A Few NetBSD Tips for the FreeBSD User

Every operating system has its own quirks. While I think that intuitive often equals what you're used to using, NetBSD, like FreeBSD, has good documentation. The two are fairly similar, and this page is to point out a few minor issues that I ran into, simply from lack of knowledge. All were fairly easily solved by checking the NetBSD online docs, but perhaps this page can save the reader a bit of time. One quick note, if you haven't yet installed NetBSD. As of 3.0, it still installs XFree86 by default, so if you wish to use xorg (see the miscellaneous section below) choose a custom installation and don't install X. You'll do it after installation, using pkgsrc.

I will also be putting in tips that are scattered over some of my other pages, finally getting them all in one place. I installed NetBSD on fairly vanilla hardware. The installation was fairly straightforward. There are differences, but anyone who has installed FreeBSD should have no problems. The first step was looking around to see how to set up dhcp if I missed it during installation. Like FreeBSD, it uses /etc/rc.conf. If you want your interface to use dhcp then you would set it up this way. Let's assume your interface is tlp0. Add the following to your /etc/rc.conf


You'll be able to either choose dhcp or set up a static address during installation. (When you've finished the basic installation, and are given choices of rebooting, etc, choose the utility menu which has an option to configure the network.) However, if for example, you began with dhcp and then decided to change tlp0 to a static address, you would do the following. Create a file called /etc/ifconfig.tlp0 and open it.

inet netmask

This will enable the interface to be started at boot time. If you later decided to change it to dhcp, you can make the changes to rc.conf that I mentioned above, the dhclient=YES and the flags line.

(NOTE: This has changed in 2.x. Now, one can simply add the line to /etc/rc.conf. This may have even been the case in 1.x but I no longer have a 1.x box to use to test it). Like FreeBSD, it should be doublequoted, e.g

ifconfig_tlp0="inet netmask"

The hostname can be put into rc.conf or you can create a file called /etc/myname and put it in there. If you decide to use rc.conf the syntax is


That of course, is assuming that your local hostname is myhost and your domain is myhost.com. This also goes for the default route. You can create a file called /etc/mygate or, preferably, put it in /etc/rc.conf. The syntax for /etc/rc.conf is


That assumes that your gateway is

SSHD is also not running at startup. To change this, add the following to /etc/rc.conf


Installing the package collection

NetBSD's equivalent to ports is the package collection. It's not put in during installation. So, once you have your network up and running, as root or with root privilege
ftp ftp.NetBSD.org
cd pub/NetBSD/NetBSD-current/tar_files
get pkgsrc.tar.gz

Once that's done, you can untar it into /usr.

tar -xzvpf pkgsrc.tar.gz -C /usr

It's upgraded the same way. Get the latest pkgsrc.tar.gz then remove your old collection.

cd /usr
rm -rf pkgsrc

From there, untar the new pkgsrc in the same way you did it the first time.

Once it has been installed, the first thing to do is install or update pkg_install

cd /usr/pkgsrc/pkgtools/pkg_install
make clean
make install

Then, we want to install audit-packages (there will be warning if you install anything else first)

cd /usr/pkgsrc/security/audit-packages
make install clean

Once the audit-packages is installed, there are messages telling you how you might want to run the update daily, and audit the packages daily as well. However, assuming you're doing this manually


Once that is done, you can begin installing the packages you want in the usual way. Note that rather than /usr/local/etc, /usr/local/bin, etc, NetBSD uses /usr/pkg.

One thing you'll run into is that certain programs, opera for instance, and anything that uses openssl will stop with an error code--the message however, makes it clear what to do. You will have to add a line to your /etc/mk.conf that will begin with


and whatever they tell you to put in, for example, opera-license, fee-based-commercial use, etc. I find the easiest way to do it, especially as the default csh doesn't have tab completion, is to simply, from whatever directory I'm in, eg /usr/pkgsrc/www/opera7 is to do

echo "ACCEPTABLE_LICENSES+=opera-license" >> /etc/mk.conf

then repeat the make install clean.

(Note that as of NetBSD-3.x, you can choose a default shell of /bin/ksh which does have tab completion.)

Some, though not all, packages have a make show-options target. If this is the case, in the package's directory, there will be an options.mk file. For example, if I use kinput2 a Japanese input method and, after doing a cd to /usr/pkgsrc/inputmethod/kinput2 I type
make show-options
I see
Any of the following general options may be selected:
At least one of the following inputmethod options must be selected:
	canna	 Use Canna as Japanese conversion program.
	sj3	 Use SJ3 for Kana-to-Kanji conversion.
	wnn4	 Use wnn for Kana-to-Kanji conversion.

