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FreeBSD Basics

Dru Lavigne provides practical advice for completing common tasks under FreeBSD.
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Fun with Xorg
Xorg includes several useful utilities and features that almost no one knows about. You can accelerate your display, nest one X server in another, distribute your session across multiple monitors on different machines, and watch a session on another machine. Dru Lavigne explains. Dec. 7, 2006

Sharing Internet Connections
Protecting your computer when you're online is good. If you have multiple computers in your home or small business, protecting all of them is also good--especially if you can share your internet connection. Dru Lavigne demonstrates how to allow other computers to use the network safely with a FreeBSD or similar Unix system and fwbuilder. Oct. 5, 2006

Building a Desktop Firewall
By now, many internet users know that they need a firewall to protect their computers while they're online. Knowing that doesn't convey the knowledge of how to create and maintain a firewall. A nice GUI firewall builder called fwbuilder makes it possible to set up a working firewall in ten minutes--on Linux, *BSD, and Mac OS X. Dru Lavigne shows how it works on FreeBSD. Aug. 3, 2006

Using DesktopBSD
A few user-friendly distributions of FreeBSD have appeared lately. DesktopBSD is a user-friendly variant of FreeBSD 5.5 that is suitable even for Unix novices. Dru Lavigne walks through the installation and use of DesktopBSD to provide a modern, powerful workstation. Jul. 13, 2006

Using PC-BSD
A few user-friendly distributions of FreeBSD have appeared lately. PC-BSD is one suitable for the corporate and home desktops, even those of users unfamiliar with Unix. Dru Lavigne walks through the installation and configuration of PC-BSD to provide a modern, powerful workstation. May. 11, 2006

Building Binary PC-BSD Packages
Several BSD-based distributions have emerged recently--and a few are relevant to and accessible by end users. One such is PC-BSD, whose innovations include a binary package installation system. Of course, that requires people to build binary packages for it. Fortunately, as Dru Lavigne demonstrates, doing so is both easy and addictively fun. Jan. 5, 2006

Using Software RAID-1 with FreeBSD
Disk space is cheap, and putting multiple disks in a computer is relatively cheap. Taking advantage of redundant disks to protect against hardware failure is invaluable. Though some RAID solutions require special hardware, FreeBSD 5.0 and later support software RAID. Dru Lavigne shows how to configure and enable disk mirroring. Nov. 10, 2005

Using FreeBSD's ACLs
The standard Unix permissions scheme works fine if you have simple needs, but juggling groups and users can grow unwieldy very quickly. FreeBSD's Access Control Lists give you more control over who can access files and directories. Dru Lavigne explains how to enable, understand, and use them appropriately. Sep. 22, 2005

Accessing Secure Subversion Servers
In the previous FreeBSD Basics column, Dru walked through installing and configuring a secure Subversion server for sharing documents. This time, Dru explains how to teach users to use the server, first from the command line and then from the RapidSVN GUI tool. Aug. 11, 2005

Setting up a Secure Subversion Server
You've finally persuaded your users to stop emailing documents back and forth when they need to collaborate, but you've had to recover three overridden versions on the shared network drive this week. Dru Lavigne has an answer; this month's FreeBSD Basics column demonstrates how to allow users to collaborate on documents with safe and secure version control provided by Subversion. May. 12, 2005

make for Nonprogrammers
If you're a typical FreeBSD user, you may never have compiled C source code on your own. Yet if you've ever issued a make command, it's compiled code for you. How does it do that? What does it do, anyway? And what else can it do? Dru Lavigne answers all of these questions. Mar. 24, 2005

FreeBSD Tips and Tricks for 2005
The nice thing about F/OSS is that it grows too fast for anyone to keep track of everything new. In her second annual exploration of new things she missed the first time around, Dru Lavigne discovers installed FreeBSD logos, CLI dialog boxes, rescue utilities, more articles, a run-level GUI, saved ports options, and RSS readers. Feb. 17, 2005

