FreeBSD 7.1 is FailBSD 7.1

Good fucking god. Do you think the FreeBSD folks would, at some point, think “gee if we used Linux UIs, we might attract more than two users!”

For the most part it’s a fairly standard affair. It installs in VMWare, it works with VMWare tools, and nothing from previous FreeBSD releases is broken. Unlike Solaris in recent years, FreeBSD has managed not to change too much of the core functionality so FreeBSD fans won’t feel like they broke it. FreeBSD still keeps the look and feel of releases past, so anything you liked about the 6.x series is carried over. There’s where the rub is though, it’s almost all carried over.

New Linux distributions have, at very least, done a few things like fill in sensible defaults, provide wizards when needed, and provided basic X configuration. FreeBSD still has none of this. The wizards are rough and don’t prompt with defaults, X config is still done with xconfig (oops, xorgconfig). You can use Xorg -config for the configuration if you want it Linuxy but it’s still only going to guess. Accelerated support is done with the wonky Linux Compatibility Layer, playing with the fglrx build gave me wonky results. Radeon worked fine, so you have something to fall back on but everything you’re looking for in a desktop (composite, nice fonts) is missing. This may be related to the radeon driver, I’m not entirely sure.

KDE 4.1 comes as a port, you can install it but it’s missing everything that would make it into a usable desktop. Printer configuration? Not even basic KDE printing queues are available for configuration. Sound? Nope. Speed? Terrible. It takes twice as long to start compared to Linux. Samba is particularly bad – the wizard for mounting windows shares is actually there but unless you have all the requirements installed in FreeBSD before you try to use it, it just dies with a bunch of errors about not being able to find the share. This is bad, because the problem is really that Samba isn’t installed.

I can’t help but feel like it’s getting the most awesomest Christmas present ever – then finding out it doesn’t work.

Oh, did I mention there’s no openoffice?

The Spoils of Wort: Chamomile Tasting

Awhile ago I made a fermenter out of one of those wine jugs and a universal bung which required a bit of shaving down to actually fit in the neck. Otherwise it works great and the test run was to start making experimental beers with it.

In this case, it was chamomile beer.

The recipe calls for ungodly amounts of table sugar for it’s fermentables. Unfortunately this recipe directly came about from Dune Coons landing in Europe in 800AD or so. They brought with them lemons, bitter orange, and sugarcane and cultivated it locally. By around 1200AD, europe was enjoying sugar at the rate of 16.5p per pound. At todays exchange rates, that’s about 25 cents for a pound of sugar. In other words it was cheap, really cheap. And why chamomile instead of hops? It might have been gruit, but no-one is really sure what gruit was. Unfortunately while sugar was cheap, gruit was pricey and irregular. Hops were restricted to the germanic kingdoms until 1400AD or so, and still didn’t come into common use and distribution until 1600AD or so.

What’s a brewer of lower class to do in the Middle Ages?

Ingredients:
Chamomile – 8oz
Lemon – juice of half added at bottling time
White sugar – 1lbs
Water – 1 gal
Wild yeast

This is based on a recipe from Sacredd and Herbal Healing Beers. It’s a flawed book (seriously, if modern medicine really sucked that bad it wouldn’t be the defacto standard today) but an interesting read. For wild yeast he suggests leaving the bucket open and outside, but I would much rather control that part of the process. Instead I used whole grain yeast from the market billed for making “whole grain bread rise quickly!” The fermentation nearly blew the airlock off.

A week in the primary and then racked to a pot for bottling, I added 1 tablespoon table-sugar for priming. I bottled it into a growler and two champaign bottles (it’ll make it easy to dump if it sucked) and let it sit for another week. I cracked one open last night and my first impression was…

Beer soda pop?

It’s not hard cider like woodchuck, but it is cidery. The lemon definitely comes through, but not like sprite. The chamomile lends it a tea like quality without the astringency. It’s really unique stuff. Would I make a 5 gallon batch of it? Absolutely.

Unfortunately it has one really deep flaw – the gravity is a bit low. 4oz of table sugar contributes 10pts of gravity (+0.010) @ one gallon. There’s two cups of sugar in one pound of sugar, so we’ve got 16oz of sugar in our wort. This gives us an OG of 1.040, which by modern beer standard is almost grocery store swill.

However, it’s really pleasant to drink, and the taste is good, even for using a bread yeast. (The bread yeast was surprisingly neutral). The chamomile effect is largely overrated, probably because it’s so diffuse it comes out much more in the aroma and taste but not nearly at sufficient concentration to be intoxicating like tea. Rather then being drunk, you’re relaxed, but it’s not the same feel as alcohol.

All in all I would brew this again, but I think next time I’m doubling the ingredients.

Under Pressure Part Deux: Pressure Cooked REVENGE

I finally figured out what was wrong with the pressure cooker. The instructions explicitly tell you when to turn the thing on. I figured out what it’s really doing is taring the weight of the lid and the bowl, so it knows how much moisture is left in the food and when it gets up to pressure and boiling. It’s actually a really neat design, but the instructions for it are crap. If you follow them, the clock never starts because you’re directed to load it with food and then turn it on. Completely on a whim the other night, I plugged it in before even taking the lid off and was amazed when it actually did the right thing.

ME: 1
INSTRUCTIONS: 0

I’m starting to really love it, but my wife doesn’t quite see the potential in it. She’s more of a “follow the instructions” type person, I’m more of a “whatever works” type person. Thankfully there was no mention of pork shoulder in her recipe books, so I had carte blanche to fuck around. I managed to score this entire pork shoulder for $8 at the market. It’s 9lbs of hip and meat (no asshole, sorry guys). I ended up trimming it to get the lid on the thing. The wife wanted to then throw sauce in there, but getting enough BBQ sauce for 9lbs of pork roast would have been quite a bucket. Instead, I just put in the minimal level of water and slammed the lid on.

10 minutes later it was up to pressure and I was amazed it went BEEP and the timer started.

For cooking something this large I probably could have skipped the water but I didn’t want it to burn. I planned on cooking it for an hour and seeing if it was done yet. The Pork Guide had suggested 30 minutes per pound for this cut in an oven at 350F, but I’m a busy guy. That’s four and a half hours of cooking time in an oven.

After the hour was up I wasn’t quite 100% happy with how it was done, so I fired it up for another 15 minutes. It came out perfect after that. The plan was to now transfer this to a pan, put on the sauce and throw it in the broiler for 10 minutes to get a nice glaze on it. The wife, however, saw how the meat was starting to pull from the bone and had other ideas. She grabbed the crock pot, dumped the entire portion of BBQ sauce in there, and started shredding the pork. After 1h15m in the cooker it wasn’t quite forkable across all the portions, so I ended up stepping in and cleaning it myself with an actual carving knife while she shredded. We cooked it for another 10 minutes in the crock pot and now I have approximately 7lbs of shredded pork in BBQ sauce to eat.

God, that’s a lot of sammiches.