pc-sysinstall article in June Issue of BSD Mag

Kris has written an article “Installing FreeBSD with pc-sysinstall” which has been published on pages 2628 in the June issue of BSD Mag. You can download that issue for free from here. From the introduction:

Several months ago, the PC-SYSINSTALL system (the installer for PC-BSD 8.0 and higher) was merged into FreeBSD CURRENT, in preparation for FreeBSD 9.0. This installer is primarily a backend, but it can also be used stand-alone for multiple scripted or single installations of FreeBSD. In this article we will take a look at how to use PC-SYSINSTALL, as well as various configuration options to take advantage of FreeBSD features which currently cannot be used via the default installer.


9 Snapshot Includes Control Panel and MythTV Improvements">Latest 9 Snapshot Includes Control Panel and MythTV Improvements

Kris has just announced that the next testing snapshot is available. Some of the changes will be of interest to MythTV and multiple window manager users:

The next snapshot for PC-BSD 9-CURRENT is now available for download.

Snapshot instructions and general information on providing testing feedback are available here.

This snapshot includes the following changes:

  • Update to Control-panel allows it to detect the current window manager and display the configuration tools provided by that desktop environment. Included is a CLI de-info script to get current desktop as well as a list of all installed desktop environments. Thanks to Yuri Momotiuk for this cool feature.
  • Added several new MythTV plugins and related ports as well as an icon for MythTV initial setup. We’re looking for MythTV users to test these changes and help with documenting MythTV usage in the Handbook.
  • Fixed some typos in pbi-manager man pages.
  • Corrected some incorrect wallpaper re-sizing on the installer.
  • Updated nvidia driver to 270.41.06 which adds support for several GPUs.
  • Fixed nvidia driver not loading kernel module at boot.
  • Allow user mounting of mmcsd(4) MMC and SD memory cards.
  • Added uhidd (USB human interface devices) to the base-system.
  • Fixes to the network manager for setting up IPv6 gateway / DNS.
  • Fixed bugs in the System Manager checking out ports / system source.
  • Added patch for pc-sysinstall which improves wiping backup GPT partition tables.
  • Fixed issue with optional components, source / ports not being installed from DVD
  • Updated the default beastie.4th boot-splash menu to boot quicker, and more easily halt the countdown

PBI Manager Now Available in FreeBSD Ports

Yesterday Kris committed PBI Manager to the FreeBSD ports collection (/ports-mgmt/pbi-manager). This means that you don’t have to wait for PC-BSD 9.0 to be released to try out the new command line suite of PBI tools.

You can find some documentation on the various tools in this section of the PC-BSD 9.0 Handbook. Users are welcome to add to this section to help other users get the most out of PBI Manager.

NOTE: PBI files created for PC-BSD 7.x/8.x (i.e. those available from pbidir​.com) will NOT work with PBI Manager as the PBI format has changed for 9.0. You can find the locations of 9 PBIs here.


9-Current 20110425 Snapshot Available">9-Current 20110425 Snapshot Available

Kris has announced that the next testing snapshot is available:

The next PC-BSD 9-CURRENT 20110425 snapshot is now available for download.


  • Fixed issue launching the handbook icon
  • Fixes for using GELI with a passphrase and not key files
  • Fixed running the installer via the LIVE DVD / USB images
  • Numerous fixes to window-managers, stray icons, missing configurations, etc
  • Started adding theme data, such as wallpapers, icons and related configuration

Known Issues:

  • Still working on some bugs related to loading / using the nvidia binary drivers
  • The installer wallpaper may show up with incorrect re-sizing

For answers to common questions, including how to provide feedback, please refer to the snapshot page on the wiki.


20110414 Available">Testing Snapshot 20110414 Available

The next PC-BSD 9 snapshot is now available for both amd64 and i386.

Kris has created a new Wiki page with details about the snapshots. Please take a look at it before installing any snapshots:

Changes in this snapshot:

  • KDE 4.6.2
  • Updated the port for gksu and fixed bugs running apps as root
  • Many improvements to AppCafe
  • Installing PBIs as user now adds binaries to PATH
  • Many bug fixes to menu icons / LXDE / KDE4 / Gnome that were reported by testers of the last snapshot
  • Using GELI with a password doesn’t create additional key files now
  • Installer hides “FreeBSD” option when it isn’t available on the current media

Known Issue:

  • The handbook desktop link doesn’t work. This is fixed in SVN and will be in the next snapshot.

