Tag Archives: thinkpad

FreeBSD 13.1 on ThinkPad W520

I created whole FreeBSD Desktop series … but I never created an article describing how I run FreeBSD on my own daily driver – the Lenovo ThinkPad W520 from 2011 – the last one with the so much appreciated 7-row keyboard. In this article I will share how I configured FreeBSD to make the most of it. If you are curious why I use such old laptop then my older Epitaph to Laptops article explains that in detail.

This is the Table of Contents for this article.

  • FreeBSD 13.1 on ThinkPad W520
  • ThinkPad W520
  • Specifications
  • FreeBSD System Configuration
  • Desktop Environment
    • Openbox
    • XFCE
    • GNOME
  • Accessories
    • Smaller Power Supply
    • Mouse Companion
    • Two Additional USB 3.0 Ports
    • Larger Custom Battery
  • Experience
  • Summary

ThinkPad W520

This machine was out-fucking-standing when it was released in 2011 … and expensive as hell also πŸ™‚ With 4 physical cores and up to 32 GB RAM only a few laptops could compete with it – Dell Precision M4600 – also could do that back then … but not exactly the same. You see – the last Dell Precision to carry similar 7-row keyboard was Dell Precision M4500 – but that one was from 2010 and was able to pack only … 8 GB RAM (official) and 16 GB RAM (unofficial) – so its not a fair comparison. Today 11 years (!) later ThinkPad W520 is still very capable and powerful machine. The only thing that you may need to do is to replace the thermal paste. I also did that – Classic ThinkPad Thermal Paste Change – as described here.


To make you imagine how big that 11 years time span in IT is I will try to show you example with a car. Its like driving 30 years old Mercedes-Benz W124 from 1992 today because IT world and hardware changes and improves a lot faster then automobile industry. The Mercedes-Benz W124 with its indestructible automatic transmission and engine along with comfortable suspension and automatic air conditioning – offers daily experience not that far away from today’s cars – the meritum is definitely fulfilled. I know that from first hand since I owned one not that long ago. Not to mention its legendary reliability. Its also a car that is very liked by mechanics as its very ‘serviceable’ and has lots of space for everything. You do not need to disassemble entire front bumper and the headlight just to replace a broken light beam.


This is the same that I would say about ThinkPad W520 today. You can put three (!) storage devices at the same time. Two 2.5 SATA drives and one mSATA disk. Assuming you would use 8 TB 2.5 Samsung QVO drives and 2 TB mSATA drive you would have 18 TB of storage … in a 11 years old laptop. You can grow that to 19TB with 1TB SD card in the slot … and we even did not touched any USB ports yet. Today you are able to get ThinkPad W520 in nice condition for about $300 if you are not heisty and getting 32 GB of DDR3 RAM costs another $100 so its pretty affordable hardware.


For the record below You will find specs of mine machine. I also added driver and/or package that is used to support these devices.

CPU: Intel Core i7-2820QM 2.30GHz (4C/8T) Sandy Bridge 32nm
RAM: 32 GB (4 * 8GB DDR3)
HDD0: 128GB mSATA Samsung PM830 (system)
HDD1: 4 TB 2.5 SATA Samsung 860 QVO (data)
GFX0: Intel HD Graphics 3000 (integrated) [graphics/drm-kmod]
GFX1: Nvidia Quadro 2000M (discrete) [x11/nvidia-driver-390] {nvidia}
SCR: 15.6 1920x1080
USB: 2 x USB 2.0 + 2 x USB 3.0 [ehci(4) + xhci(4)]
AUDIO: Conexant CX20590 [snd_hda(4)]
PORTS1: 1 x DisplayPort
PORTS2: 1 x eSata
SD: Card Reader 5in1 [sdhci(4)]
LAN: 10/100/1000 Intel 82579LM Gigabit [em(4)]
WIFI: Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 AGN 802.11n [iwn(4)]
BT: Bluetooth 3.0 [ng_ubt(4)]
CAM: Webcam 720p [multimedia/webcamd]

Articles such as this one often focuses on what works and is supported by FreeBSD and what is problematic or does not work at all. The very nice thing about ThinkPad W520 under FreeBSD command is that EVERYTHING works. From Bluetooth through Card Reader and also multiple suspend/resume cycles. I am doing months of uptime on that laptop and I reboot only when I need to update the system or I want to test something … but that often also does not need reboot now as you can just reroot into other BE as described in my other ZFS Boot Environments Revolutions article.

I do not need the compute power of discrete Nvidia Quadro 2000M card so I disabled it in the BIOS – but when I tried it with drivers from the FreeBSD Ports – everything worked as desired. I use integrated Intel HD Graphics 3000 which is more then enough for my needs. To be honest I would get ThinkPad T520 which can be bought with integrated graphics only but it has two downsides. The T520 does not have any USB 3.0 ports – that one I could probably live with but … it comes only with Dual Core CPUs. You can of course place a Quad Core CPU in it by yourself – but as W520 exist I do not see a reason not to get one πŸ™‚

FreeBSD System Configuration

From many things that I really like about FreeBSD (more here – Quare FreeBSD? – in separate article) is that it can be mostly configured using just 3 files. This configuration already features all power management settings that I described in the The Power to Serve – FreeBSD Power Management article.

I installed FreeBSD in a pretty standard way with GELI full disk encryption enabled and with ZFS as the filesystem as I can not live without ZFS Boot Environments. The FreeBSD installer automatically detects and applies the so called ‘Lenovo Fix‘. When in doubt the installation procedure is described in the FreeBSD Desktop – Part 2.1 – Install FreeBSD 12 article.

Main FreeBSD configuration files.

  • /etc/rc.conf – system and services configuration
  • /etc/sysctl.conf – runtime parameters configuration
  • /boot/loader.conf – parameters configurable at boot

I will also include these below as they are also important:

  • /etc/devfs.rules – devices configuration
  • /etc/fstab – filesystems configuration
  • /etc/ttys – terminal initialization configuration
  • /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf – WiFi configuration
  • /usr/local/etc/automount.confautomount(8) configuration
  • /usr/local/etc/doas.confdoas(1) configuration
  • id(1) groups membership
  • /usr/local/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/* – X11 configuration

First the main /etc/rc.conf configuration file.

% cat /etc/rc.conf
# SILENCE # ------------------------------------------------------------------

# NETWORK # ------------------------------------------------------------------
  rtsold_flags="-a -i"

# MODULES/COMMON/BASE # ------------------------------------------------------
  kld_list="${kld_list} /boot/modules/i915kms.ko"
  kld_list="${kld_list} fusefs coretemp sem cpuctl ichsmb cuse"
  kld_list="${kld_list} libiconv cd9660_iconv msdosfs_iconv udf_iconv"

# MODULES/VIRTUALBOX # -------------------------------------------------------
  kld_list="${kld_list} vboxdrv vboxnetadp vboxnetflt"

  powerd_flags="-n adaptive -a hiadaptive -b adaptive -m 800 -M 2000"

# DAEMONS | yes # ------------------------------------------------------------
  syslogd_flags='-s -s'

# DAEMONS | no # -------------------------------------------------------------

# FS # -----------------------------------------------------------------------

# OTHER # --------------------------------------------------------------------

Now the runtime parameters /etc/sysctl.conf file.

% cat /etc/sysctl.conf





# ZFS ARC FREE ENFORCE @ 1024 \* 1024 \* 3






# SAMPLE RATE CONVERTER QUALITY (0=low .. 4=high) (1) NomadBSD













Now the boot parameters in /boot/loader.conf file.

% cat /boot/loader.conf
  autoboot_delay=1       # OPTION '-1' MEANS NO WAIT AND 'NO' MEANS INFINITE WAIT
  hw.usb.no_boot_wait=0  # DO NOT WAIT FOR USB DEVICES FOR ROOT (/) FILESYSTEM
  boot_mute=YES          # SAME AS '-m' IN LOADER - MUTE CONSOLE WITH FreeBSD LOGO
  loader_logo=none       # DESIRED LOGO: fbsdbw beastiebw beastie none

















Now the mentioned /etc/devfs.rules file.

% cat /etc/devfs.rules
add path 'acd*'      mode 0660 group operator
add path 'cd*'       mode 0660 group operator
add path 'da*'       mode 0660 group operator
add path 'pass*'     mode 0660 group operator
add path 'xpt*'      mode 0660 group operator
add path 'fd*'       mode 0660 group operator
add path 'md*'       mode 0660 group operator
add path 'uscanner*' mode 0660 group operator
add path 'ugen*'     mode 0660 group operator
add path 'usb/*'     mode 0660 group operator
add path 'video*'    mode 0660 group operator
add path 'cuse*'     mode 0660 group operator
add path 'lpt*'      mode 0660 group cups
add path 'ulpt*'     mode 0660 group cups
add path 'unlpt*'    mode 0660 group cups

Filesystems and SWAP configuration.

% cat /etc/fstab
  /dev/gpt/swap0  none  swap  sw  0 0

# FreeBSD PSEUDO - NEEDED BY wine(1)
  procfs  /proc  procfs  rw  0 0

# Ubuntu Linux PSEUDO
  linprocfs  /compat/ubuntu/proc     linprocfs  rw,late                    0 0
  linsysfs   /compat/ubuntu/sys      linsysfs   rw,late                    0 0
  devfs      /compat/ubuntu/dev      devfs      rw,late                    0 0
  fdescfs    /compat/ubuntu/dev/fd   fdescfs    rw,late,linrdlnk           0 0
  tmpfs      /compat/ubuntu/dev/shm  tmpfs      rw,late,size=1g,mode=1777  0 0
  /home      /compat/ubuntu/home     nullfs     rw,late                    0 0
  /tmp       /compat/ubuntu/tmp      nullfs     rw,late                    0 0

Terminals configuration under /etc/ttys file. Important part is the ttyv4 entry to match the xdm_tty=ttyv4 value from /etc/rc.conf file.

% grep '^[^#]' /etc/ttys | cat
console none                            unknown off insecure
ttyv0   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   onifexists secure
ttyv1   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   onifexists secure
ttyv2   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   onifexists secure
ttyv3   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   onifexists secure
ttyv4   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   off secure
ttyv5   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   off secure
ttyv6   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   off secure
ttyv7   "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   off secure
ttyv4   "/usr/local/bin/xdm -nodaemon"  xterm   off secure
ttyu0   "/usr/libexec/getty 3wire"      vt100   onifconsole secure
ttyu1   "/usr/libexec/getty 3wire"      vt100   onifconsole secure
ttyu2   "/usr/libexec/getty 3wire"      vt100   onifconsole secure
ttyu3   "/usr/libexec/getty 3wire"      vt100   onifconsole secure
dcons   "/usr/libexec/getty std.9600"   vt100   off secure
xc0     "/usr/libexec/getty Pc"         xterm   onifconsole secure
rcons   "/usr/libexec/getty std.9600"   vt100   onifconsole secure

Wireless config – as an example for different network types. As you have seen I did not included any network information in the /etc/rc.conf file – this is because I use my own network.sh solution to connect to various both wire and wireless networks – FreeBSD Network Management with network.sh Script – described in detail here.

# cat /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf





The automount(8) config.

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

The doas(1) configuration.

# cat /usr/local/etc/doas.conf
  permit nopass keepenv root     as root
  permit nopass keepenv vermaden as root

# THE network.sh SCRIPT
  # pw groupmod network -m YOURUSERNAME
  # cat /usr/local/etc/doas.conf
  permit nopass :network as root cmd /etc/rc.d/netif args onerestart
  permit nopass :network as root cmd /usr/sbin/service args squid onerestart
  permit nopass :network as root cmd dhclient
  permit nopass :network as root cmd ifconfig
  permit nopass :network as root cmd killall args -9 dhclient
  permit nopass :network as root cmd killall args -9 ppp
  permit nopass :network as root cmd killall args -9 wpa_supplicant
  permit nopass :network as root cmd ppp
  permit nopass :network as root cmd route
  permit nopass :network as root cmd tee args -a /etc/resolv.conf
  permit nopass :network as root cmd tee args /etc/resolv.conf
  permit nopass :network as root cmd umount
  permit nopass :network as root cmd wpa_supplicant

Groups I am member of with id(1) output.

% id vermaden | tr ' ' '\n' | tr ',' '\n'

Current X11 configuration.

% cat /usr/local/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/card.conf
Section "Device"
  Identifier "Card0"
  Option "DPMS"
  Driver "intel"
  Option "DRI" "3"
  Option "AccelMethod" "sna"
  Option "TearFree" "true"

% cat /usr/local/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/flags.conf
Section "ServerFlags"
  Option "DontZap" "off"

% cat /usr/local/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/keyboard.conf
Section "InputDevice"
  Identifier "Keyboard0"
  Driver "kbd"
  Option "XkbLayout" "pl"
  Option "XkbOptions" "terminate:ctrl_alt_bksp,ctrl:nocaps"

% cat /usr/local/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/touchpad.conf
Section "InputClass"
  Identifier "touchpad"
  MatchIsTouchpad "on"
  Driver "libinput"
  Option "Tapping" "on"
  Option "NaturalScrolling" "on"

I also do not rely on ‘stock’ fan speeds and set my own speeds according to CPU temperature with acpi-thinkpad-fan.sh script.

