Author Archives: Gen2ly

Upgrading Your Video Card

I’ve been using my built-in nvideo 7050 video card for a while now and for a built-in card it’s pretty good. I get decent compositing and Urban Terror plays around 30 frames per second but I’ve come to realize that I just want to be able to do more: play better games, watch HD video… so I decided to update my video card and now I’m amazed at what it can do. If you’re thinking about upgrading yours, this is what I learned from mine.

Note: This guide focuses on modernish hardware and on nvidia video cards. I’m not biased or anything, it’s just that my built-in nvidia worked so well, and that nvidia does a great job supporting Linux, that I decided to go with nvidia again.

Digging in the Pockets

Yeah that $200 dollar top-of-the-line video card looks cool, but most of us don’t wanna spend dollars like that for something we use a couple hours of the day. Video cards can be pricey but even on a modest budget you can get a decent card a good step up from a built-in one. Good $40-80 cards can be found that can easily double frame rates and help you play new or newer games. Save yourself a little budget for a power supply too as video cards take a good amount of wattage and many stock desktops only provide power for the components involved. With $100 (minus $20-40 in rebates) you can get a fifth tier video card and a power supply to go with it.

Whats Your Motherboard Got?

Pop open your hood to see what you got (or if you’re lucky enough you’ll have an owners manual that tells you). In most recent desktops for the last few years are PCI Express slots and are very good for video cards. If you have an AGP or PCI even these can have cards added that can help improve performance. For the purpose of this upgrade I’ll be talking about PCI Express.

A PCI Express slot will look something like this (see bottom of page). If you’re not sure, look closely at the motherboard. Alot of motherboards print a small label like PCIE next to the slot. If you got that, you’re good to go. This could be either a PCI Express 1.0 or 2.0 slot. 2.0 slots add alot of bandwidth but at this time no video card is really able to take advantage of it. You also don’t need to worry about what PCI Express version video card you buy either as 2.0 is backward-compatible with 1.0.

Queen of Hearts – Picking the Right Card

To pick a good nvidia card, nvidia appends their card versions with a couple letters. The version tells the capabilites of the card (OpenGL 2.1, DirectX10…) while the lettering indicated performance. GS cards are clocked the lowest, GT is middle, GTS is high, and GTX is extremely high. For example the 9500 GT is nvidia’s last generation card with medium performance. A good place to compare video card performance is Tom’s hardware’s video card hierarchy page (includes nvidea and ATI).

It’s pretty hard to go wrong with any of top level video card but a word of warning: not all branded video cards are alike. Because third party companies assemble the components together you will occasionally see a components that are skimped on. I’ve seen a number of poor reviews on what normally should be a pretty good video card. I get alot of my reviews at newegg. Newegg offers good prices on alot of different cards and they have a customer review section for each product, so most of the reviews are pretty up front. Compare the card with different vendors that offer the same branded product to be sure you’re getting all you should.

A couple things I noticed comparing vender cards was that some of them offer a good number less stream processors and others would use old memory chips. There can be any kind of cavaets like this so keep your eyes open. Memory isn’t terribly expensive these days and you should at least try to find something with DD3 or above.

The amount of memory you choose is important too. I had one person tell me that 512 MB of memory is the sweat spot, that you would never really use more than that. But when I tried Crysis on my 756 MB graphic card, it almost maxed it out. Memory on the video card is almost directly proportional to the resolution. I have a 1440×900 resolution which isn’t the biggest so if you have something bigger you might want to consider a 1 GB card. Memory spills over to the computer memory but it’s better if it’s kept on the card.

Another thing to consider when getting a video card is what type of outlets it has. Most newer cards have two DVI’s and a HDTV outlets (and sometimes svideo).

Fire and Brimstone (or Noise, Heat, and Size)

If you looked over some video cards already you’ve noticed how big some of them look. Unfortunately most video card specifications don’t have measurements listed. When there’s not alot of space by your PCI Express slot look at the reviews and see if anyone else had trouble getting them in. If they did you should look for a low-profile card. Or you might wanna take a chance and try to put one in – most manufacturers are good about taking back such products.

Think about just how hot your card may get too. The high-powered cards available have a good size fan on them but that fan isn’t going to do alot of good if your computer case has hardly any vents. A card that gets too hot is gonna have a much shorter life span.

One of the most common gripes I read in the reviews about video cards was how that some of them sounded like a helicopter taking off. Yeah these cards get pretty hot and your bargain basement versions don’t put alot of money into quiet fans. If you think a constant buzz is gonna bother you after awhile you may have to look into a more expensive card with a better fan or a card with less performance.

9/10 Ladies Prefer the Graphic Man

If you anticipate you’re going to need a real workhorse of a computer, and you got the extra slot for it, remember SLI. SLI is Nvidia’s technology that allows graphic cards to work in parallel process to one another (ATI’s is called Crossfire). To utilize this technology though you’ll need a an nvidia motherboard 680i or greater and a supported PSU.

Power Supply (PSU) and Cables

No shying off it, almost everyone is gonna have to get one. It’s not fun to have to pay the extra cost of another PSU but I can tell you they are fun to put in. Do yourself a favor and don’t think you might just get by. If a PSU gets overtaxed it will shut down your computer or possibly even worse things. And don’t listen to what the video card recommendations say, alot of times they just give an estimate and have no idea what you are running in your computer. Newegg has a PSU calculator that will give you a good idea what you need.

Now check what cable connections you need. Unplug your box (all external connections), destatic by touching the frame, and trace all your PSU connections. You’ll probably need at least these: 2 SATA power (one for hard drive another for DVD/CD), one main power (motherboard) 24 pin connector, a 4 pin CPU power cord, and a 6 pin PCI-Express cable. The 6 pin PCI-Express cable isn’t a big deal as most cards include a dual-molex to 6 pin adapter and most PSU’s have at least 4 molex cables. For the motherboard cable almost all new ones have a 24 pin slot, the PSU’s though (to be compatible with older motherboards) have 20 and 4 pin cables that can be snapped together. When you look to buy make sure the cables are long enough. SATA plugs are often put on one wire several inches apart, are your components close enough together?

Someone in the know posted in a forum that for a good video card you’re gonna want 30 amps on the rails. I couldn’t get more information on this but I’m pretty sure he meant that you want 30 Amps delivered to your video card. One molex cable on my power supply has 16A and another has 17A they plug into the dual-molex adapter that in turn plugs into the video card. I’ve played games for several hours at a time and haven’t had any problems.

Also look to be sure that you have the necessary room for a larger PSU. I wasn’t expecting it but the unit I bought was a good inch deeper than the original and made for a tight fit.

Real cheap PSU’s start around $15 dollars but you might be able to find a good enough one for a basic system at $20. Most people recommend though that you look for PSU’s beginning at the $40 price range.


This is my first time buying a video card so if I messed something up or missed anything important, let me know!

Configuring the BIOS, Linux and a good budget video card are in Upgrading Your Video Card Part 2.

Webkit browsers on their way to Linux but not there yet

Firefox really shocked up the browser wars when it released version 3.0. The more I use it the more I realize what a great browser it is. When Firefox first released 3.0 it was full-steam ahead. Soon we heard about a new javascript engine and it seemed like 3.1 would be just on the horizon. Then something happened and the Firefox locomotive haltingly put it’s breaks on. 3.1 was delayed indefinitely and a horrible exploit bug was discovered. Firefox also stopped working the my hotmail account (probably more a problem with hotmail). While Firefox gets things back on track, I decided it was a good time to try the new web browser rendering engine Webkit.

Webkit in General

Webkit is a rendering engine based on KHTML (KHTML is KDE’s Konquerer’s rendering engine) that has been radically modified by Apple for their web browser Safari. Because Webkit has received a good amount of development it will probably replace KHTML in KDE soon.


Rekonq is an effort to replace KHTML with Webkit in Konquerer. One of the first things you’ll notice about Webkit is that it renders pages really fast. This could be because that it’s new but from my tests Webkit seems to be able to render anything that Firefox can. Not only that but Webkit renders web pages beautifully.

Still in it’s early stages, Rekonq doesn’t add many configurations yet: saved passwords, minimum font size, saved tabs… And with qt’s version of Webkit redirects dont’ work yet.


Arora has been in development longer than Rekonq and has a few more configurations. It includes privacy settings, tab session savings, proxy…

Arora’s a good browser that’s coming along nicely. If I were to gripe about anything of Arora is that it does a big no by forcing a default font so that web pages just don’t look the way they should.


