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03 July 2010

PC-BSD --- Administering it


Administrative System Settings

Here i put the focus on the system settings usually performed by the administrative user. Many of these configuration modules will prompt you for the superuser password.
    We’ll start by finishing up System Settings General tab by discussing the modules in the Network & Connectivity section, as well as the remaining modules in the Computer Administration section. We’ll then move on to the sections in the Advanced tab of System Settings.

Network and Connectivity
The modules in this section allow you to configure the built-in firewall, various network settings, connections to Windows shares, and your network interfaces.

This module is specific to PC-BSD and is used to configure the pf firewall.(pf is unique to BSD operating systems). It requires administrative access. Figure shows the Firewall configuration module.
A firewall affects the security of your operating system. If you are not familiar with TCP/IP ports or firewall rules, you should leave your firewall settings as-is. If you want to practice creating firewall rules in order to learn more about firewalls, use a test system that does not contain any of your data.
The General configuration screen allows the firewall to be enabled or disabled at system startup.
You can tell that the firewall is currently running on this system because the Start button is greyed out. If the firewall was not running, the Stop and Restart buttons would be greyed out. If you ever mess up your firewall configuration, click the Restore default configuration button to return to the original working configuration. 
If you make a change to your firewall settings, don’t forget to click Restart (or Start) for your changes to take effect. Figure  shows the screen for the Exceptions tab.
    The Exceptions tab provides a graphical interface for viewing, adding, modifying, and deleting firewall rules. Each rule (or exception) contains the following information:
  • Service: The name of the application affected by the firewall rule.
  • Port: The TCP/IP port associated with that service. The file /etc/services contains a list of common applications and their default port.
  • Policy: Whether that application is allowed to pass through or is blocked by the firewall.
  • Interface: The BSD name of the network interface.
Users already familiar with pf can view the underlying configuration file, /etc/pf.conf using Konsole.
    The default rules support network address translation (NAT ), allow you to access the Internet and run the ping and traceroute utilities, and accept NetBIOS packets on the interface attached to the internal network.
The default Exceptions(in /etc/pf.conf ) show that the NetBIOS ports are open, allowing your computer to share files over a Windows or Samba network.

Power users can change their firewall rules using either the graphical Firewall module or by editing /etc/pf.conf directly.
    Figure shows the menu that appears if you click Add entry in the Exceptions tab. In this example, a firewall rule is being added to allow for incoming 3com-Doom connections over TCP port 106 on the le0 network interface.
    When creating a rule:
  1. use the drop-down Service menu to select an application by name. 
  2. You can choose to either allow or block connections over the port. 
  3. Protocol choices are TCP or UDP, and 
  4. the drop-down Interface menu will allow you to select from the interfaces installed on the system.
Once you press Ok, the rule will be added and will show in /etc/pf.conf.
While the new firewall rules will appear, they won’t be used until you restart the firewall.

Network Settings
 The menus in this module are for "advanced" users. Don’t change them unless you have good reason to and you have researched your changes.
The menus within this module allow you to configure the following:
  • Proxy: If you need to go through a proxy to access the Internet, your service provider or network administrator will tell you which proxy settings you need to use. If you’re curious, the Proxies document gives an overview of each proxy setting.
  • Connection Preferences: This menu allows you to change network timeout values and enable useful FTP options. It is rare that you would change the default values and you should leave them as-is unless you really know what you are doing.
  • Service Discovery: Service discovery is also known as zeroconf and is designed to let a computer configure itself for networking with no user intervention. KDE uses Avahi to provide service discovery. It will search the local domain to see which resources are available. This screen allows you to add additional service discovery domains.

The Sharing configuration module which is used to set the default username and
password for Windows shares
. This allows you to browse Windows network shares using Konqueror without being prompted for the share username and password.

System Network Configuration
The System Network Configuration module is provided by PC-BSD and understands BSD network interface settings. You will need administrative access to change any of the settings in this module.
Your PC-BSD network settings should “just work.” For example, if you plug in an Ethernet cable or insert an external wireless card, its network settings should be automatically configured for you. Should you have a problem with a network interface, you can use this module to configure the interface manually.

