Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tribblix m20: Getting started and performing a minor upgrade

I've been taking Tribblix (version m.20) for a spin for the first time since writing about it in this space last year, when it was version m.16. I was very impressed by the speed and simplicity of installation and use, particularly for a SunOS 5.11-derived system. My only real complaint at the time was that some of the packages were a little unfinished, particularly that ugly duckling of a desktop environment known as CDE, with whom I am inexplicably smitten. (It's kind of like that odd-looking girl you fell for in grade 9 but were too nervous to approach. All these years later you search out her yearbook picture from that year, mall bangs and all, and wonder to yourself, "What was I thinking?", only to find yourself tossing and turning in bed at 3:46 a.m., obsessing over what could have been. That approximates how I feel about the Common Desktop Environment.)

Four upgrades later, some of the packages are a little more finished (or else are imported directly upstream from illumos or sideways from OpenIndiana). In my previous Tribblix fling I didn't use it (on the technical level) as extensively as I could have, opting merely to poke and prod around the perimeter and simply get a general feel for it. This time around, however, I decided to wade a little deeper in.


Nothing substantively different to report here from what I've written about previously, other than to say that rather than entering ./ -B c1t0d0 kitchen-sink to commence installation, I instead did ./ -B c2t0d0 x11 x11-extras retrodesktop. (The difference is due to the "kitchen-sink" option now automatically installing a graphical login that takes you straight to Xfce4, which is fine if that's what you're into. I'd rather have just a plain ol' text login. Also, c2t0d0 is the label Tribblix gives to my Dell Inspiron 1525's hard drive, as opposed to the ThinkPad T60p I was using the previous time.)


Akin to Solaris 10, the Tribblix install process doesn't give you the opportunity to create a new user until after you boot into your new system. In this case, your initial post-installation login credentials are the same as for the live DVD, which means logging in as "jack" with an eponymous password, and switching to root with "tribblix" as the password. Therefore, my first order of business was fourfold:
  1. add myself as a user
  2. assign root privileges to myself,
  3. create a password for my own account, and 
  4. change the root password.
This was accomplished the old-fashioned way at the command prompt, using my own credentials for the sake of demonstration:
$ su
Password: tribblix
# useradd -d /export/home/jed -m -s /usr/bin/ksh -c "James Deagle" jed
# usermod -P "Primary Administrator" jed
# passwd jed
New Password: __
Re-enter new Password: __
# passwd passwd
New Password: __
Re-enter new Password: __
(That last step, "passwd passwd", is the command for changing the root password.)

The only other housekeeping matter that I would normally take care of so soon after first booting into a new system is to create my own /bin directory for storing any scripts or programs written by Yours Truly: 
$ pwd 
$ mkdir bin 
$ cd bin
$ pwd 


I'm not going to rewrite my instructions on using this system's handy-dandy package manager (called zap), because then I'd have no reason to force you to read my previous post on the topic. I will say, however, that I highly recommend you install the pkgsrc overlay (courtesy of Joyent), as it will give you an additional boatload of packages (albeit some duplicates of native binaries from Tribblix/illumos). Just how many? That's a great question...let's ask UNIX:
$ pkgin avail | wc -l
Onwards and up(grade)wards...

I don't know if this counts as a proper segue, but the zap package management utility is also used to carry out binary upgrades of the system itself. As explained on the Tribblix home page and paraphrased here, the steps are as follows:
# zap refresh,
# zap update TRIBzap-upgrade
# zap upgrade list (to see if an upgrade is available)
# zap upgrade m20.1

And to boot into your newly-upgraded system:
# beadm activate m20.1
# init 6

Final Thoughts

Especially considering that this illumos distro is the work of just one man, Tribblix is a beauty to behold, and also serves as Solaris in a Hurry for someone who isn't into putting their entire life on hold in order to get an OS installed. (The older I get, the more I fall into that category.) The fact that some of the packages still have some rough edges is entirely a moot point - Tribblix provides a framework and proof-of-concept for the idea of an OpenSolaris derivative that is small and fast, and makes an excellent starting point for those wishing to spin their own distros, whether along the same lines as Tribblix or off in some new and unforeseen direction.

Formal complaint to Toronto Sun: Khadr editorial amounts to unlawful accusation

The following is a formal complaint submitted to the Toronto Sun on July 12, 2017.


I am writing to submit a formal complaint regarding your July 9, 2017 editorial, Khadr payoff a slap in the face to all who serve, and will escalate the matter to the National NewsMedia Council should the results of the current complaint submission process prove unsatisfying.

In the editorial in question, you refer to Canadian citizen Omar Khadr as "(an) expert bombmaker and the killer of U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Speer." Nowhere does this piece mention that there were no eyewitnesses to the alleged crime, that the process by which Mr. Khadr "confessed" to the killing of Sgt. Speer involved intense physical and psychological torture (including threats of anal rape), nor that the tribunal in front of which he was tried without legal representation has since been discredited. Furthermore, the editorial neglects to mention that Mr. Khadr, who was 15 at the time of Sgt. Speer’s killing, was indeed a child soldier according to internationally-recognized guidelines, for which the threshold is 18. Also, the editorial omits the fact that Mr. Khadr was raised by a family with direct jihadist involvement, and thus grew up subject to what can only be called brainwashing, which itself is psychological abuse of a different sort, and the key ingredient to the making of any child soldier. (Although he was 15 at the time of his alleged crime, one can only assume that his inculcation began much earlier, and that even if he wanted to leave such circumstances he likely didn’t feel like he had a lot of say in the matter.)