Googles’ new browser Chrome also uses Webkit but was originally designed for Windows. Thankfully though Google had the good graces to open-source the project and very early Linux builds are being made. I didn’t get a chance to try Chromium yet. As development has centered on developing Chrome 32 bit no version is available for my 64 bit machine. And it looks like I may not being trying Chromium soon either as developing a 64 bit version will require mounting some pretty big bumps. I did try cxchromium though (an altered version of Chrome design to run under wine) and I did get an idea what they are trying to do. I like the modular tabs that seperate different webpages and http boxes nicely. Also I like all-in-one http box that can be used for searchs, previously visited sites, and bookmarks.

Update: thinkMoult Has a good guide on Chromium and has found a way to run Chromium on 64 bit systems.


Midori I’m going to label as the current champ of Linux Webkit browsers. It’s able to save tabs, has a minimum font size setting, works with flash nicely, and has the ability to page zoom. Midori uses GTK and appears to be progressing nicely:

Midori may be the first real Firefox alternative in Linux. Hopefully they’ll fix the same error that Arora makes by forcing a default font.


Awhile back Epiphany made the committment to switch from Gecko (Firefox’s default rendering engine) to Webkit. Unfortunately development has been slow and didn’t make it into Gnome 2.26. Looking at the newest version though it looks about ready.

Epiphany updated it’s http box too to behave more like Firefox’s awesome bar does and it’s a nice touch. Again this browser forces a default font and configurability is limited. Epiphany though for the most part runs great on lower-end machines.

Leader of the Pack

I thought about switching to another web browser because i use KDE and would just prefer it that way. I can say that I was pretty close. From my tests Webkit could render anything Firefox did as good or better. And flash worked good with all of them for the most part. None of these browsers though recognized the java plugin. While I’m sure there’s a hack out there, I didn’t really want make a hack and try to remember how to erase it later. Mostly why I didn’t leave Firefox is that there are some great things about Firefox that are hard to leave behind. First, the awesome bar is well…awesome. Not only can I find previously viewed webpages easily, but also I can find webpages that I visited long ago plus the awesome bar does it quickly. I also find that I use web page zooming in Firefox quite a bit. Just because how some web pages choose their font sizes, reading a long article with small fonts can be a strain on the eye. Firefox not only zooms the entire page but it also remembers the settings so that next time I go back there I don’t have to do it again.

No I don’t think I’ll be migrating away from Firefox anytime soon but I don’t think a good Webkit browser is too far off on the horizon.</p

Desktop… Phht

I don’t post screenshots usually because they just don’t get my attention. If i’m able to get things done then it doesn’t matter if i’m with AIG or on Gilligan’s Island. On my desktop, I don’t have fancy spinning-cubes, fire-drawing cursors, or wallpapers that leave a negative image floating on the back of my retina. What i do got is a desktop that would hopefully make Bender’s God happy :) :


MPlayer with DVDs

Update: 2012-08-21 – Because of MPlayer still having trouble playing DVDs, I’ve since moved to using cVLC.

There are plenty of movie players for Linux but my all time favorite is MPlayer. Not only is MPlayer quick and responsive but it can play almost anything. I’ve used MPlayer before but I realized that my movies weren’t playing just as I wanted them too – no menu support, picture quality wasn’t as I expected. If you’d like to play DVD’s with player, here’s a guide that can show you how to get good functional DVD player.

Calibrating Display

Presentation is a large part of a good movie experience. Movie companies and movie theaters put a good deal of consideration over how a movie looks and sounds. THX for example became a standard in the movie industry defining such. Therefore, how your display looks also will represent the quality of the movie you play with MPlayer. There are a couple things you can do to create good picture quality on your monitor but first a quick bit on colorschemes.

Windows and Mac OS both have built in colorschemes (also known as ICC profiling). Colorschemes define such things for the display as color balance and gamma. Linux by default does not have any colorschemes defined. Often new users will report that their display when first installed looks “too bright”. There is no way to define a colorscheme in Linux but most of this “too bright” reporting is because of gamma and there is something you can do about that.

The best option so far for Linux is if you got an nvidia card and use the standard nvidia drivers. If you do, it includes a tool called ‘nvidia-settings’. This program will allow, contrast, brightness, color and gamma change for the GUI. If not, you’ll have to look a program to discover the proper gamma for Linux like Monica. Use monica to calibrate your gamma. Calibrating Monica you’ll notice the whole display will change. Ignore this and just be sure your red, green, and blue gammas are set ok. When this is done, Monica will display an option to have Monica load at desktop startup. This can be done but it’s better to have the X server know the settings directly because if you play games (for instance) your gamma will be reset. The X server can be made aware of the gamma in the “/etc/X11/xorg” file. For example:

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier     "Monitor0"
    Gamma           0.86 0.85 0.87

Gamma values are in RGB order. Restart the X server to have the gamma values permanently applied.

MPlayer Config

Note: Nowdays, I use the MPlayer configuration file to control MPlayer behavior, plus I use vdpau graphic acceleration (for nvidia cards) and dvdnav:// for dvd menu navigation. Using the config I’m able to set different options for different media I play and don’t need a seperate script to run my dvds. Here is my ‘~/.MPlayer/config’ for any that would like to use it. However, the information following could be useful if you want to learn about other configurations.

# driver and codecs

# options
mc=1             # keeps video and sound in sync
heartbeat-cmd="qdbus org.freedesktop.ScreenSaver  /ScreenSaver SimulateUserActivity" # disable screensaver
#fs=1                   # full-screen
#dr=1                   # direct rendering

# Picture settings

profile-desc="profile for dvd:// streams"
af=volnorm=1   # increase amplitude for movies because of wide dynamic range
#vf=yadif=3,hqdn3d=3:2.8:1:3 # for deinterlacint (tv shows)

profile-desc="profile for dvdnav:// streams"

Selecting Video and Audio Output Devices

MPlayer defaults will work on just about any media. If you want to test MPlayer, try:

mplayer dvd://1

Track 1 almost always has something on it and you should get a good idea how MPlayers plays with the default settings. First thing you should do is decide what video output driver to use. Most people tend to use xv, this is the XVideo extension and has hardware accelerated playback. I however use the OpenGL driver because it give me slight better performance. For example:

mplayer -vo gl:yuv=2:force-pbo -dr -framedrop -fs dvd://1
mplayer -vo xv -dr -framedrop -fs -cache 8192 dvd://1

For OpenGL you’ll have to use a proper yuv setting, look into “man MPlayer” for all the options. Adding the ‘-dr’ option to make sure direct rendering gets used and add ‘-framedrop’ because if a CPU intensive task starts in the background audio and video will get out of sync. Using -fs will start MPlayer in full screen-mode.

For xv make sure to use the ‘-cache’ option as xv video doesn’t play well without it.

For audio, I just allow use MPlayers default. I’ve tried setting ‘-ao alsa’ but occasionally I get skips with that and find the default (usually aoss) works better.


One of the things you’ll notice at this time is that their is a little noise to the picture quality. This is common because TV’s have built-in noise-reduction filters. You’ll also notice if you are playing a DVD recorded tv show that the picture appears “lined”(interlacing). TV’s produce pictures by displaying alternate lines. So a property called deinterlacing is used to produce a combined image. To add deinterlacing and a noise filter try this:

mplayer -vo gl:yuv=2:force-pbo -dr -framedrop -fs \
-vf yadif=3,hqdn3d dvd://1

Yadif is a good deinterlacer and hqdn3d will help to smooth the picture. I find that hqdn3d produces a bit too blurred image so I’ve reduced it to:

mplayer -vo gl:yuv=2:force-pbo -dr -framedrop -fs \
-vf yadif=3,hqdn3d=3:2.8:1:3 dvd://1

For movies that aren’t interlaced MPlayer won’t use the yadif filter.


MPlayer may choose to alter the aspect-ratio which will result in a distorted picture. I think there is some legacy code in MPlayer that tries to scale based on screen size. Add ‘-noaspect’ to prevent this from happening:

mplayer -vo gl:yuv=2:force-pbo -dr -framedrop -fs \
-vf yadif=3,hqdn3d=3:2.8:1:3 -noaspect dvd://1

Contrast, Brightness, and Saturation

Even for a properly monitor the picture isn’t going to look quite right because movies use a different colorspace that is designed for proper display on a television. While not perfect this too can be corrected to a good degree with brightness, contrast, and saturation values.

