Poudriere Guide

🕐 17 minutes

📅 2022-01-30

The port’s system is one of FreeBSD’s greatest advantages for users who want flexibility and control over their software. It enables administrators to easily create and manage source-based installations using a system that is robust and predictable.

Whie the benefits of this feature are great, some of the most common complaints against port-based management are the time and resources it takes to compile each software program. This becomes even more of a problem when you manage many servers, each compiling its ports. While FreeBSD packages offer an alternative that speeds installation, they sacrifice control that ports allow.

To resolve this issue, administrators can use an application called Poudriere to create and manage custom packages. While technically designed to package a wide variety of architectures, Poudriere is often used as a packaging environment to package and host an entire infrastructure of FreeBSD servers.

Install the required packages

At the beginning, we will install all the required ports.

First, we have to install Poudriere.

$: pkg install poudriere

Finally, we also want to install a web server. This will serve two purposes. First, this will be the method by which our machines will be able to download the packages that we will be compiling. Second, Poudriere provides a web interface, so we can track the build process and monitor logs. In our case, we use the NGINX web server:

$: pkg install nginx

Create an SSL certificate and key

When we build packages with Poudriere, we want to be able to sign them with a private key. This ensures that all of our machines legitimize the packets created and that nobody intercepts the connection to the built computer to send malicious packets.

We’re going to make sure we have an SSL directory that has two subdirectories called keys and certs. We can do this in one command by typing:

$: mkdir -p /usr/local/etc/ssl/{keys,certs}

Our private key, which must be kept secret, is stored in the key directory. This will be used to sign the packages we are going to create. We can lock the directory so that users without root or sudo privileges cannot interact with the directory or its contents:

$: chmod 0600 /usr/local/etc/ssl/keys

Next, we create a 4096-bit key, called poudriere.key, and place it in our key’s directory by typing:

$: openssl genrsa -out /usr/local/etc/ssl/keys/poudriere.key 4096

After the key has generated, we can create a public certificate from it by typing:

$: openssl rsa -in /usr/local/etc/ssl/keys/poudriere.key -pubout -out /usr/local/etc/ssl/certs/poudriere.cert

We now have the SSL components we need to sign packets and verify the signatures. Later, we will configure our clients to use the generated certificate for package verification.

Configuring Poudriere

Now that we have our SSL certificate and key, we can start configuring Poudriere.

The main configuration file located at /usr/local/etc/poudriere.conf. We open this file:

$: nano /usr/local/etc/poudriere.conf

The Poudriere configuration file very well commented and most of the settings must be predefined. We’ll be making some specific changes, but leaving the majority of them intact.

If we use UFS as the file system, the following option must be commented out:


On the other hand, if our server uses ZFS, we can configure Poudriere to use a specific pool by setting the ZPOOL option. In this pool, we can specify the trunk that Poudriere should use for packets, protocols, etc. with the ZROOTFS option. Note that these two options should not be set when the NO_ZFS option set to “yes”:

# NO_ZFS=yes

When building software, Poudriere uses some type of jail to separate the build system from the main operating system. Next, we need to fill in a valid host where the build machine can download the software it needs to do the jails. This is configured via the FREEBSD_HOST option.

This option should already exist, even though it is not currently set to a valid host. We can change this to the default path. ftp://ftp.freebsd.org or use a narrower mirror if we know one:


Next, we want to be sure that our data directory set correctly within the Poudriere root. This is controlled with the POUDRIERE_DATA option and should be set by default. However, we’ll comment out the option to be certain:


The next options that we should comment out are the CHECK_CHANGED_OPTIONS and CHECK_CHANGED_DEPS options. The first option tells Poudriere to rebuild packages if the options for them have changed. The second option tells Poudriere to rebuild packages if dependencies have changed since the last compilation.

Both options exist in the form we want in the configuration file. We just have to comment them out:


Next, we’re going to point Poudriere at the SSL key we created so that packages can be signed during the build. The option used to specify is called PKG_REPO_SIGNING_KEY. We will uncheck this option and change the path to reflect the location of the SSL key we created earlier:


Finally, we can set the URL_BASE string to the domain name or IP address where our server can be reached. This is used by Poudriere to create links in the output that can be clicked. We should include the log and end the value with a slash:


When we’re done making changes, we’ll save and close the file.

Create the build environment

Next, we need to design our build environment. As mentioned earlier, Poudriere will build ports in an isolated environment with jails.

For our purposes, our jails build command looks like this:

$: poudriere jail -c -j 13-0x64 -v 13.0-RELEASE

This will take a while, so be patient. When done, we can see the one installed by typing:

$: poudriere jail -l



13-0x64 13.0-RELEASE-p2 amd64 ftp    2021-01-06 20:43:48 /usr/local/poudriere/jails/13-0x64

Once we’ve created a jail, we need to install a ports structure.

