Beastie Against Fascism

Vienna, Austria and Leipzig, Germany representing!

Beastie smashing fascism Run BSD stop fascism

“Beastie Smashing Fascism” -sticker was made by: Unfortunately don’t know at the moment who has made the “Run BSD stop fascism” -sticker.

Migrating to Contabo

Clown computing

So yesterday, I, at least it seems, successfully migrated to Contabo. I’ve been looking for a small server to serve my home page and other self-hosted services for some time. Yesterday I decided to ask for some recommendations around the lazyweb and got many good and bad recommendations. One of the better recommendations, it seems, was Contabo.

While I don’t use too much computing power, at least now, I still need some for my sites and services. This basically meant that pricing was obviously the most significant factor. Many other service providers provide similar features as Contabo, but it seems to be on the cheaper end, but still being something that people tend to recommend. Currently, I only need a single instance, and probably in the future, I will need some storage space, and Contabo seemed to provide both at a reasonable price.

One other “nice-to-have” was the support for *BSD. Sure most provider offer something along the lines of Custom ISO so you can use any OS you desire, but this, of course, involves lots of unnecessary stuff that I just didn’t want to start doing it. Contabo fortunately offered FreeBSD 13.1 installation out of the box, which was great! I was considering something like Hetzner for a brief second since people tended to recommend that also but then noticed that they had FreeBSD support until last summer but then decided to silently remove it with which is why I chose to go with Contabo.

There’s probably a bunch of stuff still working a bit wonky, but I bet it’s getting there. Thankfully my site is just a simple Hugo site so setting it up was quite simple. Put an nginx in front of it, and you’re pretty much good to go. Before, I ran this site on GitHub pages, limiting me in many ways.

Since I now have some computing power, I can introduce some services that I might find interesting, i.e. offering commenting and analytics but in a privacy-friendly way (as in no Disqus or Google Analytics), but it remains to be seen do I want to add something like that. One thing I probably want to start looking in to start running some self-hosted service for my videos, photos and such. I feel that what Contabo offers are suitable for it. But let’s see…

FreeBSD Jails for Fun and Profit

Docker has recently stormed into software development. While its concepts are powerful and valuable, similar tools have been used in systems for decades. FreeBSD’s jails in one of those tools which build upon even older chroot(2). To put it shortly, with these tools, you can make a safe environment separated from the rest of the system.

Jails in FreeBSD are by no means a new tool (introduced in 4.x), but for one reason or another, I haven’t used them that often, which is a shame since they are so powerful. So I wanted to explore this concept in a concise and summarized manner.


ZFS datasets are a great way of creating templates for jails since, after the template creation, you can easily create new jails with zfs clone or zfs send/receive. Typically, people divide jails to complete and service jails, where the former resembles a real FreeBSD system, and the latter is often dedicated to applications/services. I’ll cover complete jails for now.

Creating templates starts with creating a dataset for your jail and template. Here I’ll make a new dataset for the base installation of FreeBSD 12.2.

$ sudo zfs create -o mountpoint=/vm zroot/vm
$ sudo zfs create zroot/vm/tmpl
$ sudo zfs create zroot/vm/tmpl/12.2

After that, fetch the base installation itself:

$ fetch
### Fetch all the necessary stuff for your template, e.g. lib32 if needed
$ sudo tar -xJvpf base.txz -C /vm/tmpl/12.2

After that, you should write a minimum viable /etc/rc.conf for the template:

$ sudo emacs /vm/tmpl/12.2/etc/rc.conf
### Start or stop services
cron_flags="-J 60"

You can also disable some unnecessary jobs for jails:

$ sudo emacs /vm/tmpl/12.2/etc/periodic.conf
### No output for successful script runs.

### Output to log files which are rotated by default.

### No need for those without sendmail

### Host does those

You also might want to enable ports in your jail:

$ sudo mkdir /vm/tmpl/12.2/usr/ports
$ sudo mkdir -p /vm/tmpl/12.2/var/ports/{distfiles,packages}
$ sudo emacs /vm/tmpl/12.2/etc/make.conf
WRKDIRPREFIX = /var/ports
DISTDIR = /var/ports/distfiles
PACKAGES = /var/ports/packages

Apply system updates to the template:

$ sudo freebsd-update -b /vm/tmpl/12.2 fetch install

Lastly, take a snapshot:

Note: Strictly speaking, a template is a snapshot, not a dataset. The snapshot can be cloned or sent/received to generate new datasets for production jails.

$ sudo zfs snapshot zroot/vm/tmpl/12.2@complete

This creates a snapshot of zroot/vm/tmpl/12.2 named complete. You can then check your current snapshots with the following:

$ sudo zfs list -t snapshot

Creating jails from the template

Now you should create a new jail based on that snapshot. You can do it either with zfs clone or zfs send/receive:

Difference Between the Two

“A clone is a writable volume or file system whose initial contents are the same as the dataset from which it was created. As with snapshots, creating a clone is nearly instantaneous and initially consumes no additional disk space. In addition, you can snapshot a clone.” [1]

“The zfs send command creates a stream representation of a snapshot that is written to standard output. By default, a full stream is generated. You can redirect the output to a file or to a different system. The zfs receive command creates a snapshot whose contents are specified in the stream that is provided on standard input. If a full stream is received, a new file system is created as well. You can send ZFS snapshot data and receive ZFS snapshot data and file systems with these commands. See the examples in the next section.” [2]

$ sudo zfs clone zroot/vm/tmpl/12.2@complete zroot/vm/jail1

### OR

$ sudo sh -c "zfs send zroot/vm/tmpl/12.2@complete | zfs receive zroot/vm/jail1"

Jail configurations

### /etc/rc.conf


### PF is used for NAT and port forwarding.

### /etc/jail.conf

exec.start = "/bin/sh /etc/rc";
exec.stop = "/bin/sh /etc/rc.shutdown";

host.hostname = $name;
path = "/vm/$name";
exec.consolelog = "/var/log/jail_${name}_console.log";
exec.prestart = "cp /etc/resolv.conf $path/etc";
exec.poststop = "rm $path/etc/resolv.conf";

jail1 {
        ip4.addr = "lo0|";
        ip6.addr = "lo0|fd00:1:1:1::1/64";
### /etc/hosts

... jail1
fd00:1:1:1::1 jail1

Jail management

FreeBSD provides nifty built-in tools for jail management:

Start all jails.

$ sudo service jail start

Start a specific jail(s).

$ sudo service jail start jail1

Log in to jail.

$ sudo jexec jail1

Run a command on a jail.

$ sudo jexec jail1 ifconfig

List running jails.

$ jls
$ jls -v
$ jls -s

So that’s how you can spin up a simple restricted environment on your FreeBSD system. Of course, this topic still has many things to cover, e.g., in-depth networking and configurations.