If you’re using the gl driver, you’ll be able to adjust contrast, brightness, hue, and saturation with 1 and 2, 3 and 4, 5 and 6, 7 and 8, respectively. To add the values to the command line:

mplayer -vo gl:yuv=2:force-pbo -dr -framedrop -fs \
-vf yadif=3,hqdn3d=3:2.8:1:3 -noaspect \
-contrast 14 -brightness 8 -saturation -9 dvd://1

If you’re using the xv driver, you can use the software equalizer to enable the ability to adjust these values:

mplayer -vo xv -dr -framedrop -fs -cache 8192 \
-vf yadif=3,hqdn3d=3:2.8:1:3,eq2 -noaspect -contrast 14 \
-brightness 8 -saturation -9 dvd://1
mplayer -vo xv -dr -framedrop -fs -cache 8192 \
-vf yadif=3,hqdn3d=3:2.8:1:3,eq2=1:1.14:0.08:0.91 -noaspect \
-contrast 14 -brightness 8 -saturation -9 dvd://1

DVD Menus

New versions of MPlayer (as of this writing MPlayer-28347-4) now include support for DVD menus. MPlayer will have to be compiled with “–enable-dvdnav” for DVD menus to work. From the command line, tell MPlayer to use DVD menus:

mplayer -vo gl:yuv=2;force-pbo -dr -framedrop -fs \
-vf yadif=3,hqdn3d=3:2.8:1:3 -noaspect \
-contrast 14 -brightness 8 -saturation -9 dvdnav://

You can also add support for being able to choose DVD menu items with the mouse:

mplayer -vo gl:yuv=2;force-pbo -dr -framedrop -fs \
-vf yadif=3,hqdn3d=3:2.8:1:3 -noaspect \
-contrast 14 -brightness 8 -saturation -9 \
-mouse-movements dvdnav://

If using MPlayer with DVD menu support make sure you do not to have caching on or MPlayer won’t work properly.

That’s it! You should now have a great DVD player for you Linux.


Sometimes selections in DVD menus don’t get recognized. I found that pressing 5 will bring them up again.

MPlayer uses keyboard presses for input. A basic reference of commonly used keys:

  • F – Fullscreen toggle
  • Q – Quit
  • P – Pause
  • ← – Backward 10 seconds
  • → – Forward 10 seconds
  • ↑ – Forward 1 minute
  • ↓ – Backward 1 minute
  • Pgup – Forward 10 minutes
  • Pgdown – Backward 10 minutes
  • !/@ – Backward/Forward Chapters
  • Arrow Keys or Numpad Arrow Keys – DVD navigation

Because DVD navigation binds to the arrow keys, they cannot be used to skip while using DVD navigation.

Users of newer Nvidia cards might want to look at MPlayer support for VDPAU (Purevideo technology).

Lastly, thanks to electro for his hqdn3d values.

Customize man page colors with ‘less’ definitions

Man pages by default use less for displaying. I’ve used vim before to for colored text in man pages but something got bjorked in an update. To have color with man pages termcap will need to be invoked. Thanks to nico for the tip.

All that needs to be done is to export bold and underline values of termcap. Adding the values to the ~/.bashrc will make sure that they are always used:

# Less Colors for Man Pages
export LESS_TERMCAP_mb=$'\E[01;31m'       # begin blinking
export LESS_TERMCAP_md=$'\E[01;38;5;74m'  # begin bold
export LESS_TERMCAP_me=$'\E[0m'           # end mode
export LESS_TERMCAP_se=$'\E[0m'           # end standout-mode
export LESS_TERMCAP_so=$'\E[38;5;246m'    # begin standout-mode - info box
export LESS_TERMCAP_ue=$'\E[0m'           # end underline
export LESS_TERMCAP_us=$'\E[04;38;5;146m' # begin underline

And source the ~/.bashrc to have it work:

source ~/.bashrc

Notice I used Arch and Gentoo colors, my two favorite distros :) :

The Great KDE Font Mystery

I just installed KDE 4.2 a couple days ago with everything running great but when I went to change the panel font today I noticed that the fonts to choose from were beginning to blur. This wasn’t like this a couple days ago. Then I started up Firefox and the fonts were really blurry, like headache blurry. I renamed all my kde configuration folders and logged in again to no effect. Then I deleted all of KDE temp files first in /tmp and then in /var/temp and I couldn’t get it fixed. Finally I discovered this was from an overwritten ~/.fonts.conf file, fontconfig eventually adding options it previously hadn’t. To cut to the quick, I learned how to configure fontconfig and even learned howto enable fontconfig system-wide and now my fonts look great. Fontconfig works great if you keep it basic, so I’ve updated my post on Better LCD Font Rendering. Enjoy.

Package World for Reinstall

In you would like to rid the cruft on your system, or if you system has a virus (unlikely) or even if you want to install the system again at a later day a good way to do this is to package all your installed emerges. This can be done with a slightly-modified version of holla’s bash script:

# pkg-world

emerge -peq world | sed -n ‘s|^\[ebuild[^]]*\] \([^ $]\+\).*$|\1|p’ | \
sed -r ‘s/-[^-]+(-r[0-9]+)*$//’ | sort -u | while read pkg; do
for p in “${pkg}”; do
quickpkg –include-config=y –include-unmodified-config=y “$p”;

Once this is done you can backup your Gentoo system by:

tar –exclude=gentoo-backup.tgz -cvpzf gentoo-backup.tgz /etc /usr/portage /var/lib/portage/world

Obviously you might want to do more like /home and /root. Then you can extract the tar on a new stage3 and emerge -K --deep world. I’d recommend not trying this if too much time has passed between backup and reinstall as portage configurations may have changed, but otherwise it can save you alot of compiling time.

Please read the comments for other (easier) ways to do this.

Kernel 2.6.28 Notes and Upgrade to Ext4

Normally you don’t update the kernel at every release unless hardware doesn’t work as expected or you really need the slight performance enhancements you may get from new kernel technologies. But… if you have a new module you need to add you may as-well.

A great site that posts about kernel upgrades is kernel newbies, you’ll need to understand the options for updating and while you’re at it you can upgrade to ext4 – don’t worry, it’s easy.

Dog the Kernel

So you don’t download upteen kernel source between kernel update you may as well just unmask the version you need:

echo “sys-kernel/gentoo-sources” >> /etc/portage/package.mask
echo “sys-kernel/gentoo-sources-2.6.28” >> /etc/portage/package.unmask

To have /usr/src/linux link to your the new kernel sources:

echo “sys-kernel/gentoo-sources symlink” >> /etc/portage/package.use

Emerge it:

emerge gentoo-sources
cd /usr/src/linux
cp /usr/src/linux-2.6.27-r2/.config .
make oldconfig

Here’s a few options answers:

If you want to find out if you BIOS is corrupted or if someone has been tampering with it:


2.6.28 can also Reserve low 64k of ram on AMI/Phoenix BIOS’s that as some developer that I lost a link to said, “This might as well solve a wide range of suspend/resume breakages under Linux.”


LRU List Y

Write ELF core dumps with partial segments N

Distrubuted Switch Architecture N

Phonet (for cellular phones) N

Integrated Circuits No

Voltage and Current Regulator Support No # Could be useful on laptops

PID device support No

# Say Y here if you have a PID-compliant device and wish to enable force feedback for it. Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 is one of such devices.

Load all HID drivers… Yes

Extended 4 (ext4) filesystem (EXT4-FS) Y

Enable ext4dev compatibility N

Ext4 extended attributes (EXT4_FS_XATTR) N


CRC32C hardware acceleration N

People may have heard about the new GEM Memory Manager for GPU memory that can help improve draw-speeds dramtically. GEM is a modern GPU memory manager and is already built into the kernel so it doesn’t need configuring. Only the intel 915 driver has this support yet but others will eventually follow.

Now build and install the kernel:

make clean bzImage modules modules_install install

Edit /boot/grub/grub.conf to add the new kernel:

title Debian heh 2.6.28
root (hd0, e.g 4)
kernel /boot/vmlinuz-2.6.28-gentoo-r2 root=/dev/

Rebuild the driver packages that attach to the kernel (tell me if has to be done after reinstalling, cause I forgot to do it :) ):

module-rebuild list
module-rebuild populate
module-rebuild rebuild

Upgrading to Ext4

Ext4 is the evolution of ext3 and provides tons of enhancements. Ext4 looks to be a real good modern filesystem. Linux is good.

Edit /etc/fstab and change filesystems from ext3 to ext4.

