November 13, 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.


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.


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.

November 10, 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 09, 2019


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.


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 06, 2019


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.

Planner for Elementary OS

This is one tidy looking task manager and synchronises with Todoist. I have mixed feelings about Todoist, but if this isn't a great looking UX which pushes all of Todoist's idioms right into the background, making it that much more palatable for my taste.

Planner is a work in progress, so expect bugs. You can contribute by testing the software, reporting bugs and/or code and throw Alain a couple sheckles for all his hard work.

November 03, 2019

Seachange In 2019

Forgive me for a bit of navel-gazing, but it's been one whirlwind year. I was living in the UK, now I'm not. I was working in one industry, now I'm working in a completely different one. I was using Apple products full time, now I'm living in a multiple-OS bizzaro land. So much of my day-to-day has been turned upside down; now feels like as good a time as any to write about some of my changing technology. (I'll leave the specific applications I use for another day I'll just focus on hardware and operating environments for now.)

I still have a great affinity for the sense of purpose/vision of Apple. Their hardware is beautiful, refined and is generally (save their recent keyboards) reliable. There's a uni-body MacBook or two still kicking around the house from 2008! (No, they are not security supported, but they are still workable, viable machines even today.)

That said, I've moved onto a cheapo, salvaged Lenovo ThinkPad T440s. Yes, I know I should have gotten the T440p, but this was a better deal and some kind soul did all the mods I was going to do anyway.) It's got an i7 (4600U), 12GB of RAM and an okay-ish 256GB SDD. If you're keeping score at-home these specs aren't setting the world on fire, but I spend most of my time in a terminal hammering out web code, what more could I ask for :D

I've been running various forms of Arch Linux as my distro of choice. (Currently I am running an Arch derivative called Manjaro which has most of the benefits of Arch Linux for those people who have to get on with their day). There's no reason I need the bleeding-edge, rolling release operating system, but I've convinced myself that I'm a Wayland person-thing. And being the unreasonable person-thing that I am, means that none of the software I use for my Desktop Environment/Window Manager is included in more stable repositories.

Speaking of Desktop Environments, I've given up trying to make too much of a statement and I install Gnome as a base, yet never boot into it. I use Sway as a window manager instead. It tiles all the windows. I have to set their size, position, workspace, etc., but generally it fills up the maximum amount of space with a window and I swap between them mouselessly. Honestly, not that different from the limited window managing on iPadOS (ugh these names).[1] It saves my wrists, I look like a 1337 H4X0R and there are so few things to customize that I can paradoxically invest all my time into customizing them (see the aptly named r/unixporn thread on Reddit).

I still use an iPhone X. I will pick up the next round of iPad Pros. Navigating between these devices and my laptop is not as seamless as relying on iCloud, but not terribly painful either. I setup a Nextcloud instance on a Digital Ocean Droplet and that's how I sync documents, pictures, whatever between them. (Moving this onto my own infrastructure using a Raspberry Pi 4 is my next little project, more to come.) Honestly, almost everything has a cloud relationship these days, so migrating between OSs has been pretty painless. It's a huge pain in the butt to re-login to all of my services, but beyond a few moments of pain everything starts right up where I left off.

There are a few applications which are still iOS/MacOS only, but it turns out that using my phone alongside my computer is fine.

I have a long-in-the-tooth 2011 MacMini that gets fired up for some legacy software. I worry that it's no longer receiving security patches. Perhaps it will go the way of becoming a Wireguard server, or perform some media center function, who knows. I'd set it up as a NAS, but it doesn't support USB3 unfortunately. Sad to see a machine I once used daily to sit idle.

After all that, I'm pretty happy. It could be smoother, sure. But I am self aware enough to realize that I don’t actually want 100% stability; I enjoy tinkering with my setup and different applications.

Have a suggestion or some cool cross platform software to try out? Let me know. I'm open to try anything these days.

  1. Maybe that's how I got so comfortable with a tiling WM... I don't I don't think I've ever really thought about it. ↩︎

November 02, 2019

November: a Blog a Day

Saw lots of people jumping on this idea in my timeline today (see Om Malik and Shawn Blanc, CJ Chilvers, among many others): effectively, why leave writing everyday to the NaNoWriMo crowd? Let's blog everyday in the month of November!

I've done a blogging month-style challenge before and I enjoyed it immensely. So I think I'll partake in this community challenge as well. I'm not sure it's warranted for a writing challenge but I feel like I ought to set a vision for the month. Brent Simmons’ You Choose piece has been bouncing around my noggin for a bit and I'd like to fill the Internet with a bit more sparkle.

Writing creatively or covering things that inspire, that's the measuring stick for the month. If whatever I write doesn't size up, then I'll have to move on, no “Negative Ned”, no fear-mongering. You get the idea.

I encourage you to join the cause and fill your November with blogging. Don't worry if you're coming to this late either, just write a couple of extra posts to make up for time, or go a few days into December. What's the worst that could happen :P

P.s.: If you jump on the bandwagon, send me your RSS feed so I can follow your progress!

November 02, 2019

In With the New

I'm standing in the kitchen, tiles torn from the wall, dust is everywhere. It's chaos.

There's no reprieve at the other end of the house, either. We got antsy and went for it; drying paint fumes fill the bedrooms and every spare nook and cranny filled with refugee furniture from far off rooms.

Home renovations, the perfect respite from an unsettled soul. I jumped ship a few weeks ago and instead of making a smooth transition into my new career, every thing has been complicated instead. My house looks like the inside of my head.

But none of that matters because things are moving. The times are a changin’. New things are coming in and my old “normal” is falling away.

At once, it's both deeply uncomfortable and exhilarating. I'm lucky, honestly. I'm confident I can ride the storm and I have the backing of my family. For the first time in a good long while, I'm standing at the beginning of a season of change but I'm not afraid. I don't know what shape the future will take but I am excited to make its acquaintance.

What is this Place?

This is the weblog of the strangely disembodied TRST. Here it attempts to write somewhat intelligibly on, well, anything really. Overall, it may be less than enticing.