun’s DTrace to FreeBSD (2007)
  • contributed BSD licensed libdwarf to FreeBSD (2008)
  • contributed initial implementation of FreeBSD on DEC Alpha, from NetBSD (1998)
  • contributed original libc_r pthread implementation to FreeBSD before KSE (1998)
  • contributed to port of Sun UltraSPARC-T1 (Niagara) to FreeBSD (2005)

John Birrell was a Unix developer since 1988 and a FreeBSD user since version 1.0.5.  He had a Bachelor Degree in Engineering (Electrical, First Class Honours, 1981) from Monash University in Australia.

Over the years he developed with various commercial Unix variants such as SysVR2/3, Solaris, AIX, HP-UX, OSF/1 and SCO and several embedded operatings systems like VxWorks, LynxOS and Microware’s OS9.

In the open source world he was once a user of NetBSD and OpenBSD in addition to FreeBSD. Afterwards, he preferred just to use FreeBSD.

While on a business trip visiting his employer Juniper Networks in Sunnyvale, California, U.S.A., John suffered a stroke, and passed away on November 20, 2009.

Read more about John and his achievements

FreeBSD 8.0 benchmarked against Linux, OpenSolaris

Phoronix has done another benchmark test of FreeBSD against other *nix systems: Fedora and OpenSolaris.

“With the stable release of FreeBSD 8.0 arriving last week we finally were able to put it up on the test bench and give it a thorough look over with the Phoronix Test Suite. We compared the FreeBSD 8.0 performance between it and the earlier FreeBSD 7.2 release along with Fedora 12 and Ubuntu 9.10 on the Linux side and then the OpenSolaris 2010.02 b127 snapshot on the Sun OS side.

FreeBSD 8.0 introduced support for a TTY layer rewrite, network stack virtualization, improved support for the Sun ZFS file-system, the ULE kernel scheduler by default, a new USB stack, binary compatibility against Fedora 10, and improvements to its 64-bit kernel will allow a NVIDIA 64-bit FreeBSD driver by year’s end, among a plethora of other changes. With today’s benchmarking — compared to our initial Ubuntu 9.10 vs. FreeBSD 8.0 benchmarks from September — we are using the official build of FreeBSD 8.0 without any debugging options and we are also delivering a greater number of test results in this article, along with a greater number of operating systems being compared.

The hardware we are using for benchmarking this time was a Lenovo ThinkPad T61 notebook with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9300 processor, 2GB of system memory, a 100GB Hitachi HTS72201 7200RPM SATA HDD, and a NVIDIA Quadro NVS 140M graphics processor powering a 1680 x 1050 LVDS panel.”

Whatever you think of comparing and benchmarking FreeBSD vs Linux, here’s the comparison

Chromium (Google Chrome) for FreeBSD

chromium google chrome freebsdA fewe months ago we mentioned Ben Laurie’s porting of  the Chromium browser to FreeBSD. There are now more instructions on how to compile this fast browser.

If anybody is interested in building and running Chromium on FreeBSD, before an official port is released, check out these links:

Personally, I think Google Chrome is the best browser available. It’s fast, secure and now also supports bookmark sync and extensions (beta version).

GNOME 2.28.1 for FreeBSD

Gnome 2.28.1 has been released for FreeBSD

On the FreeBSD front, though, a lot went into this release. Major thanks goes to kwm and avl who did a lot of the porting work for this release. In particular, kwm brought in Evolution MAPI support for better Microsoft Exchange integration. Avl made sure that the new gobject introspection repository ports were nicely compartmentalized so that large dependencies aren’t brought in wholesale.

Release Notes (2.28)

FreeBSD Gnome site

Welcome to FreeBSD 8!

In this article I will write about the latest release from FreeBSD, 8.0. This is a major version that offers new functionality and much improved parts of the code.

Why are major releases so special?

Major releases offer the possibility to include changes in the system that are not allowed in stable branches. This could be new applications or API/ABI interfaces, or serious changes to datastructures and things like that. FreeBSD brings out major releases every 18 months. Ofcourse the 18 months may vary, depending on the amount of new features and problems found while preparing for the first .0 release. The schedule should guide as a reference on when to expect something new.

FreeBSD 8?

FreeBSD 8 will be the latest version of FreeBSD that is currently on the market, it was preceded by FreeBSD 6 and 7, where we found features like ZFS, Improved Jail support, the widely known Danish Axe was used to further take out the GIANT lock, and many more features that had been in the previous release.

What will FreeBSD 8 offer us?

FreeBSD 8.0: Enterprise Ready Server Operating System

The FreeBSD Project is one of the oldest and successful project. FreeBSD is well known for its reliability, robustness, and performance.

A new version of the FreeBSD 8 is scheduled for release this week. A RC3 was made available for download few weeks ago for final round of testing before the official launch. nixCraft takes you for an in-depth look at the new features and major architectural changes in FreeBSD v8.0.

Nixcraft goes into the following new features and explains how they work

  • What’s New In FreeBSD 8
  • Jails v2
  • Improved ZFS & DTrace
  • ULE scheduler
  • New USB Stack
  • Get Detailed Process Information
  • Superpages
  • Xen DomU Support
  • Network Stack Virtualization (VIMAGE)
  • Virtualbox (Port)
  • Stack-smashing Protection (ProPolice)
  • Rewritten NFS client/server Introducing NFSv4
  • Textdumps (debugging)
  • Wireless Mesh Support
  • gvinum Improvements
  • Other Improvements
  • Conclusion

This release improves on the functionality of FreeBSD 7.2 and introduces often requested new features in jail, SMP-optimized scheduler, virtualization, virtual network stack, NFS4, and storage subsystem improvements. This the most impressive FreeBSD releases to date. Kudos to FreeBSD team for rolling out stable and feature rich enterprise ready FreeBSD 8 operating systems.

