FreeBSD on the desk, another try

After several years of mindlessly running Ubuntu on the desktop, I am attempting to dive (back) into running FreeBSD on the desktop. Considering that the majority of applications I use on the desktop are a browser (Firefox/Chrome), an ssh terminal, and Rhythmbox, how hard could this be?

Some of the hurdles

Given I still wanted to keep Ubuntu around and not redefine my default setup, I kept Grub2 as my bootloader on the MBR. I still needed a way to boot into FreeBSD at-will. I had installed FreeBSD on hd0a. Grub2 from Ubuntu makes finding the FreeBSD boot files incredibly easy:

Considering it has been a while since I ran FreeBSD for anything serious, I had always debated between ports and packages. In my distant memory, packages were not built for every piece of software I wanted, and building ports has the downside of long compile times, and potentially hairy dependency issues. With FreeBSD 10.0-RELEASE, ‘pkg’ has become the default package manager, and thus far, I have had no issues finding packages for any software package I’ve wanted. Upon install, update the package repository:

and use the various ‘pkg search’ and ‘pkg install’ variants to search for, and install the various applications.

I’ve always been curious in the various tiling window managers. i3wm seems to have the most-sane configuration structure among the various other tiling window managers (xmonad, awesomewm, etc). My i3wm configs up on Github.

I am still working on making the tiling-window manager thought process more second-nature. One instance I’m still attempting to wrap my head around, is when I fire up a full-screen window from Chrome, which ends up ‘under’ my main Chrome window. This makes the refrain ‘where the heck did my window go’ quite common. Alongside the fact that there is a lot of font configuration and xorg.conf hacking required to make the desktop what I consider ‘pretty.’

I find myself booting back into Ubuntu more often than not, given I’m more comfortable with the Unity window manager workflow. But I do boot into FreeBSD when time permits to try and hack on making it an actual usable desktop OS. The journey continues.

Wireless, now with more 802.11′s…

With nothing else to do around here tonight while the whole state is shut down thanks to a blizzard, I should catch up on some blog posts.

On my list of home network upgrades for the past several months was the wireless. As my wife and I add to our collection of smart phones, laptops, tablets, and wireless streaming devices (I am looking at you EOL Logitech Revue with Google TV) the amount of latency and available bandwidth started to show signs of strain. I had been running the wireless for several years on an Asus WL-500G Premium v2 router/wap, which only ran 802.11b/g over 2.4Ghz. It was time for an upgrade.

Welcome our new Asus RT-N66U 802.11b/g/n router/wap that handles dual channel 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz wifi.

I did some very unscientific comparisons before and after I performed the hardware upgrade. I pushed and pulled a ~763MB Ubuntu ISO across the wireless, through a 10/100Mb switch, via rsync over SSH from a server on the LAN. The following table shows rsync’s average speed and transfer duration from the point of view of a 15″ Macbook Pro connected via the wifi.

Old Wifi New Wifi 2.4Ghz New Wifi 5Ghz
Upload  1.87MB/s (6:46)  7.69MB/s (1:39)  5.57MB/s (2:17)
Download  2.61MB/s (4:51)  10.81MB/s (1:10)  10.39MB/s (1:13)

Needless to say, I am keeping the new router.

California 2012, thricely.

Condensed version of trip #3 to California.

San Diego

  • Sushi Ota: Sake and sushi with Mozilla folks. For the quality of the sushi (incredible), the price (reasonable) blew me away.
  • Tajima: Ramen! The spicy miso ramen here lives up to its name, be prepared.
  • Fish Market
  • Cucina Urbana: Serious Italian, and a wine list to match. Funky interior too.
  • Davanti Enoteca: Good tripe dish

San Francisco

  • State Bird Provisions: Dim sum delivery, California style.
  • Black Point Cafe: Coffee refuel near the Golden Gate Bridge. Killer latte. Gary Danko
  • Spruce: The duck. Yes, get the duck.
  • Philz Coffee: No justification needed. Had to restock the East Coast supply.
  • Acqurello
  • Izakaya Roku: More ramen! Sake!
  • Humphry Slocombe: Blue Bottle Vietnamese Coffee Ice Cream. Good lord. I can now die a happy man.
  • Incanto: Charcuterie zen master.

