My first Linux User Group meeting

My first Linux User Group meeting

I went to my first Linux User Group meeting tonight. It was run by the
Ottawa Canada Linux User Group. There were
about 70 people there. Guest speakers included Hung Vu of
Armored Networks and
Rasmus Lerdorf of the PHP Project.

Why was I there? The main reason was I was invited. I had already agreed to do
a [Free]BSD presentation for the group on 3 January. It was suggested that coming
along and seeing the group first might be a good idea. It was. I am glad I went.
To some of you this may be a surprise, but Linux users aren’t evil. They are the
largest source of potential FreeBSD users. We have more in common than we have
in differences. It is unfortunate that the immature amongst both groups prefer
to concentrate on silly and irrelevant arguements instead of fostering a spirit of
mutual respect.

My future talk

My talk will be on BSD, primarily FreeBSD, and the similarities and differences
between BSD and Linux. I’ll be using material from both Greg Lehey and Nik Clayton
as the basis for my talk. They had some very good stuff which is going to give me a
huge head start. And the folks at FreeBSD Mall
have given me some CDs to distribute.

If there is sufficient interest, I’ll organize a FreeBSD install at a later date.

The PHP talk

It was a very pleasant talk from Rasmus Lerdorf of the PHP project.
As you know, I’ve been using PHP on this website and FreshPorts for
a number of years. It is my primary and preferred tool for dynamic content.
His talk was entertaining and informative. The person
next to me remarked that he had no idea that php could be used with such a wide variety of
databases. In that regard, I think Rasmus’ talk converted at least one person.

The most interesting idea from this talk was the idea of using an ErrorDocument 404 handler
for dynamic content. I’m quite sure this concept is what we are going to use for FreshPorts2,
where we are going to allow URLs such as to take you
to the logcheck port.

What I’ve been doing lately

It has been about 7 weeks since my last article.
That doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy. During this time, I’ve done many things,
most of which are not directly FreeBSD related. Yes, I do have a busy life
away from the keyboard.

Mountain biking

Since arriving in Ottawa back in May, I’ve spent a great deal of time mountain biking.
I’ve been into the Gatineau hills many times. I especially like one trail we’ve found
which is very under used, filled with single track, and a nice 45 minute loop. One day,
before the snow settles, I want to do a couple more laps around there.

I’ve also been spending a great deal of time at Kanata Lakes. This forested area has many
bits of single track, with quite a few nice loops. I’ve been avoiding the Dark Side,
as my first enounter with that area did not bode well. It’s a very technical area. I
prefer to ride more than 45 seconds without dismounting for the next vertical rock face.
But the rest of the area has large areas suitable for advanced to expert riders.

I’ve even managed to make it down to Potsdam NY and ride the single track at a university
there. I like that. I’d like to go down again this weekend, but it seems most people
have given up cycling for the season. I don’t mind riding alone. It’s just that with a
road trip, it’s good to have company. Besides, the border crossing is easy if you are not

The FreeBSD Diary

Even if you can’t see any change, it does happen. I’ve been working on the structure of
the website and improving it. I used it as the basis for the new FreshPorts development
area. Now that we are going to have multiple developers, each with their own website and
database, it’s good to see that we can use the flexibility inherent within the structure.


If you use the ports tree, and you aren’t a registered
FreshPorts user, you should be. As a registered user,
you can add your favourite ports to a watch list. If any change occurs to those ports, you
will be sent a notification email detailing the change. And yes, it’s all free.

Public disclosure: Yes, FreshPorts is my website….

The work on FreshPorts2 has resumed. We will be adding many new features, including,
but not limited to:

  • /category/port URLs: browse to your favourite port using a pathname
  • register all of your installed ports using a FreshPorts shell script
  • the functionality to expand the FreshPorts concept to any source tree

When will FreshPorts2 be ready? I don’t know. It depends on how fast we work.

Volunteers wanted!

We’re always looking for volunteers for the FreshPorts projects. Right now, we’re
in need of someone to do a face lift on the website to make it look better than it is now…
But we can always use more hands to do php/html work.
If you are interested, join the FreshPorts Develop mailing list by sending a message to majordomo
at with “subscribe develop” in the body of the message. Once you are subscribed,
just let us know that you’re there and what type of stuff you’d like to do.