If you have a seperate boot partition, it’s best to leave it as ext2 or ext3. If /boot is part of your root filesystem, you’ll need to install a patched version of grub that understands ext4. In Gentoo versions of grub greater than 0.97-r9 have the patch built-in.

grub-install –no-floppy /dev/sda

Or whatever you hard-disk is.

Next you’ll need to boot from an installCD as converting partitions should not be done on mounted media. I used the Sabayon DVD. This step take like a nanosecond.

tune2fs -O extents,uninit_bg,dir_index /dev/device

And you’ll need to fsck to fix the nodes.

fsck -pf /dev/device

All is good in the world. Adio!

Installing OpenBSD 4.4

HeaderFollowing the ‘not enough time on my hands’ FreeBSD dive with a Power Mac, I decided to continue on BSD tourbus to OpenBSD. A good friend recommended it to me in the middle of my FreeBSD install and I’d of like to heard about it alot sooner. OpenBSD turned out to be a really great os, particularly for a router/firewall. I now have OpenBSD running successfully and it’s running good. The install does take a bit of work but the results are b-e-a-utiful.

OpenBSD is a shootoff of NetBSD (Berkly Software Distribution) that focuses on security – the code that is in OpenBSD is carefully audited. This guide will walk you through a basic install of OpenBSD (a few parts are macppc specific) and adds parts if you’d like to make OpenBSD a router.

Dual Boot MacOS?

The OpenBSD installer only has support for fdisk and not mac-fdisk so if you plan to dual-boot MacOS you should partition either with mac-fdisk (see the FreeBSD install link above), or with a Mac OS util like Disk Setup. Create one partition for Mac OS and another for OpenBSD. However, this install focuses on a whole disk install of OpenBSD.

Beginning with the installer

You might want to use OpenBSD’s Installation Guide as a companion guide along with this.

Put in the CD on a mac – you’ll have to start the cd from the Open Firmware prompt. Hold (Apple + option + O + F). at boot and at the OF prompt, type:

boot cd:,ofwboot 4.4/macppc/bsd.rd

The release cd will allow you to install, upgrade or use the shell:

Proceed? [y]

You will now initialize the disk(s) that OpenBSD will use. To enable all available security features you should configure the disk(s) to allow the creation of separate filesystems for /, /tmp, /var, /usr, and /home.

Available disks are: wd0 sd0.

wd0 must be partitioned using an HFS or an MBR partition table. If you plan to dual-boot MacOS use HFS, otherwise choose MBR.

Which one is the root disk (or ‘done’) [done] [wd0]
Do you want to use *all* of wd0 for OpenBSD? [no] y
Creating Master Boot Record (MBR)…done

If you say no, you will be taken to fdisk where all you’ll be able to do is to type and label partitions. OpenBSD uses a two layer disk partitioning system: ‘fdisk’ and ‘disklabel’. If you are using the whole disk fdisk will be automatically configured.

‘disklabel’ is a tool to create partitions.

Initial label editor (enter ‘?’ for help at any prompt)

> p g

# size offset fstype [fsize bsize cpg]
c: 9.6G 0.0G unused 0 0
i: 0.0G 0.0G MSDOS

> a a # add ‘a’ partition
offset: [3024] <enter>
size: [20062224] 3.5g
FS type: [4.2BSD] <enter>
mount point: [none] /

> a b
offset: [17829504] <enter>
size: [2235744] 1.1g
FS type: [swap] <enter>

> a d

> a e

> a f
<enter> # to end of drive

> p g
OpenBSD area: 0.0G-9.6G; size 9.6G; free: 0.0G
# size offset fstype [fsize bsize cpg]
a: 3.5G 0.0G 4.2BSD 2048 16384 1 # /
b: 1.1G 3.5G swap
c: 9.6G 0.0G unused 0 0
d: 3.0G 4.6G 4.2BSD 2048 16384 1 # /usr
e: 1.0G 7.6G 4.2BSD 2048 16384 1 # /tmp
f: 1.0G 8.6G 4.2BSD 2048 16384 1 # /var
i: 0.0G 0.0G MSDOS

> w # write
> q # quit

Mount point for wd0d (size=3072Mbytes)? (or ‘none’ or ‘done’) [/usr] <enter>
Mount point for wd0e (size=4097144k)? (or ‘none’ or ‘done’) [/tmp] <enter>
Mount point for wd0f (size=6291432k)? (or ‘none’ or ‘done’) [/var] <enter>
Mount point for wd0d (size=3072Mbytes)? (or ‘none’ or ‘done’) [/usr] done

No label changes.
Available disks are: sd0.
Which one do you wish to initialize? (or ‘done’) [done] done

The next step *DESTROYS* all existing data on the partition!
Are you really sure that you’re ready to proceed? [no] y

System hostname (short form, e.g. ‘foo’): dirk-pmac

Configure the network? [yes] <enter>

You’ll be shown available Network Interface Cards (NIC)s. If you’re building a router, you’ll have two. The first one will get it’s address via the ISP DHCP server. On the second one assign a LAN address like

If you choose dhcp, OpenBSD install will try to get a lease from the DHCP server. I didn’t bother connecting the cables because InstallerCD’s are notably insecure and the installer doesn’t need it anyway.

Enter your Domain Name Servers (separated by a space) and password for root account. Choose your install sets, the defaults will give you a basic system.

Location of sets? (cd disk ftp http or ‘done’) [done] <enter>

sshd yes
ntpd yes
ntp server

Change the default console to com0? [no] <enter>

Enter timezone, and then your done with the basics.

Afterboot Tasks

Reboot and start the Open Firmware prompt and boot OpenBSD by:

boot hd:,owfboot /bsd

There are a few tasks that need to be done to finish the install following the afterboot manpage.

errata check.

If a reliability or security issue effects you, you will have to patch your system – a detailed proposition which I will detail in another post.

check ‘date’, ‘hostname’, networking will be done in a bit.

Add new user

Enter your default shell: csh ksh nologin sh [ksh]: <enter>
# Default login class defines allocation of system-resources, and
# environment setup.
Default login class: authpf daemon default staff [default]: <enter>
Enter your default HOME partition: [/home]: <enter>
Copy dotfiles from: /etc/skel no [/etc/skel]: <enter>
Send message from file: /etc/adduser.message no [no]: <enter>
Prompt for passwords by default (y/n) [y]: <enter>
Default encryption method for passwords: auto blowfish des md5 old [auto]: <enter>
Don’t worry about mistakes. There will be a chance later to correct any input.
Enter username []: Dirkgen2ly
Enter full name []: Dirk Gently
Enter bash csh ksh nologin sh [ksh]: <enter>
Uid [1000]: 1222
Login group Dirkgen2ly [Dirkgen2ly]: <enter>
# Add to wheel group to allow ‘su’ to root.
Login group is “Dirkgen2ly”. Invite into other groups: guest no
[no]: wheel
Login class authpf daemon default staff [default]: <enter>
Enter password []:
Enter password again []:

Configuring sendmail

Set-mailserver aliases in /etc/mail/aliases:

vi /etc/mail/aliases
# Well-known aliases — these should be filled in!
root: root
manager: root
dumper: root

Run ‘newaliases’ to update sendmail aliases.

A sendmail-configuration file will need to be built, from papamike:

Sendmail configuration files are built with a macro-processor. A macro-processor is basically a program that scans text looking for defined symbols, which it replaces by other text — or other symbols. The one used with Sendmail is called m4… So m4 inputs a macro configuration file, with extension .mc, and outputs a sendmail configuration file to standard output. Typically we redirect this output to a file, with extension .cf

Luckily there are some examples. If not planning to use sendmail externally (i.e. to the internet) use

cp /usr/share/sendmail/cf/ /usr/share/sendmail/cf/
m4 /usr/share/sendmail/m4/cf.m4 /usr/share/sendmail/cf/ > /etc/mail/

Then test it:

sendmail -v -t -C /etc/mail/

A valid config will give no output. Now tell the the sendmail daemon to load the configuration file at boot in /etc/rc.conf.local:

sendmail_flags=”-L sm-mta -C/etc/mail/ -bd -q30m”

The -C/ is necessary, it’s not a typo.

Daily, weekly, monthly scripts

Run the daily and weekly scripts to make sure they run alright.

sh /etc/daily
sh /etc/weekly

Warning: When running the weekly script if you get:

Rebuilding locate database:
Not installing locate database; zero size

Try “vi /var/db/locate.database“, put a space in, save it “:x”, and run the weekly script again.

