Mare Nostrum

Notes on FreeBSD on MacBook Pro

Notes on FreeBSD on MacBook Pro


I own a quite old MacBook Pro, Mid-2012 (9,2). Even though, everything went well until the Apple and the other additional package managers including MacPorts, HomeBrew and Nix cease to support the Catalina. Apple also ceased to update the MacOS on my machine. I won’t able to install a version of the MacOS on my machine. Also Xcode won’t be updated. As a result, my machine stuck on the Catalina.

I decided to install FreeBSD which is a aclone of UNIX. MacOS is also a clone of UNIX. There are lots of work to install FreeBSD on a MacBook due to hardware driver. The other option is the Windows. But you can not install Windows 11 due to lack of hardware encryption support (TPM).

In the following sections you can find my experience regarding the installing FreeBSD on a MacBook.

Installation the Base OS

Installing is a straight forward procedure. It can be downloaded required image from the download page of the FreeBSD, then write it into a USB flash drive as follow.

# dd if=/pat-to-downloaded-image of=/path-to-usb-flash-device bs=4m

You need an ethernet connection for networking. To select boot drive, it needs to be press option-key on MacBook.
Im my case, if you try to install into same drive which MacOS installed, the installer permits only UFS. So I would like to try ZFS and I selected another drive to install with the ZFS.


There is no way to use built-in wi-fi module Broadcom brcm4331 with FreeBSD. At least I could not found one. I use a USB/WiFi module to access internet. Another way is using directly ethernet connection. You can also use a wi-fi extender with an ethernet output.
If you decided to use USB/WiFi module, in my case (this a RaLink module), it needs to be added following lines into the files rc.conf and loader.conf.

# loader.conf
# USB-WiFi
# rc.conf
# WiFi
ifconfig_wlan0="WPA DHCP"

And then run following command

wpa_passphrase SSID PASSWORD >> /etc/wpa_supplicant.conf

After a reboot you will have internet access through USB/Wifi adapter.

Installation Desktop Environment

I choose the XFCE as DE due to I need a lightweight one. But it needs to be done some work with the Xorg before installing the DE.
Install the Xorg as follow.

# pkg install xorg

To install extra support for the backlights for the display and the keyboard run the following line.

# pkg install asmctl

Then add following lines into the files rc.conf and loader.conf.

# loader.conf
# MacBook fixes
# rc.conf
# MacBook fixes

After a reboot for the test Xorg support run the follwing line.

# startx

If everything went well, you can use the TrackPad with multiple gesture including drag and right-click by tapping with two fingers. For using FaceTime camera, it needs to be installed libv4l.
Now we can continue to install the DE with some extras as follow.

# pkg install xfce xfce4-goodies xfce4-power-manager xfce4-pulseaudio-plugin libv4l ungoogled-chromium

If everything went well, we can start the XFCE DE by issueing following command as regular user. By the way the user needs to be belonged the group video.

$ startxfce4

If you would like to use display manager, I recommend the LightDM. I tried tried to use SLIM as a display manager but within the XFCE4, the xfce-terminal won’t respect the bashrc and profile.
We can install the LightDM as follow.

# pkg install lightdm

Then create a file .xinitrc with the following content

# .xinitrc
. /usr/local/etc/xdg/xfce4/xinitrc

After the reboot you will be greeted by the LightDM.
LightDM-ScreenShot After logged in, the mouse is here… XFCE4-ScreenShot

Jails and Containers

In FreeBSD, it can be run the FreeBSD itsel, the other BSD distros and theLinux distros without using the VM. It looks like the Docker or Podman container but mor advanced. You can check the documentation. Also there are lots of tools to manage the jails. We choose the Bastille here. To install the Bastille please refer to the getting started documentation. I tried to to run Linux in FreeBSD. It explained in this blog entry, and it just works on my configuration.
My configuration is as follow.

# loader.conf
# bastille configuration
# rc.conf
# bastille configuration
# pf.conf
# bastille configuration

# nat on wlan0 from {} to any -> (wlan0)

set block-policy return
scrub in on $ext_if all fragment reassemble
set skip on lo

table <jails> persist
nat on $ext_if from <jails> to any -> ($ext_if:0)
rdr-anchor "rdr/*"

block in all
pass out quick keep state
antispoof for $ext_if inet
pass in inet proto tcp from any to any port ssh flags S/SA keep state

Virtual Machines - BHYVE

I try to VMs to get work the Wi-Fi module by using PCI Pass-Thru. There is a project on FreeBSD wifibox but it didn’t work on my MacBook. You can refer this discussion for more information. So I decided to use VoidLinux for this purpose. Because the AlpineLinux which is used in the wifibox project removed the b43 drivers.It didn’t fully work but the VM loads correctly the required kernel module. It needs to be worked on IRQs. You can refer the wireless linux kernel document for more information. We can extract the reqired file to work withthe BCM4331 (b43/ucode29_mimo.fw) by using b43-fw-cutter tool.
Anyway the final configs for the VMs as follow. We use the vm-bhyve manager as a tool. It can be installed required packages as follow. You can refer here and here for more information.

# pkg install vm-bhyve grub2-bhyve
# loader.conf
# VM config via bhyve
# the passthru pci device
# rc.conf
# disable to load broadcom driver and kernel modules to use as PCI Pass-Thru
devmatch_blacklist="if_bwi if_bwn"

To access internet from within the guest OS, it needs to be an ethernet connection for the FreeBSD host.

Rust on STM32 on FreeBSD

It can be build and run our project A BSP for STM32F4 Discovery Kit on the FreeBSD. For full setup you can also refer this post. You need to install additional tools to work with the probe-rs and Slint. Rust can be installed straight forward by using the tool rustup. Required tools can be installed as follow

# pkg vscode install pkgconf libftdi1

To build probe-rs with the FTDI support

cargo install probe-rs --features cli,ftdi

To add rust-analyzer support into VSCode

rustup component add rust-analyzer

To build Slint on FreeBSD, it needs to export the location of the file fonts.conf as follow. You can refer fontdb discussion for more information.

export FONTCONFIG_FILE=/usr/local/etc/fonts/fonts.conf.

Or can be defined within VSCode config file settings.json as follow

    "rust-analyzer.server.path": "~/.cargo/bin/rust-analyzer",
    "rust-analyzer.cargo.extraEnv": {
        "FONTCONFIG_FILE": "/usr/local/etc/fonts/fonts.conf"
    "terminal.integrated.env.linux": {
        "FONTCONFIG_FILE": "/usr/local/etc/fonts/fonts.conf"

To use STLink as a regular user we need extra package. It looks like udev-rules in Linux.

# pkgu install u2f-devd

Add user to the group u2f

pw groupmod u2f -m YourUserNameHere

Config u2f for STLink

# u2f.conf
notify 100 {
	match "system"		"USB";
	match "subsystem"	"DEVICE";
	match "type"		"ATTACH";
	match "vendor"		"0x0483";
	match "product"		"0x3752";
	action "chgrp u2f /dev/$cdev; chmod g+rw /dev/$cdev";

attach 100 {
	match "vendor"		"0x0483";
	match "product"		"0x3752";
	action "chgrp u2f /dev/$device-name; chmod g+rw /dev/$device-name";

The remaining procedure is the same as on Linux or WSL.


Everything works fine on the FreeBSD except for the Wifi.
I came across notable projects during this works as listed below.

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