21 thoughts on “My first Linux User Group meeting”

  1. irado furioso com tudo

    yehaa.. I once was a ferocious linuxer defender. But I was never hungry on FreeBSD. Today I am playing with FreeBSD, and I am falling in love.. The very ‘clean’ way for a server install/configuration is catching my attention (and interest). Many things are easier in FreeBSD than in linux (ipsec vpn – also other vpn’s – bridges.. try a bridge in Linux and you will know what I am saying about. And do not try ever a filtered bridge).

    Great server, great Unix, great FreeBSD.

    1. Answers to the the following questions will help me with my upcoming talk:

      What similarities have you found between the two?
      Are you running all your your favourite programs under FreeBSD?
      What differences have you found?

      What are the three major things you like most about FreeBSD over Linux?

      What are the three things you miss about Linux?

    2. Hi,

      I have been using linux for almost a few years now. Yesterday that is 3rd November 2001 I got freebsd 4.3 for installing. There are certain things I didn’t like about it.

      As I am using slackware linux which doesn’t come with many of the tools of other distibutions I was fairly confident that I will be able to install it easily, but unfotunately I was in for more of a surprise that the install was not at all easy. During the install I was dazed, confused(probably all newbies are confused).

      Similarities :
      In the two I find that almost all the config files are in similar places so I do not have to search for too many things. Also freebsd seemed to have the option of installing xinetd as an extra package, so I think those who use xinetd instead of inetd aren’t left out either. So in the similarity I don’t think there is much difference except in partitioning scheme, totally weird (create a slice) etc (methinks I was eating Pizza :-))

      What difference have I found ?
      As my name indicates I am newbie in freebsd the only difference that I have found after I installed is I still don’t know what I really did and didn’t do and I am still lost with the install of freebsd.

      Something I liked about freebsd is its boot loader because I still can’t figure out what to do(I like the F1, F2,F3) but I would still go back to lilo cos of nostalgia – freebsd doesn’t seem to be caterd to the newbie at all and one would really have to be keen and interested to learn freebsd.

      Can’t answer the last question – I am still just 2 days old in freebsd.

      P.S :- These views are from a newbie point of view and I wish the install was much simple like the slackware’s linux install.
      These are only my views and it is subjected to change in the future, hope it helps.

    3. To answer some of Dan Langille’s questions:

      – What similarities have you found between the two?
      Both BSD and Linux share a great number of userland utilities.
      Utilities such as ls, grep, awk, sed, top and similar are with very few exceptions identical. If you are an experienced linux user, you will probably feel very much at home on a BSD system.

      – Are you running all your favourite programs under FreeBSD?
      I must admit, my workstation is a win2k machine, I use BSD only for servers. However, I have been running a lot of linux applications and utilities under the linux compatibility layer, and I have never run into any difficulties. It just works amazingly well.

      – What differences have you found?
      Biggest difference is probably the location and layout of config files. Where BSD has just about every config file in /etc or /usr/local/etc, linux seems to have a whole bunch of different directories. (In part due to its several different runlevels)
      Once you realize the power of /etc/rc.conf and /etc/rc, you will probably never want to get back to linux’s way of doing things.

      – What are the three major things you like most about FreeBSD over Linux?
      Feels more mature.
      Stability. (rarely any beta versions of daemons or utilities)
      Less hype. 😉

      – What are the three things you miss about Linux?
      I hate to sound commercial, but…
      Linux has alot of "commercial stuff", such as books, t-shirts and, probably most important, companies offering support and guarantees.
      I’ve found that a lot of people choose Linux over BSD simply because its more "visible", in lack of a better word.
      Just last week a friend of mine was thinking about trying a different os, and I immediatly recommended FreeBSD. A few days later, I meet him again, and he told me he was now running Red Hat. He explained that after surfing the web for a few hours, he found that Linux seemed to be a more reliable choice, due to the number of websites and commercial vendors backing it up. And, he added, "they have much cooler t-shirts".
      Like it or not, this is how many choose their os today.

      Just my 2 cents..

      — R

    4. irado furioso com tudo

      the previous coleagues already put everything I was feeling, but anyway I want to point out some other few things:

      I am a newbie in FreeBSD – 20(-+) days from my very WORKING installation. Previous installations was 2/3 years ago, but nothing really serious, just to see it.