Desktop Environment


As for the ‘desktop environment’ that I use – its my custom setup with Openbox along with tools like Tint2 and Dzen2 – for the most basic setup. The screenshot is from FreeBSD 11.1 but it looks exactly the same today.


I described this setup in details in the entire FreeBSD Desktop series.


I have also tried XFCE – I liked it especially with the Global Menu app-menu plugin. You go this way with this XFCE Cupertino Way handy guide.



I also tried GNOME for a test – it did not suit me well so I went back to my Openbox setup – but You may find it more comfortable to use. Here is the FreeBSD GNOME 3 Fast Track article that will help you with that.



There are some accessories that are very handy with the ThinkPad W520 laptop. I will describe them below.

Smaller Power Supply

The ThinkPad W520 comes with quite large brick of ThinkPad 170W Power Supply. It works. Its OK … but you can use smaller one and more universal at the same time. I use the ThinkPad 135W Power Supply that originally was sold with ThinkPad W510 – the earlier model. Besides being smaller in size it also has one additional advantage. Its plug is round and also fits into other ThinkPads from this line like ThinkPad X220 or ThinkPad T420s. The original ThinkPad 170W Power Supply unfortunately only fits into the ThinkPad W520 laptop. Below you can compare their sizes.


Mouse Companion

After checking many mouse models – as described in the UNIX Mouse Shootout article – I finally settled with Logitech Triathlon M720 mouse. I have plugged the Lenovo USB Receiver into the back ‘powered’ USB port. While I use that mouse over the USB receiver you can also connect it using Bluetooth – also to other computers. This mouse has a special dedicated button to switch between 3 different computers. Unfortunately the copy-paste between them does not work πŸ™‚


If you would like to ‘save’ that port for something else then you may use special USB board adapter that you will place in the Bluetooth module under the palm rest. You would loose Bluetooth support then of course – but not everyone uses that. Its available for example on Aliexpress site and looks like that.


I do not use it as I do not need the ‘back’ USB port so below you will find its mounted picture on the ThinkPad X220 laptop instead – along with the Lenovo USB Receiver attached.


Two Additional USB 3.0 Ports

The ThinkPad W520 comes with not well known today ExpressCard port. With this cheap adapter from Aliexpress you can add two additional USB 3.0 ports. You may of course do not need that many ports – but if you are left handed then you probably use mouse on the left of your laptop – then USB ports on the right will be handy.


These USB 3.0 ports may be also useful with some bhyve(8) setups. Currently its not supported to pass-thru just a single USB port to a virtual machine. You need to pass thru entire controller. This way you can pass-thru that controller to bhyve(8) VM and have another USB 3.0 ports on the host.

Larger Custom Battery

The original largest extended battery for ThinkPad W520 had 9400mAh capacity. Its possible to get even larger custom extended battery but in the same physical size and shape – with 9600mAh capacity – and for only about $50. To remind you the original one costs closer to $200 unfortunately. I got mine from this Aliexpress page. With my power settings and with this battery along with enabled WiFi and screen brightness just one step less then maximum brightness it show more then 7 hours of time left in acpiconf(8) command.

% acpiconf -i 0
Design capacity:        10368 mAh
Last full capacity:     10368 mAh
Technology:             secondary (rechargeable)
Design voltage:         10800 mV
Capacity (warn):        518 mAh
Capacity (low):         18 mAh
Low/warn granularity:   1 mAh
Warn/full granularity:  1 mAh
Model number:           42T4763
Serial number:              1
Type:                   LION
OEM info:               SANYO
State:                  discharging
Remaining capacity:     97%
Remaining time:         7:17
Present rate:           1393 mA (17086 mW)
Present voltage:        12266 mV

As you can see from the command above this custom battery size is even reported as closer to 10400mAh instead of advertised 9600maH. I do not know how to check which one is closer to truth – but the fact is that it allows longer work then the official one – and for smaller price.


This laptop along with its smaller and lighter brothers such as ThinkPad X220 or ThinkPad T420s are the best machines I know to work on FreeBSD … but maybe its because I do not use newer laptops πŸ™‚ The general experience of FreeBSD on ThinkPad W520 is stable and uninterrupted work count in days and weeks of uptime. The suspend/resume works like a charm with many cycles possible – not just one. I one even recorded such suspend/resume cycle with many applications and games running on a busy FreeBSD system. Its available here FreeBSD 12.2 Suspend/Resume on a Vimeo page.

Here is now its being used daily.



I have been using this laptop since many years and I even laugh that as its a decade old – I would use it for the next decade πŸ™‚ Most/all of this configuration applies to other ThinkPad models from this lineup like X220/T420s/T420/T520 … probably even L520 (but I did not tested that one).


Epitaph to Laptops

This article was in my ‘TODO’ list since almost start of this blog several years ago. Usually I try to focus on positive side of things but this article is one way highway quite the opposite way. If you do not want do lose your good attitude then please do not read further. Nothing good awaits you at the end for you unfortunately. The song of King Crimson – Epitaph is appropriate tune here. You have been warned.


When I was younger I though that World only gets better. Things are improved. People live better and longer. Cars broke less frequently and need less maintenance. Computers not only go faster and draw less power but they become more usable and allow people to be more productive because of new features introduced.

Unfortunately it’s not true. Some things are improving but other get forgotten or get worse. Depending on the current geopolitical situation people live better or worse. Cars are more complicated then ever so they broke more and are now also often disturbed by software and firmware updates – not to mention bugs and security issues. It’s harder today to find a car (even used one) that is reliable, cheap in maintenance and also with engine not crippled by for example EURO 7 regulations enforced by EU. Computers are faster … or at least they have more CPU cores and draw some less power but one thing in computing went entirely wrong way.


It’s not about their CPUs or RAM. Screens also got better – they are brighter then ever – and FullHD 1920×1080 resolution finally become the standard. Some manufacturers went even further with 16:10 or even 3:2 screen ratios. Larger touchpads with support for multi touch and gestures are also very often and welcome. There is however one aspect that ALL laptop manufacturers got entirely wrong.


The first laptop I got was Dell Latitude C600.


With its 7-row keyboard and functional INS/DEL HOME/END PGUP/PGDN layout at the top right side probably fixed me for life.


This is the most important fragment I am talking about.


It was so obvious for me that it was there – providing standard cursor position manipulation without taking all the space that a TKL (tenkeyless) keyboard takes. Its 1024×768 screen resolution may seem very ancient today but it was higher then the default consensus at 800×600 one back then.

Besides the great keyboard that Dell laptop also provided other useful feature – modularity. It had two universal bays for things like:

  • batteries
  • CD-ROM or CD-RW drive
  • floppy drive

You could put two batteries to maximize battery power or put CD-RW drive instead of battery to get other functionality. The two batteries also meant that you could run this laptop as long as you want if you only had enough charged batteries. This was available almost two decades ago. 19 years to be precise. My currently favorite FreeBSD operating system also run well on it with Fluxbox on X11 display server.

In that time many laptop manufacturers provided both more productive 7-row keyboard and modularity … or at least business oriented ones … even with SUN SPARC or IBM POWER CPUs. The IBM RS-6000 POWERbook is shown below.


… and the Tadpole SPARCbook also.


Several years later I went for upgrade and got the Dell Latitude D630 laptop with successful Intel Core 2 Duo CPU and 1400×900 screen which provided so much more screen space and flexibility.


Besides the obvious 7-row keyboard its creators got great idea that extended main battery would extend in the front of the laptop instead of the back. That had two implications. First – you got a lot of usable ports at the back. Second – you got additional elegant palm rest on the front. Both Dell D630 batteries shown below.


Besides this ‘frontal’ idea it also had universal UltraBay slot on the side which similarly to the earlier Dell C600 allowed one of the following accessories:

  • CD-RW or DVD-RW drive
  • additional bay battery

Thanks to that you could extend the battery life of your laptop to about 8 hours … even on FreeBSD with its limited power management back then. You could also get additional batteries to work as long as you like of course. It was introduced in 2007. I even run OpenSolaris on that laptop for some time and all hardware was fully supported. The only problem OpenSolaris had back then is the same one as OpenIndiana has now. Very small amount of packages of additional software. Back then FreeBSD provided most software that was available on Linux but OpenSolaris was in its own limited league. I really liked OpenSolaris WiFi management with dladm(1M) tho.

After some time my attention went into revolutionary Lenovo ThinkPad X300 with custom low power Core 2 Duo L7100 CPU designed by Intel only for this model.


It was as thin and light as Apple MacBook Air while providing same functionality and modularity as other Latitude and ThinkPad laptops. Same as my previous laptop it had ‘main’ and ‘additional’ battery interchangeable with the DVD-RW drive. It had awesome speakers. Never had THAT GOOD speakers in laptop again as they were ThinkPad X300.

After I started my work at new employer I got Dell Latitude E6400 so Lenovo ThinkPad X300 became kinda redundant.


That Dell was NOT as sturdy or reliable as magnesium body Dell D630 but it had the most important feature – the oldschool 7-row keyboard.

Life went by and some time later I needed to take a look at something newer. At my work I got myself in the position of being responsible for selection of a laptop that would be successor for the Dell Latitude E6400 that we had. After checking what is available I frighted for Lenovo ThinkPad W520 back then … and I even succeeded … and failed at the same time.


I got approval for my choice for entire department … but the corporate process to make it happening took so long that Lenovo stopped offering ThinkPad W520 and started shipping its successor ThinkPad W530. I was really sad by that fact – the ThinkPad W530 was the first Lenovo laptop with new ‘island’ type keyboard instead of the classic 7-row keyboard.


The so much appreciated and needed INS/DEL HOME/END PGUP/PGDN block was gone … forever. I thought that maybe the World is ‘right’ and I am ‘wrong’. For the next 3 years I have tried to ‘migrate’ mentally with my ‘muscle memory’ to the new island keyboard layout … unsuccessfully. The only thing that went well was … ThinkPad W530 warranty keyboard replacement because the key with letter ‘E’ failed and fell off.

It was obvious for me that I need to get other laptop – a one with 7-row keyboard layout. Today I would probably just reflash the ThinkPad W530 Embedded Controller with custom firmware written by Hamish Coleman and put there ThinkPad W520 keyboard there but that option was not available back then. I also encourage you to watch the Hamish Coleman speech My Personal Fight Against the Modern Laptop from 2017.

After checking what laptops the World has to offer … I was disappointed. Since 2012 not a single laptop manufacturer offered a laptop with 7-row keyboard. Zero. Nada. Zip. None. I decided to take a look in the past instead. The last Dell Latitude models that got the 7-row keyboard were E6410 for 14″ or 6510 for 15″ screen – were introduced in 2010. Lenovo with its X220/T420/T420s/T520/W520 lineup were from 2011 – survived a year longer. As I got used to 14 inches I opted for ThinkPad T420s (slimmer and lighter ThinkPad T420 version).


With its 1600×900 screen and also my usual two batteries setup (with one being placed in the UltraBay) It was pleasure to use (and carry as it was quite light also).

In the mean time it was needed for me to pick up newer laptop at my employee. Knowing what market has to offer I only wanted the laptop to be light and small and that it should have FullHD 1920×1080 resolution screen … and my demands were met. I got Dell Latitude E7280 laptop … with GLARE touch capable FullHD screen. Great …


As you can see it was running Windows and my ex-company policy was very simple here. Windows or GTFO. For the first several years – when my ex-company was not that big I was able to work more productive with FreeBSD on that ThinkPad W530. Unfortunately that ex-employer grown to the ‘corporation’ level too much and that ruined many things. After having ThinkPad W530 I did not expected much from new Dell but it got my disappointment to a whole new level. Take a look at the top right part of its keyboard.


Besides the fact that INSERT key is ‘shared under the F12 button and I need to use now the FN key to send it each time is another level of PITA … but placing the keyboard shortcut to DISABLE WIFI one key next really got me pissed. I do not have to tell you how many times instead if just pressing INSERT key I disconnected my WiFi card which also meant disconnecting VPN and all the tasks that I had in place … not to mention how much time it takes to first reconnect WiFi and then to reconnect again to the VPN … but the next key to the right is SUSPEND – which I also got several times while only trying to use INSERT. Awesome. Even better. Also – did you notice where is the POWER button? Yes – I also lost part of my work several times because of that. Probably Dell Latitude E7280 was my worst laptop experience.

Some may wonder why I use INSERT so much? I got used to copy-paste with SHIFT-INSERT and CTRL-SHIFT-INSERT shortcuts – this is the guilty one I suppose.

Some time later – as size and weight was not an issue – the larger FullHD 1920×1080 screen equipped ThinkPad T520 laptop got my attention. I did not needed the dedicated graphics card of ThinkPad W520 but there were two drawbacks comparing to ThinkPad W520. Four physical CPU cores and USB 3.0 ports. With current JavaScript overblown web pages World I welcome the fact that ThinkPad W520 can hold 32 GB of RAM. It was huge amount in 2011 when it was released and it is more then enough now. As you probably guessed I got the ThinkPad W520 laptop.