Figure shows a screenshot of this module. This system contains a virtual AMD Ethernet card (le0). The IP address for the highlighted wireless interface is

BSD Ethernet device names differ from Linux. On BSD systems, the interface name is associated with its driver; on Linux systems, Ethernet drivers always start with eth. To read the details of a driver, look at the man page for the interface name (without the number). In this example, I could type man:/le into Konqueror to learn more about the AMD driver.
The Devices tab allows the administrator to view and configure the network interfaces. If you highlight an Ethernet, firewire, or loopback interface and click Configure, you have the option of obtaining the IP address automatically using DHCP or manually typing in the IP address and subnet mask.
    If you highlight a wireless interface and click Configure, in addition to the options mentioned for the other interfaces, you have the ability to add, edit, and remove wireless network profiles.
A quick way to access an interface’s configuration is to highlight it and check the Display system tray icon. Once in the system tray, you can double-click the icon to open the System Network Configuration module. Hover over the icon to get a summary of the interface’s current settings.
If you click the +Add button, you have the option to scan for available wireless networks. You can also choose the appropriate security setting of disabled, WEP, WPA personal, or WPA enterprise(These settings are needed if security has been configured on the wireless router). Click the Configure button in the Network Security section to type in the key required by the wireless network.
    Back to the main menu, the Network Configuration (Advanced) tab will show the DNS server and hostname received from a DHCP server. If you are manually configuring the interface, click the Change Configuration button so that you can enter the DNS servers, hostname, and default gateway settings. If you use PPPoE to connect to the Internet, you can configure the username and password you use to connect, as well as select the network interface from a drop down menu. PPPOE also provides check boxes to configure an always-on connection and Internet connection sharing.

Computer Administration
The remaining modules are:

Password & User Account
This module allows the superuser to easily
  • add and remove users, 
  • configure who has administrative access, and 
  • change the administrative password or the password of the selected user.
In this example, i have 2 regular user accounts on this system "harrykar" user has superuser access because the Can administrate system check box is checked. The Change Password button can be used to reset the user’s password. Because this utility is run as the superuser, you don’t have to know the user’s old password in order to change it.
    The Change Admin Password can be used to reset the superuser password.
    The Advanced View button allows you to view and modify all the user accounts and groups on the
system. In particular allows you to change:
  • the user’s Full Name, 
  • Home Directory, 
  • default shell, and 
  • primary group.
Even the superuser shouldn’t change the settings for the system user accounts unless there is a good reason to do so. System user accounts are all the accounts needed by the operating system and are created for you. In this example, it is every account except for the regular user accounts.
The Groups tab allows you to easily create (add) new groups and add or remove members from groups. Again, be cautious about changing the settings for system groups—it is recommended that you modify only the settings for the groups that you have created.

Printer Configuration
This module is used to configure printing on your PC-BSD system. It supports printers that are physically cabled to the system, connecting to print shares over the network, and printing to a network printer.

Services Manager
This module requires the superuser password and is unique to PC-BSD. It allows the administrator to control the startup settings of PC-BSD services and to stop or start these services.
Each entry in this menu shows the following:
  • Service Name: The name of the service.
  • Running: Whether the service is currently running or stopped.
  • AutoStart: Indicates whether the service is set to start automatically when the system boots up. Use the Enable Startup or Disable Startup buttons to change the current setting.
  • Description: A brief description of what the service does.

Don’t change the startup setting for a service unless you understand what the service does.If you highlight a service, the appropriate buttons will activate. For example, if a service is currently running, the Stop and Restart buttons will activate. If a service is currently set to start at boot time, the Disable Startup button will activate.

Software & Updates
This module is unique to PC-BSD and requires superuser privileges to access.

