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Chapter 18. The Cutting Edge: FreeBSD-current and FreeBSD-stable

Table of Contents
18.1. Staying Current with FreeBSD
18.2. Staying Stable with FreeBSD
18.3. Synchronizing Source Trees over the Internet
18.4. Using make world to rebuild your system

FreeBSD is under constant development between releases. For people who want to be on the cutting edge, there are several easy mechanisms for keeping your system in sync with the latest developments. Be warned: the cutting edge is not for everyone! This chapter will help you decide if you want to track the development system, or stick with one of the released versions.

18.1. Staying Current with FreeBSD

Contributed by Jordan K. Hubbard .

18.1.1. What is FreeBSD-current?

FreeBSD-current is, quite literally, nothing more than a daily snapshot of the working sources for FreeBSD. These include work in progress, experimental changes and transitional mechanisms that may or may not be present in the next official release of the software. While many of us compile almost daily from FreeBSD-current sources, there are periods of time when the sources are literally un-compilable. These problems are generally resolved as expeditiously as possible, but whether or not FreeBSD-current sources bring disaster or greatly desired functionality can literally be a matter of which part of any given 24 hour period you grabbed them in!

18.1.2. Who needs FreeBSD-current?

FreeBSD-current is made generally available for 3 primary interest groups:

  1. Members of the FreeBSD group who are actively working on some part of the source tree and for whom keeping ``current'' is an absolute requirement.

  2. Members of the FreeBSD group who are active testers, willing to spend time working through problems in order to ensure that FreeBSD-current remains as sane as possible. These are also people who wish to make topical suggestions on changes and the general direction of FreeBSD.

  3. Peripheral members of the FreeBSD (or some other) group who merely wish to keep an eye on things and use the current sources for reference purposes (e.g. for reading, not running). These people also make the occasional comment or contribute code.

18.1.3. What is FreeBSD-current not?

  1. A fast-track to getting pre-release bits because you heard there is some cool new feature in there and you want to be the first on your block to have it.

  2. A quick way of getting bug fixes.

  3. In any way ``officially supported'' by us. We do our best to help people genuinely in one of the 3 ``legitimate'' FreeBSD-current categories, but we simply do not have the time to provide tech support for it. This is not because we are mean and nasty people who do not like helping people out (we would not even be doing FreeBSD if we were), it is literally because we cannot answer 400 messages a day and actually work on FreeBSD! I am sure that, if given the choice between having us answer lots of questions or continuing to improve FreeBSD, most of you would vote for us improving it.

18.1.4. Using FreeBSD-current

  1. Join the FreeBSD-current mailing list and the FreeBSD CVS commit message mailing list . This is not just a good idea, it is essential. If you are not on the FreeBSD-current mailing list, you will not see the comments that people are making about the current state of the system and thus will probably end up stumbling over a lot of problems that others have already found and solved. Even more importantly, you will miss out on important bulletins which may be critical to your system's continued health.

    The mailing list will allow you to see the commit log entry for each change as it is made along with any pertinent information on possible side-effects.

    To join these lists, send mail to and specify:

        subscribe freebsd-current
        subscribe cvs-all
    in the body of your message. Optionally, you can also say help and Majordomo will send you full help on how to subscribe and unsubscribe to the various other mailing lists we support.
  2. Grab the sources from ftp.FreeBSD.org. You can do this in three ways:

    1. Use the CTM facility. Unless you have a good TCP/IP connection at a flat rate, this is the way to do it.

    2. Use the cvsup program with this supfile. This is the second most recommended method, since it allows you to grab the entire collection once and then only what has changed from then on. Many people run cvsup from cron and keep their sources up-to-date automatically. For a fairly easy interface to this, simply type:

          # pkg_add -f \
    3. Use ftp. The source tree for FreeBSD-current is always ``exported'' on: ftp://ftp.FreeBSD.org/pub/FreeBSD/FreeBSD-current/. We also use wu-ftpd which allows compressed/tar'd grabbing of whole trees. e.g. you see:


      You can do:

          ftp> cd usr.bin
          ftp> get lex.tar.Z
      and it will get the whole directory for you as a compressed tar file.
  3. Essentially, if you need rapid on-demand access to the source and communications bandwidth is not a consideration, use cvsup or ftp. Otherwise, use CTM.

    If you are grabbing the sources to run, and not just look at, then grab all of current, not just selected portions. The reason for this is that various parts of the source depend on updates elsewhere, and trying to compile just a subset is almost guaranteed to get you into trouble.

    Before compiling current, read the Makefile in /usr/src carefully. You should at least run a make world the first time through as part of the upgrading process. Reading the FreeBSD-current mailing list will keep you up-to-date on other bootstrapping procedures that sometimes become necessary as we move towards the next release.

  4. Be active! If you are running FreeBSD-current, we want to know what you have to say about it, especially if you have suggestions for enhancements or bug fixes. Suggestions with accompanying code are received most enthusiastically!