Napa/St Helena

  • White Rock Winery: We happened upon this one as they were dumping out the lower quality wine. So sad.
  • Oakville Grocery Co: Mid-Napa refuel. Bread, cheese, meats.
  • Saddleback Cellars
  • Gott’s Roadside: The juxtaposition of this in Napa is pretty jarring. Their milkshakes are a nice divider between all the wine.
  • Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars: This is where I cemented the fact that I like the smaller wineries, rather than the commercial behemoths.
  • Cliff Lede Winery
  • Morimoto Napa

Central California Coast

  • La Bicyclette (Carmel): Pizza, charcuterie, cheese. Take out. To be returned.
  • Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn (Big Sur): One of the most spectacular sunset views on the Pacific Coast. Food is damn tasty too.
  • Big Sur Bakery: Brunch doesn’t start until 1030am, but the fruit strudel and latte’s are killer.
  • Dover Canyon Winery: Our first foray into Paso Robles wines. Unexpectedly awesome. Along with their 185 lb. St Bernard named Thunder.
  • Turley Winery
  • Whalebone: Free chili with every tasting. Clutch with all the damn rain.
  • Adelaide Winery
  • Olavino: Olive oil and salt, one made with ghost chili. Holy crap. and holy good.
  • L’Adventure Winery

Nagios and Git hooks, a redux

A while back I blogged about how I hooked up Nagios and Git to run the Nagios preflight checks before restarting with a new checkin’s worth of configs. But the more I looked at how it all fit together, the more I knew it could be improved. A sed hack, expecting a certain pattern in the nagios.cfg? Bad bad bad. Most of the improvement revolves around Nagios’s ability to reference relative paths for its config files. Given the path of the ‘main’ nagios.cfg file, you can then reference directories that contain your services, hosts, and other custom commands, in relation to that main file. With this functionality I significantly improved the Git->Nagios pipeline.

First, the pre-receive hook

Using the GIT_WORK_TREE environment variable, which specifies Git’s working directory, I check out the new set of potential configs to a temporary directory. This provides a temporary ‘waiting room’ for the proposed configuration to be tested, before before being put into production. Imagine never (intentionally) breaking Nagios again because of a broken host or service specification. The main thing remember is that all references in the nagios.cfg to other config files (hosts, commands, etc) must be relative paths. I.E., I have lines that look like “cfg_dir=configs” in the nagios.cfg. Note the lack of absolute paths. We now run the Nagios pre-flight check (nagios -v) on the nagios.cfg in the Git work tree. Depending upon the exit value of ‘nagios -v’, 0 for success and 1 for failure, we either proceed or die immediately. If success, clean up our temporary run directory.

Now the post-receive hook:

The post-receive hook merely runs a script, noted below, on the Nagios configuration directory.


Given the Git checkout’s directory, we fetch the most recent push to the repository.

For the final step we have to fix some permissions (given that my setup runs the repository through Gitolite as the git user). This hook is located in the actual checkout itself, /etc/nagios3, in the post-merge hook.

A full commit and restart looks like this:


Note that I do keep the Nagios package bundled commands in the /etc/nagios-plugins directory and have purposely not put those in the Git tree. This allows for updated Nagios packages from Ubuntu to update those commands accordingly without interfering with the Git repo.


Remind Me: Damage done in San Francisco in six days

I am lucky enough to have a sister living out in San Francisco, and to be able to work out of our offices there. Below is a hit list of the places I ate at and visited in the span of six days. My stomach has finally recovered.

Wineries (Sonoma County):

  • Preston Vineyards:
  • Unti Vineyards:
  • Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves:
  • Truett Hurst Vineyards:
  • Dry Creek General Store:

Both of us are lucky enough to have been through Napa several times, so we decided to venture into Sonoma County. The last item in that list is an unsuspecting general store off of Dry Creek Road in Heldsburg which has an incredible sandwich list. This area turns Napa on its head, with a much more family-run low-key atmosphere. There is none of the pretense of visiting a large production winery such as Mondavi or the herds of people who visit Duckhorn.

To Eat:

  • Izakaya Sozai:
  • Burma Superstar:
  • Bar Bambino:
  • Yank Sing:
  • La Folie:
  • Hog Island Oysters (Marshall, CA):
  • Mission Chinese:
  • Foreign Cinema:

I cannot recommend every one of these places enough. Izakaya Sozai serves killer ramen. Yank Sing serves dim sum on weekend mornings that melt in your mouth. Shuck your own oysters at Hog Island (we learned in about 30 seconds) at the farm while sitting on benches along Tomales Bay. Mission Chinese blasts gangster rap while you gorge yourself on craveable Chinese food.

Go, eat, recover later.