Mailing List Freebies

I’ve tested everything and it all seems to work, so I guess I can tell you now:

If you sign up for my fiction and/or nonfiction mailing lists, you will get free ebooks.

If you sign up for the nonfiction list, you’ll get a free copy of Tarsnap Mastery. I’m sure that Colin over at Tarsnap will be less than thrilled that I’m giving away free documentation for his service, but it’s my book and he can suck it up.

If you sign up for the fiction list, you will receive not one not two but six free stories, spread out over a month. Some are commercially available only as part of collections.

These are not newsletters. I only bother to send mail when I have a new reason for you to give me money, such as a new release, a Kickstarter, a bundle, or one of my very rare sales.

Is this giveaway a transparent ploy to make you listen when I try to sell you other books? Yes. Yes, it is. I hope that the freebies will so enchant you that you must purchase everything I have ever written. Or, that my generosity will so burden your conscience that the mere sight of my name will make you mash the BUY button. Either works.

Fifty Books. Thirty Years. What Next?

I edited my SNMP MIB to include the two new books, Prohibition Orcs and Frozen Talons, and realized that the first book in that table came out in 1992.

Thirty years ago.

Plus, Frozen Talons is my 50th full book. If you count “things with my name on them,” including anthologies and chapbooks but not translations, it’s number 96. No–wait–my list is missing one thing. It’s 97. Quick, someone send me a neurotypical personal assistant to track all this crap!

Fifty books in thirty years. Two thoughts.

1) A more business-oriented author would have planned a 30/50 Marketing Extravaganza, with advertising defoliated into swanky golf courses and a special cryptocurrency limited to a single coin for each book. The coin for Ed Mastery: Manly McManface edition is measured in units of–uh, never mind. The thought makes me even more tired.

2) Daang, I write slow.

It’s not as quite as bad as that, of course. Look at the “More Books By This Author” page from Tarsnap Mastery in 2015.

Excluding the “coming soon” titles, that’s 14 books. Many of them are heavily-researched 500,000-word doorstops.

I’ve written 36 books in the eight years of full-time writing since then. Somewhat better. Numbers don’t really mean much, though. What does “36 books” mean in the real world? Well, here’s my catalog in April 2015. One copy of every version of everything, including translations.

I took the photo to make the shelf look full, but note that there’s space at the far left end, next to the Japanese translation of Absolute FreeBSD.

In 2017, the shelf became full.

I thought that was an achievement. Look, the books fill the shelf edge to edge! There is no way to stuff another book onto that shelf!

Silly me. 2020:

I had a hard choice. Upgrade the brag shelf, or stop writing.

Here’s today.

brag shelf 2022

We bought that bookshelf in 1996 for gerbil cages. I’m afraid it’s about to overflow. Fortunately, Ikea has bookshelves again. Maybe I can get something fancy, with glass doors?

Of course, neither the number of books nor the total mass of said books matter. The sales on most of these books faded into the long tail years ago. Like “words written per day,” “how many books I’ve written” is irrelevant. The only books that matter are the ones I’m writing now. But, also like “how many words have I written today,” the count of how many books I’ve written is the only way to measure the ineffable and to set goals.

So, here are some goals that might take me through my career.

1) Next year, I will break “100 Things With My Name in Them.” Anthologies and chapbooks count for this. With February’s Devotion & Corrosion collection, Run Your Own Mail Server later in the year, and (hopefully!) $ git merge murder and the Skybreach books before the end of the year, I should break this easy. With any luck, there’ll be new editions of the ZFS books near the end. Given my atrocious record-keeping, perhaps I’ve crossed this already. Who knows?

2) 100 books total before 2033. Some doorstops. Some 40,000-word novels. A whole bunch in between.

While I intend to keep writing until I’m dead, I also know that I have no idea what my health will be like in however many decades I have left. With any luck, in 2032 I’ll shoot for 150 before 2043.

What are all these books? Grab the current list in my SNMP agent, as discussed in the Networknomicon. Because some of you still treasure your minds, however, I’ll leave a copy here for posterity. I don’t think anyone but me has a complete set of originals, except for maybe EB over in Israel. If he doesn’t have all 50, he’s pretty dang close.