      My interests are in the servers side. Install a server and:

      a) run nmap in any Linux and in this FreeBSD you settled just now
      b) run nessus (ditto)

      I am very impressed with the fact that FreeBSD is closed in a very TIGHT fashion, with *no* special endurance procedures. Try it the Linux’s LIDS way, or with ipchains/iptables configuration files.

      with a single file (ipnat.conf), in 5 lines I got a functional redirection of the http requests from the public addr to another server, strongly protected inside the non-routable lan-address.

      IMHO, everything is simpler the FreeBSD way – the rc.conf, the kernel configuration (LINT is great). I am (still) a proud user of SuSE Linux, and maybe it is very near to this way, as it mantains a /etc/rc.config and a rc.d folder. And maybe this ‘proximity’ turned myself more suscetible to FreeBSD.

      Want more? try to create a bridge with Linux and FreeBSD: it is very near to the IMPOSSIBLE with Linux, natural with FreeBSD and native with OpenBSD. Just few lines in GENERIC and ‘presto’.. It is DONE in no time (just the time to recompile and less than 10 lines in rc.conf). A filtering (firewalled) bridge? Forgot Linux.

      Want a ipsec tunnel (vpn)?? Try FreeS/WAN in Linux (or Seattle Firewall) and try it with FreeBSD. I, personaly, will ever preffer the ‘less effort’ path. FreeBSD was built in very short time, nor special efforts neither special kernel patches required.

      Firewall?? 5 (maybe 6) lines in the ipf.conf and it is VERY closed to the outside world.

      You can claim that ipfilter (also ipfw) are open and available also to Linuxers.. but it is not mentioned in any paper or site. (really I dont know if it IS portable, will not try anyway).

      I will try the ipfw way for my needs (redirection/firewall) because I was informed that ipfw is very portable to other *nix – OpenBSD being the real target, I think.

      Did you noted that I am falling in love with FreeBSD?? Because it turned easier my services – and my clients are more protected.

      just my (new) 2/100

    5. I attended the same LUG meeting as Dan in Ottawa, and believe that the differences between Linux groups and FreeBSD groups are far outnumbered by the similarities. If the truth be told, it seems all of us are singing from the exact same page in the hymn book, we just differentiate ourselves based on irrelevant historical trivia.

      I consider myself more of an Open Source software / *nix person than I do a Linux enthusiast. The user group ("Ottawa Canada Linux User’s Group") I belong to is a great repository of *nix talent, regardless of the Linux umbrella it falls under. We’ve got people running / experienced with BSD, HP U/X, Irix, Solaris etc.

      I’d be interested in hearing Dan’s comments on the Hung Vu / ArmoredServer presentation. I actually thought it quite lame, unsubstantiated and a commercial repeat of the FreeBSD effort in a licence-challenged GPL Linux environment. What I found really wierd is that this guy started Milkyway, producing BSD-derived firewalls ages ago. What happened? Why isn’t he running on FreeBSD, because the code auditing is __FAR__ better in the BSD world than in Linux?

    6. I started out with SuSE 6.1 on an SMP box, and found it to be pretty challenging. After making little headway, I installed FreeBSD, and have been using it ever since. The three things I like most about FreeBSD are

      1) The integration of everything in the OS. The Kernel is tightly bound to userland, and the ports tree is wonderful. I haven’t had to scream in frustration at FreeBSD once! (okay, I lied. X is a peice of @!#$)

      2) The community. Having seen the BeOS community self destruct over a period of 2 years, I place a high value in the online community of an OS. Linux has a strong following, but the sense of togetherness isn’t there for me. With FreeBSD (and the other BSD’s for that matter), the community is tight. Between the web, newsgroups, and IRC, everybody is there for each other.

      3) The speed. FreeBSD 4.4 is the fastest OS i’ve ever used. I run it on a p75, and a p2 450, and it’s super fast in all ways. FTP’ing files, I can get almost 8mb/s (Megabyte). Compiling is super fast, along with anything else I can think of. (Except X, and that’s not FreeBSD’s fault).

      The three things I miss about linux are:

      1) The massive amount of applications. Linux users have huge amounts of software available to them. Every university kiddie codes for Linux it seems, so they have tons of usefull little apps and hacks.

      2) The large collection of how-to’s. Although I rarely need a how-to in FreeBSD, the sheer amount of them for Linux is a blessing.

      3) More hardware support. Linux seems to have a bit more hardware support, especialy in the media department – Sound cards, Video cards (Hardware GL support), and TV capture cards (although FreeBSD supports both of mine).