These options are enabled by default: canna sj3 wnn4
These options are currently enabled: canna sj3 wnn4
I only want canna. So to install the package I will type
make PKG_OPTIONS.kinput2="-sj3 -wnn4" install clean
Sometimes you want to add an option that isn't used by default. Going back to kinput2, suppose make show-options had shown me
Any of the following general options may be selected:
At least one of the following inputmethod options must be selected:
	canna	 Use Canna as Japanese conversion program.
	sj3	 Use SJ3 for Kana-to-Kanji conversion.
	wnn4	 Use wnn for Kana-to-Kanji conversion.

These options are enabled by default: canna sj3 
These options are currently enabled: canna sj3 

However, suppose I want both canna and wnn4. In that case I would type
make PKG_OPTIONS.kinput2="wnn4 -sj3" install clean

In other words, if you want to add a non-default option, you don't need a +=, you can simply use PKG_OPTION.pkgname="non-default_option" Nor do you need to specify a default option. If you don't want a default option, then you do specify it with a minus sign in front of it. If you just want all default options, nothing more and nothing less, you can simply type make install clean without worrying about the PKG_OPTIONS.pkgname variable.

Many people prefer to add PKG_OPTIONS.pkgname variables to /etc/mk.conf so they don't have to remember each time. The syntax is pretty similar, but one doesn't use quotes. For example, if I added a line in /etc/mk.conf
PKG_OPTIONS.kinput2="wnn4 -sj3"
I will get an error message. Instead (in this example, we're assuming that wnn4 is not a default option) it would read
PKG_OPTIONS.kinput2=wnn4 -sj3

Mutt and NetBSD

This information is taken from my mutt page. Mutt works as normal, save if you want colors in the console. FreeBSD's standard console is cons25, whereas NetBSD's is vt100 or vt220. So, if you want colors in mutt, you can simply do, in any Bourne based shell
export TERM=cons25

I've also found the oddity that NetBSD's version of the rxvt X terminal won't show colors in mutt. Again, if you want them, just export the terminal to cons25 and you'll see colors.

In FreeBSD, rather than than "black" as a background color, I've always used the word "default" in my .muttrc. This doesn't work in NetBSD, it doesn't recognize it. So, if you want red on a black background in something, use the word black rather than the word default.

Although NetBSD has Sylpheed-claws, it doesn't have mutt-devel in its package lists. So, I usually just go to mutt's site and get it. I put it in /usr/pkg/bin rather than its default user local. One would just do this during the configuration. Hopefully, the reader who is going to do this knows about installing from source, but as this page is meant to be a step by step (At time of writing, mutt-devel is 1.5 something)

tar -zxvf mutt*
cd mutt-1.5*
./configure --prefix=/usr/pkg
make install


I've only been able to boot NetBSD with a Linux version's GRUB by using the rootnoverify, chainloader +1 commands. So for instance, where NetBSD is on Linux's /dev/hda3 my /boot/grub/menu.lst on that machine looks like this for the NetBSD boot.
title NetBSD 1.6.1
rootnoverify (hd0,2)
chainloader +1

If you install grub on NetBSD itself, it's a bit different than doing it on Linux or FreeBSD. Firstly, /boot is a datafile rather than a directory. I figured out the solution by looking at the grub-install script. In NetBSD one first creates a /grub partition. Then, copy over the files from /usr/pkg/share/grub/i386~ to the grub partition.

mkdir /grub
cp -r /usr/pkg/share/grub/i386~/* /grub/

After that, if one does the usual and types the grub command then does the

root (hd0,

then hits the tab key, then the standard setup (hd0) commands it will install. It'll first look for a /boot/grub directory, but then it will look for the /grub directory.

Japanese input

Although this section may be of limited interest, part of the purpose of this page is to put all this information in one place for myself. :) Those who are familiar with my page on inputting Japanese in various *nix operating systems might be familiar with my langx script. The purpose of the script is to allow me to set an xterminal to be capable of inputting Japanese. One can use the new uim anthy combination.
cd /usr/pkgsrc/inputmethod/anthy
make install clean; make clean-depends
cd ../uim
make PKG_OPTIONS.uim="-canna" install clean; make clean-depends

Add the following to your .xinitrc above the line calling your window manager.
uim-xim --engine=anthy &

If you choose to use UTF-8, I recommend /usr/pkgsrc/rxvt-unicode, called as always with urxvt. I find the euc.JP fonts somewhat nicer as of December 2005, and often use mrxvt or rxvt. One can set LC_CTYPE with a script (handy if you switch between the two of them) or set it in .xinitrc.
LC_CTYPE=en_US.UTF-8  (if you prefer euc then set this to ja_JP.eucJP)

If you use rxvt, any particular settings for rxvt that you wish to be permanent are put in /usr/pkg/lib/X11/app-defaults/Rxvt. For example I like to have a black background with white letters, so my file has

Rxvt*foreground: white
Rxvt*background: black

When rxvt is installed, there is a message telling you that double byte encoding is disabled by default and that one should edit the app-defaults/Rxvt file.