FreeBSD 8.0 Released (officially)

The FreeBSD Release Engineering Team has announced the availability of FreeBSD 8 stable release. Some of the highlights of this version are:

  • freebsd_logo-100x100Xen DomU support
  • network stack virtualization
  • stack-smashing protection
  • TTY layer rewrite
  • much improved ZFS v13
  • a new USB stack
  • multicast updates including IGMPv3
  • vimage — a new virtualization container
  • Fedora 10 Linux binary compatibility to run Linux software such as Flash 10 and others
  • trusted BSD MAC (Mandatory Access Control)
  • rewritten NFS client/server introducing NFSv4.
  • Inclusion of improved device mmap() extensions will allow the technical implementation of a 64-bit Nvidia display driver for the x86-64 platform.

The GNOME desktop environment has been upgraded to 2.26.3, KDE to 4.3.1, and Firefox to 3.5.5. You can download the latest version from FreeBSD from the mirrors (main ftp server) or via BitTorrent.

Please consider making a donation and  spread the word by tweeting and blogging about the drive and release.

Links to check out before installing or upgrading:

FreeBSD 8.0 Release – Press Release

FreeBSD Project Announces Release of FreeBSD Version 8.0

Release includes enhanced virtualization support, NFSv4, and 802.11s D3.03 wireless mesh networking

freebsd_logo-100x100San Jose, CA (PRWEB) November 25, 2009 — The FreeBSD Project has announced the release of FreeBSD Version 8.0. This next major release branch of FreeBSD delivers a large number of new technologies into the hands of an ever-increasing number of users. Key release focuses include wireless networking, virtualization, and storage technology.

802.11 wireless networking has been overhauled to add Virtual Access Points (VAP) support, which allows multiple wireless networks to be hosted from a single access point. Draft 802.11 mesh networking support allows FreeBSD-based devices to dynamically link together to create a larger wireless network. Also added are TDMA extensions to 802.11, targeted at long-haul WiFi networks.

FreeBSD 8.0’s network stack also offers multiprocessing optimizations: a revised link layer subsystem, per-CPU flow cache, multiqueue transmit support, and significant UDP and TCP protocol scalability improvements. Zero-copy buffer extensions to BPF improve high volume packet capture performance.

In FreeBSD 8.0, virtual machine administrators in FreeBSD’s ground-breaking lightweight “Jails” can now create their own nested jails. FreeBSD now supports host and guest modes in VirtualBox, and can run as a 32-bit Xen DomU guest.

The Network File System (NFS) implementation has been enhanced with GSSAPI encryption, and also experimental NFSv4 client and server support. In addition to ZFS moving from experimental to production status, FreeBSD 8.0 introduces GPT boot support.

Other notable updates in FreeBSD Version 8.0 include:

  • Experimental MIPS support based on a contribution from Juniper Networks.
  • Countless SMP scalability improvements significantly aid performance on 16-core systems.
  • File system scalability improvements as a result of reimplemented VFS locking.
  • Improved exploit mitigation for buffer overflows and kernel NULL pointer vulnerabilities.
  • The extensible kernel security framework (MAC Framework) is now available out-of-the-box.
  • A ground-up rewrite of the USB stack improving performance, device support, and adding USB target mode.

FreeBSD 8.0’s wireless network stack is the industry leader, and makes FreeBSD the platform of choice for a future generation of networking products. Enterprise consumers will appreciate 8.0’s improved virtualization, storage, and multiprocessor scalability.

said FreeBSD Core Team member Robert Watson

About The FreeBSD Project:

FreeBSD is an advanced operating system for modern server, desktop, and embedded computer platforms. FreeBSD’s code base has undergone over thirty years of continuous development, improvement, and optimization. It is developed and maintained by a large team of individuals. FreeBSD provides advanced networking, impressive security features, and world class performance and is used by some of the world’s busiest web sites and most pervasive embedded networking and storage devices. The FreeBSD Project’s web site is at

About The FreeBSD Foundation

The FreeBSD Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the FreeBSD Project. The Foundation gratefully accepts donations from individuals and businesses, using them to fund projects, which further the development of the FreeBSD operating system. In addition, the Foundation represents the FreeBSD Project in executing contracts, license agreements, and other legal arrangements that require a recognized legal entity. The FreeBSD Foundation is entirely supported by donations. More information about the FreeBSD Foundation is available on the web at

FreeBSD 8 supports GCD

Robert Watson wrote on the FreeBSD Stable mailing list that FreeBSD 8 now supports Apple’s Grand Central Dispatch:

…may be interested in using Apple’s GCD technology on FreeBSD. GCD, for those who may have missed it, is a concurrent programming framework introdued in Mac OS X Snow Leopard, now also supported on FreeBSD.

There are a number of useful links on the wiki page, but this provides the best high-level introduction.

Read the post here

FreeBSD GCD Wiki page

Support FreeBSD and the FreeBSD Foundation

FreeBSD foundation logoMany people have already donated since my last post about the FreeBSD Foundation‘s end of year fund raising drive.

So far almost 600 people  (and companies) have donated to the FreeBSD Foundation, but the  $300.000 target hasn’t been achieved yet: the counter stands at $166.381.

What does the FreeBSD Foundation do?

We fund and manage projects, sponsor FreeBSD events, Developer Summits and provide travel grants to FreeBSD developers. We provide and help maintain computers and equipment that support FreeBSD development and improvements. We also represent the Project in executing contracts, license agreements, copyrights, trademarks, and other legal arrangements that require a recognized legal entity.

FreeBSD 8.0 has been released now. If you’re a happy FreeBSD user and want to support the development of FreeBSD 9, why not make a (small) donation? More people have donated this year than before. Any amount counts.

Donate quickly and securely