Anyone who has all 96–uh, 97–should probably seek professional help. And a carpenter, for a good bookcase.

SNMP table: TWP-MIB::mwlBooksTable

 titleIndex                                                              title year      genre      length
          1                                                        Gatecrasher 1992    fiction full-length
          2                                                Believe it or Else! 1993    fiction full-length
          3 SLUGS: The Satanic, Loathsome, Unholy Game System (as Greg Donner) 1994    fiction     novella
          4                                            Gatecrasher 2nd edition 1995    fiction full-length
          5                                  Women who Run with the Werewolves 1995    fiction   anthology
          6                                                       Absolute BSD 2002 nonfiction full-length
          7                                                   Absolute OpenBSD 2003 nonfiction full-length
          8                                    Cisco Routers for the Desperate 2004 nonfiction full-length
          9                                                          PGP & GPG 2006 nonfiction full-length
         10                                      Absolute FreeBSD, 2nd edition 2007 nonfiction full-length
         11                       Cisco Routers for the Desperate, 2nd edition 2009 nonfiction full-length
         12                                              Network Flow Analysis 2010 nonfiction full-length
         13                                            Horror Library volume 2 2010    fiction   anthology
         14                                                    Opening the Eye 2011    fiction       story
         15                                                Breaking the Circle 2011    fiction       story
         16                                                        SSH Mastery 2012 nonfiction full-length
         17                            Vicious Redemption: Five Dark Fantasies 2012    fiction full-length
         18                                                     DNSSEC Mastery 2013 nonfiction full-length
         19                                                       Sudo Mastery 2013 nonfiction full-length
         20                                           Absolute OpenBSD, 2nd ed 2013 nonfiction full-length
         21                                        No More Lonesome Blue Rings 2013    fiction       story
         22                                             Sticky Supersaturation 2013    fiction       story
         23                                                           Lavender 2013    fiction       story
         24                                                         Pax Canina 2013    fiction       story
         25                                               Wednesday's Seagulls 2013    fiction       story
         26                                FreeBSD Mastery: Storage Essentials 2014 nonfiction full-length
         27                                                      Immortal Clay 2014    fiction full-length
         28                                                Waking Up Yesterday 2014    fiction       story
         29                                                    Calling Control 2014    fiction       story
         30                                                 Moonlight's Apples 2014    fiction       story
         31                              Networking for Systems Administrators 2015 nonfiction full-length
         32                                                    Tarsnap Mastery 2015 nonfiction full-length
         33                                               FreeBSD Mastery: ZFS 2015 nonfiction full-length
         34                                                      Forever Falls 2015    fiction     novella
         35                               Spilled Mirovar (Prohibition Orcs 1) 2015    fiction       story
         36                                                       Whisker Line 2015    fiction       story
         37                                                     Wifi and Romex 2015    fiction       story
         38                                                        PAM Mastery 2016 nonfiction full-length
         39                                      FreeBSD Mastery: Advanced ZFS 2016 nonfiction full-length
         40                                    FreeBSD Mastery: Advanced ZedFS 2016 nonfiction full-length
         41                                    Kipuka Blues (Immortal Clay #2) 2016    fiction full-length
         42                                                    Hydrogen Sleets 2016    fiction full-length
         43                              Drowned Mirovar (Prohibition Orcs #2) 2016    fiction     novella
         44                                   Butterfly Stomp Waltz (Beaks #1) 2016    fiction full-length
         45                            Earthquake Kitten Kiss (Beaks spin-off) 2016    fiction     novella
         46                                         Butterfly Stomp (Beaks #0) 2016    fiction       story
         47                              Forced to Talk, Like, With Your Mouth 2016    fiction       story
