Tag Archives: FreeBSD

Install ERPNext on FreeBSD

Frankly, the simplest way I have found to install ERPNext on FreeBSD is to use the ERPNext Virtual Image with VirtualBox and phpVirtualBoxVirtualBox is supported on FreeBSD, and phpVirtualBox is a popular web application that duplicates the native VirtualBox manager for headless servers (and saved me from learning the intricacies of the Virtual Box cli). A big shout-out to Ian More for creating phpVirtualBox, and to the phpVirtualBox community – including decke@FreeBSD.org for updating the FreeBSD phpvirtualbox port and package

Several years ago I attempted to install ERPNext on bare metal FreeBSD using the ERPNext Easy Install script, but eventually had to switch to CentOS. This time I decided to try VirtualBox. I initially considered the BSD hypervisor bhyve, but bhyve does not directly support an Open Virtualization Format (OVF) disk image (although it is reportedly possible to use qemu-img to convert the OVF image to a raw image, which is supported by VirtualBox).

The server is de-branded HP Media Centre PC, with an E6600 Core 2 CPU and 3 GB of DDR2 PC2-5300. I was concerned about performance with only 3 GB of RAM but usability has been satisfactory, albeit to date under relatively light load. htop shows an increase in RAM and swap use with VirtualBox, but RAM use is still below 1 GB and swap use is under 100 MB.  

Please comment if you found this information useful. It’s kind of a poll. Thanks.

Install VirtualBox

# pkg install virtualbox-ose

The vboxdrv kernel module needs to be loaded at boot, done by editing /boot/loader.conf

# vi /boot/loader.conf

Reboot the system to have the kernel module loaded.

The user that VirtualBox runs as must be a member of the vboxusers group. For simplicity, I’ll run VirtualBox using my own username, although best practise would be to create a dedicated user.

# pw groupmod vboxusers -m dale

Edit /etc/rc.conf to run vboxwebsrv (the Virtual Box web interface daemon) using the provided startup script installed in /usr/local/etc/rc.d/

% sudo vi /etc/rc.conf


and finally start the vboxwebsrv service.

% sudo service vboxwebsrv start
% sudo service vboxwebsrv status

This however does not actually start a virtual machine. I will be using phpVirtualBox to manage virtual machines interactively. However, a vboxheadless rc.d script is also provided to start a virtual machine automatically during boot. 

Install phpVirtualBox

Install phpVirtualBox.

# pkg install phpvirtualbox

Edit the phpVirtualBox config.php file appropriately.

# vi /usr/local/www/phpvirtualbox/config.php

var $username = 'dale';
var $password = 'dale_login_password';

Finally configure the webserver to serve phpVirtualBox. I use Apache 2.4 and added a virtual host definition to /usr/local/etc/apache24/extra/httpd-vhosts.conf to serve phpvirtualbox as a phpvirtualbox.dalescott.net.

<VirtualHost phpvirtualbox.dalescott.net>
  DocumentRoot "/usr/local/www/phpvirtualbox"
  <Directory "/usr/local/www/phpvirtualbox">
    allow from all
    Options None
    Require all granted

“Install” ERPNext

Download an ERPNext Virtual Machine image (*.ova file) to /usr/local/etc/vbox (a suitably arbitrary location).

 % wget http://build.erpnext.com/ERPNext-Production.ova

Using phpVirtualBox, create a new vm by importing the downloaded ERPNext-Production.ova Virtual Image file (File/Import). It includes port forwarding rules to forward client port 80 (used by the vm to serve ERPNext) to host port 8080. There is also a rule to forward ssh from client port 22 to host port 3022.

Start the vm and then login to ERPNext from a browser (e.g. www.dalescott.net:8080) using the default credentials. The new site wizard will run and lead you through ERPNext configuration. Use a secure password when defining the initial (admin) user, and the wizard will delete the initial Administrator user (with default password) when complete. 