      The only similarities i’ve found are in the normal shell tools. grep, awk, ls, so on and so forth. Otherwise, I prefer FreeBSD’s filesystem layout, and it’s way of doing things ™.

      Every application i’ve found that I want/need, I can run in FreeBSD. I don’t run anything in the compat layers, so it’s all executed natively in FreeBSD.

    7. St Aardvark the Carpeted

      I’ve been running Linux (Slackware, then Debian) for more than three years now, and I’ve just installed FreeBSD 4.3 a month ago (even managed to upgrade to 4.4 and build world w/o breaking anything, woohoo!).<p>

      <i>What similarities have you found between the two?</i><p>

      Compiling everything, of course; once you get over the Windows expectation of having neat little install packages, it seems weird <i>not</i> to compile a tarball. Man pages. General layout. Text friendliness (I’m still not a big X user).<p>

      <i>Are you running all your your favourite programs under FreeBSD?<i><p>

      Not yet; right now, FreeBSD is still something I play with. The most important two things I do are email and web browsing; right now, my older (Linux) computer has all the programs and defaults and archived mail, and I don’t want to bother moving it over yet.<p>

      <i>What differences have you found?</i><p>

      FreeBSD has a man page for <i>everything</i>. Ports. A more "hard-core" feel somehow; like the difference between a cube van you rent from U-Haul and an 18-wheeler loaded with freight. Bash isn’t the default shell in FreeBSD.<p>

      <i>What are the three major things you like most about FreeBSD over Linux?</i><p>

      A man page for <i>everything</i>. Ports. Incredibly quick at three things: booting, shutting down, and getting a prompt back after you messed up your login. I have no idea where the difference in speed comes from, but it’s jaw-dropping.<p>

      <i>What are the three things you miss about Linux?</i><p>

      HOWTOs (God I miss them!). The ability to do a search on Google for whatever problem I’m having and be 99% sure of finding a solution; I think this is just a matter of having a bigger number of people mess up :-), but it seems that if I have a problem w/FreeBSD there’s going to be a long night spent in front of Google before I figure out what’s going on. Penguins; sorry, but it’s true.

    8. I used slackware from summer of 1996 up untill december of 2000 right after I was layed off from this past year I have grown to really love FreeBSD, the only thing i wish didnt happen in FreeBSD is the core dumps from linux apps. :\
      other then that I love it! the ports are the best damn thing ever, the installer took a bit of getting used to since I had no clue about the BSD’s, their is the ‘Distributions’ and then extra packages you can install, I like how sysinstall has all the options for system configuration.
      another thing that kicks major, major, ass is that if you have broadband (Praise the Lord!!) you only need 2 floppie disks to install via the net, that is something I had been wanting for a looooooong time in linux and nobody has it yet. :\ go figure…
      all in all, FreeBSD is awesome, I totally love it, my sony VAIO laptop’s cdrom drive works now and dosnt FREEZE like it did in Linux(its an ATA-Ninja PCMCIA to IDE type deal) the kernel version didnt matter either, tried everything from 2.2.xx up to 2.4.5.(i was running linux on my laptop for the first few months of this year, all my servers were rebuilt to FreeBSD.).

      I highly recommend this OS to anyone wanting to learn unix.

    9. What similarities have you found between the two?
      not much realy, prehaps the fact that there both a "unix" style os 🙂

      Are you running all your your favourite programs under FreeBSD?
      I’ll admit here i use Win2k on the desktop and FreeBSD on servers, I’ve never hit an application I cant run in FreeBSD yet, most times Im finding new applications to mess with because "i just found them in ports". Game servers run a charm under the ABI compatability layer, and imho most times infact run better.

      What differences have you found?
      Less Crud/Clutter, what other modern OS will install onto 80-90 meg of disk space?

      The kernel and userland work as one. Many linux users dont understand what the diference between kernel-land and userland is. People ask me constantly how to setup this or that or the other, I’ve personaly guided 3 people through building a FreeBSD box from the point of a empty hard disk to a fully operational ADSL router, over icq / msn / irc and so on.

      the 4.3/4.4 installer, the defaults realy make sence now, its almost a hold down enter and run with it job now.

      What are the three major things you like most about FreeBSD over Linux?

