2.0">What’s New in EasyPBI 2.0

Greetings! With EasyPBI 2.0 now available in the FreeBSD ports tree and as a PBI in the AppCafe, I was asked to highlight some of the new features in EasyPBI 2.0, and why you should want to start using it now.

The first new feature that comes to mind is relatively minor, but saves a fair amount of time if you use EasyPBI with any regularity. This is the ability to check when the last time you updated your system ports tree was, and to use portsnap (or svn if appropriate) to update it to the current version. This is easily available from the “System → Get FreeBSD Ports” menu option.

The second new feature is more of a significant overhaul rather than a brand new feature, and that is making the module editor a complete front-end to editing PBI modules. Previously, the editor allowed the user to view and change the most common options for PBI’s, and trying to use smart defaults for the rest. Now, while still recommending smart defaults, it makes all the settings and options for the module available to the user. The is extremely useful for loading modules from other people, as you can now see everything that the module has inside it, with nothing being “hidden” from EasyPBI inside any of the configuration files. This is easily shown with the new “Scripts” tab in the module editor that lets you read through or edit any custom installation scripts that might be in the module. Another example of this is the new functionality in the “XDG Entries” tab that lets you view/edit any of the desktop/menu entries without having to guess what is inside based upon the file name as with the previous versions. Oh, EasyPBI is also able to set up MIME type file associations for menu entries now, making that whole process very simple and no longer requiring that the user know how to write XML files for the different MIME types.

The last new feature that I want to highlight is one that will not be used very often, but has some very powerful possibilities associated with it. This feature is the ability to package non-port programs in the PBI format. What this option does is basically shift the burden of compiling the program and all its dependencies onto the user instead of using the FreeBSD ports framework. To make this work, the user will first have to setup a directory on his system in the exact format that he wants it to have inside the PBI (with lib/ bin/ share/ etc/ sub-directories as appropriate), as if the program got installed into this directory instead of on the base system. Once that is ready, you can then point EasyPBI at that directory, give it a version number and other program information, then have it all be packaged up as a PBI. This will require a bit more “advanced” usage since you will have to setup external-links and desktop/menu entries for the application yourself (since EasyPBI relies on the FreeBSD ports framework for recommendations), but this ability has a lot of very powerful implications. For instance, it should now allow program developers who wish to distribute special closed-source versions of their software to still make use of the PBI format for simple installations and consistent runtime dependencies by their clients. While this next example was not what the PBI format was originally designed for, I could also see this also being used by device manufacturers to release additional closed-source drivers or FreeBSD kernel modules for their devices. This would provide a simple way to distribute and install these drivers without requiring the system users to have extensive knowledge of the FreeBSD system structure or go through the pain of compiling and loading kernel modules on their own.

These are just some of the new features of EasyPBI 2.0 that I think users will appreciate the most. If you have some “killer” feature that you would like to see in the upcoming versions of EasyPBI, please let me know! I can be found on the PC-BSD PBI developers mailing list[1], or you can send me an email directly[2].

[1] http://​lists​.pcbsd​.org/​m​a​i​l​m​a​n​/​l​i​s​t​i​nfo

[2] ken (at) pcbsd (dot) org


Call for Testers: Network Manager

We’re looking for testers for Control Panel -> Network Manager. In particular, we need feedback from those who use 3G or PPP to connect. We’ve gotten feedback from several non-native English speakers who are new to BSD networking that the 3G/PPP tab doesn’t work “out of the box” and would like to resolve any connection issues in time for 9.1. If you use 3G or ppp and had to manually edit ppp.conf in order to connect, please send your config and any feedback on how to improve this tab to the testing mailing list. The current documentation on this tab is here.

Also, an option was recently added to make it easier to connect to networks where the wireless router hides its SSID. If you would like to test this change, you can compile the new version by running the following commands as the superuser. These commands require that the Development-Qt and Development-VCS packages are first installed from Control Panel -> System Manager -> System Packages -> Development.

svn co svn://svn.pcbsd.org/pcbsd/current/src-qt4
cd src-qt4/pc-netmanager/
qmake-qt4 *.pro
make install

When finished, launch Control Panel -> Network Configuration with an attached/enabled wireless device. The “Add Hidden” button, shown in the Figure, should now allow you to add the SSID for the hidden router.


Haiku Contest

Show us your creativity/humor/love for FreeBSD and PC-BSD by submitting an original haiku poem. Here at iXsystems we always love hearing what you have to say, and what better way to celebrate the upcoming PC-BSD 9.0 release than indulging in some creative writing? We’ll gladly give away a PC-BSD shirt to the winner, and immortalize his/her haiku up on our Facebook and Google+ sites.


  1. Entry must be in haiku form (5,7,5 syllables) and written in comprehensible English in order to be considered.
  2. Multiple entries are welcome, but only one entry per person can win. A single good entry will stand out more than numerous similar ones.
  3. Entry should be FreeBSD or PC-BSD related in order to be considered.
  4. By submitting an entry, you agree to let iXsystems reproduce your work for promotional purposes and that it is your own original work.

Prize: A PC-BSD Isotope T-shirt plus misc FreeBSD swag items. (Total ARV: $30)

Contest starts: Dec 19th, 12:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time

Contest ends: Dec 30th, 11:59 p.m. Pacific Standard Time


6-only Version of PC-BSD 9.0 Available for World IPv6 Day">IPv6-only Version of PC-BSD 9.0 Available for World IPv6 Day

Earlier this year, iXsystems and the FreeBSD Foundation sponsored Bjoern Zeeb (a FreeBSD committer and recipient of the Itojun Service Award for his contributions to IPv6) to improve FreeBSD’s implementation of IPv6. That work included the creation of IPv6-only testing versions of both FreeBSD and PC-BSD in time for World IPv6 Day. As far as we know, the PC-BSD version is the first desktop operating system with a pure IPv6 kernel that does not rely on any IPv4 code. You can read the official press release on prweb.