It was the best upgrade ever. After replacing the thermal paste as described in my older Classic ThinkPad Thermal Paste Change article I finally felt like at home again. Its not possible to add additional battery into the UltraBay slot as only DVD-RW or SATA HDD caddy are allowed – but with extended battery I get about 5+ hours of battery time – more then needed.

Fast forward to today … I am running 11 years old ThinkPad W520 laptop and looking at what is available – I do not see any perspectives on what could be my next daily driver. All manufacturers decided to abandon the productive 7-row keyboard in order to sell ‘island’ type keyboard equipped laptops. Some of them even went completely insane as they now add a POWER button on the top right keyboard key. Insanity.


The only thing a reasonable user can do is to disable it in the software to not accidentally lost its work.

For some time I believed that Lenovo would make something more from its Retro ThinkPad initiative that allowed ThinkPad 25th Anniversary Edition to see the light of day … but that also not happened.


This slightly modified ThinkPad T470 had dull dark FullHD screen and only one version available. It was also produced in only 5000 pieces … worldwide. It was in 2017 and fast forward 5 years nothing more has happened as we are in 2022 now. Also because only 5000 of them were created its almost impossible to get a used one.

Some people took the matters in their hands and started to make their own modern and modified ThinkPad variations. The most known ones are ThinkPad T62 and ThinkPad X330 with replaced high resolution screens and sometimes even thin bevels along with new hardware underneath of course.

Even today the ThinkPad W520 is quite fast machine. The FreeBSD kernel compilation takes about 600 seconds. On the fresh brand new System76 laptop with also 4 core Intel i7-1165G7 CPU and same 32 GB RAM it takes 300 seconds. Keeping in mind that there are 11 years between these laptops this does not seem that much to be honest.

About quarter ago I changed my employer and got new business laptop – the brand new ThinkPad T14 GEN 1 one.


It has the same keyboard layout as ThinkPad W530 which is kinda good remembering how fucked up was the Dell Latitude E7280. The biggest issue with these keyboards (T14/W530) is the lack of empty space between ESC and F1 keys. If you switch desktops with ALT-F1 to ALT-F4 keys then you need to ‘waste’ some more time to make sure you are not doing the ALT-ESC shortcut which is for something entirely else. Its also good to be back on X11 as my new employer allows you to choose RHEL instead of Windows.

Back to ‘personal’ laptops – if my ThinkPad W520 would break I would just get another one … and another … or ThinkPad T520 if W520 would not be available. If for some reason I would not be able to use them anymore I would probably get that:

  • cheapest laptop with enough cores/RAM and FullHD screen
  • wireless “tenkeyless” keyboard in front of that laptop

Maybe I will even put that ‘proper’ keyboard on top of the builtin one to save space.


It will take little more space but at least it will be usable and productive.

Generation Lost in the Bazaar

For long time I assumed that a lot other people also lack that keyboard layout. Seems I was partially wrong. One of my mates realize me that a lot of people grown up even without ever using the INS/DEL HOME/END PGUP/PGDN layout. I will quote him below.

I didn’t know I was raised without those keys!
I mean, they were there but I wasn’t taught how to use them properly.
And now it seems we can’t find them so frequently…

If like me you went to school in Poland you would probably know (or at least recall a little) a poem of Polish poet JΓ³zef Ignacy Kraszewski titled called Birds in a Cage. Let me quote it for you here as its not that long.

Birds in a Cage
‘Why do you weep?’ a young canary said to an old canary,
‘You are better off now in a cage than you were in the fields.’
‘You were born in it,’ said the old one, ‘so I forgive you;
I was once free but now I’m in a cage and that is why I am weeping.’

Why do I quote it here? Because its very similar to the situation of new laptops available now. Those who do not know the oldschool modular laptops with 7-row keyboards are kinda born in a cage. They pick their MacBook or latest ThinkPad X1 Carbon machines with island keyboard layouts and believe that these are the best possible choices. Its was not always like that.


I do not see the (laptops) future in bright lights. I like what PINE64 PineBook or Framework Laptop bring to the table but on the keyboard side … its still the island type dark ages.


I am not the only one that feels cheated by the industry. If you are like me here is some more fuel for your nostalgia.


UNIX Mouse Shootout

While most hardcore UNIX users prefer keyboard shortcuts over anything else – and I often align with that view – I really do appreciate good mouse on my UNIX system. In the end its close to impossible to edit images in GIMP without mouse for example. This ‘shootout’ will definitely be subjective as it will be limited only to mice that I own(ed). I will not bore you with all the technical specifications of these devices – you can check them on your own.

Besides – UNIX has two copy/paste buffers instead of just one like in most systems. There is PRIMARY and SECONDARY buffers in X11 for mouse. One is used when you use Copy/Paste options from menus and/or keyboard shortcuts like [CTRL]+[C] and [CTRL]+[V] ones. The other one is used when you just SELECT the text. After releasing the left mouse button (and finishing the selection) you have that text stored in your SECONDARY buffer. You may now paste that with pressing the third/middle mouse button. But the PRIMARY buffer did not changed during that operation so you can also paste the other text you had in your PRIMARY buffer from the earlier [CTRL]+[C] operation. This makes mouse on UNIX more useful – definitely bigger then in other systems.

While Bluetooth is widely used on most mobile phones/tables and even cars now I do not find it desired as the only protocol for the mouse. I do not have anything against it when it comes as an additional possibility like with the Logitech M720 Triathlon mouse – its even nice that way – but I would not use mouse that the only possible way to connect/operate is by Bluetooth protocol. Maybe on a macOS UNIX but definitely not on FreeBSD UNIX πŸ™‚

AMIGA ‘Tank’ Mouse

The first mouse device that I used was the oldschool AMIGA ‘Tank’ Mouse which I used alongside my first computer – AMIGA A600. When I used it or played Cannon Fodder it felt more then up to the task but using only two buttons mouse (without any scroll and third button) in 2021 feels almost impossible for me.


It was possible to run AMIGA UNIX (also known as Amix) on AMIGA hardware. That was an AT&T Unix System V Release 4 developed as alternative to default AmigaOS but you needed Amiga A3000UX hardware for that.


Unfortunately the AMIGA A600 was not supported 😦

Lenovo and ThinkPad Twins

One of my older/earlier mouse models that I used were quite ‘identical’ mouse models Lenovo Wireless USB Mouse (0A36188) and ThinkPad Wireless USB Mouse (0A36193) – both made by Lenovo for the record. They have the same size and work mostly the same but the older one – ThinkPad model (0A36193) – had more responsive third button (the one under the wheel) – the Lenovo (0A36188) kinda needed real strength to press it – that was its downside.


I still own the ThinkPad one (0A36193) and use it from time to time when I travel – the two AA batteries allow quite long operation of more then a month – which is more then enough for my standards.

Its my first mouse that got additional buttons on the scroll wheel for left and right operations – I used it for volume control on my UNIX system which was (and still is) VERY convenient.

While I really like its/their small size – but after some longer use I really miss some more ergonomic shape under my hand. That means that it ‘will do’ for short periods of usage in travel situations but for long work use something more ergonomic then these.

Logitech Marathon M705 (GEN 1)

I got it after more then a year of using Lenovo and ThinkPad mice. It was real upgrade with quite nice profiled shape to the right hand. It was also quite heavy – but that was good – it felt really good to operate in hand. It was branded as very long to use without changing or charging the batteries and it really did provided in that department – I needed to change/charge the batteries maybe once a year or less often. It was also more precise then simple ThinkPad/Lenovo mouse.


The volume buttons from the wheel that I used on the Lenovo and ThinkPad mice was not quite possible here. While the mouse have these left/right buttons on the wheel they were clumsy and not very precise – so you loss more time trying to press them properly then doing it the other way. With Logitech M705 I ‘moved’ my volume controls to other two buttons that were available under the thumb button. Fortunately there are two of those additional buttons so it was perfect for volume up and volume down actions.

This is also the first mouse that allowed to toggle the wheel to be ‘clickless’ – you can literally spin it for several seconds without any resistance – it just keeps rolling itself – and to be honest – that is one of the features I now DEMAND from any mouse. It makes life so much better (and faster). Instead of scrolling many – many times to get where its needed – you just spin it once and wait till you get there – and even a lot faster then with ‘traditional’ clicking mouse wheel.

Another advantage of that approach is that tip of your finger does not hurt after all day long of scrolling … and if you need precision clicking wheel – then just toggle it and you can click-scroll as usual.

With LogitechΒ Marathon M705 mouse I also grow another ‘useful’ habit (or need) in a mouse. I started to use the lower thumb button to toggle between pause/play for my Deadbeef music player. Before that I used to switch to Workspace 3 where it plays music and press [C] key to toggle pause/play. After adding additional deadbeef --play-pause action to my xbindkeys(1) config now all I have to do to toggle between play and pause is to just push my thumb mouse button. Way faster πŸ™‚

Logitech Performance MX

After reading many comparisons with Logitech MX Master generations I finally settled on the Logitech Performance MX mouse. It is really big and that is really big advantage. It handles/lies really nice in a hand and being quite large and heavy it is very precise and you got ‘good’ feeling and confidence of using it. I really liked it till I got to know its two big downsides … first was the battery time. I needed to change/charge battery about once a week. That was REALLY disappointing. The other downside was that it was not able to properly operate on a flat WOOD surface (like on the photo below). Plain simple flat wood. All other mice worked well on this surface while this one did not. The marketed Darkfield sensor was useless. These were the two reasons that I got rid of it.


Same as with M705 the left/right buttons on the wheel were not very precise so I used the additional thumb buttons for volume management. The Logitech Performance MX mouse also comes with micro USB port at the front so you may use the mouse while you are charging it. Its real pity that Logitech did not used two (or even three) AA batteries for this mouse to make it last longer … but that would not resolve the Darkfield sensor not able to cope with movement on the wood πŸ™‚

Logitech Marathon M705 (GEN 2)

I have read a lot of hate and disappointment about the latest generation of Logitech Marathon M705 mouse. Also the lower thumb button is missing and currently it uses only one AA battery. It still provides very long time without the need to change/charge and its lighter now. Its neither bad nor good – its just different. The precision is similar but after using Logitech Performance MX you really miss that big size.


The second generation of M705 did not improved the left/right buttons on the wheel so I decided to stick with additional thumb buttons for volume management.

I also really missed that lower thumb button that is gone from the GEN 2 Logitech Marathon M705 mouse – needed to go back to my [C] routine …

Logitech Triathlon M720

I recently got the possibility to check and use the Logitech Triathlon M720 mouse and I must say that I am positively surprised. Its both Bluetooth and USB dongle mouse so you can choose which way you would like to connect it to your computers. The plural form is intended here as the Logitech M720 allows you to switch between 3 computers with additional dedicated button. It also got ‘back’ the lower thumb button that was missing on the latest generation of the Logitech M705 mouse. The light/white lower bottom of the mouse looks little strange though … but its kinda not visible when it is laying on the table.


The M720 has more precise left/right buttons on the wheel but I got so used to manage volume with my thumb that I currently keep these ‘wheel’ buttons unused.

Having the lower thumb button again I was also able to get back to my toggle play/pause Deadbeef operation. Yay!

Another useful use case I discovered recently is the ‘misuse’ of the button that switches between 3 computers. I started to use it to ‘suspend’ (generally off) the mouse if I do not want the mouse to ‘wake’ the screen – to not accidentally turn on the screen when I move the mouse accidentally. I mean – sometimes I turn off the screen (with shortcut that executes xset dpms force off command) and then I switch the mouse M720 mouse to channel number 2 to it will not be able to communicate with USB receiver and turn on my screen in again accidentally.


I never owned Logitech MX Master mouse. I used version ‘3’ for short time as one of my buddies own it and it felt quite similar to Logitech Performance MX in operation but not quite the same. Similar but different. I think that it would be comfortable but not sure about the precision on wood and battery time. Maybe I will got it some day and add an update here.


… but given the fact that Logitech MX Master mouse also has micro USB port at its front for charging I would suspect that battery time is also not that great. Similarly like the Logitech Triathlon M720 it also allows to switch its presence between 3 computers. There is also additional wheel for vertical scrolling. Never used that but maybe it would be useful in GIMP for example.


So what does a good UNIX mouse feature? I would summarize all the needed (or at least useful) feats in a list below.

  • needs to be at lest a little ergonomic
  • allows to toggle wheel between click and clickless operation
  • have additional buttons for custom actions
  • allows more then one month of work on batteries
  • works on different surfaces without a problem
  • has a USB dongle so Bluetooth is not needed

What other features you desire in mouse? I also thought about ‘vertical’ mouse type/shape and also about trackball. I tried my neighbor Logitech trackball several times but I am not sure I would get used to it after so many years of ricing the mice πŸ™‚

External Discussions


FreeBSD Desktop – Part 26 – Configuration – Conferencing and Meetings

For years I thought that online video conferencing and/or meetings would not be possible on FreeBSD. One of the first things I done on each of my laptops was to disable Camera and Microphone (along with Bluetooth) to save some battery time. While the Microphone would probably work I did not even tried to use it – did not had such needs to record anything with my laptop.