Please send any bug reports to the testing mailing list.


9">Package Management for the Upcoming PC-BSD 9

Kris has written an article that discusses the new PBI format. It appears on pp 1617 of the April issue of BSD Mag and is reprinted here with permission.

The updated PBI format offers many new features such as digital signing, binary diff patching, and repository management, while preserving the original goals of format, by allowing packages to be installed and run in a self-contained manner. Lets first
take a look at how the PBI format differs from traditional package management, and then explore the changes in the upcoming 9.0 release.

The biggest difference between applications packaged in the PBI format vs traditional FreeBSD packages or RPMs is that each archive contains a complete set of libraries and dependent data required for for the target software to function. This means in effect, that a PBI is self-contained, and doesn’t require changing system packages to load the appropriate dependencies. A PBI file can be installed or removed at will, without effecting other applications or running the risk of causing breakage elsewhere in
the process. With the re-implementation of the format for the upcoming PC_BSD 9, this core concept has remained and been expanded upon.

One of the first major changes for the next PBI format has been the addition of library and file sharing between PBIs. In the previous implementation of the PBI format it was common that identical files existed between various applications. These duplicates, while necessary to provide self-contained functionality, still wasted both disk and runtime memory space. In the new format this waste of space has been greatly reduced through the usage of what has been dubbed the hash-dir. In this directory, libraries and common files are able to be shared between various PBIs through a system of hard-links. When an identical file is found in a PBI, the original will be removed and a hard-link created to the copy already in the hash-dir. After a PBI has been removed, any unneeded files left in the hash-dir are cleaned up by the pbid daemon, which monitors and maintains the integrity of the shared files.

Another new feature is the ability for administrators and PBI builders to create and manage their own repositories of PBIs. This repository system provides a number of tools for PBI distribution, release management and more. For the end user, tools are now provided which allow the browsing of PBIs in a repository, enabling auto-updates and mirror configuration. Tied into the new repository system is a new feature to digitally sign PBI files, and verify their contents. When a distributor creates a new repository, it includes an openssl public key file which is installed on the end users system. When the distributor runs a PBI build process, the resulting PBI file includes several signatures for the content archive and installation and removal scripts. During the PBI installation process, these signatures are checked to confirm that the archive has not been tampered with during transit. This key file is also used to associate a particular PBI with a parent repository for upgrade purposes, since it is possible that multiple repositories will have the same applications.

Since the very nature of self-contained packages tends to produce larger installation files, one thing which needed improvement was the updating process. In the previous implementation, updating an installed PBI would require the re-downloading of the entire installation archive. For larger applications this could be a rather time-consuming process, especially for users running over low bandwidth connections. In the typical application version update, only a small percentage of files had actually been changed, and a majority of these may simply be building time-stamps. In order to solve this problem the new PBI specification now supports updating via binary diff patches. Distributors running PBI builds can now enable options to generate small PBP (Push Button Patch) files, which are often a fraction of the size; in some cases less than 5% of the original PBI archive. When the end user begins the update of a PBI file from a repository, it automatically checks for for the presence of a PBP file, and attempts to use it, only falling back to the original archive should the process fail.

A more recent addition to the new PBI format is the ability for applications to be installed by user (non-root) accounts. Since each application is entirely self-contained, and doesn’t require changing around other installed packages, it became very easy to implement functionality for user-installation. By default the PBI format allows users apart of the systems operator group to perform installations and upgrades. This allows enhanced security in office or home situations, where users can now add/remove software on their desktop without being able to use the root account.

All these new features in the PBI format for PC-BSD 9.0 have already made it far superior to the existing legacy format. For traditional FreeBSD users though, perhaps the most important new feature is the implementation. The previous PBI incarnation was developed in QT/KDE C++, which made running on native FreeBSD cumbersome, especially on a system which had no need for X11 installed. The new format is implemented 100% in shell, and is able to run on traditional FreeBSD entirely from the command-line. The various functionality is broken up into 15+ command-line utilities with man-pages for each, which makes native FreeBSD usage a natural fit.

We’ve just taken a brief look at this reimplemented PBI format, and some of the new features it offers. This format will ship as the default for PC-BSD 9.0 and beyond and is currently available for beta testing in our PC-BSD 9-CURRENT snapshots. Once out of beta, it will be available to install on traditional FreeBSD via the ports system.

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