More FreeBSD for Linux Users
BSD and Linux are both Unix workalikes. How different can they be? In certain cases, very! Though the systems share a family tree, their differences sometimes stand out. Dru Lavigne explains FreeBSD's directory layout, devices, kernel modules, and terminology to Linux users. Jan. 13, 2005

FreeBSD for Linux Users
BSD and Linux are both Unix workalikes. How different can they be? In certain cases, very! Though the systems share a family tree, their differences sometimes stand out. Dru Lavigne explains FreeBSD's runlevels, startup scripts, kernel configuration, and documentation systems to Linux users. Nov. 11, 2004

FreeBSD Bag of Tricks
Software junkies like Dru Lavigne always file away interesting new programs for their bag of tricks. In this installment of FreeBSD Basics, Dru demonstrates how to use usermin for easy webmail and reveals the convenience and glory of TheOpenCD. Sep. 23, 2004

Building a Unix Server
Building a new server is always a little exciting -- you have the chance to make a fresh start, with good intentions and everything. But if it never ends up that nicely, take some tips from Dru Lavigne, who explains how she sets up Unix servers. Aug. 26, 2004

Unix Printing Basics
For some reason, consumer-level printing has never been easy on any OS, including Unix. Unless you're in the know, it seems like a mess of spoolers, filters, and drivers. Fortunately, new versions of Ghostscript and foomatic make configuring printing easier. Dru Lavigne explains the basics of Unix printer installation and configuration. Jul. 8, 2004

FreeBSD Networking Basics
Networking is integral to many functions of a modern FreeBSD system. When it's working, it works wonderfully. When it's not working -- or before you've configured things -- it can frustrate new users. Dru Lavigne explains how to verify, configure, and optimize FreeBSD networking. May. 13, 2004

Interesting New Ports
Perusing the Freshports list is a great way to find interesting and useful new FreeBSD ports. Dru Lavigne explores how to prune unused ports, expand your fortunes, improve your English, and harden your system's security. Mar. 25, 2004

Hiding Secrets with Steganography
Bad guys in the movies all keep their wall safes hidden behind paintings. Is there a metaphor in there for your sensitive files? Dru Lavigne explores steganography, or hiding secret messages in images or sounds, with the outguess and steghide utilities. Dec. 4, 2003

Improving User Passwords with apg
The biggest security weakness in any system is usually its users. One line of defense is choosing and enforcing a good password policy. The automatic password generator port can help your users create -- and remember -- effective passwords. Dru Lavigne demonstrates its use and configuration. Oct. 30, 2003

Cleaning and Customizing Your Ports
One of FreeBSD's biggest benefits is its ports collection. It seems like magic, but a little maintenance can make it work even better for your system. Dru Lavigne explains how to keep your ports collection clean and how to customize individual ports. Sep. 18, 2003

One of FreeBSD's biggest benefits is its ports collection. Perhaps the most important ports utility is portupgrade. Dru Lavigne demonstrates how you can get the most out of your ports collection. Aug. 28, 2003

Ports Tricks
One of FreeBSD's biggest benefits is its ports collection. You can go years without learning more than just make install clean, but there are dozens of features built into the ports tools. Dru Lavigne demonstrates several of these tricks to simplify your life. Aug. 7, 2003

SMTP Proxies
Now that you know all about proxies, you're ready to install and use an SMTP proxy. Why would you want to? To make your life easier. Dru Lavigne explores messagewall, a flexible SMTP proxy. Jul. 24, 2003

HTTP Proxies
Now that you know all about proxies, you're ready to install and use an HTTP proxy. Dru Lavigne explores Squid and Middleman, two effective and powerful HTTP proxies. Jul. 3, 2003

Proxy Terminology 101
You're probably reading this page through a proxy right now. You might be saving bandwidth, sharing an external IP address, or being protected from work-unsafe material, but could you tell a reverse proxy from an arp proxy? Dru Lavigne explains what these and other terms mean in preparation for installing and running proxies. Jun. 19, 2003