As time passed by I thought that maybe I will try what is the state of using Camera on FreeBSD and also how it is doing in the video conferencing/meetings space.


I was really astonished by the results … at least on my ThinkPad W520.

The Table of Contents for the article:

  • Camera Setup
  • Microphone Setup
    • ThinkPad Microphone Easter Egg
  • Meetings
  • Closing Thoughts

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.

Camera Setup

I enabled Camera and Microphone in the BIOS (leaving Bluetooth disabled) and booted up my FreeBSD 13.0 as usual.

I then installed needed packages which are:

  • multimedia/v4l-utils – Video4Linux utilities
  • multimedia/v4l_compat – Video4Linux IOCTL header files
  • multimedia/pwcview – Video4Linux PWC webcam viewer
  • multimedia/webcamd – port of Linux USB webcam and DVB drivers

We will also need to load cuse.ko kernel module at each boot. We will use /etc/rc.conf for that.

# pkg install v4l-utils v4l_compat webcamd pwcview

# vi /etc/rc.conf

  kld_list="${kld_list} cuse"


My Camera is listed at the end of the usbconfig(8) command.

% usbconfig 
ugen1.1: <0x1912 XHCI root HUB> at usbus1, cfg=0 md=HOST spd=SUPER (5.0Gbps) pwr=SAVE (0mA)
ugen2.1: <0x1033 XHCI root HUB> at usbus2, cfg=0 md=HOST spd=SUPER (5.0Gbps) pwr=SAVE (0mA)
ugen3.1: <intel ehci="" root="" hub=""> at usbus3, cfg=0 md=HOST spd=HIGH (480Mbps) pwr=SAVE (0mA)
ugen0.1: <intel ehci="" root="" hub=""> at usbus0, cfg=0 md=HOST spd=HIGH (480Mbps) pwr=SAVE (0mA)
ugen3.2: <vendor 0x8087="" product="" 0x0024=""> at usbus3, cfg=0 md=HOST spd=HIGH (480Mbps) pwr=SAVE (0mA)
ugen0.2: <vendor 0x8087="" product="" 0x0024=""> at usbus0, cfg=0 md=HOST spd=HIGH (480Mbps) pwr=SAVE (0mA)
ugen0.3: <vendor 0x0765="" product="" 0x5001=""> at usbus0, cfg=0 md=HOST spd=LOW (1.5Mbps) pwr=ON (100mA)
ugen0.4: <logitech usb="" receiver=""> at usbus0, cfg=0 md=HOST spd=FULL (12Mbps) pwr=ON (98mA)
ugen0.5: <chicony electronics="" co.,="" ltd.="" integrated="" camera=""> at usbus0, cfg=0 md=HOST spd=HIGH (480Mbps) pwr=ON (200mA)

We can also use webcamd(8) to list available cameras in the system.

% webcamd -l
Available device(s):
webcamd [-d ugen1.1] -N 0x1912-XHCI-root-HUB -S unknown -M 0
webcamd [-d ugen2.1] -N 0x1033-XHCI-root-HUB -S unknown -M 0
webcamd [-d ugen3.1] -N Intel-EHCI-root-HUB -S unknown -M 0
webcamd [-d ugen0.1] -N Intel-EHCI-root-HUB -S unknown -M 1
webcamd [-d ugen3.2] -N vendor-0x8087-product-0x0024 -S unknown -M 0
webcamd [-d ugen0.2] -N vendor-0x8087-product-0x0024 -S unknown -M 1
webcamd [-d ugen0.3] -N vendor-0x0765-product-0x5001 -S unknown -M 0
webcamd [-d ugen0.4] -N Logitech-USB-Receiver -S unknown -M 0
webcamd [-d ugen0.5] -N Chicony-Electronics-Co---Ltd--Integrated-Camera -S unknown -M 0
Show webcamd usage:
webcamd -h

We will use above webcamd(8) output to add needed webcamd_0_flags in the /etc/rc.conf file.

# vi /etc/rc.conf

  webcamd_0_flags="-d ugen0.5"


We also need to add ourselves to the webcamd group.

# pw groupmod webcamd -m vermaden

# grep webcamd /etc/group 

We can now start the webcamd(8) daemon.

# service webcamd start
Starting webcamd.
webcamd 99884 - - Attached to ugen0.5[0]

# ls -l /dev/video*
crw-rw---- 1 webcamd operator 2, 5 2021-05-09 11:36 /dev/video0
crw-rw---- 1 webcamd operator 2, 6 2021-05-09 11:36 /dev/video1

We will now use pwcview(1) to check how the Camera works.

% pwcview
Webcam set to: 320x240 (sif) at 5 fps

Here is how it looks.


Works! I pixelised the output as I do not have an instagrammer soul …

You can start pwcview(1) with larger resolution when needed.

Camera at mine ThinkPad W520 tops at 1280×720 resolution (HD) and 30 fps for refresh rate.

% pwcview -d /dev/video0 -f 30 -s uxga
Webcam set to: 1280x720 (uxga) at 30 fps

Here is the list of most popular resolutions.

========= ========== ===============
CGA        320x200
SIF        352x240
CIF        352x288
EGA        640x350
VGA        640x480
4SIF/QSIF  704x480   (Quad SIC)
4CIF/QCIF  704x576   (Quad CIF)
SVGA       800x600
XGA       1024x768
720p      1280x720   (HD)
SXGA      1280x1024  (1.3 Megapixel)
WXGA      1366x768   (HD+)
SXGA+     1400x1050
16CIF 	  1408x1152 
WSXGA     1600x1024
UXGA      1600x1200  (2.0 Megapixel)
WSXGA+    1680x1050
1080p     1920x1080  (FullHD)
WUXGA     1920x1200
QXGA      2048x1536  (3.0 Megapixel)
QSXGA     2560x2048  (5.0 Megapixel)
WQSXGA    3200x2048
QUXGA     3200x2400
2160p     3840x2160  (4K)
WQUXGA	  3840x2400

You may also try multimedia/cheese which has more ‘desktop’ interface when plain and simple pwcview(1) tool.

# pkg install multimedia/cheese
% cheese


You may also test your camera online – https://www.onlinemictest.com/webcam-test/ – for example here.


Microphone Setup

You may test your microphone with audio/audacity or multimedia/ffmpeg for example.

You as well use the – https://www.onlinemictest.com/ – online test for your mic.


You can also use audio/sox to record your sound in the terminal.

# pkg install sox celluloid

% pkg which -o $( which rec )
/usr/local/bin/rec was installed by package audio/sox

% rec test.wav

Input File     : 'default' (ossdsp)
Channels       : 2
Sample Rate    : 48000
Precision      : 16-bit
Sample Encoding: 16-bit Signed Integer PCM

In:0.00% 00:00:06.66 [00:00:00.00] Out:315k  [ =====|===== ] Hd:1.9 Clip:0    ^C

% celluloid test.wav

You hear your recording for example in the celluloid(1) player.


ThinkPad Microphone Easter Egg

After I successfully tested the Camera on my ThinkPad W520 I then moved to Microphone testing … to just find out that my microphone is totally deaf. I could not record any sound with audacity(1) or ffmpeg(1).

At the beginning I first suspected it was a FreeBSD problem … unjustifiably fortunately.

Switching Microphone to [Enabled] in the ThinkPad W520 BIOS requires special procedure as shown on the BIOS screenshot below πŸ™‚


1. Set the Microphone to [Enabled].
2. Select Save and Exit option in BIOS.
3. Power off laptop.
4. Disconnect AC power for at least 10 seconds (battery can be attached).
5. Power on laptop.
6. Boot FreeBSD as usual and now recording on Microphone works like a charm πŸ™‚

Why so strange enabling procedure? Some people suggested that it needs to be that complicated to make sure that any third party will not enable your Microphone without your knowledge. Security concerns. Makes sense.


I was able to successfully start/join Google Meet and Zoom and also Teams meetings with this setup. I have also tested and added Jitsi Meet.

Sometimes it just required to use www/chromium instead of my default www/firefox browser.

Here is the detailed list of what works where.

Closing Thoughts

Hope that will helps some of you to use join your meetings on FreeBSD system.


Realtek RTL8188CUS – USB 802.11n WiFi Review

When using FreeBSD on a new laptop you sometimes find out that the WiFi chip that it came with is not supported … or not yet supported in RELEASE version and support exists in CURRENT development version that you do not want to use.

This is where Realtek RTL8188CUS chip comes hand.


Its used in many appliances and products but we are interested in its small USB WiFi version that is really small.

The Realtek company even got Taiwan Green Classics Award 2011 for their 802.11b/g/n 2.4GHz 1T1R WLAN Single Chip Controller (RTL8188CE/RTL8188CUS) on 2011 year when it was introduced.



Its not very powerful as it comes with 1×1 antennas and 802.11n support – yes only single antenna. 150Mbps at most.

Its also very small and almost does not stick out of the laptop.


When connected it also gives subtle little dim light.



I will now show you how it works on FreeBSD. This is for 12.2-RELEASE version but it worked the same for 11.1-RELEASE 3 years ago.

My ThinkPad W520 laptop already has Intel 6300 with 3×3 antennas and 802.11n standard WiFi card supported by iwn(4) driver.

# sysctl net.wlan.devices
net.wlan.devices: iwn0

We will now attach Realtek RTL8188CUS chip and will check whats coming in dmesg(8) command.

# dmesg
ugen2.3:  at usbus2
rtwn0 on uhub4
rtwn0:  on usbus2
rtwn0: MAC/BB RTL8188CUS, RF 6052 1T1R

… and some more information from usbconfig(8) command.

# usbconfig
ugen2.3:  at usbus2, cfg=0 md=HOST spd=HIGH (480Mbps) pwr=ON (500mA)

# usbconfig -d 2.3 show_ifdrv
ugen2.3:  at usbus2, cfg=0 md=HOST spd=HIGH (480Mbps) pwr=ON (500mA)
ugen2.3.0: rtwn0: 

Its now listed as rtwn0 as its supported by the rtwn(4) driver on FreeBSD.

# sysctl net.wlan.devices
net.wlan.devices: rtwn0 iwn0

Lets connect to some wireless network with this Realtek chip. I will create wlan1 device as wlan0 is already taken by the other Intel 6300 card.

# ifconfig wlan1 create wlandev rtwn0

# ifconfig wlan1
wlan1: flags=8802<broadcast,simplex,multicast> metric 0 mtu 1500
        ether 00:1d:43:21:2d:1c
        groups: wlan
        ssid "" channel 1 (2412 MHz 11b)
        regdomain FCC country US authmode OPEN privacy OFF txpower 30 bmiss 7
        scanvalid 60 wme bintval 0
        parent interface: rtwn0
        media: IEEE 802.11 Wireless Ethernet autoselect (autoselect)
        status: no carrier
        nd6 options=21<performnud,auto_linklocal>

# wpa_passphrase WIFINETWORK PASSWORD >> /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf

# wpa_supplicant -i wlan1 -c /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf
Successfully initialized wpa_supplicant
wlan1: Trying to associate with d8:07:b8:b8:f4:81 (SSID='wireless' freq=2442 MHz)
wlan1: Associated with d8:07:b6:b8:f4:81
wlan1: WPA: Key negotiation completed with d8:07:b6:b8:f4:81 [PTK=CCMP GTK=CCMP]
wlan1: CTRL-EVENT-CONNECTED - Connection to d8:07:b6:b8:f4:81 completed [id=40 id_str=]
zsh: suspended  wpa_supplicant -i wlan1 -c /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf

# bg
[1]  + continued  wpa_supplicant -i wlan1 -c /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf


We should now have network LAYER 2 connected and wpa_supplicant(8) should be running in a background and wlan1 interface should have associated status.

# ps ax | grep wpa_supplicant
48693  4  S        0:00.43 wpa_supplicant -i wlan1 -c /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf
50687  4  S+       0:00.00 grep --color wpa_supplicant

# ifconfig wlan1
wlan1: flags=8843<up,broadcast,running,simplex,multicast> metric 0 mtu 1500
        ether 00:1d:43:21:2d:1c
        groups: wlan
        ssid wireless channel 7 (2442 MHz 11g ht/20) bssid d8:07:b6:b8:f4:81
        regdomain FCC country US authmode WPA2/802.11i privacy ON
        deftxkey UNDEF AES-CCM 2:128-bit txpower 30 bmiss 7 scanvalid 60
        protmode CTS ht20 ampdulimit 64k ampdudensity 4 shortgi -stbc -ldpc
        -uapsd wme roaming MANUAL
        parent interface: rtwn0
        media: IEEE 802.11 Wireless Ethernet MCS mode 11ng
        status: associated
        nd6 options=29<performnud,ifdisabled,auto_linklocal>

Lets add LAYER 3 with IP address using dhclient(8) command.

