Tag Archives: android

Manage Contacts the UNIX Way

About two years ago my neighbor asked me a question – “How do you manage contacts on your devices?” – and that was my ‘a-ha’ moment in that topic – I do not. I do not at all. He had a problem of having an iPhone with iTunes and Android phone and wanted to manage contacts between them in one single sensible place. Finally he settled on some closed source freeware software which run on Windows. But that was not the answer – that was just the beginning – how to manage contacts the UNIX open source way?

I have tried to search for some open source software that is capable of doing that efficiently and without too much effort and PITA … and I failed miserably.

So as usual I came with my set of scripts that will do the job and after several years of using this ‘system’ I am quite satisfied with the results and PITA reduced to minimum.

Export from Phone

The VCF file (also called VCARD) exported from a mobile Android based phone looks like below.

% cat export.vcf
FN:herbert pierre hugues
FN:butcher (local)
FN:martin brundle (f1)

I have used colors to distinguish different contacts.

The most annoying field seems to be 'N' which tries to be smarter then needed – trying really hard to first put surname, then name, and then other names. The 'FN' field is a lot more useful here. The remaining fields as 'TEL' or 'EMAIL' does not try to outsmart us and work as desired. The VCARD of course starts with 'BEGIN:VCARD' and ends with 'END:VCARD', that is obvious. In 2015 when I initially wrote those scripts the Instant Messaging was still used by me. Now several years fast forward I use it very rarely, but its still in use. I keep this Instant Messaging number/account information in the VCARD 'X-QQ' field in which I use protocol:number notation and use it for all different Instant Messaging solutions. The 'gg:' is for example for the Polish solution called Gadu-Gadu.

I do not find this VCARD format readable, nor grepable/searchable, thus I convert it into the plain text file which looks like follows and is grep(1) and awk(1) friendly (columns separated by spaces).

====  =====  ==  ====  =====

Here is how the above VCARD information looks after converting it with my script to the plain text columns.

% contacts-convert-vcf-from.sh -t export.vcf | column -t > contacts
% cat contacts
NAME                                    PHONE                                                IM                MAIL                                                    NOTES
======================================  ===================================================  ================  ======================================================  =====
butcher-(local)                         555123457;225553457;451232421                        -                 -                                                       cheap
herbert-pierre-hugues                   555123456                                            -                 pierre@gmail.com                                        executive
martin-brundle-(f1)                     555987654;451232421                                  gg:32847916       -                                                       fast

The length of ‘=====’ underscores is defined/hardcoded in the scripts itself. Why hardcode this? For comparison purposes – more on that later. The entries are also sorted by name. I could embed/rework the script to contain also the column -t command but I did not saw the need to – but its of course possible.

Now – lets suppose you want to generate new VCARD with some of your contacts, then you could use grep(1) to filter out the unneeded entries, like that.

% grep -v butcher contacts > contacts.NOBUTCHER
% contacts-convert-vcf-to.sh contacts.NOBUTCHER > import.vcf
% cat import.vcf

FN:herbert pierre hugues

FN:martin brundle (f1)

Its obvious but the generated VCARD does not contain the 'butcher (local)' contact. You can now send this import.vcf file to your phone using email and then import these contacts as you would from any other VCARD shared with you.


I use three scripts to convert/export/import/check that data in VCARD form.

The contacts-convert-vcf-from.sh script as the name suggests converts VCARD data (VCF file) into the plain text information. but I also implemented the CSV method which may be useful for some people – to put that data into the spreadsheet.

% contacts-convert-vcf-from.sh
usage: contacts-convert-vcf-from.sh TYPE FILE
  TYPE: -c | --csv
        -p | --plain
        -t | --text

Here is example CSV output from the script.

% contacts-convert-vcf-from.sh -c export.vcf

The contacts-convert-vcf-to.sh script converts the plain text data into the VCARD format.

% contacts-convert-vcf-to.sh
usage: contacts-convert-vcf-to.sh FILE

The last contacts-check.sh script is used to find duplicated phone information within the plain text file. Many time I have found duplicated contacts with different names but with the same phone number.

% contacts-check.sh contacts | column -t
butcher-(local)      555123457;225553457;451232421  -            -  cheap
martin-brundle-(f1)  555987654;451232421            gg:32847916  -  fast

All of the three are available in my GitHub scripts page – https://github.com/vermaden/scripts/ – available here.

You can of course download them using command line like that.

% wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/vermaden/scripts/master/contacts-check.sh
% wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/vermaden/scripts/master/contacts-convert-vcf-from.sh
% wget https://raw.githubusercontent.com/vermaden/scripts/master/contacts-convert-vcf-to.sh
% chmod +x contacts-*

Updating Contacts

Its easy to maintain several contacts – no matter in which format – but when you grow to have about a 1000 of contacts (and I do) then you need to deal with it intelligently.

Not to mention that you can add a new contact on your phone (more often) but You can also update your local plain text contacts file.

This is where UNIX comes handy. You may use diff(1) to compare these ‘updates’ with following command.

% diff -u contacts contacts.NEW | egrep '^\-|^\+'
--- contacts            2019-12-13 15:29:23.541256000 +0100
+++ contacts.NEW        2019-12-13 15:29:36.087084000 +0100
-john-doe-the-third                      -                                                    -                 jogh.doe@gmail.com                                      -
+jan-kowalski                            555192384                                            gg:11844916       -                                                       slow

This way you know that there are two new contacts, one '-' from the local contacts file and one '+' from the plain text version generated from phone exported VCF file called contacts.NEW here.

You can also use vim(1) with its diff mode enabled by starting with -d flag as shown below.

% vim -d contacts contacts.NEW

Here is how it looks like.


… and we now get back to the amount of '====' used in the columns in the plain text file. If you keep the same amount of these each time, then diff is possible. If I would not put them there the column -t command would generate larger NAME column for example because of longer contact name – and because of additional space in the remaining contacts both diff(1) and vim(1) tools will show that all contacts are new.

This is how I manage the contacts the UNIX way, if you have more fun way of dealing with the contacts then please let me know πŸ™‚


FreeBSD Desktop – Part 17 – Configuration – Automount Removable Media

In this article in the FreeBSD Desktop series I will introduce various methods to automatically (or not) mount external/removable devices such as USB or eSATA disks/pendrives or SD/microSD flash cards.

