FreeBSD Notes



System Information

You’ll find everything you need in /var/run/dmesg.boot or in the output of sysctl -a. Some examples:

# Memory  
grep memory /var/run/dmesg.boot  
# No. of CPUs  
grep CPU /var/run/dmesg.boot

Kernel Modules

*kldstat* shows all loaded modules. *kldload* loads a module, *kldunload* unloads a module.


I used the venerable IPFW. In /etc/rc.conf enable the firewall and provide a script:


Then reboot. I used my own simple script at git:// However, given that this is exactly what OS X 10.6 (and below) use for a firewall, you’ll find either WaterRoof or NoobProof pretty awesome for some complicated rules. You’ll have to modify their outputs to script format.

Listing Disks

Can do one of the following

# For SCSI disks [1]
cat /var/run/dmesg.boot | grep da
# or  
gpart show


You’ll need to install bsnmp to get this working.

Mounting XFS

kldload xfs  
mount -t xfs -o ro /dev/da15p1 /mnt

If you get an “Operation not permitted” error, check your filesystem. For XFS, these packages might be helpful

pkg_add -r xfs xfsprogs xfsinfo

The backspace ‘problem’ in vim

echo 'set backspace+=start,eol,indent' >> ~/.vimrc

A note on /etc/rc.conf

If you screw up this file, you’re screwed in turn. A single missing quote and you’ll boot into a read-only system. Be careful, and use sysinstall if you can.

The Ports Tree

See the “Obtaining the Ports Collection” section of the manual if you forgot to install the tree. To update, just run portsnap update.

Installing stuff

As root,

# Update ports tree and system packages
portsnap fetch extract update
freebsd-update fetch
freebsd-update install

# This installs pkg
pkg install bash \
            bash-completion \
            chromium \
            inconsolata-ttf \
            rsync \
            sudo \
            tree \
            vim \
            xfce \
            xorg \
            git \

# Get the kernel source for VirtualBox Guest Additions if applicable
# Configure proxy in ~/.subversion/servers if needed
svnlite checkout /usr/src
svnlite up /usr/src
cd /usr/src
make clean

No packages matching xxx available in the repository

rm /var/db/pkg/repo-*
pkg upgrade

Installing mkfile

Quicker alternative to ye olde dd:

cd /usr/ports/sysutils/mkfile; make install clean

Installing Binaries

Use the packages system.

pkg_add -r vim

Searching ports

cd /usr/ports  
make search name=<package>

NFS Exports

Here’s the pertinent page from the FreeBSD manual that describes how to set these up.


You will need to increase kmem to prevent panics. Check vm.kmem_size and vm.kmem_size_max using:

sysctl -a

If the values look appropriate, skip the “Loader Tunables” section of the manual.

Now start ZFS with:

echo 'zfs_enable="YES"' >> /etc/rc.conf  
/etc/rc.d/zfs start

Creating a zpool

I had twelve 3TB disks I wanted in a RAID6. Sun calls it “RAIDZ2”, since it averts the RAID write hole. I wanted to call my pool “data”:

zpool create data raidz2 da1 da2 da3 da4 da5 da6 da7 da8 da9 da10 da11 da12

I also had a 256GB solid-state cache drive to speed up performance using ARC. Its device name is da16

zpool add data cache da16

Finally, the ZFS tuning guide is a must-read. There’s also a longer, evil version.

Using an existing pool

I had to reinstall FreeBSD after some XFS weirdness. I was able to get my old pool back with

zpool import

This scans all drives and lists any available pools. Then actually import the pool with

zpool import data

Migrating ZFS pools

# On the old server, export the pool ("zpool export -f data" to force)  
zpool export data  
# You've now moved the disks to a new server and are on it right now  
# Scan for zpools  
zpool import  
# Import the zpool (use "-f" if necessary)  
zpool import -f data

It’s magical: zpool will also tell you the host that the drives were on, which ones are missing, etc.

Creating Filesystems

It’s possible to mount and use zpools. But you will miss out on awesome things that ZFS is known for. So create a filesystem:

zfs create data/users  

# Set compression on  
zfs set compression=gzip data/users

You may want to think twice before you set compression and deduplication. They take a heavy toll on memory and performance. Here are some resources:

Snapshots and Clones

Using date +%Y-%m-%dT%k:%M:%S for a nice ISO-8601 formatted date:

# Take a snapshot  
zfs snapshot tank/data@2012-09-09T18:06:49  

# DIsplay snapshots  
zfs list -t snapshot


ZFS is awesome with NFS. Here, I share a filesystem with my trusted network, after setting up my NFS server according to the FreeBSD manual.

zfs sharenfs='-network -mask -maproot root' tank/home

Export data is not written to /etc/exports (as you would expect) but to /etc/zfs/exports. Check your mounts with the usual:

[root@lucifer ~]# showmount -e  
Exports list on localhost:  

Unlike traditional NFS, you don’t have to restart mountd every time you redefine your mount points.

Here are further resources:


See all the rcvars for each service with this

grep rcvar /usr/local/etc/rc.d/*

This is the stuff that would go into /etc/rc.conf (e.g. nginx_enable="YES")

Other Resources