# dhclient wlan1
DHCPDISCOVER on wlan1 to port 67 interval 3
DHCPREQUEST on wlan1 to port 67
bound to -- renewal in 3600 seconds.

We just got the IP address.

One last step with DNS and we will test the connection with ping(8) command.

# echo nameserver > /etc/resolv.conf

# ping -c 3 freebsd.org
PING freebsd.org ( 56 data bytes
64 bytes from icmp_seq=0 ttl=50 time=119.870 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=1 ttl=50 time=119.371 ms
64 bytes from icmp_seq=2 ttl=50 time=119.128 ms

--- freebsd.org ping statistics ---
3 packets transmitted, 3 packets received, 0.0% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 119.128/119.456/119.870/0.309 ms


FreeBSD Benchmark

I next tested the performance of this simple single antenna Realtek chip using NFS large file transfer in thunar(1) file manager.


The results are not that bad but not great either.

The file copy from LAN server attached directly to WiFi router to my laptop was about 2.9 MB/s fast. I was 5 meters away from the router.

server  ==LAN==>  router  ==WiFi==>  laptop  @  2.9 MB/s

The file copy from laptop using WiFi to LAN server attached directly to WiFi router was about 2.6 MB/s fast. Still about 5 meters away from the router.

laptop  ==WiFi==>  router  ==LAN==>  server  @  2.6 MB/s

That is 23.2 Mbps and 20.8 Mbps respectively. Really far from theoretical single antenna 802.11n 150 Mbps transfer … its probably fault of the FreeBSD wireless stack.

I would say that its sufficient for Internet browsing but using local LAN resources over NFS can be painful.

On the contrary my Intel 6300 WiFi card does 5.5 MB/s on the laptop-to-router-to-server copy and 10.5 MB/s on the server-to-router-to-laptop road. That is 44 Mbps and 84 Mbps respectively instead of 450 Mbps theoretical maximum. Both the Intel 6300 and my router have 3×3 antennas.

Would love to see these number closer to 30 MB/s …

Raspberry Pi

One of the other benefit of the Realtek RTL8188CUS chip is that it works very well on small Raspberry Pi boxes. Personally I have tested it on the Raspberry Pi 2B and it worked like a charm.



This chip is also great when it comes to price. Products based on this chip are available everywhere. They are on EBAY. They are on ALIEXPRESS. And it costs as low as $2.50 in many cases.

Sometimes the delivery costs more then the product itself πŸ™‚


UPDATE 1 – Middle Ages

Reddit user Yaazkal user from Reddit just reminded me thatΒ  rtwn(4) driver on FreeBSD still does not support 802.11n protocol.

It’s still in the middle ages of 802.11g transfers.

Oldschool Gaming on FreeBSD

When was the last time you played a computer game? I really like one of Benjamin Franklin quotes – “We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.” – he lived in times where computer games did not existed yet but the quote remains current. I do not play games a lot, but when I do I make sure that they are the right and best ones. They are often games from the past and some of these games just do not age … they are timeless actually. Today I will show you some oldschool gaming on FreeBSD system.

Here is the Table of Contents for the article.

  • Native Games
    • Native Console/Terminal Games
      • Interactive
      • Passive
    • Native X11 Games
  • AMIGA Games
  • DOS Games
    • Fourteen Years Later
  • Windows Games
  • Flash/SWF Games
  • Web Browser Games
  • Last Resort
  • Closing Thoughts

Here is my Openbox ‘games’ menu.


Discussions and comments from ‘external’ sources are available here:

Native Games

First we will start with ‘native’ games on FreeBSD – as of today there are more then thousand games available in the FreeBSD Ports collection.

% ls /usr/ports/games | wc -l

You can get nice description for each of these games (from the pkg-descr file) by using the below command. I assume that your FreeBSD Ports tree is under /usr/ports directory.

% for I in /usr/ports/games/*/pkg-descr
> do
>   echo ${I}
>   echo
>   cat ${I}
>   echo
>   echo
>   echo
> done \
>   | grep \
>       --color=always \
>       -A 100 \
>       -E "^/usr/ports/games/.*/pkg-descr" \
>   | less -R

Here is the one-liner that you can actually copy and paste into your terminal.

% for I in /usr/ports/games/*/pkg-descr; do echo ${I}; echo; cat ${I}; echo; echo; echo; done | grep --color=always -A 100 -E "^/usr/ports/games/.*/pkg-descr" | less -R

Here is how it looks.


This way you can browse (and search in less(1) command) for interesting titles.

Native Console/Terminal Games


Lets start with the most simple games – the text games played in terminal. I play only two of these and they are 2048 and ctris games.

The 2048 is generally a single C file – 2048.c – from here – https://github.com/mevdschee/2048.c/blob/master/2048.c – you need to compile it with the cc(1) command – like that.

% cc -o 2048 2048.c
% ./2048


The other one ctris is available in the FreeBSD Ports or you can add it by package with pkg(8) command.

# pkg install -y ctris


There are also several other terminal games like Tetris in the FreeBSD Ports – they are bsdtris or vitetris ones for example.


The are also terminal ‘non-interactive’ games (or maybe I should call them terminal screensavers alternatively).

My favorite two are cmatrix and pipes. The first one is available from FreeBSD Ports.

IMHO it looks best when launched this way.

% cmatrix -a -b -u 6 -C blue


Some time ago I ‘ported’ or should I say modified the pipes so it will work properly on FreeBSD and its available from – https://github.com/vermaden/pipes/blob/master/pipes.sh – here.


Native X11 Games

Time to move to some more graphically appealing games – the X11 games.

One of the better open source games it the Battle for Wesnoth which is also available in the FreeBSD Ports so adding package it easy.

# pkg install -y wesnoth



Most AMIGA games have been ported to DOS and its generally more convenient and a lot faster to play the DOS ‘ports’ using dosbox(1) instead of playing their original AMIGA versions under fs-uae(1) emulator. Some games like Sensible World of Soccer are better in original AMIGA version (little larger field view for example in the AMIGA version – but that only makes the DOS game little harder as you see less) then in DOS port but still the difference is not that huge to wait for each game start roughly 60 seconds with fs-uae(1) and manually switching virtual floppies.


As you can see on the far right the Sensible World of Soccer game has been even ported to the Microsoft XBOX console – SWOS – available here πŸ™‚

There is however (at least) one AMIGA game that has not been ported to DOS and its made by the legendary TEAM17 studio. Its the All Terrain Racing game. When you check its reviews back when it was released it did not get that high scores as Sensible World of Soccer for example but its one of the better looking and fun racing games made for AMIGA. But Sensible World of Soccer was named one of The 10 Most Important Video Games of All Time on 2007 so it really hard to beat that. Even Sensible Gold got a lot worse reviews.


Originally it came in two floppies version so everytime you will launch this game in fs-uae(1) you will need to change the virtual floppy … which is real PITA I must say … not to mention 60 seconds of waiting for it to start. But there is other possibility. The All Terrain Racing game was also created for the AMIGA CD32 variant which used CD-ROM discs instead of floppies. That way by loading single ISO file you do not need to switch floppies anymore each time the game starts. Yay!

Fortunately the fs-uae(1) config for All Terrain Racing game is not long or complicated either.


The fs-uae(1) is also easily installable on FreeBSD by using packages.

# pkg install -y fs-uae

As the All Terrain Racing game is started/loaded from ISO file the save/load game state is not made ‘natively’ in the game but level up above – in the fs-uae(1) itself with SAVE STATE and LOAD STATE options as shown below.


Not all AMIGA games are available as CD32 version but one may also use virtual Hard Disk option on the fs-uae(1) emulator to avoid switching floppies.

DOS Games

The DOS games can be very conveniently played by using the DOSBox which is available on FreeBSD as dosbox packages (or port).

# pkg install -y dosbox

Games in DOSBox start very quickly which is very nice. They also run very smoothly.


Like you see I prefer to keep my games outside of the ~/.doxbox directory while keeping only configuration files there. But that is just ‘organizational’ choice. Make your own choices how and where to keep the games that suits you best.

Its also very convenient to redefine all keyboard shortcuts with DOSBox builtin keyboard remapper. For example instead of default [CTRL] for ‘FIRE’ button in Sensible World of Soccer I prefer to use [Z] key instead and that is my only mapping currently.


Keep in mind that as the DOSBox main config file is kept as ~/.dosbox/dosbox-${VERSION}.conf file (its ~/.dosbox/dosbox-0.74-3.conf as of time of writing the article) the remapped keyboard shortcuts as kept in the ~/.dosbox/mapper-${VERSION}.map file (its ~/.dosbox/mapper-0.74-3.map as of time of writing the article). Also keep in mind that if you will start dosbox in ~ (home) dir and not in ~/.dosbox~dir then dosbox will creates ~/mapper-0.74-3.map file (in your home dir) instead of proper ~/.dosbox/mapper-0.74-3.map place.

I also made script wrappers for each game so I can launch them quickly both from command line or by using dmenu.


You will find them all as games-* scripts in my GitHub repository – https://github.com/vermaden/scripts – available here. The DOSBox configuration files are in the dosbox dir on the same repo – https://github.com/vermaden/scripts/tree/master/dosbox – here.

My favorite DOS (originally from AMIGA) game is Sensible World of Soccer. I also like to play first Settlers game and Theme Hospital occasionally.

The DOSBox also allows you to easily record both audio (into WAV files) and video (into AVI files) with keyboard shortcuts.

For example I have recorded replay of my Sensible World of Soccer goals this way (then converted it to GIF using ffmpeg(1) for this).

SWOS Goals.

This is the ffmpeg(1) spell that I used to convert the DOSBox made AVI file to GIF file.

% ffmpeg -i ~/.dosbox/capture/sws_eng_001.avi -vf "fps=30" -loop 0 swos.goals.gif

Keep in mind that some games – and Sensible World of Soccer is one of these games – have more then one graphical mode to run them. When you start the game without any switches then it starts in low graphics mode which is easy to spot on by looking at pixelated/dotted ‘S‘ logo on the top right corner. The lines on the field are also not antialiased.


When you add /f flag to the Sensible World of Soccer binary then it starts in full graphics mode and the ‘S‘ letter has now solid grey color on the back and lines on the field are also antialiased now.

Here is how it looks in the DOSBox config file.

@echo off
mount C: ~/.dosbox
cd swos-SFX
sws_eng.exe /f

The Sensible World of Soccer has a special place in my private games ‘Hall of Fame’. Its the only game that I was able to play straight for 26 hours with breaks only for meals and pee … but that was in the old AMIGA times in the 90s.

Fourteen Years Later

One of the very old but also very nice logic games I played two decades ago was Swing game. I was not able to start this game in ‘normal’ mode as it started in ‘network’ mode each time. While searching for a possible solution I found … my own bug on DOSBox created 14 years agohttps://www.dosbox.com/comp_list.php?showID=2499 – here. I was not able to force the Swing game to start in ‘normal’ mode back then so I ‘marked’ it as ‘non working’ and moved on.

Now when I checked the bug report I see useful solutions to the problem. Pity I am not able to login and ‘thank’ as I do not remember my password and DOSBox page does not offer password reset service.

Seems that Swing needs to have its game directory mounted again as CD-ROM device. That way Swing starts in ‘normal’ mode and local Single and Multi Player games are now possible.


The most important part of DOSBox config is here:

@echo off
mount C ~/.dosbox
mount D ~/.dosbox/swing -t cdrom -usecd 0
cd swing

Windows Games

Good old WINE. On FreeBSD there are two WINE versions. There is 64bit version as emulators/wine package and 32bit version names emulators/i386-wine. You want to use the latter because most games are 32bit and the 64bit version of WINE is not able to run them 32bit games. The installation on FreeBSD is typical as shown below.

# pkg install i386-wine

Old/classic Windows games usually keep your saved games directly in their installation folders under dirs named ‘SAVE’ or ‘SAVEDGAMES’ but in some time between 2005 and now the game developers started to think that its a ‘great’ idea to store them in your ‘My Documents’ directory … I do not have to tell you how I fell about that ‘decision’ but on FreeBSD it means that you will have saved games directories created directly in your ~ home directory (its /home/vermaden in my case) directory. What a mess.


That is probably the only thing I configure in WINE on FreeBSD with winecfg – I set ‘My Documents’ location to ~/games.EXTRACT/profile directory instead.

The DOSBox is also better for gaming then WINE because it allows convenient [ALT]+[ENTER] shortcut to switch between fullscreen and windowed modes. With WINE I need to keep two game ‘startup’ scripts. Separate ones for windowed mode and for fullscreen mode.


Below is an example of Colin McRae Rally 2.0 game under WINE on FreeBSD.


My best time for Stage 1 on Italy was ‘only’ 2:09.84 so I was not fast enough to beat the all time best with 2:05:75 immortalized here – https://youtu.be/iLLMIJzpoVk – on YouTube.

Other classic – original Baldur’s Gate game below. It was possible to dual class into specialist mage – not possible now in Enhanced Edition.


