Sunday, April 5, 2015

FreeBSD Weekly and Monthly Maintenance Reports

This post will cover both the weekly and the monthly periodic reports because these are both short and they are primarily automated system maintenance activities.

Weekly Run Output

Rebuilding locate database:

Rebuilding whatis database:

You may notice there are only two entries in the weekly run and they are both blank. As with the other periodic report sections that are usually blank, if you see something in the output section, you need to figure out what broke and try to fix it.

The locate command is used to find publicly accessible files by their name. This could be used by a system administrator to figure out where a specific executable is stored. Different UNIX and UNIX-like operating systems may put the same command in different places. In the case of FreeBSD you may even find the same command in multiple location depending on how it was installed.

The whatis command provides a short summary of the function or purpose of an executable on the system. It does this by extracting the short description from the man pages. You won't get any output from whatis without an appropriate man page.

Monthly Run Output

Doing login accounting:
total                               92.11
a_user                              89.75
root                                 2.36

The monthly periodic output is a report of the number of hours spent on the system per-user. Back in the days of shared systems with connection billing, this was one way that the bills were calculated. It may still be used today but probably very rarely.

It does, however, make a nice simple monthly check to see if someone may be using your system without your permission. If you see user accounts that shouldn't be active or unusually large numbers associated with a specific user it could be time to do a little investigating.


There is quite a bit of legacy reporting and maintenance activities going on in the periodic jobs that FreeBSD includes as part of the base installation. Much of this is probably not used very often and could be disabled. This decision should be left up to the system administrators and/or the corporate security and build policy if such exists in the organization.

It is worthwhile for system administrators to understand the periodic subsystem. Up to this point we have looked at the defaults. There are configuration options that can be made to disable some of these defaults and to enable additional actions that are not enabled in the base installation.

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