Configuring a TFTP Server
TFTP, the Trivial File Transfer Protocol, is ideal for devices such as routers and network-booting machines. With only a bit of EEPROM space and few utilities, how can you upgrade? Dru Lavigne demonstrates how to configure TFTP to serve hardware images. Jun. 5, 2003

DHCP on a Multi-Segment Network
Dru Lavigne previously covered DHCP and its terminology and setting up a simple DHCP server. On a larger network, subnets and relaying make things a little trickier. This week she explains how to configure DHCP for a large network. May. 15, 2003

Configuring a DHCP Server
In her previous article, Dru Lavigne introduced DHCP and its terminology. This week, she explains how to configure a DHCP for a small and reasonably simple network. May. 1, 2003

Introducing DHCP
On all but the smallest TCP/IP network, it's handy to configure network information for computers automatically. That's what DHCP does. It's easy to act as a DHCP client, but configuring a server is a little trickier. Dru Lavigne introduces DHCP and explains what you need to know to setup a simple DHCP server. Apr. 17, 2003

File Integrity and Anti-DDoS Utilities
tripwire's not the only file integrity utility. Dru Lavigne explores aide and yafic, tools for making sure your system is clean of intrusion, and introduces utilities to detect DDoS programs. Apr. 3, 2003

Checking System Integrity with tripwire
In a secure system, everything has its place. If something's out of place, you'll know it. Dru Lavigne explains how tripwire, the file integrity utility, can monitor your system for anomalies. Mar. 20, 2003

Avoiding Trojans and Rootkits
It's a sad reality that connecting to the Internet puts your computer at risk. Of course, there are several ways to mitigate that risk. Dru Lavigne explains a few good habits to reduce the danger and introduces tripwire, an open source file integrity utility. Mar. 6, 2003

Last time, Dru Lavigne introduced one time passwords. Rather than an all-or-nothing approach, most free Unixes support several different authentication methods. This time, Dru explores PAM (Pluggable Authentication Modules), which allow you to govern how users log on and authenticate themselves. Feb. 20, 2003

One-Time Passwords
You've replaced telnet with ssh. You've instituted password-checking utilities, and you rotate passwords monthly. Still feeling paranoid? Dru Lavigne's got the answer -- one time passwords. This alternate authentication method for FreeBSD means your security won't be jeopardized even if someone sniffs your password. Feb. 6, 2003

Odds and Ends
The end of year holidays bring a chance to reconnect with friends, family, and Unix. At least, they do in Dru Lavigne's household. The FreeBSD columnist shares a few odds and ends on getting to know Unix better. Jan. 23, 2003

Cryptosystems: Debugging IPSec
You've learned about cryptosystems. You understand VPNs. You've installed IPSec. You'd like it to work. Take heart, Dru Lavigne's final installment of "Cryptosystems" explains how to debug IPSec. Jan. 9, 2003

Cryptosystems: Configuring IPSec
VPNs make it possible to have secure networks on top of the insecure public Internet. Having explained the concepts, Dru Lavigne's newest Cryptosystems article demonstrates how to configure IPSec. Dec. 26, 2002

VPNs and IPSec Demystified
How do you allow remote users to access resources on your network securely over an insecure connection? With a VPN. Never fear, Dru Lavigne's latest Cryptosystems column explains the concepts and terminology behind the technology. Dec. 12, 2002

Cryptosystems: Configuring SSH
Cryptosystems are handy, but they're not for everyone right out of the box. In her second article on SSH, Dru Lavigne explores some of the more common configuration options for clients and servers. Nov. 28, 2002

The SSH Cryptosystem
OpenSSH encrypts sessions between two machines, making packet sniffing much more difficult. In the second of a series on Cryptosystems, Dru Lavigne explores the default configuration of OpenSSH on FreeBSD and demonstrates how to enable key pair encryption. Nov. 14, 2002