More up to date Baldur’s Gate: Enhanced Edition also works well.


Less popular titles like Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader also work well under WINE on FreeBSD. Very unusual game as it used the S.P.E.C.I.A.L system from Fallout instead of ‘typical’ choice like Advanced Dungeons and Dragons like in other Black Isle games.


If for some reason your game does not work under WINE on FreeBSD then you should try Project Homura solution. Its also available as games/homura package (or port) on FreeBSD.

Flash/SWF Games

As I really hate Adobe Flash technology when browsing the web pages but I quite like the compact SWF files as simple flash games using WINE and Flash Player Projector from Adobe. I also use WINE to start the Windows version of that Flash Player Projector program. Its available here – https://www.adobe.com/support/flashplayer/debug_downloads.html – in the debug downloads.

You can pick one of these two but I use the first one.

An example of Governor of Poker 2 game running in the Flash Player Projector under WINE.


All of these games can be found on various sites Flash games by looking in the View Page Source in your browser and looking for the link to the SWF file. I can not post these games here for download but if you will have problem finding them then let me know πŸ™‚

Web Browser Games

A class of games that are played directly in the web browser. Examples of such games can be Krunker


… or Spelunky for example.


If you are VERY bored then you can also try the Chrome Dinosaur Game built into the Chromium browser. To access it try to open the page that does not exists like http://non-existing-site.com for example.


The Chromium browser will then display No Internet error message. Press [UP] arrow now and start to play.


If you liked the 2048 game and you DO have Internet connection you may also play 2048 directly at DuckDuckGo page.


Last Resort

Sometimes WINE does not work and the game is available only for Windows or Linux. The solution is to use the Virtualbox here. Remember to select/enable the 3D acceleration and install Virtualbox Guest Additions for good performance.


Closing Thoughts

All of these games were played smoothly on oldschool Intel HD Graphics 3000 card from 2011 Sandy Bridge CPU model i7-2820QM as this is with what my ThinkPad W520 came.

If I forgot to post something or its not obvious then feel free to let me know. This post as usual grow more then it should πŸ™‚ Also if you think that I missed some important dosbox(1)/wine(1)/fs-uae(1) options then let me know please.


FreeBSD Desktop – Part 18 – Configuration – Global Dashboard

Many times I have found myself watching the various ‘debug’ commands like top/ps/mount/df or various log files like /var/log/messages or /var/log/automount.log when I thought something went wrong … or just takes little too long. I needed to open several terminal xterm(1) sessions (which is quite fast as I open them with [WIN]+[SPACE] and then [ENTER] but still …) and check what went wrong.

These actions tired my so I created a thing called Global Dashboard with all information I would ever need for such debugging.

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.

From all the commands that FreeBSD contains I have chosen these 12 ones:

  • mount -p
  • /var/log/automount.log
  • /var/log/messages
  • vmstat -i
  • usbconfig
  • ps axwww -o %cpu,rss,command
  • sockstat -l -4
  • top -m io -o total
  • gstat -p
  • df -g
  • pciconf -l
  • ifconfig

Make sure you have doas(1) installed and configured. The most basic way to do it is below. You will have to be in wheel group to make it work properly.

# pkg install doas
# echo 'permit nopass :wheel as root' > /usr/local/etc/doas.conf
# chmod 400 /usr/local/etc/doas.conf

Let me show you how it looks.

Here is the typical empty desktop with Global Dashboard disabled.


… and here is the Global Dashboard enabled.


For the sake of comfort I will use [Scroll Lock] key with xbindkeys to toggle between this ‘debug’ session on and off as I already use [Pause Break] key to Pause Any Application described in the Part 16 – Configuration – Pause Any Application episode of FreeBSD Desktop series.



We will have to use older (1.9) version of Conky as the current one (1.10/1.11) are broken for anything serious.

We will use portdowngrade tool for that job.

First, lets install needed packages.

# pkg install portdowngrade conky xbindkeys

Assuming that you have up to date FreeBSD Ports tree in the /usr/ports directory – we see that current Conky version in the Ports is 1.11.

% cd /usr/ports/sysutils/conky
% cat distinfo 
TIMESTAMP = 1550919299
SHA256 (brndnmtthws-conky-v1.11.3_GH0.tar.gz) = 0140e749537d4d05bf33fbac436e54756faa26021e16f2bca418e9eeea724eb4
SIZE (brndnmtthws-conky-v1.11.3_GH0.tar.gz) = 2390099

We will now downgrade the Conky port to usable 1.9 version with portdowngrade utility. I already tried various Conky Port versions and the one that you are looking for is r419144 revision.

# cd /usr/ports/sysutils
# mv conky conky-1.11
# portdowngrade sysutils/conky | grep -C 17 r419144
r422880 | madpilot | 2016-09-28 18:55:38 +0200 (Wed, 28 Sep 2016) | 13 lines

- Update conky and conky-awesome to 1.10.4
- Take maintainership [1]
- Options adapted to new version
- Removed LUA option since it's a mandatoory requirement now
- Use project own install target
- Fix installation of lua helper libraries
- Project moved to github
- in conky-awesome, properly use OPTIONS_EXCLUDE

PR:           212629
Submitted by: me
Approved by:  ntarmos@ceid.upatras.gr (former maintainer) [1]

r419144 | pawel | 2016-07-26 20:57:23 +0200 (Tue, 26 Jul 2016) | 2 lines

Fix typo

r419142 | pawel | 2016-07-26 20:40:20 +0200 (Tue, 26 Jul 2016) | 8 lines

- Add explicit IMPLIES between dependencies and simplify option handling [1]
- Convert to USES=localbase
- Switch some options helpers from LIB_DEPENDS to USE=xorg and USE=gnome

PR:           210414 [1] (based on)
Submitted by: elferdo@gmail.com
Approved by:  maintainer timeout

r418767 | mat | 2016-07-19 13:04:13 +0200 (Tue, 19 Jul 2016) | 11 lines

We will now fetch the Conky port from r419144 revision – working 1.9 version.

# portdowngrade sysutils/conky r419144
A    conky/files
A    conky/Makefile
A    conky/files/patch-configure
A    conky/files/patch-lua-cairo.pkg
A    conky/files/patch-src-conky.c
A    conky/files/patch-src-freebsd.c
A    conky/files/patch-src-freebsd.h
A    conky/files/patch-src-fs.c
A    conky/pkg-descr
A    conky/distinfo
Checked out revision 419144.
You should be done-- now cd into conky and you can run
# make deinstall install clean

Please note that portdowngrade no longer modifies the ports tree; the
checked out port is at

Done. Let’s verify that its the version we need.

% pwd
% cat conky-1.11/distinfo 
TIMESTAMP = 1550919299
SHA256 (brndnmtthws-conky-v1.11.3_GH0.tar.gz) = 0140e749537d4d05bf33fbac436e54756faa26021e16f2bca418e9eeea724eb4
SIZE (brndnmtthws-conky-v1.11.3_GH0.tar.gz) = 2390099

% cat conky/distinfo 
SHA256 (conky-1.9.0.tar.bz2) = baf1b550f135fbfb53e5e286a33aadc03a667d63bf6c4d52ba7637366295bb6f
SIZE (conky-1.9.0.tar.bz2) = 626555

Yup. We will now build a Conky 1.9 package (may be handy later).

# pwd
# cd conky
# pwd
# make package
===>   conky-1.9.0_6 depends on file: /usr/local/sbin/pkg - found
=> conky-1.9.0.tar.bz2 doesn't seem to exist in /usr/ports/distfiles/.
=> Attempting to fetch https://downloads.sourceforge.net/project/conky/conky/1.9.0/conky-1.9.0.tar.bz2
conky-1.9.0.tar.bz2                           100% of  611 kB  216 kBps 00m03s
===> Fetching all distfiles required by conky-1.9.0_6 for building
===>  Extracting for conky-1.9.0_6
=> SHA256 Checksum OK for conky-1.9.0.tar.bz2.
===>  Patching for conky-1.9.0_6
===>  Applying FreeBSD patches for conky-1.9.0_6
===>   conky-1.9.0_6 depends on executable: gmake - found
===>   conky-1.9.0_6 depends on package: libiconv>=1.14_11 - found
===>   conky-1.9.0_6 depends on package: pkgconf>=1.3.0_1 - found
===>   conky-1.9.0_6 depends on file: /usr/local/libdata/pkgconfig/x11.pc - found
===>   conky-1.9.0_6 depends on file: /usr/local/libdata/pkgconfig/xext.pc - found
===>   conky-1.9.0_6 depends on file: /usr/local/libdata/pkgconfig/xdamage.pc - found
===>   conky-1.9.0_6 depends on file: /usr/local/libdata/pkgconfig/xfixes.pc - found
===>   conky-1.9.0_6 depends on file: /usr/local/libdata/pkgconfig/xft.pc - found
===>  Configuring for conky-1.9.0_6
===>   FreeBSD 10 autotools fix applied to /usr/ports/obj/usr/ports/sysutils/conky/work/conky-1.9.0/config.rpath
====> Compressing man pages (compress-man)
===>  Building package for conky-1.9.0_6
===>  Cleaning for conky-1.9.0_6

… but where is our package, its not in the /usr/ports/sysutils/conky directory. Its not in the /usr/ports/distfiles dir either.

As I use WRKDIRPREFIX=${PORTSDIR}/obj option in the /etc/make.conf file it should be somewhere in the /usr/ports/obj then.

% grep WRKDIRPREFIX /etc/make.conf 

Let’s find(1) it.

% find /usr/ports/obj -name conky\*txz

There. I will move it to /root directory to keep it.

# mv /usr/ports/obj/usr/ports/sysutils/conky/work/pkg/conky-1.9.0_6.txz /root

We will not clean up after the port/package building.

# make -C /usr/ports/sysutils/conky clean distclean
===>  Cleaning for conky-1.9.0_6

We will now delete installed Conky 1.11 version and install our working 1.9 version.

# pkg delete conky
Checking integrity... done (0 conflicting)
Deinstallation has been requested for the following 1 packages (of 0 packages in the universe):

Installed packages to be REMOVED:

Number of packages to be removed: 1

Proceed with deinstalling packages? [y/N]: y
[1/1] Deinstalling conky-1.11.3...
[1/1] Deleting files for conky-1.11.3: 100%

# pkg add /root/conky-1.9.0_6.txz
Installing conky-1.9.0_6...
Extracting conky-1.9.0_6: 100%

Last check for the Conky version.

% conky --version
Conky 1.9.0 compiled Tue Mar 19 12:55:55 CET 2019 for FreeBSD 11.2-RELEASE-p9 (amd64)

Compiled in features:

System config file: /usr/local/etc/conky/conky.conf
Package library path: /usr/local/lib/conky

  * Xdamage extension
  * XDBE (double buffer extension)
  * Xft
  * ARGB visual

 Music detection:

  * math
  * config-output

Great. We have needed Conky version.

By the way – did you thought how much work will it take to make the same on Debian or CentOS without the FreeBSD Ports infrastructure? πŸ™‚


The only needed configuration in the ~/.xbindkeysrc is this one below – it may be different for your keyboard so make sure to ‘catch’ needed key event.

% cat ~/.xbindkeysrc
# SCROLL LOCK | Scroll Lock
  m:0x0 + c:78

If you need more information about how Xbindkeys work then read the FreeBSD Desktop – Part 9 – Key Components – Keyboard/Mouse Shortcuts episode.

Scripts and Configs

This is the ~/scripts/desktop-debug.sh script.

#! /bin/sh

pgrep -q conky

case ${?} in
  (0) killall -9 conky ;;
  (1) ~/scripts/__openbox_restart_conky.sh ;;

… and the ~/scripts/__openbox_restart_conky.sh script.

#! /bin/sh


killall -9 conky

nice -n 20 conky -c ~/.conkyrc.${VERSION}.${PROFILE}.LOG.1 &
nice -n 20 conky -c ~/.conkyrc.${VERSION}.${PROFILE}.LOG.2 &
nice -n 20 conky -c ~/.conkyrc.${VERSION}.${PROFILE}.LOG.3 &
nice -n 20 conky -c ~/.conkyrc.${VERSION}.${PROFILE}.LOG.4 &
nice -n 20 conky -c ~/.conkyrc.${VERSION}.${PROFILE}.LOG.5 &
nice -n 20 conky -c ~/.conkyrc.${VERSION}.${PROFILE}.LOG.6 &
nice -n 20 conky -c ~/.conkyrc.${VERSION}.${PROFILE}.LOG.7 &
nice -n 20 conky -c ~/.conkyrc.${VERSION}.${PROFILE}.LOG.8 &
nice -n 20 conky -c ~/.conkyrc.${VERSION}.${PROFILE}.LOG.9 &
nice -n 20 conky -c ~/.conkyrc.${VERSION}.${PROFILE}.LOG.a &
nice -n 20 conky -c ~/.conkyrc.${VERSION}.${PROFILE}.LOG.b &
nice -n 20 conky -c ~/.conkyrc.${VERSION}.${PROFILE}.LOG.c &

I use have several laptops so I need to distinguish which config files are used on which laptop, that is why I use PROFILE field – which is set to ThinkPad T420s in that example.