Once logged into ERPNext, you will likely want to setup email processing so that users will receive notifications outside of ERPNext. This will be valuable to understanding and appreciating ERPNext’s significant social aspect. You will also want to change the password for the configured system user to something secure (or even disable password authentication entirely in favour of key-based authentication).

More about phpVirtualBox

phpVirtualBox may be a project in transition. Although researching the internet showed phpVirtualBox to be the most popular web UI for VirtualBox, it still appears to depend primarily on the project founder for development support.

The phpVirtualBox project was first hosted on Sourceforge. Although the code repository was later moved to GitHub, Sourceforge still hosts the distribution archives and documentation wiki.

The future of phpVirtualBox though is not completely certain, which is unfortunate as phpVirtualBox is the only web interface for VirtualBox. The GitHub repo is the only repo managed by the phpVirtualBox organization, which has has no public members and no written statement of direction. The FreeBSD phpvirtualbox port update from July 2017, billed as an “unofficial 5.1-1 release” was cherry picked from unaccepted community merge requests and included the comment “Sadly upstream is very silent”.

However, given the popularity of phpVirtualBox, and that it’s licensed using the GPL v3, I’m confident it will survive.

Load Testing a Home Internet Server

The “new” basement server hosting dalescott.net has been rock solid now for a couple days, so it was time for some load testing.

The server is an HP M7690Y media center with Intel Core2 2.40GHz CPU, 3G of RAM, and connected to the internet through a residential “internet-over-cable” service. I’m using the Apache pre-fork MPM with default configuration (no need to tune for reduced RAM with 3GB).


I ran LoadImpact’s free account-required 50 user / 12 minute test, and monitored server resources while the test was running.

top/htop while while running LoadImpact test

CPU utilization spiked to maximum, but never ran out of RAM, let alone getting into the cache. Increased CPU performance means that http requests aren’t getting queued, resulting in less demand on RAM compared to a single-core CPU with 512MB RAM.

Here is the test summary. The number of VUs, or virtual users, is on the left Y-axis, the VU Page Load Time is on the right Y-axis, and time is on the X-axis.

LoadImpact results


Next, I checked to see if WebPageTest liked the new server any better than the old one.

WegPageTest results


Compared to previous testing on the 1 CPU 512MB vps, the First Byte Time has gone from an F to a D. However, it’s not clear why Compress Images has gone from a B to a D, the servers should have identical WordPress, Apache and PHP configurations.

ISP Speed Test

Finally, I ran my ISP’s Speed Test.

ISP Speed Test

I ran the test from my laptop on the LAN side of a Hitron DOCSIS (“internet over cable”) interface adapter, but the results should apply equally to the server. The server is also connected to the Hitron, but configured on a pass-through to get its own external IP address via DHCP from my ISP.


Performance from the new server far exceeds that of the previous minimal vps droplet, but that is to be expected given the hardware performance. However, it seems performance on a residential ISP service is much more variable than the vps was. I ran the LoadImpact test several times from mid-morning to mid-afternoon, with worst-case VU load times in tens of seconds occurring after lunch with 40+ VUs. Obviously there will need to be changes again when the site starts drawing significant traffic.

dalescott.net is back down from the cloud!

Hosting dalescott.net on a low-cost  cloud server didn’t go so well and I had to move my site back to a bare metal server in the basement.

Step 1

It all started when I created a $5/month FreeBSD 10.1 vps using a DigitalOcean droplet (1 CPU, 512MB RAM) to host a demo for my Maestro PLM/ERP project. The site also included OpenLDAP/phpLDAPadmin and Postfix/dovecot/procmail/mutt/SquirrelMail for Swift Construction Company demo user authentication and email. The vps was rock solid, and I was very pleased with performance and cost (although getting negligible traffic).

Step 2

A year later, I tried to simplify my life by migrating my WordPress blog from a bare metal server in the basement also to the DigitalOcean vps droplet. The blog went live on the vps once I updated the IP address for my dalescott.net domain using No-IP’s DDNS service, and a day later the system was non-responsive with kernel out-of-swap errors in /var/log/messages. My immediate response was to dedicate 2G of the available 20GB SSD file space to swap (3GB total swap), but this only delayed the system becoming non-responsive to ~3 days.