You may want to check other articles in the FreeBSD Desktop series on the FreeBSD Desktop – Global Page where you will find links to all episodes of the series along with table of contents for each episode’s contents.

One of the FreeBSD daemons is devd(8) – the device state change daemon that provides a way to have userland programs run when certain kernel events happen. Such events are when new block device appears/disappears from the /dev directory.

For this problem about 2013 I created a devd(8) based solution – the automount daemon. Its workflow is very simple. When new ada/da/mmcsd* device appears then it tries to detect the filesystems on these partitions/slices and mount them. It you remove such device (device disappears) then it forcefully unmounts it and cleans used mountpoint from the /media directory.

It is available on GitHub - https://github.com/vermaden/automount - and in the FreeBSD Ports as sysutils/automount port. You can also install it as pkg(8) package. Its 2018 and various other solutions appeared in the meantime. One is the included in the FreeBSD base system autofs(8)/automount(8) subsystem.

The other one is dsbmd/dsbmc – a media mounting daemon/automounter for FreeBSD with optional graphical GTK+ frontend. There is also FreeBSD base system solution called autofs(8) which I was not able to make work.

One has to also remember that to mount any FUSE based filesystem the FreeBSD FUSE kernel module needs to be loaded. To enable loading FUSE kernel module at boot add fuse_load=YES line to the /boot/loader.conf file and to load it on the running system just type the kldload fuseΒ command.

Below I will try to compare all their features, strengths and weaknesses.

  • sysutils/automount
    + can customize mount options for each filesystem type
    + written in POSIX /bin/sh script – easy to modify
    + can open selected file manager when device is inserted
    + provides /var/log/automount.log log file
    + supports MTP devices (Android phones for example)
    + supports XFS and HFS
    - does not support BTRFS (can be added)
  • sysutils/dsbmd
    + can customize mount options for each filesystem type
    + supports MTP devices (Android phones for example)
    + provides graphical fronted in GTK+ toolkit
    + can open selected file manager when device is inserted
    + supports BTRFS/HFS/XFS
    + provides /var/log/dsbmd.log log file
    - sometimes hangs at 100% cpu usage
  • autofs(8)
    + supports MTP devices (Android phones for example)
    + is available in the base system
    - does not allow custom mount options per filesystem
    - does not provide log file
    - does not support BTRFS/HFS/XFS (can be added)
    - mount being done only after interaction with /media/* dir
    - removed device is not unmounted automatically

Up to this day I used mine sysutils/automount exclusively as removable devices automount solution. For Android phones I used simple-mtpfs command within xterm(1) terminal. I tried sysutils/dsbmd along with sysutils/dsbmc-cli and GTK+ graphical sysutils/dsbmd frontend and I really liked it but it sometimes fails me with 100% cpu usage and requires restarting. That does not happen withΒ sysutils/automount which just works so I will stick to it but I will provide an update later with results after longer period of testing the sysutils/dsbmd daemon.


First I will describe daemon that I used since 2013. The sysutils/automount solution. Its installation and setup is very easy, just add the automount package using pkg(8). Nothing more is needed as the pkg(8) will restart devd(8) after adding new configuration files.

# pkg install automount

One of the nice features of sysutils/automount is /var/log/automount.log log file which has all details about mounted filesystems.

% tail /var/log/automount.log
2018-10-08 12:18:45 /dev/da0s1: mount (fat)
2018-10-08 12:19:23 /dev/da0: detach
2018-10-08 12:19:23 /dev/da0: mount point '/media/da0' removed
2018-10-08 12:19:23 /dev/da0s1: detach
2018-10-08 12:19:23 /dev/da0s1: mount point '/media/da0s1' removed
2018-10-09 11:38:14 /dev/da0: random wait for '0.1' seconds before 'attach' action
2018-10-09 11:38:14 /dev/da0: attach
2018-10-09 11:38:14 /dev/da0: mount (exfat)
2018-10-09 11:44:02 /dev/da0: detach
2018-10-09 11:44:02 /dev/da0: mount point '/media/da0' removed

The sysutils/automount comes with /usr/local/etc/automount.conf configuration file which has these options on my box.

% cat /usr/local/etc/automount.conf
FM="caja --browser --no-desktop"

Besides not supporting (yet) MTP devices it just works. It is also very simple solution and being written in POSIX /bin/sh script it is very easy to modify it to one’s needs.


The second option is the sysutils/dsbmd solution. Check the links below for more detailed description of this automounting daemon.

To install the dsbmd/dsbmc/dsbmc-cli trio just use pkg(8).

# pkg install dsbmc-cli dsbmc dsbmd

To configure dsbmd/dsbmc/dsbmc-cli trio these steps are needed.

1. Add dsbmd_enable=YES to your /etc/rc.conf file.

2. Install additional filesystems support depending on your needs:

  • fusefs-exfat
  • fusefs-gphotofs
  • fusefs-ntfs
  • fusefs-simple-mtpfs (MTP)
  • fusefs-ext2
  • fusefs-hfsfuse
  • fusefs-lkl

3. Add these lines below to your ~/.xinitrc file (or ~/.xsession).

  dsbmc-cli -a &
  dsbmc &

You will then see the dsbmc icon in the system tray area.


By default dsbmd will mount storage devices as regular user but You need to make sure that vfs.usermount=1 is in your /etc/sysctl.conf file and applied.

After I put the FAT32 or exFAT USB device it was automatically mounted.

/dev/da0 on /media/da0 (msdosfs, local, nosuid, mounted by vermaden)

The configuration file is available at /usr/local/etc/dsbmd.conf location. The dsbmd also comes with /var/log/dsbmd.log log file.