Tighten up security

Covered below.

File Systems

OpenBSD doesn’t have a journaled file-system, meaning that you could lose critical disk data in event of a crash. Rather OpenBSD has incorporated soft updates a userland program that performs a likewise task that also improves disk performance by utilizing a cache. Adding the softdep option to each ffs partition in /etc/fstab will enable soft updates at next boot.

# perl -pi -e ‘s/ffs rw/ffs rw,softdep/’ /etc/fstab
# cat /etc/fstab
/dev/wd0a / ffs rw,softdep 1 1
/dev/wd0e /tmp ffs rw,softdep,nodev,noexec,nosuid 1 2
/dev/wd0d /usr ffs rw,softdep,nodev 1 2
/dev/wd0f /var ffs rw,softdep,nodev,nosuid 1 2
/dev/cd0c /cdrom cd9660 ro,noauto 0 0

CD/DVD define mount point

mkdir /mnt/cdrom
echo “/dev/cd0c /cdrom cd9660 ro,noauto 0 0” >> /etc/fstab


Following the Network FAQ. The installer will have created /etc/hostname.<NIC> for each device you have. Make sure they are correct:

cat /etc/hostname.*

For a router, ip-forwarding will need to be enabled in /etc/sysctl.conf:


Enter your DNS servers in /etc/dhclient.conf:

request subnet-mask, broadcast-address, routers, domain-name,
domain-name-servers, host-name;
supersede domain-name-servers <domain-name-server1>, <domain-name-server2>;

If you are planning to be testing a firewall and disconnecting your internet-connection from time to time, its good to up dhclients timeout. ‘dhclient’ rechecks it’s connection to the DHCP server on an exponential scale if it is unable to locate it it will take down the WAN NIC. Add to dhclient.conf and get larger timeouts as time goes by:

timeout 216000;
retry 216000;
link-timeout 216000;

To be able to connect the LAN PC to the network this guide uses dnsmasq (a good solution for small networks) but first it is a good idea to setup firewall and close unused ports.

Enabling a Firewall

Building a firewall is a necessary evil, even on the most secure of systems networking will be the greatest security-hole. Here are a few tips for working with PF:

Enable PF at Boot:

echo “pf=YES # PF Firewall” >> /etc/rc.conf.local

‘ftp-proxy’ will need to be enabled to ftp past a firewall, first enable it at boot:

echo “ftpproxy_flags=”” # ftp-proxy daemon” >> /etc/rc.conf.local

Enable ftp-proxy in the NAT section of your pf.conf:

nat-anchor “ftp-proxy/*”
rdr-anchor “ftp-proxy/*”
rdr on $LAN_NIC proto tcp from any to any port 21 -> port $FTPPORT

And in the filter section, anchor ftp and allow pass out:

anchor “ftp-proxy/*”
pass out quick on $WAN_NIC proto tcp from $WAN_NIC to any port {20,21} flags S/AUPRFS modulate state

Another good idea is when writing block-rules to log them to be able to test the firewall and to see if there are any attempts to attack the firewall:

block in log on $WAN_NIC all

To check your PF configuration for errors, run:

pfctl -nf /etc/pf.conf

A couple other commands:

pfctl -e # Enable PF – Enable but will not load ruleset.
pfctl -d # Disable PF
pfctl -f /etc/pf.conf # load the rules
pfctl -sn # Show the current NAT rules
pfctl -sr # Show the current filter rules
pfctl -ss # Show the current state table
pfctl -si # Show filter stats and counters
pfctl -sa # Show EVERYTHING it can show
pfctl -F all # Flush all rules, nat, states, options, tables

To test the firewall in real time, run ‘pflogd’ then:

tcpdump -n -e -ttt -i pflog0

To have pflog load at boot:

echo “pflogd_flags=”” # pflog device” >> /etc/rc.conf.local

You may have to reboot to have pflog0 show up in ifconfig. Now that the firewall is up you can start (or restart) the network:

sh /etc/netstart

Adding a Package

OpenBSD has two ways to add software: package and ports. Packages are pre-built binaries that can be downloaded and quickly installed onto your system and are the recommended way to add software to your system. OpenBSD also has a port system that contains information necessary to build packages and their dependencies from source.

OpenBSD has many prebuilt packages for a number of different architectures. Find a nearby mirror and add it to ~/.profile:

export PKG_PATH=ftp://<your.ftp.mirror>/pub/OpenBSD/`uname -r`/packages/`machine -a`/

Those are back ticks BTW. `uname -r` adds your release version of OpenBSD you are using and `machine -a` will be your architecture. To source (reload) your .profile so the variable is known to the korn shell:

. ~/.profile

Then add a package:

pkg_add -v <packagename>

A couple other package commands:

pkg_info # Show installed packages
pkg_delete -n # Delete applications and their dependencies.

Configure the LAN

Now that you can add a package you can add dnsmasq and get your router going. It is possible to define a static-route and not to have to use a DHCP server to define an address and route, but using a DHCP server makes the job tons easier. dnsmasq is a great lightweight application that will provide a route to and from the LAN machine. dnsmasq is also provides a DNS cacher to make resolving of domain names very very fast.

If planning on creating a LAN of > 50 machines you should use the pre-installed dhcpd.

pkg_add -v dnsmasq

Edit /etc/dnsmasq.conf:

# Only listen to WAN box LAN NIC and use local loopback for DNS caching.

# dnsmasq will open TCP port 53 and UDP port 67 to world
# tohelp with dynamic interfaces. dnsmasq will discard
#requests to them, but I like better not to have these
#ports open and let the kernel handle it.

# Dynamic range of IPs to make available

# If you’d like to have a static ip, bind the LAN computers
# NIC MAC address

dhclient.conf will need to be edited again to know that dnsmasq is handing dns requests. Redirect dhclient to localhost and dnsmasq will take it from there.

request subnet-mask, broadcast-address, routers, domain-name,
domain-name-servers, host-name;
supersede domain-name-servers, <dns1>, <dns2>;

dhclient by default appends to /etc/resolv.conf details to use the pre-installed BIND name server assuming people are going to use it. BIND isn’t enabled by default and since dnsmasq is handling this, comment out “lookup file bind” in /etc/resolv.conf.tail and restart the network:

sh /etc/netstart

cat /etc/resolv.conf
#lookup file bind

Now you can start dnsmasq:


To load at boot put in rc.local:

# Start Dnsmasq
if [ -x /usr/local/sbin/dnsmasq ]; then
echo -n ‘ dnsmasq’; /usr/local/sbin/dnsmasq

To have your LAN computer connect to your router set it to dhcp and connect.

Test DNS caching:

dig | grep “Query time”

Do it again and you’ll notice a faster lookup.


Many NTP configurations default to which is great for a whole list to choose from from the entire world, but it’s better to use something local ;). Add to /etc/ntpd.conf:


Because ntpd slowly adjusts the clock if it’s off you can add to crontab entry to get it fixed daily:

crontab -e
# Update date and time daily
32 1 * * * ntpd -s

Securing the Network

A good firewall will close ports but some applications may try to open them again. Best to close any ports you don’t need. Run netstat and get a good idea of what’s open:

netstat -ant | egrep ‘udp | LISTEN’

Shows open ports:

TCP – 13 37 22 113
UDP – 514

To find out what these ports do:

grep <port> /etc/services

daytime, time, ssh, auth, and syslog (udp). You can find more infomation about the port (like the program that opened it) with:

lsof -i | grep 22

Most people don’t use daytime, time, auth anymore and can be safely disabled in /etc/rc.conf.local:


The Syslog port can not be turned off in inetd. It is invoked in rc.conf with no “-u” flag meaning that it is listening on UDP port 514 but that incoming packets are ignored, it is only used to send. You’ll will also see a couple ports open for tcp6 (ipv6) like ::1.587 or ::1.25 these are loopbacks (local) for ipv6 and will be secure from the outside world.

Using nmap is an ever more reliable way to test for open ports. Now that the firewall is up, you might want to add nmap and test it.

nmap -p1-65535 -T4 -sS <WAN-IP>

SSH Daemon

SSH opens port 22 to world by default, If you don’t plan on accessing from outside you can bind it to your LAN computer in /etc/ssh/sshd_config:

ListenAddress <Router LAN_NIC Address>

Also root login is a bad idea, since the regular user is able to su this is a good idea to define:

PermitRootLogin no

Add a key so trusted computers can connect:

ssh-keygen -t dsa

Use a password that is not your login password. Name the output something useful like powermac-dsa-key. These keys by default are generated into the local ~/.ssh/ directory but belong in the accessee’s ~/.ssh directory. Move them to the LAN computer ~/.ssh to be a trusted computer.