I next learned how to tune the apache prefork mpm to not use more than ~300MB memory. At first, everything seemed OK and I breathed a sigh of relief, not too responsive but at least not running out of RAM and thrashing.  Then I upgraded some ports and upgraded from FreeBSD 10.1 to 10.3 (or maybe from 10.2 to 10.3, I regret not keeping better notes), but the result was that the server couldn’t maintain an ssh connection for more than 30 seconds with Apache running.

Rebooting and watching the system console, I noticed a ZFS notice I hadn’t noticed before – warning of expected unstable behaviour!

ZFS NOTICE: Prefetch is disabled by default if less than 4GB of RAM is present; to enable......
ZFS WARNING: Recommended minimal kmem_size is 512MB; expect unstable behavior....

I also noticed errors in /var/log/messages that I didn’t recall seeing before.

dale@whizzer:~ % tail /var/log/messages
Aug 25 16:05:33 whizzer dale: /usr/sbin/service: WARNING: $growfs_enable is not set properly - see rc.conf(5).
Aug 25 16:05:33 whizzer dale: /usr/sbin/service: WARNING: $ is not set properly - see rc.conf(5).
Aug 25 16:05:33 whizzer dale: /usr/sbin/service: WARNING: $rsyncd_enable is not set properly - see rc.conf(5).
Aug 25 16:05:33 whizzer dale: /usr/sbin/service: WARNING: $php_fpm_enable is not set properly - see rc.conf(5).
Aug 25 16:05:33 whizzer dale: /usr/sbin/service: WARNING: $htcacheclean_enable is not set properly - see rc.conf(5).
Aug 25 16:05:33 whizzer dale: /usr/sbin/service: WARNING: $git_daemon_enable is not set properly - see rc.conf(5).
Aug 25 16:05:33 whizzer dale: /usr/sbin/service: WARNING: $dbus_enable is not set properly - see rc.conf(5).
Aug 25 16:05:33 whizzer dale: /usr/sbin/service: WARNING: $avahi_daemon_enable is not set properly - see rc.conf(5).
Aug 25 16:05:33 whizzer dale: /usr/sbin/service: WARNING: $avahi_dnsconfd_enable is not set properly - see rc.conf(5).
dale@whizzer:~ %

DigitalOcean now has both FreeBSD “10.3” and “10.3 zfs” droplet templates, and I had recently upgraded the system to 10.3 using “pkg upgrade”. Could there be some unexpected interaction between my manually updated system and DigitalOcean’s droplet management scaffolding?

DigitalOcean tech support was supportive and tried to help, but in the end recommended starting over.

…it’s always going to result in some issues if you upgrade a Unix system’s distribution release in-place. We see it a lot in the Linux images where a release upgrade causes some random issues down the road, and upgrades tend to not work as well as anticipated. We would recommend setting up a newly built Droplet running the release you require and then to plan your migration of applications or data onto that new system.

I was disappointed with the recommendation to start over, especially as FreeBSD is well known for being able to update in-place. Not being able to update the OS might be OK for short-lived dev servers, and maybe for production servers with a team of people to do the work when upgrading is necessary, but it was not what I was expecting.


In the end, the decision to re-host back to my own server came down to performance, anticipated future maintenance effort, and cost. Page loading was never really as good as I wanted, especially after restricting Apache to available RAM (although at least it stayed somewhat responsive). I also didn’t look forward to having to repeat the server migration when I was ready to upgrade to FreeBSD 11.0.

Already having a suitable server on hand (a de-branded HP media tower with an Intel 2×2.3 GHz CPU, 3 GB RAM, two 400GB drives), I installed FreeBSD 10.3 and started the migration. I’ll keep the droplet for experimenting, but for now it’s back to the basement for dalescott.net.