Here are the commands defined in these ~/.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.* files.

% grep exec ~/.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.*
.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.1:${color #eeeeee}${exec mount -p | awk '{print $1, $2, $3}' | column -t}
.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.2:${color #eeeeee}${exec tail -n 16 /var/log/automount.log}
.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.3:${color #eeeeee}${exec grep -v -E 'pulseaudio|message repeated|null_update_chw|route failed:|send_packet: |gen6_gt_|feeder_|cdce0: (Su|Re)' /var/log/messages | tail -16}
.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.4:${color #eeeeee}${exec vmstat -i}
.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.5:${color #eeeeee}${exec doas usbconfig}
.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.6:${color #eeeeee}${exec ps axwww -o %cpu,rss,command | head -1; ps axwww -o %cpu,rss,command | grep -v conky | grep -v '%CPU' | sort -n -r | head -15 }
.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.7:${color #eeeeee}${exec sockstat -l -4 | cut -c 1-50}
.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.8:${color #eeeeee}${exec top -m io -o total -b -s 1 -d 2 | grep -A 15 'PID USERNAME' | tail -n 16}
.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.9:${color #eeeeee}${exec gstat -p -I 345678}
.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.a:${color #eeeeee}${exec df -g | awk '{print $5,$6}' | column -t}
.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.b:${color #eeeeee}${exec pciconf -l}
.conkyrc.1.9.T420s.LOG.c:${color #eeeeee}${exec ifconfig -l -u | sed s/lo0//g | while read I; do ifconfig ${I}; done}

… and here is the diagram showing where these commands are placed.

I will use twelve (12) Conky configuration files for this purpose, each with one of the commands from above list.

 a df(1)       | b pciconf(8)             | c ifconfig(8)
 7 sockstat(1) | 8 top(1)                 | 9 gstat(8)
 4 vmstat(8)   | 5 usbconfig(8)           | 6 ps(1)
 1 mount(8)    | 2 /var/log/automount.log | 3 /var/log/messages

Next are the full Conky configuration files.


alignment                bottom_left
background               yes
gap_x                    3
gap_y                    3
minimum_size             279 193
maximum_width            280
double_buffer            yes
draw_outline             no
draw_shades              no
default_outline_color    444444
default_shade_color      444444
own_window               yes
own_window_class         conky
own_window_colour        222222
own_window_type          override
own_window_transparent   no
update_interval          2.1
use_xft                  yes
xftfont                  ubuntu mono-10
border_inner_margin      0
border_outer_margin      0
border_width             2

${color #ee0000}% /sbin/mount -p
${color #eeeeee}${exec mount -p | awk '{print $1, $2, $3}' | column -t}


alignment                bottom_left
background               yes
gap_x                    288
gap_y                    3
minimum_size             513 193
maximum_width            514
double_buffer            yes
draw_outline             no
draw_shades              no
default_outline_color    444444
default_shade_color      444444
own_window               yes
own_window_class         conky
own_window_colour        222222
own_window_type          override
own_window_transparent   no
update_interval          2.2
use_xft                  yes
xftfont                  ubuntu mono-10
border_inner_margin      0
border_outer_margin      0
border_width             2

${color #ee0000}% /var/log/automount.log
${color #eeeeee}${exec tail -n 16 /var/log/automount.log}


alignment                bottom_left
background               yes
gap_x                    807
gap_y                    3
minimum_size             789 193
maximum_width            790
double_buffer            yes
draw_outline             no
draw_shades              no
default_outline_color    444444
default_shade_color      444444
own_window               yes
own_window_class         conky
own_window_colour        222222
own_window_type          override
own_window_transparent   no
update_interval          2.3
use_xft                  yes
xftfont                  ubuntu mono-10
border_inner_margin      0
border_outer_margin      0
border_width             2

${color #ee0000}% /var/log/messages
${color #eeeeee}${exec grep -v -E 'pulseaudio|message repeated|null_update_chw|route failed:|send_packet: |gen6_gt_|feeder_|cdce0: (Su|Re)' /var/log/messages | tail -16}


alignment                bottom_left
background               yes
gap_x                    3
gap_y                    201
minimum_size             279 193
maximum_width            280
double_buffer            yes
draw_outline             no
draw_shades              no
default_outline_color    444444
default_shade_color      444444
own_window               yes
own_window_class         conky
own_window_colour        222222
own_window_type          override
own_window_transparent   no
update_interval          2.4
use_xft                  yes
xftfont                  ubuntu mono-10
border_inner_margin      0
border_outer_margin      0
border_width             2

${color #ee0000}% /usr/bin/vmstat -i
${color #eeeeee}${exec vmstat -i}


alignment                bottom_left
background               yes
gap_x                    288
gap_y                    201
minimum_size             513 193
maximum_width            514
double_buffer            yes
draw_outline             no
draw_shades              no
default_outline_color    444444
default_shade_color      444444
own_window               yes
own_window_class         conky
own_window_colour        222222
own_window_type          override
own_window_transparent   no
update_interval          2.5
use_xft                  yes
xftfont                  ubuntu mono-10
border_inner_margin      0
border_outer_margin      0
border_width             2

${color #ee0000}% /usr/sbin/usbconfig
${color #eeeeee}${exec doas usbconfig}


alignment                bottom_left
background               yes
gap_x                    807
gap_y                    201
minimum_size             789 193
maximum_width            790
double_buffer            yes
draw_outline             no
draw_shades              no
default_outline_color    444444
default_shade_color      444444
own_window               yes
own_window_class         conky
own_window_colour        222222
own_window_type          override
own_window_transparent   no
update_interval          2.6
use_xft                  yes
xftfont                  ubuntu mono-10
border_inner_margin      0
border_outer_margin      0
border_width             2

${color #ee0000}% /bin/ps axwww -o %cpu,rss,command
${color #eeeeee}${exec ps axwww -o %cpu,rss,command | head -1; ps axwww -o %cpu,rss,command | grep -v conky | grep -v '%CPU' | sort -n -r | head -15 }


alignment                bottom_left
background               yes
gap_x                    3
gap_y                    399
minimum_size             279 193
maximum_width            280
double_buffer            yes
draw_outline             no
draw_shades              no
default_outline_color    444444
default_shade_color      444444
own_window               yes
own_window_class         conky
own_window_colour        222222
own_window_type          override
own_window_transparent   no
update_interval          2.7
use_xft                  yes
xftfont                  ubuntu mono-10
border_inner_margin      0
border_outer_margin      0
border_width             2

${color #ee0000}% /usr/bin/sockstat -l -4
${color #eeeeee}${exec sockstat -l -4 | cut -c 1-50}


alignment                bottom_left
background               yes
gap_x                    288
gap_y                    399
minimum_size             513 193
maximum_width            514
double_buffer            yes
draw_outline             no
draw_shades              no
default_outline_color    444444
default_shade_color      444444
own_window               yes
own_window_class         conky
own_window_colour        222222
own_window_type          override
own_window_transparent   no
update_interval          2.8
use_xft                  yes
xftfont                  ubuntu mono-10
border_inner_margin      0
border_outer_margin      0
border_width             2

${color #ee0000}% /usr/bin/top -m io -o total
${color #eeeeee}${exec top -m io -o total -b -s 1 -d 2 | grep -A 15 'PID USERNAME' | tail -n 16}


alignment                bottom_left
background               yes
gap_x                    807
gap_y                    399
minimum_size             789 193
maximum_width            790
double_buffer            yes
draw_outline             no
draw_shades              no
default_outline_color    444444
default_shade_color      444444
own_window               yes
own_window_class         conky
own_window_colour        222222
own_window_type          override
own_window_transparent   no
update_interval          2.9
use_xft                  yes
xftfont                  ubuntu mono-10
border_inner_margin      0
border_outer_margin      0
border_width             2

${color #ee0000}% /usr/sbin/gstat -p -I 300000
${color #eeeeee}${exec gstat -p -I 345678}


alignment                bottom_left
background               yes
gap_x                    3
gap_y                    597
minimum_size             279 272
maximum_width            280
double_buffer            yes
draw_outline             no
draw_shades              no
default_outline_color    444444
default_shade_color      444444
own_window               yes
own_window_class         conky
own_window_colour        222222
own_window_type          override
own_window_transparent   no
update_interval          2.7
use_xft                  yes
xftfont                  ubuntu mono-10
border_inner_margin      0
border_outer_margin      0
border_width             2

${color #ee0000}% /bin/df -g
${color #eeeeee}${exec df -g | awk '{print $5,$6}' | column -t}


alignment                bottom_left
background               yes
gap_x                    288
gap_y                    597
minimum_size             513 272
maximum_width            514
double_buffer            yes
draw_outline             no
draw_shades              no
default_outline_color    444444
default_shade_color      444444
own_window               yes
own_window_class         conky
own_window_colour        222222
own_window_type          override
own_window_transparent   no
update_interval          2.8
use_xft                  yes
xftfont                  ubuntu mono-10
border_inner_margin      0
border_outer_margin      0
border_width             2

${color #ee0000}% /usr/sbin/pciconf -l
${color #eeeeee}${exec pciconf -l}


alignment                bottom_left
background               yes
gap_x                    807
gap_y                    597
minimum_size             789 272
maximum_width            790
double_buffer            yes
draw_outline             no
draw_shades              no
default_outline_color    444444
default_shade_color      444444
own_window               yes
own_window_class         conky
own_window_colour        222222
own_window_type          override
own_window_transparent   no
update_interval          2.9
use_xft                  yes
xftfont                  ubuntu mono-10
border_inner_margin      0
border_outer_margin      0
border_width             2

${color #ee0000}% /sbin/ifconfig wlan0/em0/tun0
${color #eeeeee}${exec ifconfig -l -u | sed s/lo0//g | while read I; do ifconfig ${I}; done}

Thats a quite a lot configuration files but I think that this configuration done once will serve many many times in the future πŸ™‚

These Conky configuration files are suited for the 1600×900 resolution, you will have to modify values of the gap_x/gap_y/minimum_size/maximum_width parameters to make it fit into other resolution.

Initially I wanted to write a script/generator for that, but lets face it – I will not be able to properly cover each possible resolution πŸ™‚

UPDATE 2 – Latest Conky 1.11 Also Works

When I wrote this article I wrote that older Conky 1.9 version is needed (The conky-1.9.0_6 exactly which could be retrieved using portdowngrade sysutils/conky r419144 command).

Conky 1.10 introduced many bugs along with entirely new configuration format.

Latest Conky 1.11 (its conky-1.11.4_1 package on my box to be exact) works like a charm with Conky 1.9 configuration. It still has bug of NOT passing the mouse clicks to the desktop so of you want to make a left/middle/right click on the desktop aim on the place other then the Conky Dashboard space.

You can of course still follow the original article and fetch/build Conky with 1.9 version and have working left/middle/right mouse clicks on the desktop.


FreeBSD Desktop – Part 2.1 – Install FreeBSD 12

This article is an update/rewrite to the already published FreeBSD Desktop – Part 2 – Install. With the upcoming introduction of the FreeBSD 12.0-RELESE version new possibilities arise when it comes to installation. I already talked/showed that method in my ZFS Boot Environments Reloaded at NLUUG presentation but to make it more available and obvious part of my FreeBSD Desktop series I write about it again in dedicated article entry.

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.

Now (in FreeBSD 12.x) it is possible to install FreeBSD on GELI encrypted root on ZFS pool without any additional partitions or filesystems. No longer separate UFS or ZFS boot pool /boot filesystem is needed. And what is even more appealing such setup is supported both on UEFI and BIOS (also refereed as Legacy or CSM) systems. Such setup is also compatible with both new bectl(8) utility and the old proven beadm(8) tool. It is also nice that to make such setup you only need to choose the Auto ZFS option from the bsdinstall(8) so you will not have to do it by hand. I advice using GPT (BIOS+UEFI) as it will support both system types so when you are running BIOS system now and will move the disk to other system that boots with UEFI it will also just work out of the box.

The FreeBSD 12.0 is currently at the RC1 stage so we will use that one for below examples of such setup. The 12.0-RELEASE is expected to arise before Christmas if no significant problems or bugs will be found on the road to RC2 and RC3 editions.

For the record here is the FreeBSD 12.0-RC1 Availability information page and aggregated FreeBSD 12.0-RELEASE Release Notes for the upcoming new major FreeBSD version, but it is not yet complete/ready.

I will only show one install process that will work for both UEFI and BIOS systems – the crucial option here is GPT (BIOS+UEFI) to select (which is also the default one). The other option that You need to select is Yes for the Encryption part and also select the SWAP size. You may as well do not use swap and enter ‘0‘ here which means that SWAP partition will not be created. You may as well create ZFS ZVOL partition for SWAP on ZFS pool later or just create a file like /SWAP and enable it as SWAP. No matter which SWAP option you will choose if your system swaps then you are too low on memory and neither of these methods are better or worse then.




