Apr 11

Getting Poptop to run under FreeBSD 5 & 6

I spent a day or so tinkering with poptop on both FreeBSD 5.x and 6.x, and I figured others might benefit from knowing what I found.

First of all, a little background: Poptop is a Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol (PPTP) server. It lets you easily and securely establish a VPN tunnel to a server from any computer that has a PPTP client (Windows XP has one built in, as do others.) I wanted to be able to tunnel back into a machine that is on a LAN at a remote location. Using poptop looked like it might be easier than some of the other methods.

Read on if you want to know the details

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Apr 02

The Horrors of Daylight Saving Time

So as a resident of Indiana, today is my first day of Daylight Saving Time and I am not happy at all. In addition to having to reset all of the clocks, I also had to change the time zones on all of the computers — Easy enough on Windows, you can just change the time zone to Eastern. However, all my FreeBSD servers required a download and recompile of new time zone definitions. Not just that, but most programs that were started before the time zone switch will not pick up the change until they are restarted. In some cases, it’s safer to just reboot the whole server to make sure everything is running on the same clock. And I hate having to reboot servers.

The reasoning behind the FreeBSD time zone updates is explained in this link. The gist of it is that past file dates can be miscomputed if the time zone is simply switched to Eastern.

Many users of calendaring programs will be bitten by similar problems, causing appointments set before the change to exhibit all kinds of odd behavior.

Personally, I have not seen enough compelling evidence to show that the clock changing business actually saves any energy. It does, however, mess with people’s internal clocks and cause many traffic accidents. Most of the figures done showing that it saves energy seem to be from the 1970’s. I doubt the governer thought about the thousands of man-hours lost in actually changing the clocks, on computers and servers especially – but he sure was sympathetic about the possible loss of an hours worth of drinking at bars!

The only positive effect is that the Indiana legislature will now debate over things that actually matter, instead of over DST.

I’m sure that come Monday I will have to deal with quite a few calls from people who, rather than changing the time zone on their PC, have simply run the clock ahead an hour – only to find out that the clock resets when the Internet Time function resyncs.

Mar 25

FreeBSD on the Desktop (Part III)

I spent a week booted into only FreeBSD, and met with a lot of problems. Many of them could be overcome, but the fact of the matter is that I was simply less productive under FreeBSD than I was under Windows, mainly because of little issues. Things such as keyboard bindings and interface issues that were not consistent between applications, the file associations mechanism was almost working as it should, but it wasn’t obeyed by all applications.

As much as I love OpenOffice.org, it was simply not able to properly handle all of our work-related doucments. It will take some more investigating as to why, but OO.org on Windows formatted the documents properly, most of the time, but on FreeBSD they were mangled.

I’m going to try putting together another PC and retasking an unused KVM so that I might have a FreeBSD box and Windows box at my desk. Perhaps that way I can have the best of both worlds, and do some more experimenting while not losing any productivity…

Sep 06

FreeBSD on the Desktop

Try as I might, it seems I can’t get away from Windows as my primary desktop both at work and at home. My unix-a-like OS of choice is FreeBSD, and I use it on many servers as well as a couple “pseudo desktop” systems (low-task servers that I can run X and a few apps on) I am going to start a page keeping track of all the “show stoppers” keeping me from running it as my primary desktop, and happily check off items as they are found.

Part of me would love to just take the plunge and go the full immersion route, but due to some of the work-related windows-only issues, I don’t see that going as well as I’d like.

EDIT: Sep 08 2005 – I forgot a link to the page. It’s a work in progress…