The Term &Ldquo;Systems” Language Is a Bit Useless.

Written by: Robert R. Russell on Monday, February 5, 2024.

This post was prompted by a discussion about including Rust in the FreeBSD base system.

I don’t think the term systems language is as usefull now as it was several years ago.


What is a system?

That question has several answers. Possible answers include:

System’s have different requirements.

Not all of these programs interact with each other or the operating system in the same way or necessarily have the same requirements. For example changing a users password on UNIX systems can generally be done without direct system calls, but forcing the kernel to reload its active partition tables generally does. So the requirements for the programming languages we might use to implement those two tasks can vary.

In those two examples Perl is an adequate tool for user management and has been used so historically. I don’t know of any disk partitioning software written in Perl.

Kernels and System Libraries

In my and probably a lot of other people’s minds this is what the term systems programming language has meant. It is a programming language you use to write the most basic parts of an operating system in.

Kernels require:

System libraries require:

Management utilities and such.


I suggest using the requirements needed from the programming language instead of more general terms like “scripting” language or “systems” language.

©2024 Robert R. Russell — All rights reserved


Written by: Robert R. Russell on Friday, January 12, 2024.

Just some random thoughts

This post is going to be a bit of a stream of conciousness post.

I have switched my lab to FreeBSD and 1 Windows box from previously running mostly Linux boxes and one Windows box.

Why? Debian is way to out of date and Fedora-GNOME isn’t going in a direction I agree with.


FreeBSD supports ZFS and GPT now. This has vastly simplified the learning curve compared to last time I tried one of the BSDs several years ago.

I am using XFCE4 as my X11 environment now. While Plasma hasn’t coppied all of GNOME’s worst traits right now. They have switched to a more flat UI designed that I don’t appreciate. I am not getting older so I find the higher contrast of an older more classical Windows style of UI to be more useable.

One thing I don’t like about using FreeBSD right now is the number of bugs caused by differences between the FreeBSD Virtual Terminal system and Linux’s Virtual Terminal system. Vim and Neovim both tend to have redraw problems which makes files hard to edit. Wierdly Emacs has much fewer problems.

The other reason I am moving to Emacs is VSCode’s extension ecosystem doesn’t work well with FreeBSD. VSCode not working is a problem for me.

Programming Languages:

I am working on a few programming projects to migrate some functionaly I am missing on FreeBSD. I am writing some of the code in Rust and some in C. It has definitely been a learning exercise. The biggest difference right now between the two so far is where most of my thought process has been used.

C might be okay, but I much prefer Rust. The approachability of the two standard libraries is a huge chunk of the difference. Non ASCII string handling is a lot simpler in Rust than C.

©2024 Robert R. Russell — All rights reserved

Groff vs LaTex

Written by: Robert R. Russell on Thursday, April 13, 2023.

I have been needing to digitize some old print documents. Between trying both groff and LaTex to do that I do have a few thoughts on using both of them. If you have simple documents and you want a useable HTML output then use groff with the MS macro set. Don’t use the MOM macro set. It doesn’t produce reliable HTML output.

LaTex is better if you have a larger document or need more complex references. LaTex doesn’t make things easier for outputing html though.

©2023 Robert R. Russell — All rights reserved

Site Migration Mostly Completed

Written by: Robert R. Russell on Thursday, January 26, 2023.

Excluding a couple of images that I need to migrate over the conversion of my old posts from WordPress to Hugo is completed.

©2023 Robert R. Russell — All rights reserved

Thoughts on Hugo After a Week or Two

Written by: Robert R. Russell on Wednesday, January 25, 2023.

It works.

Because themes are dependent on the sections each site uses for the homepage I ended up having to work on my own theme.

There isn’t any automated migration tools for wordpress content. So content migration takes a while.

©2023 Robert R. Russell — All rights reserved

OpenWRT on X86_64 Again

Written by: Robert R. Russell on Tuesday, January 24, 2023.