% tail /var/log/dsbmd.log
dsbmd: Killing blocking process 85421 ... on Thu Oct 11 16:48:10 2018
dsbmd: Sending SIGTERM to 85421 ... on Thu Oct 11 16:48:10 2018
dsbmd: Command /usr/local/sbin/mount.exfat ${DSBMD_DEVICE} "${DSBMD_MNTPT}" executed by UID 1000 failed with code 15: No error: 0 on Thu Oct 11 16:48:11 2018
dsbmd: Device /dev/da0 mounted on /media/GMS by UID 1000 on Thu Oct 11 16:48:12 2018
dsbmd: Device /dev/da0 unmounted from /media/GMS by UID 1000 on Thu Oct 11 16:49:09 2018
dsbmd: Device /dev/da0 mounted on /media/GMS by UID 1000 on Thu Oct 11 16:49:15 2018
dsbmd: Device /dev/da0 unmounted from /media/GMS by UID 1000 on Thu Oct 11 16:49:16 2018
dsbmd: Client with UID 1000 disconnected on Thu Oct 11 16:52:53 2018
dsbmd: Client with UID 1000 connected on Thu Oct 11 16:52:55 2018
dsbmd: Device /dev/da0 mounted on /media/GMS by UID 1000 on Thu Oct 11 16:58:22 2018

The dsbmd can also be configured with many useful options like mount(8) options for each filesystem type separately.

% grep _opts /usr/local/etc/dsbmd.conf | sed 's|\#\ ||g' | awk '{print $1}' | sort -u

The main GTK+ dsbmc window looks as follows.


You can also disable automatic mounting and can mount devices by hand with dsbmc tool.


… or unmount them.


It is also a solution used in the NomadBSD portable distribution.

It sometimes fails with 100% cpu usage or with error message as this one:



Last one is the FreeBSD base system solution.

To enable it one should do these steps:

  1. Add autofs_load=YES to your /boot/loader.conf file.
  2. Add autofs_enable=YES to your /etc/rc.conf file.
  3. Uncomment the /media -media -nosuid line in /etc/auto_master file.
  4. In the /etc/devd.conf file you need to add (or uncomment) the following content.
    notify 100 {
      match "system" "GEOM";
      match "subsystem" "DEV";
      action "/usr/sbin/automount -c";
  5. To have MTP support you will also have to install sysutils/fusefs-simple-mtpfs and add the /mtp -simple-mtpfs -allow_other line to the /etc/auto_master file. Along with fuse_load=YES in the /boot/loader.conf file.

After doing all these I restarted the autofs(8) daemons.

# grep -r autofs_enable /etc
/etc/defaults/rc.conf:autofs_enable="NO" # Run autofs daemons.
# /etc/rc.d/automountd onestop
# /etc/rc.d/autounmountd onestop
# /etc/rc.d/automount onestop
# /etc/rc.d/automountd onestart
# /etc/rc.d/autounmountd onestart
# /etc/rc.d/automount onestart

Now after attaching the USB drive the /var/log/messages file shows following information.

# tail /var/log/messages
Nov 21 13:37:42 t420s kernel: ugen2.4:  at usbus2
Nov 21 13:37:42 t420s kernel: umass0 on uhub4
Nov 21 13:37:42 t420s kernel: umass0:  on usbus2
Nov 21 13:37:42 t420s kernel: umass0:  SCSI over Bulk-Only; quirks = 0x8100
Nov 21 13:37:42 t420s kernel: umass0:4:0: Attached to scbus4
Nov 21 13:37:42 t420s kernel: da0 at umass-sim0 bus 0 scbus4 target 0 lun 0
Nov 21 13:37:42 t420s kernel: da0: {USB DISK 3.0 PMAP} Removable Direct Access SPC-4 SCSI device
Nov 21 13:37:42 t420s kernel: da0: Serial Number EC0068F1F89A7D02
Nov 21 13:37:42 t420s kernel: da0: 40.000MB/s transfers
Nov 21 13:37:42 t420s kernel: da0: 14786MB (30283008 512 byte sectors)
Nov 21 13:37:42 t420s kernel: da0: quirks=0x3

When you now check the contents of the /media directory it will contain the da0 dir.

# ls -l /media
total 1
drwxr-xr-x  3 root  wheel  512 2018.11.21 13:37 da0/

The drive/directory is not mounted yet, but when you will try to access that da0 dir (for example display its contents with ls(1) or try to enter it with cd(1) command) then it will get automatically mounted).

# mount | grep media
map -media on /media (autofs)
# ls /media/da0
# mount | grep media
map -media on /media (autofs)
/dev/da0 on /media/da0 (msdosfs, asynchronous, local, noatime, nosuid, automounted)

After I removed the USB drive the /media/da0 directory remained mounted.

# tail /var/log/messages
Nov 21 13:52:48 t420s kernel: ugen2.4:  at usbus2 (disconnected)
Nov 21 13:52:48 t420s kernel: umass0: at uhub4, port 2, addr 4 (disconnected)
Nov 21 13:52:48 t420s kernel: da0 at umass-sim0 bus 0 scbus4 target 0 lun 0
Nov 21 13:52:48 t420s kernel: da0: {USB DISK 3.0 PMAP}  s/n EC0068F1F89A7D02 detached
Nov 21 13:52:48 t420s kernel: (da0:umass-sim0:0:0:0): Periph destroyed
Nov 21 13:52:48 t420s kernel: umass0: detached
Nov 21 13:52:49 t420s kernel: uhub_reattach_port: giving up port reset - device vanished

The autofs(8) subsystem did not unmounted it automatically.

# mount | grep media
map -media on /media (autofs)
/dev/da0 on /media/da0 (msdosfs, asynchronous, local, noatime, nosuid, automounted)

Of course manual unmounting by hand works (umount /media/da0) but its not what you expect from automounting daemon. It is not very suitable for the desktop usage because of the need to manually ‘access’ the created /media/* directory each time to make it mount.


Historically was also sysutils/am-utils – the Berkeley Automounter and Suite of Utilities – and sysutils/automounter which provides scripts to dynamically configure amd(8) daemon.

UPDATE 1 – Make autofs(8) Work

I have reworked the autofs(8) section to make it work. Thanks to the author of the autofs(8) subsystem – trasz – for showing me the source of the problem. The needed entry in the /etc/devd.conf file was missing in the original post. Now it works as advertised, at least for mounting. I am still not able to make it unmount the directory automatically after USB drive removal.