You will see several lines commented out with a ! that begin


followed by things like eucj. Remove the ! at the beginning of the line with eucj and put a ! in front of the line that that ends with noenc.

I actually prefer mrxvt to rxvt. To use mrxvt you hvae to slightly edit the Makefile. Using your favorite text editor open /usr/pkgsrc/x11/mrxvt/Makefile and in the CONFIGURE_ARGS+= section add the following.
CONFIGURE_ARGS+=	--enable-xim
CONFIGURE_ARGS+=	--enable-cjk
CONFIGURE_ARGS+=	--with-encoding=eucj

To use Japanese input one calls up uim by hitting shift+space.

To get UTF-8 working with some applications, such as thunderbird, you will may have to install a ja_JP.UTF-8 locale. (This isn't necessary to use Japanese in urxvt, however.) To do this get the en_US.UTF-8.src from
Then use mklocale to generate ja_JP.UTF-8. If you downloaded it as user joe then as root or with root privilege
cd /usr/share/locale
mklocale < /home/joe/en_US.UTF-8.src > ja_JP.UTF-8

If one decides to use kinput2 and canna
cd /usr/pkgsrc/inputmethod/canna
make install clean
cd ../kinput2
make PKG_OPTIONS.kinput2="-wnn4 -sj3" install clean
make clean-depends

Then one starts cannaserver with /usr/pkg/sbin/cannaserver and calls kinput2 with kinput2 -canna &. As most folks know, Japanese input is invoked by hitting shift+space. For more information on this, (such as starting X with kinput2 running) see my page mentioned above about inputting Japanese in *nix.

When one starts kinput2, they sometimes get an error that says it can't load the app-defaults file and that XFILESEARCHPATH might be set incorrectly. Adding the following to my .zshrc fixed the problem

XFILESEARCHPATH=/usr/pkg/lib/X11/app-defaults/Kinput2; export XFILESEARCHPATH


NetBSD comes with /bin/csh (the default for both users and root) ksh and sh. Until 2.0 none of them had tab completion or history with the arrow keys by default. For ordinary users, I just install my favorite zsh. In NetBSD's case, it will be installed in /usr/pkg/bin/zsh However, it will be missing some standard $PATHs, such as /usr/X11R6/bin. I've never investigated this, I simply add the following to my .zshrc
PATH=$PATH:/usr/X11R6/bin; export PATH

To get file completion in ksh, create a .kshrc file if it's not there already. Add the following

set -o emacs
bind "^I=complete"
bind "^I=complete-list"

Also, in your .profile add

export ENV=~/.kshrc

This will enable tab completion and history with the up arrow.

If you do this as root, however, you'll frequently find that in the middle of, for example, installing a package, you'll get a notification like bind not found. Sometimes, this doesn't cause a problem, but at other times it seems to have caused package builds to fail. Therefore, I recommend that one keeps csh for root. For csh, which I don't use that often, one can do

set filec

in their .cshrc which will enable tab completion with the Esc key. As both csh and ksh are in /bin, I usually just change root's default shell to ksh.

Note that in NetBSD-2.0 this has changed. One can now set root's shell to ksh without editing anything and have tab completion. (The csh shell, however, doesn't have tab completion.) An ordinary user's shell has tab completion, but doesn't have history navigation with the arrow keys. To fix this add

set -o emacs

to the user's .kshrc.


As of 3.0 NetBSD still installs XFree86 by default. One can choose, during installation to not install X and install xorg from /usr/pkgsrc/meta-pkgs/xorg. If you are going to use xorg, then add

to /etc/mk.conf. (If /etc/mk.conf doesn't exist, create it.)

X Configuration is fairly standard. They use a slightly older version and rather than psm0 the mouse is wsmouse0. (This is with a standard MS PS/2 optical mouse.) Protocol is wsmouse.

To get different virtual consoles, one uses ctrl+alt+F2, F3 etc, rather than just alt+F2.

As of January 2004 at least, the NetBSD version of tar uses the y, rather than the j option to decompress a bz2 file.

For printing, I use CUPS. In FreeBSD I use ghostscript-gnu, however, in NetBSD, I found it only worked if I used ghostscript-esp.

This page just scratches the surface, but it is hoped that it can save the FreeBSD user who feels like trying another O/S a bit of time.