         48                             FreeBSD Mastery: Specialty Filesystems 2016 nonfiction full-length
         49                                                  git commit murder 2017    fiction full-length
         50                                                 savaged by systemd 2017    fiction       story
         51                                           Httpd and Relayd Mastery 2017 nonfiction full-length
         52                                                         Ed Mastery 2018 nonfiction     novella
         53                                Ed Mastery, Manly McManface Edition 2018 nonfiction     novella
         54                                           SSH Mastery, 2nd edition 2018 nonfiction full-length
         55                                      Absolute FreeBSD, 3rd edition 2018 nonfiction full-length
         56                                            Bedazzled by Blockchain 2018    fiction       story
         57                                                          Face Less 2018    fiction       story
         58                                 Boundary Shock: Tuesday After Next 2018    fiction   anthology
         59                  Boundary Shock: Robots, Androids, Cyborgs, Oh My! 2018    fiction   anthology
         60                                          Sudo Mastery, 2nd edition 2019 nonfiction full-length
         61                                             FreeBSD Mastery: Jails 2019 nonfiction full-length
         62                                      Terrapin Sky Tango (Beaks #2) 2019    fiction full-length
         63                                                  Winner Breaks All 2019    fiction       story
         64                              Boundary Shock: Apocalypse Descending 2019    fiction   anthology
         65                                       Fiction River: Superstitious 2019    fiction   anthology
         66                                                  Snot-Nosed Aliens 2019    fiction   anthology
         67                                         An Interpretation of Moles 2019    fiction   anthology
         68                                                       SNMP Mastery 2020 nonfiction full-length
         69                                       Boundary Shock: Alien Dreams 2020    fiction   anthology
         70                                                 The Networknomicon 2020 nonfiction full-length
         71                                             Cash Flow for Creators 2020 nonfiction full-length
         72                               Boundary Shock: What Might Have Been 2020    fiction   anthology
         73                                                   Face The Strange 2020    fiction   anthology
         74                                                   Bloody Christmas 2020    fiction   anthology
         75                                               Drinking Heavy Water 2020    fiction full-length
         76                                                         Final Gift 2020    fiction       story
         77                                                     Woolen Torment 2020    fiction       story
         78                                    Drums with Delusions of Godhood 2020    fiction       story
         79                                     Uncollected Anthology: Deities 2020    fiction   anthology
         80                                                     Woolen Torment 2021    fiction       story
         81                                Aidan Redding Against the Universes 2021    fiction full-length
         82                                             Fiction River: Chances 2021    fiction   anthology
         83                            Fiction River: Dark and Deadly Passions 2021    fiction   anthology
         84                                                        TLS Mastery 2021 nonfiction full-length
         85                                                     Only Footnotes 2021 nonfiction     novella
         86                                                    git sync murder 2021    fiction full-length
         87                                         The Holiday Spectacular #2 2021    fiction   anthology
         88                                 Boundary Shock: Wandering Monsters 2021    fiction   anthology
         89                                                Fantastic Christmas 2021    fiction   anthology
         90                                               Mysterious Christmas 2021    fiction   anthology
         91                                                   Witness November 2021    fiction       story
         92                                           Domesticate Your Badgers 2022 nonfiction full-length
         93                                        DNSSEC Mastery, 2nd edition 2022 nonfiction full-length
         94  Letters from ed(1): The FreeBSD Journal Letters column, years 1-3 2022 nonfiction     novella
         95                                       Fiction River: Broken Dreams 2022    fiction   anthology
         96                                                   Prohibition Orcs 2022    fiction full-length
         97                                                      Frozen Talons 2022    fiction full-length

