Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

DesktopBSD day 17 – Flock and Freshports

Sometimes a program proliferates quite rapidly to all my computers. My friend Jos Herni wrote about Flock less than two weeks ago and I decided to give it try. Flock is called ‘the social webbrowser’ and makes it easy for users to participatie in the social web, upload photos and videos. Personally I like the blog editor most. It’s a fat browser, loaded with functions, but it outperforms Firefox on my computers. The overall impression was so good I decided to install it on my computer at work, on the laptop and the various desktops. And -working with DesktopBSD for 30 days- I decided to try it out for this series as well.

Looking for Flock

The Package Manager is the first port of call for finding and installing software and it was no trouble locating Flock in the list of available packages. There were two versions actually: flock 0.7_6 and linux-flock I don’t think I mentioned it before, but FreeBSD, PC-BSD and DesktopBSD come with Linux binary compatibility. This allows Linux software to run under *BSD, which could be of benefit to users who want to push the edge a little bit. In the case of Flock you can see the difference in version numbers. Flock 1.0 isn’t available yet, but I was willing to use a somewhat older version.

Unfortunately, the Package Manager reported back that both packages couldn’t be found. I updated the lists (again), but to no avail. I went to the fall-back position, the commandline, and ran # pkg_add -r flock. Again nothing. What was wrong?

Finding enlightenment at Freshports

I went to Freshports since I expected to find the most up-to-date information about the ports there. At least that’s what the website states:

FreshPorts has everything you want to know about FreeBSD software, ports, packages, applications, whatever term you want to use.

Typing the keyword Flock resulted in a short list with packages that have ‘flock’ in their names. The packages referring to the webbrowser had some interesting messages:

flock 0.7_6
BROKEN: Does not build on amd64
IGNORE: is marked as broken: Does not build on amd64

FORBIDDEN: multiple vulnerabilities
IGNORE: is forbidden: multiple vulnerabilities

Since I wasn’t installing Flock on an AMD64 box I was curious as to why it wouldn’t install. The next two sentences gave the explanation:

To install the port: cd /usr/ports/www/linux-flock/ && make install clean
A package is not available for ports asked as: Forbidden / Broken / Ignore / Restricted

The Freshports FAQ page gives some more information about the flags for broken of forbidden. In short, when software is marked as forbidden, broken or ignore you can’t use # pkg_add to install it. You might give it a try to install it as port and compile the software.

Personally, once I had seen the warning “multiple vulnerabilities” for linux-flock I decided against installing it via the ports. I like my webbrowser to be a bit more secure. It would have been nice to see the warnings and the above mentioned flags in Package Manager. It makes perfect sense to disable binary installs for software with these flags. As it is now, the average user doesn’t have a clue as to why the install failed. The first conclusion drawn most likely will be that the Package Manager is broken and/or that package management in *BSD sucks. That conclusion would be unfair, but could be prevented by adding the flag information in the Package Manager.

On a side note

There were a few components of the GNOME2 desktop I wanted to install (hacker tools etc.). The Package Manager invariably came up with the message that the packages couldn’t be found. This weekend I decided to use the commandline option and it worked. I know there is a difference between the list in Package Manager and the actual DesktopBSD repositories, but that difference would be lost for a novice user. If it’s in the list, you should be able to install it.


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