      Smaller Footprint, Messing with Redhat 7.1 I found that a default server install to use around 20meg of ram, my work horse server at home uses around 32meg of ram, while my colo box utilises around 60 meg of ram.

      CVS CVS CVS!!!!, i cant say anymore than that, CVS rocks.

      -STABLE, linux has no such thing 🙂

      What are the three things you miss about Linux?

      um, er, nothing 🙂
      Not having DRI break every other release in X would be nice, but then X11 is a PITA some times.

    10. I’ve been using Linux for about five years, and have just started to play around with FreeBSD.

      <i>What similarities have you found between the two?</i>

      They’re both Unix! I felt at home straight away.

      <i>Are you running all your your favourite programs under FreeBSD?</i>

      Not yet, but this should mainly be a case of downloading and building what I want.

      No commercial games that I am aware of are available under FreeBSD, but Linux also has very few games. I’m coming to the realization that neither has anywhere near as many games as Windows does, and that it’s time to buy a games console.

      <i>What differences have you found?</i>

      Many GNU/Linux distributors have made great efforts to make their distribution a viable desktop/workstation operating system. In doing so, they have become superficially beautiful, but everything seems so slapped together.

      FreeBSD seems more thoughtfully planned and constructed, and better suited to a critical server.

      The licensing schemes are also quite different. I admire the FSF’s aims, but they may not be practical for everyone.

      I also feel that most GNU software is quite bloated. I hope that the FreeBSD tools are far leaner, whilst retaining most of the functionality… I’ll soon see.

      <i>What are the three major things you like most about FreeBSD over Linux?</i>

      FreeBSD seems to be much more coherent: the filesystem is well laid out, the manual pages are better maintained, and the general feel is much more Unix-like.

      The installer was much better than expected.

      There seems to be some facility for keeping system configuration files under version control. This is a great idea.

      <i>What are the three things you miss about Linux?</i>

      The Debian alternatives system.

      An advanced package management system such as apt and friends.

      The mass-availability of binary packages.

      FreeBSD may have suitable replacements for these things. I’m still learning! 🙂

    11. For me the #1 thing is the method of upgrading the system. cvsup/make buildworld simply changes the long term amount of administration a server will require compared to the various options on linux. In the established linux distributions I only see Debian coming close. But I prefer the source builds…

  2. Upon reading the brief statement you made about using Error404 for running a PHP script in this article:

    I decided to try it out. The problem I found was with Microsoft browsers that were set to ‘Use Friendly HTTP Error Messages’. I believe, because the Apache server still sends back a HTTP/1.0 404, Microsoft Internet Explorer then displays it’s generic and very simple error message saying the file could not be found. If that option is disabled, it works fine. It also works fine in Netscape, and in Lynx (however, in Lynx, it still does say in the
    status bar "File Not Found", then continues and proceeds to load your error page. So, I think the problem is that Microsoft decided to not even display the error message the server produces, and just made its own.

    Is there a way to get Apache to send back a 201, or whatever it is, instead of a 404? Or how would one get around this problem? Or can PHP send a second header or something, or one that receeds the Apache 404 header? I’m not really sure how this works…

    Thanks for any information you can provide,

    David van Geyn

        1. That was all the code needed.

          If using the ErrorDocument 404 handler to call a PHP script, and you don’t want the server sending along an "HTTP/1.1 404 Not Found" header, adding ‘header("HTTP/1.1 200 OK");’ at the top of your PHP script seems to do the trick.

    1. The problem with sending the 200 code is that the agent then believes it got a valid page. If it’s a browser, it gets added to the history list. If it’s a spider, the page gets crawled. I’m not sure, but I imagine that it doesn’t show up in the server log as an error.

      1. A 200 code would only be sent if the URL provided by the user actually resolved to something reasonable. I’ll give an example.

        The best application of this feature would be for <A HREF="">FreshPorts</A&gt; to allow URLs such as this:

        The Error404 handler would invoke a .php page, which would lookup security/logcheck and redirect it to <A HREF="">this page</A>. You’ll admit, the above URL is easier than the link just here… In which case, it will return a 200.

        If the php script can’t find a page to resolve to, it just does The Right Thing (TM) and provides a 404.

        Does that makes sense now?

    2. Simply load a graphic on the 404 page or more text! Microsoft displays their "pretty" 404 error page only when the 404 page loaded is less than a certain number of bytes. I don’t remember the particulars but a bit of experimentation should answer the question quickly.

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