Cryptographic Terminology 101
No matter how good your internal security, your data isn't safe if it's sent externally as plain text. To protect your sensitive information from prying eyes, you need cryptography. Dru Lavigne's latest column gives a crash course on this field's vital terminology. Oct. 31, 2002

Playing Audio and Video Files with FreeBSD
In the last of her multimedia series, Dru Lavigne explores utilities for enjoying common Internet audio and video formats under FreeBSD. Oct. 17, 2002

DVD Playback on FreeBSD
Dru Lavigne delves into the world of DVD playback and tests four applications from the ports collection to find one that suits her needs. Oct. 3, 2002

Using Sound on FreeBSD
Dru Lavigne continues configuring a multimedia workstation by demonstrating how to get sound working, and looking at some of the sound-related ports in the ports collection. Sep. 19, 2002

Turn FreeBSD into a Multimedia Workstation
Dru Lavigne explores the world of FreeBSD on the desktop by rebuilding the system from source and installing all of the common desktop components. Sep. 5, 2002

Archiving with Pax
Dru Lavigne finishes up her series on archivers with pax, a versatile utility that can create both tar and cpio archives. Aug. 22, 2002

Securing FreeBSD
Dru Lavigne shows us several ways that we can increase the security level on a FreeBSD box. Aug. 8, 2002

Understanding CPIO
Dru Lavigne explains the art of using cpio to archive a list of files generated by the find or ls utilities.  Jul. 11, 2002

Backing up Files with Tar
In a previous article, Dru Lavigne introduced the concept of archivers. In this article, she demonstrates the usage of the tar archiver. May. 23, 2002

Understanding Archivers
Dru Lavigne introduces the concept of archiving and explains which archiving utilities are available, as well as some of the differences between them. May. 2, 2002

Find: Part Two
The find utility can do more that just locate files. Dru Lavigne shows us how to make it delete files, create file archives, and much, much more. Mar. 14, 2002

Finding Things in Unix
Dru Lavigne introduces us to the some of the powerful features hidden in the Unix find command. Feb. 21, 2002

Dru Lavigne introduces us to the world of collaborative computing by explaining the SETI@home project. Feb. 7, 2002

Browsing through the Ports Collection
FreeBSD Basics columnist Dru Lavigne explores some of her favorite utilities, including nat, pkg_tree, and gutenbook. Jan. 24, 2002

Filtering Spam with Procmail
Unwanted e-mail sent by advertisers is annoying and sometimes offensive. Dru Lavigne explains how to add a spam filter to procmail to keep this e-mail out of your inbox. Jan. 10, 2002

Procmail Basics
Tired of sorting though spam and virii in your inbox? Well, you don't have to any more. Dru Lavigne shows us how to set up procmail to filter and sort all of your email. Dec. 6, 2001

Understanding the Automatons, Part Two
Dru Lavigne discusses the rest of the Periodic scripts. Nov. 21, 2001

Understanding the Automatons
Dru Lavigne explains scripts that are run automatically by your system. Understanding these scripts can be the key to keeping your system tuned and secure. Nov. 8, 2001

Using the vi Editor
The vi editor is a very powerful, inherent part of Unix. Dru Lavigne teaches us a few useful tricks with it. Oct. 25, 2001

Accessing a Cisco Router
When you first purchase a Cisco router, you'll need to access the router via its console interface from a serial interface on your computer. Dru Lavigne shows you how to do this from FreeBSD. Oct. 11, 2001

Running Windows Applications on FreeBSD
Dru Lavigne illustrates how to set up and configure a Windows emulator on FreeBSD. Sep. 21, 2001

Multi-Platform Remote Control
Dru Lavigne shows us how to use vnc for administrative remote control of FreeBSD and Windows computers. Aug. 23, 2001

Useful Unix Utilities
Dru Lavigne browses the BSD ports collection and introduces several helpful utilities, including several from the "net" and "sysutils" sections. Jul. 19, 2001