UPDATE 2 – The sysutils/automount 1.5.9 Update

Recently I implemented MTP support (Android phones for example) into the sysutils/automount script. I also added HFS and XFS support. Various fixes and other speed improvements were done (like removal of unneeded __random_wait() function or DELAY time reduction from 1 to just 0.1 second).

The new version is not yet available in the FreeBSD Ports (or packages). Grab it directly from the GitHub page available here:

The ‘manual’ installation is not hard, first built these Ports (or add as packages):

  • sysutils/exfat-utils (for exFAT support)
  • sysutils/fusefs-exfat (for exFAT support)
  • sysutils/fusefs-ntfs (for NTFS read write support)
  • sysutils/fusefs-ext4fuse (for EXT4 support)
  • sysutils/fusefs-simple-mtpfs (for MTP support)
  • sysutils/fusefs-hfsfuse (for HFS support)
  • sysutils/fusefs-lkl (for XFS support)

Then download automount/automount.conf/automount_devd.conf files from GitHub page. Put them into appropriate places and make automount executable. Then restart the devd(8) daemon.

# fetch https://raw.githubusercontent.com/vermaden/automount/master/automount
# fetch https://raw.githubusercontent.com/vermaden/automount/master/automount.conf
# fetch https://raw.githubusercontent.com/vermaden/automount/master/automount_devd.conf
# cp automount.conf      /usr/local/etc/automount.conf
# cp automount_devd.conf /usr/local/etc/devd/automount_devd.conf
# cp automount           /usr/local/sbin/automount
# chmod +x               /usr/local/sbin/automount
# /etc/rc.d/devd restart

Now plugin Your USB thumb drive and have fun πŸ˜‰

Also forgot one thing, it also requires x11/zenity port or package for MTP.

UPDATE 3 – The sysutils/automount 1.6.1 Update

A new version 1.6.1 of sysutils/automount is available with the following fixes:

  • Fix MBR/msdosfs partition unmount issue.

As its not yet available in the FreeBSD Ports please use manual procedure.

Download and unpack the automount-1.6.1.tar.gz file.

Then copy its files to appropriate places as shown below.

# cp automount.conf      /usr/local/etc/automount.conf
# cp automount_devd.conf /usr/local/etc/devd/automount_devd.conf
# cp automount           /usr/local/sbin/automount
# chmod +x               /usr/local/sbin/automount
# /etc/rc.d/devd restart

UPDATE 4 – Major sysutils/automount 1.7.0 Update

Thanks to Rozhuk Ivan who reworked some of sysutils/automount code the new 1.7.0 version is now ready and available.

The changelog is pretty impressive this time:

  • New options available in automount.conf config file.
  • Filesystem detection/mounting reworked totally with file(1)/dd(1)/fstyp(8) as backends.
  • Notifications are now possible with libnitify(8) library.
  • Automatic detection of DISPLAY variable.
  • New automatic wait for device appearance.
  • New detection if device is a block device.
  • Introduction of CD-ROM support.
  • Automatic detection of File Manager with exo-open(1).
  • Option REMOVEDIRS is deprecated now.
  • Handle ‘-o large’ option for FAT under FreeBSD 11.x and 12.x versions.

As its not yet available in the FreeBSD Ports please use manual procedure.

Download and unpack the automount-1.7.0.tar.gz file.

Then copy its files to appropriate places as shown below.

# cp automount.conf      /usr/local/etc/automount.conf
# cp automount_devd.conf /usr/local/etc/devd/automount_devd.conf
# cp automount           /usr/local/sbin/automount
# chmod +x               /usr/local/sbin/automount
# /etc/rc.d/devd restart

UPDATE 5 – Minor sysutils/automount 1.7.1 Update

The major rewrite of sysutils/automount 1.7.0 bring some limitations and problems. This is where 1.7.1 comes with small needed updates.

The changelog is quite small this time:

  • Fixed the mounts with USER option from config file.
  • Made MTP filesystem detection and mount better.
  • Add another check if filesystem is not already mounted.

I have already made a PR so it should be soon available in the FreeBSD Ports.

… but if you want to get it faster, then download and unpack the automount-1.7.1.tar.gz file.

Then copy its files to appropriate places as shown below.

# cp automount.conf      /usr/local/etc/automount.conf
# cp automount_devd.conf /usr/local/etc/devd/automount_devd.conf
# cp automount           /usr/local/sbin/automount
# chmod +x               /usr/local/sbin/automount
# /etc/rc.d/devd restart


UPDATE 6 – Minor sysutils/automount 1.7.2 Update

Changelog for this release:

  • Phase out support for sysutils/fusefs-ext4fuse port.
  • Fix UMASK for exFAT filesystems.
  • Fix ISO9660 mount options.

It has already been committed to the FreeBSD Ports tree:

… but if you want to get it faster, then download and unpack the automount-1.7.2.tar.gz file.

Then copy its files to appropriate places as shown below.

# cp automount.conf      /usr/local/etc/automount.conf
# cp automount_devd.conf /usr/local/etc/devd/automount_devd.conf
# cp automount           /usr/local/sbin/automount
# chmod +x               /usr/local/sbin/automount
# /etc/rc.d/devd restart




Syncthing on FreeBSD

This article will show you how to setup Syncthing on FreeBSD system.


One warning at the beginning – all > and < characters in the Syncthing configuration file were changed to } and { respectively. This is because of WordPress limitation. Remember that Syncthing config is XML file.

For most of my personal backup needs I always use rsync(1) but on the limited devices such as phones or tablets its real PITA. Thus for the automated import of the photos and other files from such devices I prefer to use Syncthing tool.

If you haven’t heard about it yet I will cite the Syncthing https://syncthing.net/ site. “Syncthing replaces proprietary sync and cloud services with something open, trustworthy and decentralized. Your data is your data alone and you deserve to choose where it is stored, if it is shared with some third party and how it’s transmitted over the Internet.” … and Wikipedia “Syncthing is a free, open-source peer-to-peer file synchronization application available for Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, Solaris, Darwin, and BSD. It can sync files between devices on a local network, or between remote devices over the Internet. Data security and data safety are built into the design of the software.”

