November 14, 2019

A Quick BSD Update

BSD has been a bit of a trip. It's a bit backwards, in that you're meant to install first, then check if everything works. Maybe this behaviour is just a convention, but most BSDs I've tried follow that pattern. With the exception of more recent projects, like NomadBSD, GhostBSD and FuryBSD.

So many things are exactly as I would expect as a Linux and MacOS user, but so many things are different. No judgement there either, it's not terrible or difficult, it just requires more research on my part.

For instance, when I booted up NomadBSD on a little thumb drive attached to my ThinkPad, the wireless wouldn't resolve. I could probe the hardware, so I just needed to set it up and authenticate on my network using wpa_suplicant. But FreeBSD doesn't use systemd, so that's another rabbit whole I needed to jump down.

I'll continue to plug away at it, perhaps not as publicly until I get a system I'm happy using. It's fun but like most things, it's taking longer than I expected.

Third Party

Jeremy Keith:

I’d love to see the rejection of third-party JavaScript normalised in the same way. I know that it would make my life as a developer harder. But that’s of lesser importance. It would be better for the web.

I agree with this wisdom wholeheartedly. The current design of this website serves fonts and external JS libraries, their tracking scripts and who knows what else; I should spend some time realigning the design and assets to my values on privacy and performance.

While agree with Jeremy personally on this point, would it not be just as true that without these particular keys to the kingdom that cross-site tracking might find new methods of doing just that? Perhaps baked into your favourite WordPress extension, or into your hosting provider's platform. There are clear societal goods from making surveillance and tracking more difficult, I'm not arguing otherwise, but it's not clear to me that the motivation to track is going away, either. I mean how else is the vast majority of the open Internet being funded?

I also wonder if that future is already evolving into view as more people are introduced to privacy focused browsers and blocking scripts. “Necessity” is after all the mother of all invention.

Does cross-site tracking move deeper into the stack? Say into a network of WordPress plugins? Or into your hosting provider's platform? Do tracking companies subsidise your website hosting bill in return for a bit of user data?

Gruber on the New 16-Inch MacBook Pro First Impressions

It's amazing that I care so deeply about the fixes and improvements to a product I have never and will never own. I guess that's the kind of nerd I am 😋

I couldn't miss the opportunity to clip this tiny quote from the story:

[Apple's engineering team] recognized how important the Escape key is to developers — they even mentioned Vim by name during a developer tool demo.

FuryBSD

Whoa, what a lucky duck I am today. I found not one, but two lightweight, desktop-oriented BSD projects based on FreeBSD. FuryBSD appears to be quite new, features XFCE as the desktop environment and can be used portably, not unlike NomadBSD. Well, I know what's next in line if NomadBSD doesn't work out for me.

NomadBSD

I stumbled across NomadBSD and apart from having a sweet name, it is also purpose built to be portable and used off a thumb drive, though it can be installed directly to an internal drive. I thought this looks like a cool, rolling option to test out BSD across a bunch of different hardware.

November 11, 2019

VirtualBox Graphical Issues

I thought to myself, you know what would be clever? Installing GhostBSD into a virtual machine so I can get a hang of any differences without wiping my laptop. That felt pretty responsible, but here's the rub: I downloaded, installed and booted up my fresh, new virtual machine and the whole window was transparent!

White text above an image? I can still hear my poor pupils dilating. Depending on where I moved the window, different sections would become visible against my desktop wallpaper. The entire experience has me flummoxed. I thought at first, it might be the install of GhostBSD (maybe I choose the wrong graphics settings at boot? The option marked “VirtualBox” made sense to me) but I'm going to look into trying an alternative to VirtualBox, something like Gnome Boxes.

I figure if that shares the same issue, it may just be the settings I chose in GhostBSD. Perhaps I'll go in with the defaults just to check. Though I'll cross that bridge when I get there.

November 10, 2019

Whoops!

I haven't posted in the last couple of days, which breaks my blog-a-day-for-a-month challenge because my posts were mistakenly pushed to the wrong folder, never to be seen again. I really ought to pay more attention when I edit my posting script 😅

Oh well, I'll make it up to you soon.

GhostBSD

So I'm delving down the BSD rabbit-hole and have no idea where to start. I did what any uninformed person would: I started by searching, “Best desktop BSD”.

Most of the articles I scanned were either relatively old or of pretty poor quality. How much smaller is the BSD community, I began to wonder. The Linux community feels vast in comparison.

I read about PC-BSD... which eventually renamed to TrueOS... which later split into two, TrueOS and Project Trident, the latter of which being the desktop project... only to find out that Project Trident recently rebased on Void Linux. So, all that for a dead end.

I'd nearly given up on the whole enterprise before I came across GhostBSD. The project bills itself as, “A simple, elegant desktop BSD Operating System.” GhostBSD uses Mate as the default desktop environment and is based on TrueOS. Exactly what I was looking for, something purpose built for the desktop and presents itself simply. The release notes for each major release even come with an example dd command attached.

This project feels like a winner to me. Time to experiment!


As an aside, I'm honestly surprised by my first pass at the BSD world. My experience in Linux has made me overconfident. I've forgotten but this must be how new-to-Linux users feel when they first switch from whatever platform they started on. Was it this confusing when I started on Slackware all those years ago? Probably, but I was too excited to think on it for long.

Clearly, I need to summon more of this beginner energy.

November 07, 2019

BSD-Curious?

I don't know when the seed was planted, but I've been giving BSD a good hard look lately. There is just something about the argument BSD is an operating system whereas Linux is a kernel that is appealing to me.

I don't ride the leading edge. Sometimes I pretend, sure. But I use a terminal, a text editor, a browser and an email client. My window manager of choice is pretty lean and depends on relatively modern libraries, but there are alternatives, but I've searched the FreeBSD ports repositories and everything I need is already there or I could build the tiny few things I need from source.

I have a hard time with leaning on 3rd party applications. I install them, run them once and ultimately forget about them. So long as I have access to the web, I don't need much else.

So if software isn't an issue, then why not jump. What's the most I'd lose? Nothing. Is there a potential upside? I think so.

Take a wild guess what I'm doing/writing about this weekend?

Microsoft Will Release Their Edge Web Browser for Linux

The Phoronix forums are not a great look right now. I get the animosity towards Microsoft but I think it's a good idea overall. I'm not huge on Chrome/Chromium, particularly because the developer tools story is better in Firefox. Chromium based browsers are nothing new in Linux, but having another reputable player, other than say Opera, Vivaldi or Brave, in that space is beneficial. Again from a web development side: some of my clients used Edge, that's the reality of the world, so testing on that browser was necessary. Now, I don't have to fire up a VM and do strange network routing just to test locally.