Monitoring IPFW Logs
Dru Lavigne shows us how to monitor ipfw logs and more importantly how to deal with what we find. Jul. 5, 2001

IPFW Logging
Firewalls can potentially block huge amounts of traffic. Dru Lavigne shows us how to fine-tune our firewall logs to reveal the traffic that concerns us most. Jun. 21, 2001

BSD Firewalls: Fine-Tuning Rulesets
Dru Lavigne helps us fine-tune our firewall rules. She uses DHCP as an example, steps through its requirements and shows how to implement the appropriate firewall rules. Jun. 1, 2001

BSD Firewalls: IPFW Rulesets
Dru Lavigne explains how to create IPFW firewall rules. May. 10, 2001

BSD Firewalls: IPFW
Building a firewall? Dru Lavigne gets you started with an IPFW firewall on FreeBSD. Apr. 25, 2001

BSD Firewalls: IPFW
Building a firewall? Dru Lavigne gets you started with an IPFW firewall on FreeBSD. Apr. 25, 2001

Scanning Your Network
Dru Lavigne shows us how to use nmap, a port scanning utility, to secure Unix servers and workstations. Apr. 18, 2001

Examining ICMP Packets
Dru Lavigne explains how ICMP packets control messages sent between routers and hosts. Apr. 4, 2001

IP Packets Revealed
Dru Lavigne finishes up her series on IP packets with a detailed analysis of the packets captured in the previous article. Mar. 28, 2001

Capturing TCP Packets
Want to capture network packets? Dru Lavigne shows how simple the process is and explains how to analyze the captured data. Mar. 21, 2001

TCP Protocol Layers Explained
Dru Lavigne explains how to read IP packet headers. Mar. 14, 2001

Understanding Filesystem Inodes
Dru Lavigne finishes up her explanation of hard drives and Unix filesystems by explaining how inodes fit into the picture. Mar. 7, 2001

Understanding Unix Filesystems
Dru Lavigne explains the basics of Unix filesystems. Feb. 28, 2001

Dividing Your Data
Dru Lavigne walks through the process of setting up partitions in FreeBSD and helps you divide your data into logical storage units.  Feb. 21, 2001

Monitoring Unix Logins
Dru Lavigne exposes the contents of wtmp, utmp, and lastlog, the files that record who is logged in to your Unix system. Feb. 14, 2001

Securing BSD Daemons
Dru Lavigne shows us how to secure daemon processes by turning off the ones we don't use and using TCP wrappers to limit access. Feb. 7, 2001

Understanding BSD Daemons
Dru Lavigne introduces the basics of FreeBSD network connections. Jan. 31, 2001

Cracking Passwords to Enhance Security
Dru Lavigne shows us how to crack passwords and explains how it can help enhance system security. Jan. 24, 2001

Establishing Good Password Policies
Everyone knows secure passwords are important, but what makes a password secure? Dru Lavigne gives us some tips on creating secure passwords, and shows how to implement a password policy that requires users to create passwords securely. Jan. 17, 2001

Adding a User to FreeBSD -- Part Two
Dru Lavigne explains what really goes on when a user gets added to the system, including all the copied and modified files. Jan. 10, 2001

Adding Users to FreeBSD
Adding users to your Unix system is one of the most important things you can do after the initial setup. Dru Lavigne takes us through the steps of adding a user to a FreeBSD machine. Jan. 3, 2001

A Look Through the Ports Collection
Dru Lavigne looks through the ports collection for interesting and obscure applications. Dec. 20, 2000

Accessing MS-DOS Filesystems
Dru Lavigne shows us how to access MS-DOS filesystems from BSD using the programs mtools and mfm. Dec. 13, 2000

The System Startup Daemon: init
Dru Lavigne steps us through the boot process on a BSD system and explains the init daemon. Nov. 29, 2000