System Manager
The System Manager module is unique to PC-BSD and requires the administrative password. The General tab can be used to view
  • the version of PC-BSD, 
  • the version of FreeBSD it is based upon, 
  • the system’s CPU type and frequency, and 
  • the amount of installed memory.
The Generate button allows you to create a diagnostic report and will prompt you for the name and location of the file to generate. This allows you to easily send a file of diagnostic information to a mailing list or another user who is helping you to troubleshoot your system.
    The Kernel tab, allows you to enable ATAPI DMA mode. This mode is off by
default as it can cause hardware on some systems to hang. If you feel that the transfer mode on your disk drives is less than optimal, you can try checking this box to see whether it makes a difference. If it results in system freezes, go back and uncheck the box. You can also reduce the boot delay in this tab. Boot delay is how long the system waits for you to select an option from the boot menu you see when the system starts up; it is set to 10 seconds by default. It’s probably not a good idea to set a value lower than 3 seconds to give you time to select another boot option(If you find that the boot menu goes by too quickly to read it, press the spacebar. It will pause the menu until you make a selection); for example, if you ever need to go into single-user mode to repair your system.
    Finally, the Kernel tab allows a power user who has compiled and installed another kernel to select which kernel to boot.

The Tasks tab is divided into two sections.
  • The Ports Console section allows you to fetch the ports tree into Ports Console
  • The System Tasks section allows advanced users to fetch system source and the system ports tree;
  • The Misc tab allows you to configure the language used in the system boot screen. The custom button allows you to select a custom image to display at boot time. This image will appear as the kernel starts to load and will hide the boot messages (you can press any key to leave the image and view the boot messages). The image must be in .pcx format; you can use the GIMP or KolourPaint applications to create pcx files.
.pcx images are not graphic intensive. If you receive an error about the size or color depth of the image when you try to add it using the Custom button, that image will not load at boot time.

Advanced User Settings
As the name suggests, the modules in the Advanced tab of the System Settings module tend to require more configuration knowledge and most require administrative access in order to make configuration changes. The Advanced User Settings section contains over a dozen modules dealing with various system services and hardware.

Akonadi Configuration
In KDE, Akonadi is the storage architecture behind the Kontact Personal Information Management (PIM) application. A PIM application can be used to manage information such as your calendar, events, address book, and bookmarks. Akonadi can store personal information from a variety of sources, and this menu is used to add and configure these resources.
    Unfortunately, the documentation on Akonadi is still a work in progress, so
you might have to resort to trial and error and asking questions within the KDE community.
    The Akonadi Server Configuration tab will show the database settings. Akonadi uses the MySQL database application to store your personal information and preconfigures the database for you. You should leave these settings as-is. However, you might find the Test, Stop, and Restart buttons useful if you are having problems with the MySQL database.
If you don’t use Kontact, you can reduce startup time by disabling the Akonadi service by unchecking Contacts in KRunner ➤ Plugins

Audio CDs
The Audio CDs configuration module that is used to set the default settings used by applications that play audio CDs. You can override most of these settings in the configuration menus provided by a specific CD player application. It should be noted that your audio settings should “just work” as-is; this module is for audiophiles who want to tweak their settings.
    The tabs in this module allow you to configure the following:

General: Specifies
  • the device name of the CD player, 
  • whether or not to use error correction and to skip on errors, and 
  • the encoder priority used when ripping CD tracks.
Names: The track and album information that is displayed by the CD player is
set in this tab. The default is to show the track artist, track number, and song
title for each track and the album artist followed by the album title for each
album. This information is gathered using CDDB.

MP3 Encoder: Various settings for encoding MP3 files can be set here. A good
introduction to understanding the terminology used in these settings is here.

Ogg Vorbis Encoder: Wikipedia has a good introduction to some of the terms
used in this tab.

KDE allows you to specify which scripts are executed when KDE starts up. PC-BSD comes preconfigured with scripts in the Autostart module that set up your system’s network interfaces, check that sound is working correctly, and check that the system is up-to-date(an Ethernet (le0) network interface(virtual) which is configured to be enabled at KDE startup).
    The drop-down menu for is selected to demonstrate that Script Files can be run at KDE startup, KDE shutdown, or before KDE starts up.
    If you want your favorite programs, such as Firefox or Akregator, to start with KDE, click Add Program and select the program from the menu. Power users can also run their own custom scripts by clicking Add Script to browse to the script.
    The script will be added to the Script File section with its own drop down menu to select when the script will be run.