For the reasons stated above, and given that the way in which Mr. Khadr’s detention and tribunal were managed would have had the case thrown out in any other circumstances, I believe Postmedia is engaging in unlawful allegation by labelling Mr. Khadr a “killer” without any attempt at providing a reasonable context, and thus also misleading readers to unwittingly assume that Mr. Khadr was convicted in a process that would satisfy the threshold in our own domestic legal system.

I consider this conduct unlawful on Postmedia’s part, not to mention an abuse of its power as a nationwide media conglomerate, and as such I would like to see your organization issue a retraction of the above quoted passage, as well as a formal apology to Mr. Khadr and to readers who deserve more responsible behavior from their news media.

Friday, July 7, 2017

OpenBSD 6.1: XFCE 4 posing as MATE, the joys of syspatch, doas mount and no-fi connectivity

About seven months have elapsed since the last time I shared any episodes from my ongoing UNIX adventures. This prolonged silence, methinks, was probably due to the fact that I was on a single installation (OpenBSD) almost the whole time, which is quite a feat considering my distrohopping tendencies. I was so busy using UNIX for my own day-to-day tasks, rather than endlessly reinstalling and tweaking entire systems, that I simply felt like I had nothing to say, UNIX-wise. (The important thing to note here, for those who are quick to write OpenBSD off as some "security only" distro with no desktop potential, is that I have been getting along just fine using it as an all-purpose desktop system for tasks that were often multimedia in nature. So there!)

Within the past few days, however, I had succumbed to some old bad habits, and took OpenIndiana Hipster for a spin after an extended absence. I installed from the 2016.10 iso and then was able to patch it up to whatever was current as of July 2. And while some bugs and hiccups (not to mention a lack of some of my favorite multimedia apps) sent me scurrying back to OpenBSD before long, I nevertheless enjoy the overall feel and aesthetics of that system's iteration of the MATE desktop environment (which itself is a successor fork of Gnome 2).

OpenIndiana Hipster's default MATE desktop, as shown 
from a 2016.10 live DVD session

Once I had OpenBSD (version 6.1) back up and running, I installed the XFCE 4 desktop environment with the intention of going for the default configuration (as usual), but after an errant mouse click found myself faced with the prospect of configuring it from scratch, one panel at a time. Still longing for OpenIndiana's aesthetic, I proceeded to see just how much I could tweak XFCE 4 until it bore a passing resemblance to OI's default MATE desktop configuration. (One essential part of this task included downloading and installing the "Nimbus" window theme. It also helps that the default typefaces for xfce4-terminal, Monospace Regular 12-point, is the same as that for mate-terminal.) After a few hours that felt more like 20 minutes, here is the fruit of my labor:

OpenBSD 6.1 running XFCE 4, tweaked to somewhat resemble MATE.

Akin to an Elvis impersonator, the above looks like like Solaris/OpenIndiana MATE if you squint your eyes and don't look too closely at the applications button. (I should note here that I haven't tried installing MATE on OpenBSD yet, as I'm not 100% certain yet that a polished version is available on that system. Nevertheless, it appears to be in the "work-in-progress" stage.)

And for anyone who has fiddled with Oracle Solaris 11.x, all it takes is a simple change of background wallpaper to make the above look even more familiar:

And the "Desktop Least Likely To..." award goes to OpenBSD 6.1
pretending to be Oracle Solaris 11.3.

The above pic is the exact configuration of my XFCE desktop as of this writing. The visual aesthetics of Oracle Solaris crossed with the speed of OpenBSD is sending conflicting information to my brain, though not in an entirely bad way. (File under "Recreational High".)

Odds and ends

syspatch - As of OpenBSD 6.1, you can use the syspatch command to scan for system patches (syspatch -c) or to simply let 'er rip and apply all available patches (syspatch with no options).

doas mount/umount - While running OpenBSD 6.0, I had been using hotplug-diskmount for mounting and unmounting of usb drives/devices. This time around (after reinstalling from scratch with 6.1 DVD iso), I somehow couldn't get that utility to work, but came across a simple method in an excellent online article, Installing OpenBSD 6.1 on your laptop is really hard (not). The steps, as shown by that author and followed by me, are to first append the following lines to /etc/doas.conf (or create a new file with those lines if it doesn't yet exist)

permit nopass jed as root cmd mount
permit nopass jed as root cmd umount

Next, create a directory from which to access your USB content (in my case /home/jed/usb), and then mount or unmount as follows:

$ doas mount /dev/sd1i /home/jed/usb
$ doas umount /dev/sd1i

Brother, can you spare a compatible wifi card? - I love my current laptop, but the one blind spot is that it uses a Broadcom BCM4215 wifi card which, as far as I can tell after much Googling, only works with Microsoft Windows. (That may not be entirely true - it appears Ubuntu has a driver, firmware-b43legacy-installer, but my particular card may not be covered.)