Discovering System Processes Part II
Dru Lavigne takes us deeper into the realm of system processes and explains interprocess communication and signal handling. Nov. 22, 2000

Discovering System Processes
Dru Lavigne introduces us to Unix system processes in part one of a two-part series.  Nov. 15, 2000

Where the Log Files Live
Join Dru Lavigne as she wades through man pages and deciphers cryptic config files in a hunt to find the Unix system logger and configure it into submission.  Nov. 8, 2000

An Introduction to Webmin -- Part Two
Dru Lavigne continues her tutorial on using webmin and takes us step by step through the administration screens. Nov. 1, 2000

An Introduction to Webmin
In the first of a two-part series, Dru Lavigne introduces the Webmin server. Learn how to configure and view information about your FreeBSD computer, all through a web browser. Oct. 25, 2000

Working With Text
Text files are a basic part of life on a Unix system. Dru shows us how to use the standard text tools like cat, more and redirection operators. Oct. 18, 2000

Read The Friendly Manpage! -- Part Two
Dru continues the tutorial on understanding manpages and teaches us something about formatted text, unformatted text, compressed data, and control characters. Oct. 11, 2000

Read The Friendly Manpage! -- A Tutorial
Have you been told to RTFM, but don't know where to start? Dru Lavigne explains the man documentation system in an easy to understand tutorial. Oct. 4, 2000

Getting Cron to Do Our Bidding
Wouldn't it be great if you could get your Unix system to perform commands automatically and then e-mail you the results? Dru explains how cron works and shows us how to read crontabs. Sep. 27, 2000

Understanding Shell Prompts
Dru explains the cryptic configuration of shell prompts and shows us how to set them for the most common shells. Sep. 20, 2000

An Introduction to Unix Permissions -- Part Two
Dru continues the tutorial on Unix permissions and shows us how to modify them using 'chmod'.  Sep. 13, 2000

An Introduction to Unix Permissions
In the first of a two-part series, Dru covers the basics of permissions on files and directories. Sep. 6, 2000

Understanding E-Mail
Dru takes us deep into the mysteries of E-mail in an attempt to demystify terms such as "MUA", "MTA", and "IMAP4".  Aug. 30, 2000

Networking with TCP/IP
Dru explains the basics of TCP/IP networking and gives examples of how to use it on FreeBSD. This also makes great reading for Linux and other operating systems that utilize the TCP/IP networking stack. Aug. 23, 2000

Using Ethereal
Wondering what's going on with your network? Dru explains how to use Ethereal, a graphical network monitoring package that is easy to use and understand. Learn how to capture packets and monitor network traffic. Aug. 16, 2000

Useful Commands
Dru introduces several useful commands for things like scrolling through virtual terminals and checking date, time, and current working directory. Aug. 9, 2000

Customizing the Login Shell
Dru shows us the basics of shell configuration and explains the difference between login and non-login shells. Aug. 2, 2000

Configuring and Using NFS
Dru takes us through the basics of sharing files between UNIX computers. Jul. 26, 2000

Accessing Microsoft Files Using Sharity-Light
SAMBA gave us access to Unix from Windows, but how do we get access to our Windows boxes from Unix? Sharity-Lite may be the answer and Dru Lavigne explains how it works. Jul. 12, 2000

Mounting Other Filesystems
Filesystem incompatibility can be a real pain, especially amongst Windows operating systems. Fortunately BSD has a few tools to handle the situation. Jul. 5, 2000

Customizing Your Desktop Environment
Customizing the XFCE Window Manager for the X Window System. Jun. 28, 2000

Building an X Server and a Window Manager
Tips on getting the X Window System setup on a FreeBSD system. Also includes information on some of the basic Window Managers. Jun. 21, 2000

Connecting to the Internet Using PPP or a Cable Modem
Learn how to connect to the internet with FreeBSD, using either a standard or cable modem. Includes information on recompiling your kernel to activate COM ports. Jun. 14, 2000

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