Fediverse Servers, plus mac_portacl on FreeBSD

One of my business mantras is “control your platform.” If you build your business around a site like Facebook, they can de-prioritize you and disappear you. Twitter’s implosion served as a fierce reminder of that, so I’m blogging more here.

Before Twitter’s implosion, the Fediverse (Mastodon, PixelFed, and all the other ActivityPub-powered systems) drove just as much traffic to my site as Twitter. Other social networking sites are negligible. If I want to follow my business mantra, I must run my own Fediverse server. I tested three options: Mastodon, pleroma, and GoToSocial.

Mastodon is huge, clunky, and handles like a tank made out of chicken wire, tar, and lobsters. I spoke with a few Mastodon operators, and none of them recommended it.

Pleroma? I followed the instructions. They didn’t work. I went looking into support, but I discovered that Pleroma seems to be the server of choice for TERFs, racists, and related jerks. Their recommended servers for new users are all on my personal blocklist. I don’t care to help those folks debug their instructions.

GoToSocial was a joy. Except it’s not only in development, it’s in alpha. They are very clear about this. The features that exist are beautifully done, but certain features I find critical are incomplete.

I have decided to wait to deploy a production fediverse server until GoToSocial enters beta.

For incomplete software, though, GoToSocial is surprisingly complete. It has its own web server and Let’s Encrypt implementation. If it can bind to ports 80 and 443, you don’t need a web server or ACME agent. The catch is, gotosocial(8) runs as an unprivileged user. It can’t bind to privileged ports.

Enter mac_portacl(4).

In the BSD tradition, the man page details everything you can do with this Mandatory Access Control kernel module, but in short it lets you permit particular users or group to bind to privileged network ports. I don’t care for mac_portacl in production, as the rules are hard to read when you’re debugging. If you want me to use an access control program, the output better be no harder to read than pfctl -sr. But here’s how you do it.

Enable the module in /boot/loader.conf.


You can now write port ACL rules. Each rule has four parts:

uid or group : numerical identifier : tcp or udp : port number

The gotosocial user has uid 209. I want uid 209 to be able to bind to TCP ports 80 and 443, so I need these rules.


Set the access control rules in /etc/sysctl.conf.


The first sysctl disables the traditional “reserved port” behavior and allows unprivileged programs to bind to ports below 1024.

The second sysctl installs our rules in the kernel. When you write to this sysctl you must include all rules you want active, separated by commas.

Would I use this in production? If the software has a solid security track record and is designed to be directly exposed to the Internet, sure. If you’re running a web server, some program has to listen on port 80. GoToSocial is brand new, though, and I’d like to see a bit of a track record before I completely trusted it.

When GoToSocial enters beta next year and I deploy it for real, I’ll put an nginx or httpd in front of it so I can filter when needed.

Are there other options other than Mastodon, pleroma, and GoToSocial? Sure. But I’m out of time, and really need to make some words this week.

Why Mastodon/the Fediverse kind of sucks right now

I’m a big fan of the fediverse. As of right now (8 November 2022), it deeply sucks. Why?

Because nobody expected Elon Musk to be this stupid.

We expected some daftness, sure. But actions like cutting the entire human rights team, accessibility team, and AI ethics team, plus limiting moderation, have people abandoning Twitter and searching for alternatives.

Nobody wants to live in a free-for-all wasteland. “The right to free speech” is built on “the right to take the consequences.” Without moderators, Twitter is a cesspit.

The Fediverse resembles Twitter[1], except it is run by volunteers on donated equipment. Every time Twitter did something stupid, we got a few thousand folks looking for a better way. We’ve grown steadily as a result.

Almost hourly Musk demonstrates that he doesn’t understand people, doesn’t understand how Twitter is used, and picking stupid fights. I’m told that last Friday, the biggest Mastodon server got 70,000 new users. If you add in all the hundreds of other servers, we’re looking at hundreds of thousands of new accounts. Many servers doubled or tripled in usage.

Here’s a graph of the number of users interacting with our server.

Nobody expected Musk to be this stupid.

Nobody expected this flood of new users.

If you get an account and find it’s slow? The volunteers are working as hard as they can. Scotty is shouting “She canna take any more!” over the roar of the struggling servers. New servers are being installed, but physical equipment must be shipped and mounted and plugged in.

The servers that are doing well, ironically, are the alt-right ones. The worst Nazis already fled Twitter, so they set up their own Mastodon servers. The rest of the fedi automatically blocks those monsters, but they’re actively recruiting both abusers and victims. I’ve seen more than one LGBT person innocently sign up for a disguised white supremacist instance and get a torrent of abuse.

Be patient with the volunteers. They’re doing the best they can. We’ll catch up as soon as we can.

The truth is, nobody can prepare for a stupid billionaire.

[1] No, the Fediverse isn’t exactly like twitter. Each server is a community of interest, like “BSD Unix folks” or “book lovers” or “LGBT in tech.” They can all talk to each other. We have content warnings, so that people can interact with difficult content as they wish rather than having it jammed into their face. Each server does its own moderation. (My server blocks the alt-right, TERFs, racists, ableist jerks, and cryptocurrency scammers.) Where Twitter has been increasingly negative and stressful over the last few years, local control means the Fediverse is downright sweet.

