FreeBSD 6.3 running on the Armada E500

Things are working well with the combination of the new FreeBSD 6.3 and the Compaq Armada E500. The machine has a great feel to it, and despite the huge applications of today, 128M can still be used for a KDE environment.

There are a number of nice features, including a ton of connectors (10BaseT, WinModem, USB, serial, parallel, PS/2, PCMCIA). The machine just keeps going, though I have had a few (few!) lockups (normally with Amarok and something else running). With the appropriate tweaks, the KDE desktop can be as polished as any from Red Hat or Novell.

Some of the things I did:

  • Replace the shutdown picture with something else; the picture of the dragon was too smarmy.
  • Replace the background (of course!) – personalization to the max.
  • Switch to the “Macintosh” version of menu layout; it’s the most user-friendly.
  • Load KDM from ports, then activate and theme it.
  • Load a splash screen for the boot loader
  • Switch the boot loader to grub then use a splash screen to start it off.
  • Configure the special buttons to work.
  • Change the KDE menu for something easier to use (such as TastyMenu or KBFX).

When all of these are combined, the environment is very slick and professional. It still wants more than 128M though.

One pet peeve of mine I might mention with regards to menus (such as KMenu or KBFX): menus should respond instantly!! I absolutely despise hiccups and watch cursors because the menu is loading its stuff. It should just pop! into place, not thrash the hard disk. Maybe one day…

What was the best part of this? I learned a ton about themes, X keys, configuring KDM, configuring the boot loader, and using grub. And learning is the best part, right?

FreeBSD 6.3 DesktopFreeBSD 6.3 Desktop

FreeBSD 6.3 is OUT! (Armada E500 installation)

Just after installing 6.3-RC2, I discovered that 6.3 was officially released!

This didn’t take much work to update to. The basic steps were:

freebsd-update upgrade
freebsd-update install

Then – after a reboot (for kernel updates, I presume) another:

freebsd-update install

Relatively painless, throughout.

Then, continuing my install over the weekend, there were a few niggling things to fix. First off, the buttons up on the top of the keyboard didn’t work (no surprise there). Using the xev utility helps to pin down the actual keycodes for these keys, then use the xmodmap tool to add the appropriate actions to the keys. In my case, xev reported that the keys left to right were:

  • 163 (info key)
  • 142 (home key)
  • 154 (search key)
  • 143 (mail key)

These can be configured using xmodmap and a .Xmodmap file configured this way:

keycode 163 = Help
keycode 142 = XF86HomePage
keycode 154 = XF86Search
keycode 143 = XF86Mail

The values on the right (Help, XF86HomePage, XF86Search, XF86Mail) show their XFree86 heritage, but apparently do not change for These are activated by using the command:

xmodmap .Xmodmap

A good place for this line would be in the .xinitrc. However, once this is set, it is still necessary to tie applications to the shortcuts listed. In KDE, this is done in the Keyboard Shortcuts section of the Regional and Accessibility pane in Settings. In this dialog, select the “Command Shortcuts” tab, then the application you desire to use. For example, “Find Files/Folders” could be attached to the shortcut XF86Search. Once the xmodmap has been modified using the command above, then click on the Custom radio button, and click the shortcut button. Press the actual shortcut button to define the shortcut for the application.

Do this for all four buttons, and all will be well.

Then there was the problem of the mouse not being operational when waking up from a suspend. Turns out that the moused(8) daemon is the culprit. Sending a HUP signal to the daemon fixes it, but having to do this all the time is not a desirable outcome. The utility acpiconf(8) describes how it uses /etc/rc.suspend and /etc/rc.resume before and after suspending the system. I placed the command:

pkill -HUP moused

into this script, but I don’t yet know if it is truly having the desired effect or if other things are causing failures.

Another thing: the CD player would not play CDs in Amarok. Apparently, this is due to HAL and DBUS not being available. HAL depends on DBUS, so both are necessary. The following packages were needed:


I don’t know that all the dbus packages are necessary, but I decided not to chance it. Of course, dbus is part of GNOME, but whatever. Once these packages are installed, add the following to the startup configuration in /etc/rc.conf:


Next time the system boots, these daemons will start.

Also, up until this point had to be started using startx as a normal user. However, adding the login screen isn’t difficult. Edit the /etc/ttys file. In this file, there will be a line that specifies the command xdm.

Since kdm (the KDE display manager, the login screen) is actually a reworked xdm, switching one for the other is smooth and clean. Replace the xdm setting with /usr/local/bin/kdm (keeping the -nodaemon option) and set the tty to “on” (instead of “off”). Then the next time the system starts (or the ttys file is read) a login screen will activate on ttyv8 (if your file is like mine).