One last thing about the default FreeBSD (no matter if 11.x or 12.x) ZFS dataset/filesystem layout. I showed it on my ZFS Boot Environments/ZFS Boot Environments Reloaded presentations but without any text comment as I talked it live.

By default both /var and /usr filesystems are part of the Boot Environment. They are protected and snapshoted during the beadm create newbe process (or by bectl(8) also). Its appears that /var and /usr are separate processes when you type zfs list commend as shown on the slide below.


… but when you check the canmount parameter for all ZFS datasets, then it become obvious that /usr and /var are ’empty’ datasets (not mounted).


… and also confirmation from theΒ df(1) tool.


I asked FreeBSD Developers what is the reason for such construct and its for the mountpoint inheritance purposes. For example when zroot/usr has mountpoint set to /usr then when you create zroot/usr/local dataset, then it will automatically get the /usr/local for the mountpoint parameter by inheritance. At the first sight it may be misleading (I also got caught) but it makes sense when you think about it.

The only filesystems that are NOT included for the Boot Environment protection are these:

  • /usr/home
  • /usr/ports
  • /usr/src
  • /var/audit
  • /var/crash
  • /var/log
  • /var/mail
  • /var/tmp

While in most cases it is not needed to protect these in the Boot Environment protection if you want to also protect these type these two comments to move all the /usr/* and /var/* datasets/filesystems into the Boot Environment pool/ROOT/dataset. It will work on a running system without need for reboot, just make sure you use -u flag.

# zfs rename -u zroot/usr zroot/ROOT/default/usr
# zfs rename -u zroot/var zroot/ROOT/default/var

Now grab that FreeBSD ISO and install it the best possible way up to date πŸ™‚

You will probably want to get amd64 version which is suitable for both 64-bit AMD and Intel systems.



FreeBSD Desktop – Part 16 – Configuration – Pause Any Application

Many desktop oriented operating systems try to provide various usability improvements and features, like quite useful Expose or Dashboard in Mac OS X or useless Tiles concept in recent editions of Microsoft Windows systems.


After using UNIX for so many years I knew that I could freeze (or pause) any process in the system with kill -17 (SIGSTOP) signal and then unfreeze it with with kill -19 (SIGCONT) signal as I described in the Process Management section of the Ghost in the Shell – Part 2 article. Doing it that way for the desktop applications is PITA to say the least. Can you imagine opening xterm(1) terminal and searching for all Chromium or Firefox processes and then freezing them one by one every time you need it? Me neither.

Fortunately with introduction of so called X11 helper utilities – like xdotool(1) – it is now possible to implement it in more usable manner.

Today I will show you how to freeze any X11 application with single keyboard shortcut or mouse gesture if you utilize them in any way with small simple script.

When such feature can be useful (or what for)?

Lets say you have Firefox started with many tabs open (50+) and you know that it drains battery life from your laptop. You can close it but when You will need information from any of those tabs, then You will have to start Firefox again (even more battery usage) and load all needed tabs (battery …). The alternative is to pause all Firefox processes when You do not use them. This will freeze all its processes and subprocesses and it will not use any CPU (or battery) power. When you will need it, then you will unpause it without the need to load all tabs again.

Other example may be some heavy processing. For example you started RawTherapee or Darktable processing of large amount of photos and you are not able to smoothly watch a video. Just pause it, watch the video and unpause it again to finish its work.

Its also usable in single player gaming when You can REALLY pause the game, literally πŸ™‚

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.

First we need to install the so called X11 helpers. Do that with this pkg(8) command.

# pkg install xprop xdotool zenity xbindkeys

Now for the script that would make all this magic happen. The desktop-pause.sh script is available on GitHub as its syntax is nicely colored there. Save it in some place where its searchable through ${PATH} variable like ~/bin or ~/script directory and make it executable.

% fetch -O ~/scripts/desktop-pause.sh https://raw.githubusercontent.com/vermaden/scripts/master/desktop-pause.sh
% chmod +x ~/scripts/desktop-pause.sh
% echo $PATH | grep scripts

It has three ways of usage.

% desktop-pause.sh
usage: desktop-pause.sh OPTION [ARGUMENT]

  -a  -  Do pause/resume active window.
  -s  -  Do pause/resume interactively selected window.
  -p  -  Do pause/resume specified PID.
  -l  -  Do list paused processes/windows.
  -L  -  Do list paused processes/windows with PIDs.

  PID for '-p' option.

If started with -a option, then it would pause/unpause the currently active window. This option is best used with keyboard shortcut or mouse gesture. It you start desktop-pause.sh script with -s argument, then the cursor will change and you will be able to select which window to freeze (or unfreeze). The -p option is usable in terminal directly as you may want to freeze/unfreeze a process without X11 environment or for some debugging purposes for example. The last -l option will list applications that are currently paused.


Most present-day generation laptops have island type limited keyboards so you will have to choose for yourself which keyboard shortcut to use. As I still use 2011 ThinkPad T420s laptop with 7-row keyboard I have little more options. The [Pause Break] key seems to be the best candidate for such feature πŸ™‚ I will use it for the ‘active window freeze/unfreeze’ with -a option and [SHIFT]-[Pause Break] key for the more interactive -s option.

To create such new keyboard shortcut we will use handy xbindkeys(1) tool.

Lets see what code we will have to put into the ~/.xbindkeysrc configuration file.

% xbindkeys --help
xbindkeys 1.8.6 by Philippe Brochard
usage: xbindkeys [options]
  where options are:
  -V, --version           Print version and exit
  -d, --defaults          Print a default rc file
  -f, --file              Use an alternative rc file
  -p, --poll-rc           Poll the rc/guile configs for updates
  -h, --help              This help!
  -X, --display           Set X display to use
  -v, --verbose           More information on xbindkeys when it run
  -s, --show              Show the actual keybinding
  -k, --key               Identify one key pressed
 -mk, --multikey          Identify multi key pressed
  -g, --geometry          size and position of window open with -k|-mk option
  -n, --nodaemon          don't start as daemon

As its single key we will need --key option. Lets do it then.

% xbindkeys --key
Press combination of keys or/and click under the window.
You can use one of the two lines after "NoCommand"
in $HOME/.xbindkeysrc to bind a key.
"(Scheme function)"
    m:0x0 + c:110

Now lets read the [SHIFT]-[Pause Break] sequence.

% xbindkeys --key
Press combination of keys or/and click under the window.
You can use one of the two lines after "NoCommand"
in $HOME/.xbindkeysrc to bind a key.
"(Scheme function)"
    m:0x1 + c:110
    Shift + Pause

We now have all needed information for the ~/.xbindkeysrc configuration file. Here is how it looks configured.

% cat ~/.xbindkeysrc

"~/scripts/desktop-pause.sh -a"

# [Shift]-[Pause Break] FOR INTERACTIVE WINDOW
"~/scripts/desktop-pause.sh -s"
  Shift + Pause

Now lets start xbindkeys(1) and verify that it works.

% xbindkeys

Press the [Pause Break] key when you are in the terminal where you started xbindkeys(1) utility. Now hit [ENTER] several times, the terminal should be frozen. Now hit [Pause Break] key again. The entered [ENTER] keys have been passed to it as it was unfrozen.

Lets check the Firefox example.

When processes run like usual they have on of the I*/S*/R* state like shown below.

% ps ax | grep firefox | grep -v grep
67981  -  S       3:28.66 /usr/local/lib/firefox/firefox -contentproc -childID 58 -isForBrowser -prefsLen 31209 -schedulerPrefs 0001,2 -appdir /usr/local/lib/firefox/browser 41124 tab
41124  0- S      68:44.94 firefox
43940  0- S      25:52.43 /usr/local/lib/firefox/firefox -contentproc -childID 1 -isForBrowser -prefsLen 27620 -schedulerPrefs 0001,2 -appdir /usr/local/lib/firefox/browser 41124 tab

When you will now freeze Firefox with [Pause Break] key its processes will have T state.

% ps ax | grep firefox | grep -v grep
67981  -  T       3:28.66 /usr/local/lib/firefox/firefox -contentproc -childID 58 -isForBrowser -prefsLen 31209 -schedulerPrefs 0001,2 -appdir /usr/local/lib/firefox/browser 41124 tab
41124  0- T      68:45.17 firefox
43940  0- T      25:52.85 /usr/local/lib/firefox/firefox -contentproc -childID 1 -isForBrowser -prefsLen 27620 -schedulerPrefs 0001,2 -appdir /usr/local/lib/firefox/browser 41124 tab

After you unfreeze them again with [Pause Break] key they will get back to normal I*/S*/R* state.

% ps ax | grep firefox | grep -v grep
67981  -  S       3:28.67 /usr/local/lib/firefox/firefox -contentproc -childID 58 -isForBrowser -prefsLen 31209 -schedulerPrefs 0001,2 -appdir /usr/local/lib/firefox/browser 41124 tab
41124  0- S      68:45.54 firefox
43940  0- S      25:53.01 /usr/local/lib/firefox/firefox -contentproc -childID 1 -isForBrowser -prefsLen 27620 -schedulerPrefs 0001,2 -appdir /usr/local/lib/firefox/browser 41124 tab

You may of course specify by hand the Firefox PID which is 41124 in current state.

% desktop-pause.sh -p 41124
INFO: kill -17 41124
INFO: kill -17 67981
INFO: kill -17 43940

The Firefox browser will be paused again.

% ps ax | grep firefox | grep -v grep
67981  -  T       3:28.68 /usr/local/lib/firefox/firefox -contentproc -childID 58 -isForBrowser -prefsLen 31209 -schedulerPrefs 0001,2 -appdir /usr/local/lib/firefox/browser 41124 tab
41124  0- T      68:46.68 firefox
43940  0- T      25:56.22 /usr/local/lib/firefox/firefox -contentproc -childID 1 -isForBrowser -prefsLen 27620 -schedulerPrefs 0001,2 -appdir /usr/local/lib/firefox/browser 41124 tab

Use it again to unpause it.

% desktop-pause.sh -p 41124
INFO: kill -19 41124
INFO: kill -19 67981
INFO: kill -19 43940

And viola! Firefox runs again.

% ps ax | grep firefox | grep -v grep
67981  -  S       3:28.68 /usr/local/lib/firefox/firefox -contentproc -childID 58 -isForBrowser -prefsLen 31209 -schedulerPrefs 0001,2 -appdir /usr/local/lib/firefox/browser 41124 tab
41124  0- S      68:46.72 firefox
43940  0- S      25:56.28 /usr/local/lib/firefox/firefox -contentproc -childID 1 -isForBrowser -prefsLen 27620 -schedulerPrefs 0001,2 -appdir /usr/local/lib/firefox/browser 41124 tab

There are no downsides to this feature but one has to remember paused applications will not refresh themselves as their processes are frozen. Below you can see frozen Epiphany browser upon which the xterm(1) window was moved. Pretty Windows like effect.


After you unpause the Epiphany it gets back to normal as shown below.


Remember to add xbindkeys(1) command to your ~/.xinitrc (or ~/.xsession file) to make it permanent.


One of the Hacker News users named rhn_mk1 explained the lack of window contents refresh while application is frozen. I will just cite his comment below.

That depends on the window manager. The application state is not really affected, it just stops updating (redrawing its area). When another window moves away, the window manager asks the “underlying” application to update that area of the screen. It’s dead, so the WM keeps displaying the last thing that was there, until something else happens in that spot.

On the other hand, compositing window managers will dedicate a separate buffer to each application, where they have exclusive access. That kind of a window manager would not have to ask the application to update anything – it would just take the image from the dedicated application’s buffer and update the screen with it. Since the application’s buffer can’t be modified by anything else, it would have the last state of the application in it. That would in turn find its way to the screen. No glitches.


One of the Reddit users 89luca89 pointed me to the browser-suspender solution that ‘simply suspends the browser when not in focus using STOP/CONT’ signals.


The Lobsters user seschwar pointed out that there is Stoppable Layout functionality for XMonad which automatically pauses the processes of all windows except for the active one and it also uses SIGCONT and SIGSTOP signals.


One of the Hacker News users named imglorp suggested that my “command could also iconify/minify the app’s windows”.

This is really good idea.

I just added -A and -S options that also minimize a window.

% desktop-pause.sh 
usage: desktop-pause.sh OPTION [ARGUMENT]

  -a  -  Do pause/resume active window.
  -A  -  Do pause/resume active window and minimize it.
  -s  -  Do pause/resume interactively selected window.
  -S  -  Do pause/resume interactively selected window and minimize it.
  -p  -  Do pause/resume specified PID.
  -l  -  Do list paused processes/windows.
  -L  -  Do list paused processes/windows with PIDs.

  PID for '-p' option.

Here is the changelog for the desktop-pause.sh script:


Several times I found myself in the situation that I just wanted to ‘resume’ the frozen processes and was not able to do that. For that ‘edge’ case I have added the -r option to RESUME all processes that are frozen currently.

This is how the diff looks like.


The updated script can be found in the same place:
Example output:
% desktop-pause.sh -r
IN: process '29222' resumed.
IN: process '42385' resumed.