One may ask how its different from Nextcloud for example. Well, with Nextcloud you have almost ‘entire’ cloud stack with custom applications at your disposal. With Syncthing you have synchronization tool between devices and nothing more.

Initially I wanted – similarly like with Nextcloud on FreeBSD – to setup everything in a FreeBSD Jail. The problem is Syncthing does not work in a FreeBSD Jails virtualization as I figured out after several hours of trying to find out what is wrong. The management interface of Syncthing was working as expected and was accessible but the Syncthing on the Android mobile phone was not able to connect/sync with the Syncthing instance in the FreeBSD Jail. Sure I could connect to the Syncthing management interface from the phone but still could not do any backup using Syncthing protocol. Knowing this limitation you have 3 options to choose from:

  • Setup Syncthing on FreeBSD host like any other service.
  • Use FreeBSD Bhyve virtualization for Syncthing instance.
  • Use VirtualBox package/port for Syncthing instance.

I have chosen the first option. It is actually the same for Bhyve and VirtualBox but additional work is needed with virtualization layer. I will use Android based mobile phone as an example for the Syncthing client but you can sync data between computers as well.

One more thing, there is no such thing as Syncthing server and Syncthing client. All Syncthing instances/installations are the same, You can just add/remove devices and directories to synchronize between those devices. I used term ‘client’ above to show that I will be automating of copying the files from phone to FreeBSD server with Syncthing instance, nothing more.


Here are some basic steps that I have done on the FreeBSD host. Things like aliases database, timezone, DNS and basic FreeBSD settings at its /etc/rc.conf core file.

# newaliases -v
/etc/mail/aliases: 29 aliases, longest 10 bytes, 297 bytes total

# ln -s /usr/share/zoneinfo/Europe/Warsaw /etc/localtime

# date
Fri Aug 17 22:05:18 CEST 2018

# echo nameserver > /etc/resolv.conf

# ping -c 3 freebsd.org
PING freebsd.org ( 56 data bytes
64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=51 time=117.918 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=51 time=115.169 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=51 time=115.392 ms

--- freebsd.org ping statistics ---
3 packets transmitted, 3 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 115.169/116.160/117.918/1.247 ms

… and the main FreeBSD configuration file.

# cat /etc/rc.conf
  ifconfig_re0="inet up"

  syslogd_flags="-s -s"

# DAEMONS | no



First we will switch from quarterly to the latest pkg(8) branch to get the most up to date packages.

# grep url: /etc/pkg/FreeBSD.conf
  url: "pkg+http://pkg.FreeBSD.org/${ABI}/quarterly",

# sed -i '' s/quarterly/latest/g /etc/pkg/FreeBSD.conf

# grep url: /etc/pkg/FreeBSD.conf
  url: "pkg+http://pkg.FreeBSD.org/${ABI}/latest",

We will now bootstrap pkg(8) and then update its database to latest available one.

# env ASSUME_ALWAYS_YES=yes pkg update -f
Bootstrapping pkg from pkg+http://pkg.FreeBSD.org/FreeBSD:11:amd64/latest, please wait...
Verifying signature with trusted certificate pkg.freebsd.org.2013102301... done
[syncthing.local] Installing pkg-1.10.5_1...
[syncthing.local] Extracting pkg-1.10.5_1: 100%
Updating FreeBSD repository catalogue...
pkg: Repository FreeBSD load error: access repo file(/var/db/pkg/repo-FreeBSD.sqlite) failed: No such file or directory
[syncthing.local] Fetching meta.txz: 100%    944 B   0.9kB/s    00:01    
[syncthing.local] Fetching packagesite.txz: 100%    6 MiB 352.7kB/s    00:19    
Processing entries: 100%
FreeBSD repository update completed. 32388 packages processed.
All repositories are up to date.

… and then install the Syncthing from pkg(8) packages.

# pkg install -y syncthing 
Updating FreeBSD repository catalogue...
FreeBSD repository is up to date.
All repositories are up to date.
The following 1 package(s) will be affected (of 0 checked):

New packages to be INSTALLED:
        syncthing: 0.14.48

Number of packages to be installed: 1

The process will require 88 MiB more space.
15 MiB to be downloaded.
[1/1] Fetching syncthing-0.14.48.txz: 100%   15 MiB 525.3kB/s    00:29    
Checking integrity... done (0 conflicting)
[1/1] Installing syncthing-0.14.48...
===> Creating groups.
Creating group 'syncthing' with gid '983'.
===> Creating users
Creating user 'syncthing' with uid '983'.
[1/1] Extracting syncthing-0.14.48: 100%
Message from syncthing-0.14.48:

WARNING: This version is not backwards compatible with 0.13.x, 0.12.x, 0.11.x
nor 0.10.x releases!

For more information, please read:


The Syncthing package created a syncthing user and group for us.

# id syncthing
uid=983(syncthing) gid=983(syncthing) groups=983(syncthing)

Look how small the Syncthing is, these are all files installed by the net/syncthing package.

# pkg info -l syncthing


As shows above we already have syncthing_enable=YES added to the /etc/rc.conf file.

# /usr/local/etc/rc.d/syncthing rcvar
# syncthing
#   (default: "")

# grep syncthing_enable /etc/rc.conf

Also from the Syncthing rc(8) startup script you may check other startup options.

# less -N /usr/local/etc/rc.d/syncthing
      9 # Add the following lines to /etc/rc.conf.local or /etc/rc.conf
     10 # to enable this service:
     11 #
     12 # syncthing_enable (bool):      Set to NO by default.
     13 #                               Set it to YES to enable syncthing.
     14 # syncthing_home (path):        Directory where syncthing configuration
     15 #                               data is stored.
     16 #                               Default: /usr/local/etc/syncthing
     17 # syncthing_log_file (path):    Syncthing log file
     18 #                               Default: /var/log/syncthing.log
     19 # syncthing_user (user):        Set user to run syncthing.
     20 #                               Default is "syncthing".
     21 # syncthing_group (group):      Set group to run syncthing.
     22 #                               Default is "syncthing".

The Syncthing needs /var/log/syncthing.log log file. Lets then create it and set proper owner and rights for it.