Short answer security updates in OpenWRT 22.03.3 and performance problems related to this bug.

After some indepth research I have two options, either use a git version of OpenWRT until a new version comes out using a 5.15 or newer version of the Linux Kernel, or I can convert the wrt1900ac over to a “dumb” AP and using something else as the router.

I have decided to use OpenWRT on an older X86_64 machine as the primary router. I am using OpenWRT both because it works and my assistant network manager is only familiar with the OpenWRT interface.

©2023 Robert R. Russell — All rights reserved

Voip PBX Options

Written by: Robert R. Russell on Sunday, January 22, 2023.

They are all some version of a pain in the backside.

©2023 Robert R. Russell — All rights reserved

Softphones Suck

Written by: Robert R. Russell on Friday, January 20, 2023.

Over the last few years I have been using various VoIP systems for work. So far I have come to one conclusion about softphones. They all suck.

Everybody wants you to use their proprietary softphone. This causes two problems. No support for standards and inconsistent features. The first is the bigger issue in my opinion. It guarantees that you have to uses their proprietary softphone app. Without the freedom of choosing your softphone application you are stuck with the features your telphony provider provides.

©2023 Robert R. Russell — All rights reserved

Working on a Website Conversion to Hugo

Written by: Robert R. Russell on Thursday, January 19, 2023.


There are two reasons I am migrating over to Hugo from Wordpress. The first has to with the decline in support for the Classic or pre Gutenberg editor. The second has to do with the lack of utility in comments versus the maintenance cost of Wordpress.

Since releasing Gutenberg Wordpress has slowly been migrating all of their theming over to a collection of CSS files and a loop of php code that simply prints the blocks HTML. All of the functionality is migrating over to JS provided by the implementer of the block. This sounds like a good idea because you don’t need custom themes for adding special stuff to the top of a page or post. It does come with a problem though. If you like to write longer form material Gutenberg is not easy to use. However, if you wanted to use a lot multimedia inside your content Gutenberg is much easier than the Classic editor.

What about comments? Simple, a day or two before writing this I cleaned out the comment spam folder. It had about 350 spam comments inside it. I have gotten more positive interactions about a post on Twitter than I have ever gotten on my actual website itself. There are a handful of websites/blogs that I read with active comment sections. Active meaning less spam than actual comments. That does not mean a high signal to noise ratio however. One of the sites in particular could employee several moderators just dealing with civility and personal attacks in the comments.

Against the headache of filtering spam and uncivil discourse the use of more JS in the Wordpress ecosystem has lead to several more security problems. See ( for more information about those.

Given the two previous issues I am working on migrating the website over to Hugo. It will take a few weekends for the migration to be completed. I also need to figure out some best practices for handling a few large files I have on this site without polluting the git history.

It looks like I am going to need to use a CDN for some files.

©2023 Robert R. Russell — All rights reserved

Sometimes Storage Sucks

Written by: Robert R. Russell on Saturday, July 30, 2022.

The last few days have been frustrating. The good news is ZFS’s data protections actually works.

A bit of backstory. I have a storage server for my home network. That storage server previously had 6 hard drives in it. I used ZFS with in stripe over mirrors configuration. With only 4 drives this is commonly referred to as RAID10. One of the drives decided to start returning uncorrected read errors earlier in the week.

After some emergency drive purchases on Amazon. I started a full rebuild and migration of the storage array. Since, OpenZFS and Fedora are a bit less cooperative than Debian and OpenZFS, I decided to migrate the storage over to Btrfs. An ongoing performance degradation of this storage array is also responsible for the change. Btrfs has a data rebalance option which helps maintain the arrays performance after a longer term of use.

The migration has mostly gone okay. I am still cleaning up a few loose ends from some other maintenance on the storage server that was in progress before the storage array became degraded.

I have managed to crash a Btrfs file system. No comments about Btrfs not being production ready. ZFS wouldn’t have survived that mistake any better.

©2022 Robert R. Russell — All rights reserved