CDDB Retrieval
The Compact Disc Database (CDDB) is an Internet database of track information for music CDs. CDDB is enabled by default, meaning that track information should be available in all your CD playing utilities.

Two popular databases of CDDB information are MusicBrainz and freedb.
    freedb supports both the HTTP and CDDB protocols; HTTP is a good default
because it is allowed through most firewalls. If track information is not available for your favorite CD, and freedb is enabled, you can use the Submit tab to configure the e-mail address used to submit the track information to the database using a CDDB-aware application such as xmms.

Instructions on how to submit can be found at the freedb FAQ.

Desktop Search
The Desktop Search configuration module allows you to enable the Networked Environment for Personalized, Ontology-based Management of Unified Knowledge (Nepomuk) semantic desktop and the Strigi desktop search feature.
  • Nepomuk allows you to tag, rate, and comment your files through Dolphin and to browse tagged files in Gwenview
  • Strigi is a fast desktop search utility.
The Basic Settings tab, allows you to see whether the services are running and to
enable them if they are not.

Desktop Theme Details
This configuration module allows you to fine-tune your theme settings by theme item. For example, the Color Scheme could be Air, while the Panel Background scheme could be Heron, and the Kickoff scheme could be Aya.
    You can get a preview of each scheme by clicking the drop-down menu above the Get New Theme button. The Get New Theme button provides easy access to the Plasma Themes section of
    Check the More box if you want to remove a theme or save it to a file. If you don’t like your changes and want to return back to the defaults, click the Reset button.

Device Actions
KDE4 uses the Solid hardware architecture to control access to hardware devices. Device Actions module is intended to be used by developers to set conditions to ensure that hardware is properly accessed by applications. Unless you are developing an application that requires access to hardware, you should leave the settings in this module as-is.
    If you highlight an action and click Edit, a menu will open where a developer can view the conditions that must be met in order for the selected action to be applied to the device.
Unless you are a developer familiar with the Solid architecture, you should leave the settings as-is.Documentation on Solid is still pretty sparse

File Associations
The File Associations module allows you to configure which applications are used to open files according to their file extension. Figure 7-24 shows this module with the image section expanded and the .bmp file type selected. In this example, Gwenview is the preferred application, followed by KolourPaint and Okular.
    Use the Add button if your favorite application, capable of opening the highlighted extension, is not
    If you highlight an application, you can move it up or down in the Application Preference Order.
    You can also remove applications that you don’t want to associate with the specified file type.
    The Embedding tab can be used to set the default left-click action. You can select one of the following:
  •  Show file in embedded viewer
  •  Show file in separate viewer
  •  Use settings for group (where group is the parent group for the file extension)
  •  Ask whether to save to disk instead

KDE Resources
This configuration module allows you to set which locations, or resources, can be used as data sources for Contacts, Calendar, Notes, and Alarms. Figure  shows the possible resources for Contacts. This menu was accessed by selecting Contacts from the drop-down menu and clicking the Add button.
    In this example, possible data sources for the Default Address Book containing your personal
Contacts include KDE’s Akonadi, OpenGroupware, Novell GroupWise, KMail, and OpenXchange. If you
select a resource, it will attempt a connection to that type of server and will provide a resource settings configuration menu so you can select the correct location containing your contacts. You can have multiple resources, but only one can be selected as the Standard.
    Spend some time browsing the possible resources for each item—you might be surprised how many types of resources are supported!
    This module assumes that you already understand the possible configurations for the resources you select. For example, if you select the Novell Groupwise Server module, it will prompt you for the resource settings needed to successfully connect to an existing account on a Groupwise server.