Note: SSH attempts to resolve an address even if it’s local through /etc/resolv.conf. When Domain Name Server isn’t setup yet or a DNS hangs, ssh will hang at “debug1: SSH2_MSG_SERVICE_ACCEPT received” you will have to wait about a minute until ssh decides no DNS can be reached.


That should get you a good start.

FreeBSD 7.1 Install on a PowerPC


I had tried FreeBSD on an x86 machine about eight years ago and really liked it: good install, nice tools, excellent documentation. FreeBSD is the glitter of the BSD’s for it’s x86 centrality. So when I heard that FreeBSD was available for PowerPC’s I decided right away to try. Ok, it’s been a couple years, but I haven’t been in these circles lately. This is a guide to getting started on FreeBSD with the PowerPC differences being noted.

Read the whole guide before deciding to commit to FreeBSD. FreeBSD is still a newcomer to the PPC world and requires a good amount of attention. Or you might just want to help it out anyway.

Here are some Things You Just Learn As You Go

  • Always check the hardware compatibility list, and the architecture faq. I missed this second one which told me alot too late.

  • Check and see if the if the packages you need are supported for your platform. This is FreeBSD’s fault there is no mention about the ports which I’ll get to later.

  • Take the time and try to get to know someone in the ircchannel. No offense to the guys are #freebsd (a couple were very very helpful) but for the most part they are busy developing or working and they knew do book-loads of documentation for handbook and don’t want to repeat themselves.

  • Take your time with it. I thought coming from Linux I’d feel right at home but some tools are completely different – even versions of tools you have in Linux work slightly different.

The BSD that’s Right For You

Before you get into one BSD, all three are pretty unique, make sure you choose the right one. I got this great detail from jdbaker’s page (it’s several years old) but details it nicely.


…the one with the most bells and whistles is FreeBSD… FreeBSD has the largest development team, the largest user base, the largest number of ported applications, and the largest collection of active e-mail lists. It also has the best documentation… FreeBSD is extremely easy to install directly via an Internet connection.

FreeBSD currently runs on Intel-compatible 32-bit processors (including the AMD Athlon) and on the DEC Alpha processor (now out of production), and is being ported to Itanium, AMD’s x86-64 (Opteron/Sledgehammer), PowerPC, and Sparc64. While porting the operating system helps to flush out subtle bugs, portability is not FreeBSD’s specialty– it’s primarily of interest to owners of Intel-compatible hardware.

OpenBSD: Rock Solid Security, Fanatical Attention to Detail

OpenBSD is the perfectionist’s version of BSD. Almost Spartan compared to the others, it installs with many features intentionally disabled to avoid potential security holes. Its highly focused development team is constantly tweaking, critiquing, and auditing every line of the code, and their commitment to excellence shows in the operating system’s track record…

OpenBSD requires more technical knowledge and skill to use effectively than FreeBSD, and therefore is not the best choice for beginners… OpenBSD is available and actively developed for a wide range of hardware platforms, from x86 to Mac to Sun. It does not, however, cover as many platforms as does NetBSD…

NetBSD: Now playing everywhere

NetBSD is the portability champ of the BSDs, running on everything from generic x86 boxes to exotic hardware such as the BeBox and the Sega Dreamcast…. Keeping the operating system portable means keeping the code clean, and so the other BSDs often borrow code from NetBSD…

FreeBSD Beginning

FreeBSD can be downloaded and put on a cd:

cdrecord -dao -v 7.1-RELEASE-powerpc-disc1.iso

FreeBSD’s PowerPC installer has limited support for partitioning a disk. I discovered it was easiest to use mac-fdisk. I booted up my Gentoo Minimal InstallCD and partitioned on a 10G disk as:

partition1 diskswap 1.1G
partition2 /usr 3.0G
partition3 / 4.3G
partition4 /tmp 500M
partition5 /var 700M


d # then partition#s
c # create partition
1p # 1st partition…
swap # name of partition

I bobbed a bit from the FreeBSD recommendations. They recommended most the disk space should go to /usr and very little to root. I planned to do back ups to / though and made it bigger, but /usr may not have been big enough – /usr can fill up really fast with packages and the ports tree. If building a mail-server /var should be much larger and closer to the top.

Beginning Install

On older Newworld Power Macs the cd will not boot by holding down C, rather it has to be invoked from Open Firmware. Hold down Apple+Option+O+F at boot and type in this to boot the CD.

boot cd,:\boot\loader cd:0

The FreeBSD Handbook is excellent documentation so I’ll just give a quick glance here and note differences in the PPC installer.

The arrow keys, space, and tab will navigate through the installer, read the quick start guide and other docs – they’re not that big.


NFS Secure yes, DHCP yes PCCard NO, set ftp username and password, /usr/bin/vi, media type CD.

Don’t worry if you forget anything you can latter enter sysinstall from disk and add what you need in configure post install.

Beginner Install Notes

Theres no console keymap selector yet but USB keyboards are supported. The disk editor is a trimmed down version of the one in the install guide, but with the disk already partitioned Iwas able to apply partitions to mount points. There’s also no boot manager setup and we’ll have to use Open Firmware again later to boot the new install.

When it come to Distribution types choose Kern-Developer so that the ports tree is added as well as the kernel sources (a custom kernel will likely have to be built). Now you will have to wait a bit as the files get loaded to disk.

Configuring Network

A few network questions will be asked: DHCP, Gateway (for use as a network route which is what I’m doing), NO to inetd (very very insecure)… Don’t bother connecting to the network now as the install has no firewall and wouldn’t be secure. Besides with no packages available (besides the CD ones) it doesn’t do any good at this stage anyway.

No systemconsole settings or timezone. When you exit you’ll be asked to use UTC or local time. If this is the only OS you install on this machine choose UTC.

No Linux Compatibility or Mouse Settings. You’ll now get a message, “Unable to target packages/INDEX file from the selectedmedia” because you’re not connected to the internet but I doubt it would work even if you were.

Setup other users, When you get to “Visit the general configuration menu for a chance to set any last options?” I said yes and added ntpdate.

First Boot

Grehan said this the best:

Here’s the rub: OpenFirmware doesn’t understand UFS2. It does understand iso9660 and HFS+, so the loader must live on a disk/partition of that type. So, you can…:

boot cd:,\boot\loader hd:11

Define your own / hard-disk parition.

FreeBSD Details

Alot of utilities in FreeBSD match those in Linux but at times provide a slight different flavor.

/etc/rc.conf is a general one-in-all configuration file for FreeBSD. rc.conf will have options to start services, configure network cards… /etc/inetd.conf will allow connections on ports and pass control of the connection to whichever program is listed.

Getting Hardware Working

During the boot process you may see that FreeBSD sees a device but will tell you (no driver attached). If you missed the boot up messages, you can look at them with:

vi /var/run/dmesg.boot

FreeBSD will only load what it’s told to or what is built into the kernel. If your devices are on the hardware supported list then your device must be a module that was not loaded. Look in /usr/src/sys/conf/NOTES or better /usr/src/sys/<yourarch>/conf/NOTES and discover what the modules name is. Then locate the <module>.ko file:

find /boot/kernel/*<modulename>.ko

The realtek chip I have on my network card wasn’t automatically loaded. To load a module:

kldload re

kldstat will show loaded modules. Also check dmesg to see if it loaded correctly. To have it load permanently on boot add it to /boot/loader.conf (this file may have to be created).

vi /boot/loader.conf

You can see helpful examples of loader.conf stuff in /usr/share/examples/bootforth/ and “man loader.conf”.

*_name Defines the name of the module.
*_type Defines the module’s type. If none is given, it defaults
*_flags Defines options to pass onto the module


Ok, thats long in tooth, I’ll try to make this next part more down to earth.

I don’t do anything without first creating a firewall to protect the pc and to build a firewall a kernel has to be compiled with support for it. When building a custom kernel you can also add any drivers you need and remove the ones you don’t for a leaner kernel.

FreeBSD provides three different firewalls, from the FreeBSD mailling list:

In my option the PF firewall has the easiest to use rule set and built in table functions for automated black listing attacking IP address. Its major weakness is it has very poorly designed logging function that results in very cumbersome usage.