Transparency with Trust

FreeBSD and Apache on a $5/month DigitalOcean Droplet VPS

I recently merged dalescott.net and swiftconstructioncompany.net onto a $5/month DigitalOcean droplet (512MB Memory, 1 Core Processor, 20GB SSD Disk, and
1TB Transfer). Afterwards, I wanted to get a measure of server performance. A quick web search came up with some candidates:

  1. Load Impact, claiming “The leading on-demand load and performance testing software-as-a-service.”
  2. Neustar, who claims “We started it all. And we continue to shape the industry.”
  3. WebPageTest, created by AOL for internal use before being open-sourced and now primarily developed and supported by Google.

There are more, but these will be enough to get started with. I had wanted to include Blitz.io, which was referenced in a blog post by Ryan Frankell on using Apache on a small DigitalOcean droplet . However, I couldn’t find any free evaluation capability, and Blitz’s demo is hard-coded to use a Blitz demo site, which eliminated Blitz from consideration.

Tuning Apache

The first step was to tune Apache. 512MB of RAM is low by server standards and also Apache’s default configuration. Some tuning is needed to keep Apache operating in the available RAM, otherwise Apache will gradually consume everything, including swap, and eventually the kernel will start thrashing.


KeepAlive On
MaxKeepAliveRequests 100
KeepAliveTimeout 5

The FreeBSD apache24 port already sets these as defaults in /usr/local/etc/apache24/extra/httpd-default.conf  (the default MaxKeepAliveRequests is even lower than the recommended 200).



Although Event is reportedly the default MPM in Apache 2.4, Prefork is still the default on FreeBSD 10.x for compatibility with non-thread-safe php/perl/python modules.

MaxRequestWorkers and MaxConnectionsPerChild must be lowered in /usr/local/etc/apache24/extra/httpd-mpm.conf, and the Include line for httpd-mpm.conf in usr/local/etc/apache24/httpd.conf must be un-commented (and Apache restarted).

# prefork MPM
# StartServers: number of server processes to start
# MinSpareServers: min number of server processes which are kept spare
# MaxSpareServers: max number of server processes which are kept spare
# MaxRequestWorkers: max number of server processes allowed to start
# MaxConnectionsPerChild: max num of connections a server process serves
# before terminating
#<IfModule mpm_prefork_module>
#    StartServers 5
#    MinSpareServers 5
#    MaxSpareServers 10
#    MaxRequestWorkers 250
#    MaxConnectionsPerChild 0

<IfModule mpm_prefork_module>
 StartServers 5
 MinSpareServers 5
 MaxSpareServers 10
# reduce max number of server processes to not exceed physical memory
# called "MaxClients" prior to v2.3.13 (MaxClients is still supported)
# - uses cache under load when 25
# - appears to not use cache under load when 12
 MaxRequestWorkers 12
# reduce max connections per child to avoid idle processes from holding onto memory
# - memory use seems stable when 200 but could be lower than optimal
# MaxConnectionsPerChild 350
 MaxConnectionsPerChild 200


Load Impact

I first used the free no-login-required test, which loads 25 Virtual Users in 5 minutes, but by creating a free login profile you are allowed 5 (QTY)-five minute tests (executions) up to 100 VUs per month. Here are the results of the Load Impact test with Apache tuned, showing load times in the low seconds for up to 15 users. This can likely be further improved, but the server is stable and adequate for the expected amount of traffic.

2016-08-12 LoadImpact test results



Neustar queued three servers for testing, but the Washington server never ran. Here are the results when I gave up waiting.



WebPageTest concentrates on measuring how fast it takes a page to load, and gives lots of information for digging into the load times for each aspect of the page. I was looking for more of a general load or stress test to see if my server will fail under load, but the information can be valuable none the less.


Server Performance

Here are the result of top while the Load Impact no-login (20 VU) test is running. Although the server can by no means be considered fast, it also is not exhausting swap and stalling. I’m pleased for now, and will be back to review when time permits.