KDE Wallet
KDE Wallet is a tool to store your passwords, web form data, and cookies in an encrypted format. The first time you enter private information into a KDE utility, it should ask you if you want to store it in your KDE wallet. The wallet itself is protected by a password so other users don’t have access to its contents. The KDE Wallet configuration module, allows you to configure your wallet  preferences.
    The Close Wallet section in the Wallet Preferences tab allows you to configure when the wallet closes. Note that once a wallet is closed, you need to input the wallet’s password to reopen it.
    The Automatic Wallet Selection allows you to select which of your wallets to use by default. You can store local passwords in a separate wallet from your Internet passwords. If you have never been prompted to make a KDE wallet, you can launch the wallet creation wizard by clicking New. You will be asked to choose a name for the wallet and then if you want to perform a basic setup (recommended) or advanced setup.
    Once you enter a password and click Finish, the KDE Wallet Service will re-prompt you for the password and provide a strength meter for the password. After clicking Create, your new wallet will show in the Automatic Wallet Selection drop-down menu.
    The Wallet Manager allows you to view the information stored in your wallets. If you double-click a wallet within Wallet Manager, it will prompt you for the wallet password before displaying its contents.
    The Access Control tab within Wallet Manager allows you to view which applications have access to the wallet (the list will be empty until an application uses it). If you no longer want to have an application use the wallet, you can delete its access here.

Service Manager
The Service Manager configuration module allows you to view which KDE services are currently running and which are configured to start with KDE.
    If you uncheck a box in Startup Services, that service will no longer be started with KDE. It will, however, continue to run in your current KDE session until you highlight it and click Stop. If there are services that you know you don’t use, you can reduce KDE’s startup time by not starting those services. If you are unsure, you should leave the services as-is. If you mess up your configurations, press Defaults to return to the system defaults.
Don’t change the status of a service unless you understand what the service does.
The Load-on-Demand services are automatically loaded whenever another application requires that service. This means that you can’t use this interface to stop or start the services in this section.
Power users can remove an unwanted Load-on-Demand service by editing the X-KDE-Kded-load-on-demand=true line to =false in the appropriate *.desktop file. These files are located in /usr/local/kde4/share/kde4/services/kded/. Make sure you understand the ramifications before editing a service's *.desktop file.

Session Manager
The Session Manager module, allows you to configure which icons appear in the
Kickoff ➤ Leave menu. If you don’t like receiving the extra 30 seconds confirmation dialog when you click one of the options in the Leave menu, uncheck the Confirm logout box. If you uncheck the Offer shutdown options box, the Restart and Shutdown options will be removed from the Leave menu. This can be useful if you share your computer with others and don’t want them to have access to those options. You can still safely restart or shut down the system manually by typing restart or halt at the command line or by changing the Default Leave Option to Turn off computer or Restart computer.
     If you have applications running when you leave a session, the On Login section determines whether they are restored when you start your next session. If you select Restore manually saved session, a Save Session option will be added to the Leave menu, allowing you to decide on a session-by-session basis. Once you have saved your session, you can then log out, restart, or shut down the system.

This section of the System Settings’ Advanced tab provides modules that deal with managing logins to scheduling when to run specified tasks.

Task Scheduler
PC-BSD uses the cron service to schedule tasks. cron understands two types of scheduled tasks, or crontabs:
  1. tasks a user wants to schedule and 
  2. tasks that are used to maintain the operating system.
Operating system maintenance tasks are known as system cron. Only the superuser can edit the system cron and rarely does so. Users can schedule their own tasks.
Systems that use the cron scheduler read “crontab” files to determine which tasks to run at what time. Power users can edit these files directly. Task Scheduler provides an easy to use interface for editing the underlying crontab files.
By default, the Personal Cron area will be empty until you add a task. If you click the System Cron button, you can view the scheduled operating system tasks. The tasks will be greyed out to remind you that you should not modify the system cron.
    To schedule a personal task, click New Task to see a menu. This menu makes it easy to browse to an application or custom script to run. You can then fine-tune
which months, days, hours, and minutes the task will run. Note that you can select multiple items. For example, you can set the task to run at 1:15 AM as well as 19:15 PM. If you click the Custom Selection drop-down menu, you can choose to run the task at the specified time intervals.


  • The Definitive Guide to PC-BSD(2010 Apress) by Dru Lavigne ISBN: 978-1-4302-2642-0

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