IPFilter comes next. It has easy logging and rules usage. It lacks the auto black listing table building of PF. These two firewalls were ported to FreeBSD from other Unix flavored operating systems. Both have teams supporting and maintaining them.

The final firewall is IPFW that is the first firewall included in FreeBSD many years ago and was developed by the FreeBSD team. IPFW also lacks the auto black listing table building of PF, and its nated rules are much harder to get working using all stateful rules…

PF was originally designed as replacement for Darren Reed’s IPFilter, from which it derives much of its rule syntax. PF looks to be becoming the defacto firewall for FreeBSD and is listed first in the documentation.

Kernel Build

PF by FreeBSD 7.1 isn’t built into the kernel so a custom kernel will need to be built. If you never compiled you own kernel before, don’t fret, if you know your hardware it’s realatively simple. There’s a configuration file where you enable any hardware and options:

cd /usr/src/sys/<arch>/conf

/usr/src/sys/conf/NOTES will better describe the drivers and options available but it’s best not to add drivers/options from it as they are probably not supported in the PowerPC kernel yet. Also look at at “man <driver>” for more details about drivers and what other driver/options they depend on.

I uncommented the realtek-driver and took out a couple drivers I didn’t need:

device re
device miibus

Here are the other options I did. I passed safe-cflags for this particular Power Mac in CONF_CFLAGS. Though the kernel doesn’t support altivec, GCC (the compiler) does, which will help build the kernel quicker. I also had to tolerate denying strict aliasing (which is normally a good idea to leave in) because the pf driver and a couple others refused to build with strict aliasing:

machine powerpc
cpu OEA
maxusers 0 # Auto sizing of memory tables
makeoptions CONF_CFLAGS=”-mcpu=7400 -O2 -pipe -maltivec -mabi=altivec -fno-strict-aliasing”

All other modules, drivers should be left in unless you know what you’re doing. The 7.1 powerpc kernel is still relatively young and the kernel config has all the options it needs or are available, tinkering too much will likely only bring problems.

Now build your kernel and install it:

cd /usr/src
make buildkernel KERNCONF=POWERMACG4
make installkernel KERNCONF=POWERMACG4

If there is an error in your config gcc will recognize it and exit defining the config file followed by the line in doesn’t understand: .../usr/src/sys/powerpc/conf/POWERMACG4:7

Or it will tell you options that are not allowed. “installkernel” will transfer your kernel to the boot directory and have it load automatically at boot.

Before you reboot your computer you may as well set up your firewall so that it will load at boot and you can get on the network.

Firewall Bricks

The rc.conf file will need to be edited so that PF will be loaded at boot:

pf_enable=”YES” # Enable PF (load module if required)
pf_rules=”/etc/pf.conf” # rules definition file for pf
pf_flags=”” # additional flags for pfctl startup
pflog_enable=”YES” # start pflogd
pflog_logfile=”/var/log/pflog” # where pflogd should store the logfile
pflog_flags=”” # additional flags for pflogd

Most times when you see an “*_enable” listing in rc.conf, it is a daemon and can manually started (e.g. /etc/rc.d/pf start) or else the system will need to be restarted for the daemon to load.

Rules Building

The /etc/pf.conf file is the configuration file for the firewall. All rules for the firewall are put here. PF goes by the policy of “last match win”. That means that is a ruleset has a rule to “block all” before a rule allowing traffic that traffic will be allowed.

A few things to watch for when doing rules:

  • “Last match wins” except for “quick” which disables any further rule processing for that packet.
  • Alot of people use the policy: allow all out and filter in. This is good in most cases.
  • ORDER is very very important. A missed placed rule, option, table, queing will not allow PF to load.

I’m not going to give my firewall out (it’s not there yet) but here’s a template to follow (NIC’s) can be found out with ifconfig:

# /etc/pf.conf
# Firewall for router with two NIC’s (Network Cards)
# ! PF on FreeBSD 7.1 (OpenBSD 4.1) !
################ FreeBSD pf.conf ##########################
# Required order: options, normalization, queueing, translation, filtering.
# Note: translation rules are first match while filter rules are last match.
################ Macros ###################################

# — List Variables (Macros) —

# Define Network Interface Cards (NIC)s.

# Define LAN Address(s)

# Ports to open for network services
# ssh, https, smtp nix, www, pop3, auth, ftp, sftp, imap
# auth, domain, ftp, imap, imaps, https, pop3, pop3s, ntp, sftp, smtp, spamd
# ssh, www
#TCP_SERVICES = “{ ftp, ftp-data, https, www }”
TCP_SERVICES = “{ domain, ftp, ftp-data, https, www }”
UDP_SERVICES = “{ domain, ntp }”

# Pings Allowed
# ping options: echorep – echo reply, echoreq – echo request,
# unreach, unreachable, timex…
# DNS server will need at least echoreq
#ICMP_TYPES = “echoreq, unreach”

# — Tables —

# table define for all subnets and ips to block
# add ips and subnets to /etc/pf-nat-home-blocked.conf
table <blockedip> persist file “/etc/pfblocked.conf”

# — Options —

# Default response for block filter rules and turns on statistics logging.
set block-policy drop
set loginterface $WAN_NIC
set require-order yes
# Aggresively expire connections, reduce memory at cost of dropping idle
set optimization aggressive

# — Traffic Normalization —

# Normalization – reassemble packets and resolve or reduce traffic
# ambiguities. Also helps with troublesome SYN/FIN packets.
scrub in all

# — Traffic Shaping (Queing) —

# — Translation Rules (NAT) —

# — Filter Rules —
# last match wins (except quick)

# Antispoof
antispoof log quick for lo0 inet

# — Block —

# Block all incoming
block in all

# — Allow TCP —

# — Allow UDP —

To check your PF configuration for errors, run:

pfctl -nf /etc/pf.conf

Setup Networking

To setup your NIC in rc.conf:

ifconfig_<WAN NIC>=”dhcp”
ifconfig_<LAN NIC>=”inet netmask″

Your hostname will need to be set too. The best I could figure it is look in your Windows, Mac, Linux(/etc/resolve.con), Networking program and look for search address. On Linux it came before the DNS servers and looked like:

Replace search with the hostname you want to call your pc.



Reboot your computer add you network cable and if all goes well, you have a new kernel load with firewall as a bonus. If it doesn’t just go back and select and select the old kernel (kernel.old) in Open Firmware.

A Few PF Commands

/etc/rc.d/pf restart # Restart PF

pfctl -e # Enable PF – required won’t do it starting init
pfctl -d # Disable PF

pfctl -sn # Show the current NAT rules
pfctl -sr # Show the current filter rules
pfctl -ss # Show the current state table
pfctl -si # Show filter stats and counters
pfctl -sa # Show EVERYTHING it can show

pfctl -F all # Flush all rules, nat, states, options, tables:

tcpdump -n -e -ttt -i pflog0 # Watch pf logs in real time

Compiler Details

Now that network is going you can begin adding packages to FreeBSD. The first program to add is a lightweight DNS server so I can connect to the LAN, but before doing that the compiler needs to be setup.

Because we have to use the ports collection to add packages the compiler needs to be set up to compile them. With the compiler setup then we’ll compile cvsup to update the ports tree.

I built my make.conf with known compiler flags for the Power MAC G4 processor for optimized builds and added the CVSup flags that will tell cvsup how to work:

# Architecture of CPU
CFLAGS=”-mcpu=7400 -O2 -pipe -maltivec -mabi=altivec”

# CVSup options
SUP= /usr/local/bin/cvsup
SUPFILE= /usr/share/examples/cvsup/standard-supfile
PORTSSUPFILE= /usr/share/examples/cvsup/ports-supfile

Package Compile

If we were on a system supporting pre-build packages, adding a package would be easy:

pkg_add -r cvsup-without-gui

However, since PPC users don’t have a package repository packages must be built with source-code. If you didn’t add the ports collection, go back into sysintall (in configuration) and install it now. You might also want to choose a nearby FTP (in Options). The ports tree will likely need to be updated the best way to do this is with cvsup. Cvsup will need to be installed first:

cd /usr/ports/net/cvsup-without-gui
make install distclean clean

Note: And… this is were I put my gloves down. Make told me that cvsup was not keyworded for PPC. I know I could have looked this up and keyworded the port but if a basic tool for FreeBSD was masked for PPC how many more would be? I decided this would be a monumentous task to find all dependencies, unmask them, and then have to work out problems with compiling because they haven’t been tested for arch. Dam…. Read on for a few more notes and conclusion.

distclean‘ removes the downloaded source file and ‘clean‘ removes the compiling files.