# ls /var/log/syncthing.log
ls: /var/log/syncthing.log: No such file or directory

# :> /var/log/syncthing.log

# chown syncthing:syncthing /var/log/syncthing.log

# ls -l /var/log/syncthing.log
-rwxr-xr-x  1 syncthing  syncthing  0 2018.08.19 01:06 /var/log/syncthing.log

As we will be using this log file we also need to take care of its rotation, we will use builtin FreeBSD newsyslog(8) daemon for that purpose.

# cat > /etc/newsyslog.conf.d/syncthing << __EOF
# logfilename              [owner:group]     mode  count  size  when  flags [/pid_file]
/var/log/syncthing.log  syncthing:syncthing  640   7      100   *     JC

# cat /etc/newsyslog.conf.d/syncthing
# logfilename              [owner:group]     mode  count  size  when  flags [/pid_file]
/var/log/syncthing.log  syncthing:syncthing  640   7      100   *     JC

# newsyslog -v | grep syncthing
Processing /etc/newsyslog.conf.d/syncthing
/var/log/syncthing.log : size (Kb): 0 [100] --> skipping

Lets try to start Syncthing for the first time.

# service syncthing start
Starting syncthing.
daemon: pidfile ``/var/run/syncthing.pid'': Permission denied
/usr/local/etc/rc.d/syncthing: WARNING: failed to start syncthing

Seems that rc(8) Syncthing startup does not create PID file automatically, lets create it then.

# :> /var/run/syncthing.pid

# chown syncthing:syncthing /var/run/syncthing.pid

# ls -l /var/run/syncthing.pid
-rwxr-xr-x  1 syncthing  syncthing  0 2018.08.19 01:08 /var/run/syncthing.pid

Now lets try to start Syncthing again.

# service syncthing start
Starting syncthing.

Better. Lets see what ports does it use.

# sockstat -l -4 | grep syncthing
syncthing syncthing 27499 9  tcp46  *:22000               *:*
syncthing syncthing 27499 10 udp4   *:18876               *:*
syncthing syncthing 27499 13 udp4   *:21027               *:*
syncthing syncthing 27499 20 tcp4        *:*

… and check its log file.

# cat /var/log/syncthing.log
[start] 01:08:40 INFO: Generating ECDSA key and certificate for syncthing...
[MPN4S] 01:08:40 INFO: syncthing v0.14.48 "Dysprosium Dragonfly" (go1.10.3 freebsd-amd64) root@111amd64-default-job-12 2018-08-08 09:19:19 UTC [noupgrade]
[MPN4S] 01:08:41 INFO: Single thread SHA256 performance is 131 MB/s using minio/sha256-simd (89 MB/s using crypto/sha256).
[MPN4S] 01:08:41 INFO: Default folder created and/or linked to new config
[MPN4S] 01:08:41 INFO: Default config saved. Edit /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml to taste or use the GUI
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Hashing performance is 112.85 MB/s
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Updating database schema version from 0 to 2...
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Updated symlink type for 0 index entries and added 0 invalid files to global list
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Finished updating database schema version from 0 to 2
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: No stored folder metadata for "default": recalculating
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 WARNING: Creating directory for "Default Folder" (default): mkdir /Sync/: permission denied
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 WARNING: Creating folder marker: folder path missing
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Ready to synchronize "Default Folder" (default) (readwrite)
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Overall send rate is unlimited, receive rate is unlimited
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Rate limits do not apply to LAN connections
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Using discovery server https://discovery-v4.syncthing.net/v2/?nolookup&id=LYXKCHX-VI3NYZR-ALCJBHF-WMZYSPK-QG6QJA3-MPFYMSO-U56GTUK-NA2MIAW
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Using discovery server https://discovery-v6.syncthing.net/v2/?nolookup&id=LYXKCHX-VI3NYZR-ALCJBHF-WMZYSPK-QG6QJA3-MPFYMSO-U56GTUK-NA2MIAW
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Using discovery server https://discovery.syncthing.net/v2/?noannounce&id=LYXKCHX-VI3NYZR-ALCJBHF-WMZYSPK-QG6QJA3-MPFYMSO-U56GTUK-NA2MIAW
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: TCP listener ([::]:22000) starting
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Relay listener (dynamic+https://relays.syncthing.net/endpoint) starting
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 WARNING: Error on folder "Default Folder" (default): folder path missing
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Failed initial scan of readwrite folder "Default Folder" (default)
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Device MPN4S65-UQWC5SP-3LR2XDB-T5JNYET-VQEQC3X-DSAUI27-BQQKZQE-BWQ3NAO is "blackbox.local" at [dynamic]
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Loading HTTPS certificate: open /usr/local/etc/syncthing/https-cert.pem: no such file or directory
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Creating new HTTPS certificate
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: GUI and API listening on
[MPN4S] 01:08:42 INFO: Access the GUI via the following URL:
[MPN4S] 01:08:55 INFO: Joined relay relay://
[MPN4S] 01:09:02 INFO: Detected 1 NAT service

We have several WARNING messages here about default /Sync directory. Lets fix those.

# service syncthing stop
Stopping syncthing.
Waiting for PIDS: 27498.

Upon first Syncthing start the rc(8) startup script created the /usr/local/etc/syncthing directory with its configuration.

# find /usr/local/etc/syncthing

Now lets get back to fixing the WARNING for the /Sync directory.

# grep '/Sync' /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml
    {folder id="default" label="Default Folder" path="//Sync" type="readwrite" rescanIntervalS="3600" fsWatcherEnabled="true" fsWatcherDelayS="10" ignorePerms="false" autoNormalize="true"}

# ls /Sync
ls: /Sync: No such file or directory

Now lets create dedicated directory for our Syncthing instance and set it also in the /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml config file.

# mkdir /syncthing

# chown syncthing:syncthing /syncthing

# chmod 750 /syncthing

# vi /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml

# grep '/syncthing' /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml
    {folder id="default" label="Default Folder" path="/syncthing" type="readwrite" rescanIntervalS="3600" fsWatcherEnabled="true" fsWatcherDelayS="10" ignorePerms="false" autoNormalize="true"}

We will also disable Relay and Global Announce Server but we will left Local Announce Server enabled.