Eight years ago today, my first novel

Eight years? Who celebrates eight years? I missed every previous anniversary, and I will probably miss most of the others, so suck it up.

Anyway, eight years ago today my first novel came out. Immortal Clay is a critical success and a financial sinkhole. Seems that some parts of it were a bit much for people. Mind you, this book did establish my unbroken practice of never writing a normal sex scene, so there’s that. I took “Carpenter’s The Thing, but after we lose” to its logical extreme, so it shouldn’t have surprised anyone, but here we are.

I’m hoping to take another run at book 3, Bones Like Water, next year. Yes, it’s been delayed. Writing cheerful apocalypses requires a certain amount of stability, which we haven’t had since 2016.

Part of me says, “Eight years? What have you been doing, wasting your time? You should have had thirty novels and a television contract by now!” But then I look at my fiction brag shelf and realize it’s bigger than many authors build in their lifetime–I mean, I’m no Blaze Ward or Rex Stout, but it’s not a shabby showing.

fiction brag shelf, 2022-11-04

If the book didn’t do as well as I hoped, what will I do about it? I will continue flensing readers out of the indifferent mass of humanity, that’s what. After all, the best promo for an old book is a new book.

“Prohibition Orcs” Kickstarter signed paperbacks shipped

Today I converted this:

into this:

If you backed the Kickstarter for a signed paperback, these are them. I booked a pickup for tomorrow, but if the postman’s feeling mighty he might take them today.

Note that the piles are not the same size. I ordered 13 of each. They sent me a box with 13 “Prohibition Orcs” and 11 “Frozen Talons,” plus another box with two more “Prohibition Orcs.” It’s like they realized they’d printed the wrong number and ran off two to make it up–but two of the wrong book. Sigh.

Patronizers, what about your books?

You’re backers. You get the exclusive limited-edition Orcibus. Which I plan to order before Monday. I was waiting for the printer to ship me a correct proof before I ordered.

Also, a note on shipping:

If you do any amount of shipping personally, such as signed books: invest in a thermal shipping label printer and learn how to feed address spreadsheets into your postage vendor. I’ve been shipping books from my house for seven years now, and adding new capacities every time.

The spreadsheets shrunk days of shipping into a single day.

But the label printer? “Oh, I can just print my labels on regular paper, trim them down, and use a tape gun to put them on the package.” I bought the label printer this summer and holy crap, I just did an afternoon’s worth of shipping in an hour.

The right tools help. Who knew?

I also discovered that shipping to Canada got more expensive, so I’ve adjusted the shipping rates on the OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems limited-time direct order. It’ll also impact future sponsorships. The change isn’t horrid, I can eat the difference for what’s already been sold, but still.

Two pieces by me in this month’s FreeBSD Journal

Yes, I’m trying to use the blog more, rather than dumping everything to multiple social media outlets. Yes, this is in part in response to Comic Book Supervillain purchasing Twitter and kneecapping the moderation team. If you want me on social media, I’m on the fediverse as


The latest issue of the FreeBSD Journal has two articles by me: one on PAM tips & tricks, and the other my regular “We Get Letters” “advice” column. With any luck, the Journal’s editorial board will use these articles as grounds for reconsidering their “we’ll publish anything Lucas sends us” policy.

If you find the Letters column amusing, I’ve collected the first three years of that column in Letters to ed(1).

upgrading PHP 7.4 to PHP 8 on FreeBSD

What, a technical post? It happens. Rarely. Usually, I’m focused on the tech that goes into a book, but sometimes the real world intervenes.

Like PHP. PHP is very much the real world. My site has been running PHP 7.4 for a while, which goes end of life on 28 November. I put this off as long as possible, but it’s time to update.

I run my e-bookstore on Woocommerce, which is built on WordPress, which is built on PHP. What started as a silly experiment has become the center of my business. I need to minimize downtime, which means I must check everything before upgrading. It’s PHP, which means it’s a maze of twisty little modules that all look alike. PHP has this annoying habit of adding, removing, splitting, and changing modules. Running PHP applications on FreeBSD is all about finding the module your application needs, so I want to identify all possible problems before changing.