The PC-BSD testing version is based on PC-BSD 9.0 and is available for download from North American and European mirrors. If you would like to try it out, you’ll find that it is as easy to install as any other PC-BSD snapshot. However, if you wish to connect to the Internet from your IPv6-only system, you will need access to an ISP or third-party service (such as tunnelbroker) that provides IPv6 addresses and a router capable of tunneling IPv6 traffic.

We hope to get as many testers as possible to report on any error messages that they encounter. We expect that some code, especially in third-party applications, won’t know how to deal with IPv6-only. As these errors are reported, they can be submitted to the correct committer to be fixed. Send your reports to the PC-BSD testing mailing list.

It should also be noted that the FreeBSD website and all of the PC-BSD infrastructure (website, forums, etc.) is IPv6 enabled with AAAA records. If you are participating in World IPv6 Day, be sure to visit the PC-BSD and FreeBSD websites!


Club “Needs to Change”

Sam Lin, a PC-BSD user who is active on the testing and translation lists, was recently interviewed by Chris Gardner, Farming and Technology Editor at the Waikato Times newspaper in New Zealand. His interview appeared on page C7 in the Technology section on February 5. The contents of the interview are posted here with permission:

A Waikato computer club whose members promote the use of the free Linux operating system are being told to broaden their horizons or fold.

The Waikato University-based Waikato Linux Users Group (WLUG) was founded in 1998 for users of the alternative to Microsoft’s Windows operating system, flavours of which are installed on more than 90 per cent of the world’s personal computers, and Apple’s iOS. Membership peaked at about 50, but has fallen in recent years to a 10th of that as it struggles to get enough together to hold a committee meeting.

Dr Shih-Min “Sam” Lin, of Waikato University’s honey research unit, who recently joined the committee, said the group almost folded last year as the half a dozen committee members were reluctant to take leadership roles.

There should be much more members than this in the user group,” he said. Dr Lin said WLUG had not been close enough to the mainstream user and was unorganised. WLUG’s monthly meetings on topics like macro programming for Open Office were “quite geeky or techy for the mainstream user”, he said. “It is doubtful if the community would last long without making any change.”

Dr Lin, who uses another free operating system called PC-BSD, said it was easy to find books on paid-for software, but there was little available in the free software market although there was plenty of support online. “This is where I think the user group can cut into the general public. If in the monthly meetings some useful user-firendly tutorials can be given, people would be intrigued and be willing to come. More people, more interaction, more discussion, more vitality and more fun.”

Dr Lin said the free software community was open to everyone, not just computer geeks, and modifying software to suit personal needs was sometimes as easy as adding a few words to a text file. “As a biological scientist I analyse my data of the research on honey with a Free License Open Source Software (FLOSS) called R, which is an internationally well-known statistical package of which one of the original developers is a New Zealander. I typeset my thesis and long document with a FLOSS called LaTeX which is very common among computer science/mathematical/statistical fields. I use GIMP to edit my photos, and I use Firefox to hunt on Trade Me.”


Webcamd Now Has Many Man Pages

Webcamd is a port of the Video4Linux USB webcam and DVB drivers into userspace. It’s been available as a FreeBSD port since January and comes installed with PC-BSD. When Hans Petter Selasky ported these drivers he knew there “were a lot of them, probably many hundreds”. However, it was hard to quantify exactly how many existed and exactly what hardware was supported as this information is scattered throughout thousands of src files and dozens of websites and wiki pages (possibly containing incomplete or outdated information).

It took a while to research what hardware is (in theory) supported by the various drivers; in doing so, I ended up with a spreadsheet that currently contains 1396 entries. That information was used to create 46 man pages (45 driver man pages and 1 for webcamd itself) which have now been added to the port. If you already have webcamd installed and are comfortable updating FreeBSD ports, you can upgrade to the latest version of webcamd. If you’re using PC-BSD, you can wait for next month’s 8.2 release as the latest version of webcamd will be installed with it. Or, if you’re impatient and want to check out the man pages now, you can uninstall the current version and install the new version as the superuser:

pkg_delete –x webcamd && pkg_add –rf webcamd

Once you have the latest version of webcamd, try these commands to see which man pages interest you:

makewhatis /usr/local/man
apropos webcamd | more

The driver man pages contain the VendorID:ProductIDs of previously documented known devices. To determine the ID of a device, use one of the following commands on either a FreeBSD or PC-BSD system:

usbconfig dump_all_config_desc | grep vendor (if the device is an inserted USB device)

Here is an example for when I insert a USB camera:

usbconfig dump_all_config_desc | grep vendor
ugen3.3: product 0x0991 vendor 0x046d at usbus3, cfg=0 md=HOST spd=HIGH (480Mbps) pwr=ON

I could then quickly check to see if that ID is known to be supported from the webcamd man pages:

cd /usr/local/man/man4/
gzcat * | grep “046d:0991

Since I just get my prompt back, support for this particular device isn’t currently documented, so I’ll check just the VendorID:

gzcat * | grep “046d”

This will provide an ordered list of all known to be working Logitech products. From the list, the last documented ID is 046d:08dd.

I know that the information from existing resources is out-of-date. You can help to improve the man pages by letting us know the VendorID:ProductID of any cameras that work for you and which currently aren’t listed in the man pages. Also, if you come across an ID that is supposed to work but does not, please send us the details so we can update that information in the man pages.

For now, leave a comment or send me an email with the information about the device. If it turns out to be useful to do so, we’ll throw up a wiki page where needed changes can be posted and addressed.

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