# grep -i relay /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml

# vi /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml

# grep -i relay /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml

# grep globalAnnounce /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml

# vi /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml

# grep globalAnnounce /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml

Before restarting Syncthing lets clean the /var/log/syncthing.log file to eliminate now unneeded information.

# service syncthing stop
Stopping syncthing.

# :> /var/log/syncthing.log

# service syncthing start
Starting syncthing.

Lets check what the log holds for us now.

# cat /var/log/syncthing.log
[MPN4S] 01:13:38 INFO: syncthing v0.14.48 "Dysprosium Dragonfly" (go1.10.3 freebsd-amd64) root@111amd64-default-job-12 2018-08-08 09:19:19 UTC [noupgrade]
[MPN4S] 01:13:39 INFO: Single thread SHA256 performance is 131 MB/s using minio/sha256-simd (89 MB/s using crypto/sha256).
[MPN4S] 01:13:40 INFO: Hashing performance is 112.97 MB/s
[MPN4S] 01:13:40 INFO: Ready to synchronize "Default Folder" (default) (readwrite)
[MPN4S] 01:13:40 INFO: Overall send rate is unlimited, receive rate is unlimited
[MPN4S] 01:13:40 INFO: Rate limits do not apply to LAN connections
[MPN4S] 01:13:40 INFO: Device MPN4S65-UQWC5SP-3LR2XDB-T5JNYET-VQEQC3X-DSAUI27-BQQKZQE-BWQ3NAO is "blackbox.local" at [dynamic]
[MPN4S] 01:13:40 INFO: TCP listener ([::]:22000) starting
[MPN4S] 01:13:40 INFO: Completed initial scan of readwrite folder "Default Folder" (default)
[MPN4S] 01:13:40 INFO: GUI and API listening on
[MPN4S] 01:13:40 INFO: Access the GUI via the following URL:

We can see that the management interface listens on HTTP not HTTPS because tls option is set to false. We will also need to switch the management interface address from localhost ( to our IP address (

# grep -B 1 -A 3 /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml
    {gui enabled="true" tls="false" debugging="false"}

# vi /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml

# grep -B 1 -A 3 /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml
    {gui enabled="true" tls="true" debugging="false"}

Lets verify our changes now.

# service syncthing stop
Stopping syncthing.

# :> /var/log/syncthing.log

# service syncthing start
Starting syncthing.

# cat /var/log/syncthing.log
[MPN4S] 01:16:20 INFO: syncthing v0.14.48 "Dysprosium Dragonfly" (go1.10.3 freebsd-amd64) root@111amd64-default-job-12 2018-08-08 09:19:19 UTC [noupgrade]
[MPN4S] 01:16:21 INFO: Single thread SHA256 performance is 131 MB/s using minio/sha256-simd (89 MB/s using crypto/sha256).
[MPN4S] 01:16:22 INFO: Hashing performance is 113.07 MB/s
[MPN4S] 01:16:22 INFO: Ready to synchronize "Default Folder" (default) (readwrite)
[MPN4S] 01:16:22 INFO: Overall send rate is unlimited, receive rate is unlimited
[MPN4S] 01:16:22 INFO: Rate limits do not apply to LAN connections
[MPN4S] 01:16:22 INFO: TCP listener ([::]:22000) starting
[MPN4S] 01:16:22 INFO: Completed initial scan of readwrite folder "Default Folder" (default)
[MPN4S] 01:16:22 INFO: Device MPN4S65-UQWC5SP-3LR2XDB-T5JNYET-VQEQC3X-DSAUI27-BQQKZQE-BWQ3NAO is "blackbox.local" at [dynamic]
[MPN4S] 01:16:22 INFO: GUI and API listening on
[MPN4S] 01:16:22 INFO: Access the GUI via the following URL:
[MPN4S] 01:16:42 INFO: Detected 1 NAT service

The log is now ‘clean’ and we can continue to the browser at the management interface for the rest of Syncthing configuration. The browser will of course warn us about untrusted HTTPS certificate.


Syncthing will ask us if we agree upon sharing of statistics data. I leave that choice to you.


The Syncthing dashboard welcomes us with big red warning about remote administration being allowed without a password. We will fix that in a moment, click the Settings button in that warning.


Leave first General tab will unmodified.


On the GUI tab we will create user admin with SYNCTHINGPASSWORD password for the Syncthing management interface. Use something more sensible here πŸ™‚


I did not modified settings at the Connections tab. Click Save to continue.


Besides setting the user and its password I haven’t changed/set any other options.

We now has Syncthing without errors. You will be prompted for that user and password in a moment. We will now remove Default Folder as its not needed. Hit its Edit button.


Then click the Remove button on the bottom.


… and click Yes for confirmation.


The ’empty’ Syncthing dashboard.


Next we will download, install and configure Syncthing on the Android phone. Depending on your preferences use F-Droid repository or Google Play repository … or just an APK file from the source of your choice. The installed Syncthing application is shown below. Takes about 50 MB.


Lets start it then, you will see the Welcome message from the Syncthing application.


Depending on your Android version your phone may ask you to allow Syncthing for various permissions. Agree.


Same as earlier the Syncthing will ask you if you agree for sharing of the statistics data. I also leave that choice to you.


The Syncthing will now require restart, tap RESTART NOW to continue.


By default the Camera directory is preconfigured pointing at /storage/emulated/0/DCIM directory which holds photos and screenshots taken on the phone. Its enough for me so I will use it. Tap the Syncthing hamburger menu button.


… and select Web GUI option.


You will see management interface for Syncthing on your Android phone, scroll below to add blackbox.local Syncthing instance from the FreeBSD in the Remote Devices section.


Now in the Remote Devices section hit the Add Remote Device button.


Remember that Local Announce service we left enabled? This is when it comes handy. You will have our Syncthing instance ID from FreeBSD displayed as it was automatically detected on the network.


Click on the displayed ID and enter the blackbox.local hostname.

Besides entering (clicking) ID and hostname I did not set any other options. Click Save.


The blackbox.local will be added to the Remote Devices list.


Below are the Camera directory properties. Remember to select blackbox.local as the allowed host (small yellow slider).