First, let’s see what packages need upgrading.

# pkg info -x php

31 packages. Software like Tiny Tiny RSS and WordPress depend on PHP, but if the underlying PHP software has all the necessary libraries then they should just work. Should. But PHP modules sometimes disappear, get replaced, or get renamed. I want a list of all the modules I need before running any commands. So, what would the PHP 8.0 version of these packages be named? I have to iterate through sed a couple times to trim out excess version information and wind up with this.

# pkg info -x php | sed s/74/80/g | sed s/-7.4.32//g | sed s/_1//g


Those look sensible. Now check to see if the packages exist.

I could automate this by checking the exit code of each command, but the list is short enough that I can process it by hand. I run one package search at a time, letting xargs prompt me for each one so I can eyeball the results.

# pkg info -x php | sed s/74/80/g | sed s/-7.4.32//g | sed s/_1//g | xargs -L1 -p pkg search
pkg search mod_php80?…y
mod_php80-8.0.25 PHP Scripting Language
pkg search php80?…y

This particular search will spew a couple hundred lines of output, but I’m confident the base PHP 8.0 package is in there.

php80-intl-8.0.25 The intl shared extension for php
pkg search php80-json?...y
pkg search php80-mbstring?...

Ooops! Pay attention here. There is no package for PHP 8.0’s JSON module! Make a note of that.

At the end, I have problems with three packages: php80-json, php80-openssl, and php80-xmlrpc. Freshports tells me that the JSON and OpenSSL modules were added into the default PHP 8.0 package, so I can cross those off my list.

The XML-RPC module is another tale. PHP 8.0 no longer has an XML module. Fortunately, that same bug lists a replacement pecl-xmlrpc. There’s a related php80-pecl-xmlrpc module.

I have a list of modules to install. For a last check, I’ll look for anything that depends on PHP 7.4.

# pkg info -dx php74
The list looks different, but contains the same modules. I’m as prepared as I can be.

One last check. Make a list of the packages to install. Eyeball it to make sure it looks right.

# pkg info -x php | sed s/74/80/g | sed s/-7.4.32//g | sed s/_1//g > php8.pkg

Create a boot environment, and do a dry run. If I remove all packages with PHP in their name, what will get pulled? Using -n tells me what the command would do, but doesn’t actually change anything.

# bectl create 12.3-p7-lastbeforePHP
# pkg remove -nx php74

That list looks sensible. Now remove the packages, and install everything on our list.

# pkg remove -x php74
# cat php8.pkg | xargs -L1 -p pkg install -y

The -p argument to xargs prompts me for confirmation, so I can use -y on the pkg command. The install fails on the nonexistent JSON, OpenSSL, and XMLRPC modules, but that’s expected.

At the end, I manually install php80-pecl-xmlrpc.


Test, test, test. Run a test purchase. It works.

Everything looks okay? I guess I can turn it over to the Crowdsourced Monitoring System, aka “y’all,” and go make some paying words.

Talk on Rat Operated Vehicles

On Tuesday, 8 November 2022, 7PM Detroit time, I’ll be giving a talk for about Rat Operated Vehicles. If the guys are cooperative, there might be a demo.

(Narrator: It’s a live talk. They will not be cooperative.)

Compared to my last few MUG talks, on topics like TLS and SNMP and other unholiness, this will be light and fluffy.

If you missed my Rat Operated Vehicle, I have a YouTube playlist. I should probably upload some more videos before the talk, though.

“OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems” Print/Ebook Bundle Preorder

Until 1 December, I’ll be taking preorders for print copies of OpenBSD Mastery: Filesystems. You can even buy two books if you want, because I can cram a second book into a Priority Mail envelope. Just let me know the title of the second one in an order comment.

Every purchase includes ebook versions of OMF (and any other titles you get).

I’ll be ordering your books with the sponsor copies, signing them, and shipping at the same time.

Details on the order page.

If this works out well, I’ll do it again. Disintermediation is good.

If it whirls into a bewildering mess, I won’t.