Each time you update the ports tree make sure you run ‘make index’ to build an index file.

cd /usr/ports/
make index

Give yourself some time as this process can take awhile.

About updating grom Matthew on the FreeBSD mailing list:

…recommended (if you choose this route) that the first port
you install should be sysutils/portupgrade, then use portupgrade to
install everything else.

portsdb -U will update the ports tree and make an index (though cvsup is supposed to be faster).

Other FreeBSD Utils

pkg_info # To view install packages
pkg_delete <package-name-version> # To delete a package
portsclean -CD # To delete the downloaded sources
portupgrade <package-name-version> # To upgrade a port use

# To compare the installed package with the one in the ports tree:
pkg_version <package>

To find a port with it’s information:

cd /usr/ports
make search name=lsof
make search key=string # searches names, comments, descriptions, and dependencies.

ports-mgmt/portaudit which will automatically check all installed applications for known vulnerabilities; a check will be also performed before any port build.

Send a BugReport

send-pr – send bug report


To be able to connect the LAN to the internet defining static-routes turned out to be a humungous task, so I decided to install a DNS server on the Network Router to define routes for me rather trying to manually define them.

FreeBSD by default installs BIND the well-known industry-standard of name servers. BIND is powerful and robust but is overkill for a Network Router serving one or two machines and a pc that only as 512 of memory.


I really like FreeBSD and I wanted to build it. I’m done a backup and haven’t made up my mind to what I’m going to do. For now I just need to find out how to get a network router up and running.


There’s alot of attribution going out. To the guys at #freenode, thanks understanding my Linux-presupposition. And to JohnBlue in the FreeBSD forums when I made things tougher than they needed to be. A big thanks to cyberciti who had a lot of good tips on configuring FreeBSD. And anyone elses wikis, blogs that Iread. FreeBSD makes me want to get an x86. :)

Reviving a Power Mac G4 with Ubuntu Server


I had been considering building my own server for a home network and decided to buy an old garage Power Mac G4 400. This is a good computer and will work great as a server definitely so I decided to install Ubuntu Server on it. I’m a Gentoo user normally but being the adventure that I am I decided to try something new.

Ubuntu official doesn’t support PowerPC documentation or installation-CDs anymore but the community do still produce installtion-CDs.


Processor  - G4 400MHz
RAM        - 512 MB
Videocard  - Rage 128 Pro, AGP 4xsl
Hard Drive - 10.3 Quantum Fireball LM10.2
Network    - Built-in Sun GEM Gigabyte Ethernet
           - TRENDnet TEG-PCITXR Gigabyte Ethernet - uses Realtek 8169 chipset

The best place to begin with an old computer is to test the hardware. Apple has done a good thing and made their PowerPC Hardware Test CDs available for download. You’ll need Mac OS X to burn CD dmg images though, I’ve tried various Windows (MagicISO) and Linux utilies (dmg2iso, dmg2img, acetoneiso2) that don’t work.

I’m building a server to use as a firewall so all the hardware is there except an additional network card. Another network card will be needed to route to another computer. Here’s good list of Power Mac G4 network cards that work in OS X, check and see if there is a Linux driver for them. The card listed above does.

Update Firmware

The firmware will need to be updated to the most recent available. You can check this by booting into Open Firmware (Apple + Option + O + F) at boot and looking at the OF version on the top then compare it to the newest on Apple’s website.

This firmware update requires Mac OS 9.1, luckily I have an old iBook 9.0 install disk that installed. The old software update panel doesn’t work any more though but the 9.1 update can be downloaded. I downloaded the files onto my Linux desktop and burned them to disk:

mkisofs -o PowerMacG4-Updates.iso G4_FW_Update_4.2.8.smi.bin \
cdrecord -v -dao PowerMacG4Firmware.iso

Reset NVRAM, PRAM, Clock

It’s a real good idea to reset the NVRAM, PRAM and Clock in case any values are set incorrectly:

  1. Remove or disconnect the memory battery. Leave the battery disconnected for 5-10* minutes.
  2. Reinstall or reconnect the battery.
  3. Depress the CUDA (aka PMU) button (for 5 seconds) with a non-metallic (plastic, wood, etc.) device.
  4. If this doesn’t work, change the RAM. Either add or remove a stick then zap the PRAM (Apple+Option+P+R), wait for three chimes. After that shutdown, add/remove the RAM and start again.

Clock Set, Optional Password

Boot into Open Firmware again and set the clock (military time):

decimal dev rtc sec min hour day month year set-time

Optionally you can add security so no one can tamper your Open Firmware settings, and add protection from being able to be able to boot directly to disk, CD, or netboot.

Linux StartCD

I used Linux to download and burn the install CD, Ubuntu CD’s can be found here.

And burned them with:

cdrecord -v dao name.iso

The Power Mac G4 Sawtooth Open Firmware only has rudimentary support for Linux and cannot boot Linux CD’s by holding down C or holding down option. Rather you will need to direct OF to the Linux InstallCD’s yaboot file:

boot cd:,\install\yaboot

Select Kernel and Options

The Ubuntu Installer will now ask what kernel to load and will tell of a few options that can be passed to the kernel. For most people, the default install-ppc will do – use -smp for duelcpu systems. I decided on the expert-powerpc.

For reference, I followed and the Ubuntu Server Guide and the slightly aged Ubuntu PowerPC Guide for PowerPC related parts.

Switch to Console for a Couple Tasks

When the installer begins a couple tasks may need to be done. First if you didn’t use the Apple Hardware Test Disk, check the hard disk now for bad blocks. Also the console too add the ide-scsi device to the kernel, the Debian installer fails to recognize it. Get to the second console by pressing Ctrl + Alt + F2.

Check for Damaged Blocks on Drive(s):

Bad blocks can cause serious problems running software. If you discover a bad block it will be marked and not used but be warned when drives begin to get bad blocks the drive is almost always failing.

mac-fdisk -l
mke2fs -j -c /dev/sda

DVD/CD-ROM Drive Not Detected

On this computer, the installer failed to load the driver to have the DVD/CD-ROM work (go ahead – it won’t hurt if you don’t need it):

modprobe ide-scsi

Return to the install by doing Ctl + Alt + F1

Time to Build

Note: Older CD-ROMs have trouble being recognized on a regular basis, and have bad, slow, error correcting. You may have to reload the CD multiple times. If the installer gives you alot of trouble I’d recommend the Gentoo Minimal Install CD that only needs to boot correctly (use “gentoo docache”) and everything else will be done on the hard drive.

Basically you just go step by step. Select you langauge and in keyboards select “macintosh” for keyboard. “Detect and Mount CD-ROM” should now work, then “Load debconf…” and then “Load installer components from CD”. I did this quickly after the “Detect and Mount…” option because once the CD was forgoten by the installer.

In “…InstallerComponents” the only option I choose was “mirror select” but its buggy and didn’t work for me. You can find the mirrors available and then you have to enter the mirror without any subdirectories (e.g. in the next dialog enter the subdirectorties (e.g /pub/ubuntu-releases/). I ended up choosing the default UK mirror. The mirror can later be change in /etc/apt/sources.

You’ll need to have to download some files for the download to complete so setup the network.

When you get to partitioning choose the one right for you. I decided on the LVM with encryption. This too has a bug. I got a dialog that said “No NewWorld boot partition was found…”. Yaboot (the Mac bootloader) requires this to boot. As I said its a bug and you can ignore it. It will ask you, “Go back to the menu and resume partitioning?” Select “No” and write the partition table.

The rest should be pretty self explanitory, configure the package manager, users… I opted to have a root account because I know “rm -f /” is bad. ;) Install the software you need. The Ubuntu Server Guide details plenty of options: a dns server, firewall, web server… I installed OpenSSH server because it’s easier just to have one monitor on my desk. LAMP to use apache for webadmin tasks (OSSEC-HID, snort) and DNS Server to setup a local LAN.

Now install the yaboot bootloader (skip LTSP), and thats all you need to do. End the installtion and it’ll ask you what type of clock you want. I set the clock to UTC time.

Reboot system and see your new Ubuntu server.

Package Management

I’ve built a script to use from the command line that I’ve put on the Ubuntu Forums for package management.


change console font in /etc/default/console-setup
Debians bashrc tanks – better bashrc
vim-lite wtf?

Good luck with your new OS!



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 58 other followers