… and the blackbox.local device properties.


Now let’s get back to the FreeBSD’s Syncthing instance management interface on the browser. You will be prompted to add Syncthing of the Android phone – SM-A320FL in my case – to the devices. Hit green Add Device button.


Click Save without adding other options.


The SM-A320FL device for our Android phone is now visible in the Remote Devices section.


You should now be prompted that SM-A320FL device wants to share Camera directory. Hit green Add button.


Enter SM-A320FL as the folder label and /syncthing/SM-A320FL as the directory name on the FreeBSD Syncthing instance. Also make sure that SM-A320FL is selected in the Share With Devices section on the bottom.


The SM-A320FL device and SM-A320FL folder from this device are now configured. You will first see Out of Sync message for the SM-A320FL folder. The synchronization should now start whose progress can be observed both on the phone and in the management interface of the FreeBSD Syncthing instance in the browser.


The SM-A320FL folder switched status to Syncing with progress.


You will see similar status on the Android phone.


After some file you will see that SM-A320FL folder has status Up to Date. That means that all files from the Camera directory are synchronized to the FreeBSD Syncthing instance.


The created/synced directories from the Android phone looks as follows on the FreeBSD Syncthing instance.

# find /syncthing -type d

Now you have your Camera files synced as backup.

The complete Syncthing config from the FreeBSD instance is available /usr/local/etc/syncthing/config.xml here. After download rename it from *.xml.key to *.xml file (WordPress limitation).


The Syncthing on FreeBSD article was featured in the BSD Now 262 – OpenBSD Surfacing episode.

Thanks for mentioning!


Setup Android When Its Not Your Phone

I have read many guides about perfect phone for a sysadmin or a programmer. They often assumed that I would get exact phone model (some recommended latest one, someΒ recommended old phone known to work reliably) then root it and put some custom ROM on it, let it be MIUI or Copperhead OS for security.

Most of these guides are actually valuable but they all fail when they are applied to phone that is only lend to you. You can not put a custom ROM on it. You can not root it. You can not even pick the model you get.

You are left with the stock options. The Android settings themselves, the wallpaper and lock screen settings, maybe add or remove/disable some apps if policy allows that.

Today I will share my experiences on how to setup your Android phone when it’s not your phone. When there are some strings attached with it and its required that you will have to keep it ready to use for the work purposes.

Initial Setup

When you setup such phone it ‘requires’ you to accept dozen EULA and other agreements just to start using you phone. Be very alert and agree only for the ones that are required to make that Next button work. No metadata sharing for reliability, no usage patterns sharing for making the product better. Always remember that if something is for free then you are the product. Your data, metadata and ‘noise’ that you generate is the bill here.

Do not connect to any wireless (WiFi) network or allow connection to the WWAN network (mobile data). You will enable them later when proper permissions would be set on applications.

I get the impression that I had to select everything inversely. For most of the setup process if something was selected I had to deselect it and valuable options to not do many useless things were not selected.

Main Screen

After you will see the main screen for the first time it definitely has some useless power draining widgets enabled and has the most useless icons/apps placed.

For example I disable huge widget on the first desktop.


First go to Settings > Connections and disable all connectivity, WiFi, mobile data, Bluetooth, NFC, KFC and WTF. Everything.


Then go to Settings > Apps and remove/disable everything that you would not use or everything that is not allowed to use by the company policy like Facebook, Google Drive, etc. I will not use Office OneNote or Gmail so I also disabled them. I also revoked all permissions from these apps.



As you will finish with the removal we will now revoke permissions from apps that so not need them like Google Play Services. I also disabled permission for notifications for most apps so they will not disturb me in the future.



For the apps that are not on the desktop but are left in the Apps place I gathered the most useless ones in the directory so all Apps that are still on the phone fit on one screen so I do not have to switch between screens.



You will need black wallpaper for the desktop and lock screen to save battery time. How to get one? Just type BACK BLACK in DuckDuckGo Images and pick the one that is entirely black. You may also prepare one by yourself of course.

Next, remove all unneeded icons/apps from the desktop and put the useful ones. Also remove unused desktops and widgets.



I wanted to change icon theme to something more dark and toned instead of the default circus but that would require me to accept another enormous Samsung EULA, so I passed with the default circus one.

The lock screen is also clean am black.



To setup the keyboard I added my native language to the spell check and I also configured what special chars appear after I hit the dot button. You only have 10 slots so pick wisely : ) I do not remember if Swipe option for the keyboard was enabled bit I sometimes use it when typing so I left it in enabled state.



Drop Down Console … Bar

I also configured the dropdown bar with only useful icons. This ROM had 6 slots on the dropdown bar so everything needed fits nicely.



After such configuration the phone runtime is very long. For example with 60% of the battery capacity and Medium level Battery Saver enabled it will still allow me to use it for about 40 hours. Not bad.



From the other setting I enabled the Blue Light Filter so the phone screen would mess less with my Circadian Rhythm.

I also configured Wireless Hotspot so next time my laptop will need it – it will be ready.

I did not configured Play Store as I do not need any additional Google connection, if any app is needed the APK are available. The only APK I added was latest Firefox browser. Of course you need to allow (at least one time) installation from unknown sources.

I also picked up some less annoying sounds for incoming call and for notifications. I also disabled sounds and vibration (so called touch feedback) so the phone will not emit annoying sounds with every touch and will save battery instead of playing and vibrating.

The entire configuration process took about 2 hours.

Model and Version

I deliberately did not specified what phone model I used for the purposes of this article because it does not matter. If you read this article then you will probably get other model.

Same for Android version. It’s not detailed Android setup guide for the Android version that came with this phone. It’s a general setup guide for the ones that need to work with foreign owner phone.

Single Finger Writer

It may be worth mentioning that I wrote that entire article using that phone. I wanted to check what annoyances will occur when something desktop/laptop oriented will be forced to do on the phone. I must admit the experience was not that terrible. Of course I will choose my FreeBSD laptop anytime over phone but as I typed the article on the phone itself more and more thoughts about the phone came naturally. If I would use laptop for that then many of these small quirks would be lost.

Also writing this article on the phone took about 15% of its battery including taking the screenshots.