We can use the -p flag to name our ports tree. We will name our tree HEAD because it summarizes exactly using this tree (the “head” or the most current point of the tree). Likewise, we will update it regularly so that it corresponds to the most current version of the available ports structure:

$: poudriere ports -c -m git+https -B main -p HEAD

This procedure will also take a while because the entire ports structure has to be fetched and extracted. When this is done, we can view our port’s tree by typing:

$: poudriere ports -l

Now that this step is complete, we have the structures to compile our ports and build packages. Next, we can start by putting together our list of ports to create and configure the options we need for each software.

Create a port building list and set port options

We are going to make a list of ports that we can pass directly to Poudriere.

The file should list the port category followed by a slash and the port name to reflect its position in the ports tree:


All necessary dependencies also created automatically. So, we don’t need to track down the entire dependency structure of the ports that we want to install. We can create this file manually, but if our base system already has most of the software installed, we can create the file automatically.

Before we do this, it is usually a good idea to remove any unnecessary dependencies from our system to keep the port list as clean as possible. We can do this by typing:

$: pkg autoremove

Thereafter, we can get a list of the software that we have explicitly installed on our build system:

$: pkg query -e "%a==0" "%o" | sort -d | tee /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/port-list

If there are ports that we don’t want to add, we’ll remove the associated line. This is also an opportunity to add additional ports that we may need.

If we use certain make.conf options to create our ports, we can create a make.conf file for each jail within our /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d directory. For example, we can create a make.conf file for our jail with this name:

$: nano /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/13-0x64-make.conf

I prefer to create a global make.conf that is valid for all jails.

$: nano /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/make.conf

Inside, we can specify all the options we want to use when creating our ports. For example, if we prefer not to build documentation, samples, native language support, or X11 support, we can specify:


We can also specify Default_Versions. In my case, it looks like this:

DEFAULT_VERSIONS+= mysql=8.0 php=8.0

In this case, all packages and/or their dependencies built with the specified version.

Subsequently, we can configure any of our ports that will create files with the options selected.

We can configure anything that has not yet been configured with the options command. We should pass both the port tree we created (with the -p option) and the jail for which we set these options (with the -j option). Not only that, but we also need to provide the list of ports we want to configure with the -f option.

$: poudriere options -j 13-0x64 -p HEAD -f /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/port-list

We see a dialog for each of the ports in the list and all dependencies for which no corresponding options set in the -options directory. The information in our make.conf file preselected in the selection screens. We’ll select all the options we want to use.

If we want to reconfigure the options for our ports in the future, we can run the above command again with the -c option. This will show us all the available configuration options, regardless of whether we have made a selection in the past:

$: poudriere options -c -j 13-0x64 -p HEAD -f /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/port-list

Build the ports

Now we’re finally ready to start building ports.

We enter the following to update the jail:

$: poudriere jail -u -j 13-0x64

Then we enter the following to update the ports structure:

$: poudriere ports -u -p HEAD

Once that is done, we can start the build process.

Note: this can be a very long process. If we are connected to the server via SSH, we recommend installing the screen package and starting a session:

$: pkg install screen
$: rehash
$: screen

To start the build, we just need to use the bulk command and point to all of our individual parts that we have configured. If we’ve used the values in this guide, the command looks like this:

$: poudriere bulk -j 13-0x64 -p HEAD -f /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/port-list

This starts with many workers (depending on our poudriere.conf file or the number of CPUs available) and starts building the ports.

At any time during the creation process, we can get information about the progress by holding down the CTRL key and pressing t.

Certain parts of the process produce more output than others.

Setting up NGINX for providing the front end and the repository

For this step, the NGINX must be set up with virtual hosts.

The following host name entered /etc/hosts: bsd. «Domain»

For Poudriere to run under NGINX, the following file created under /usr/local/etc/nginx/vhosts/ under the name poudriere.conf with this content:

server {
  listen 80 default;
  server_name bsd.><domain>>;
  root /usr/local/share/poudriere/html;

  location /data {
    alias /usr/local/poudriere/data/logs/bulk;
    autoindex on;

  location /packages {
    root /usr/local/poudriere/data;
    autoindex on;

Then restart the NGINX:

$: service nginx restart

Next, we’re going to make a small change to our mime.types file. If we click on a log in the web browser with the current settings, the file downloaded and not displayed as normal text. We can change this behavior by marking files with the extension .log. as plain text files.

We open the file mime.types in our text editor:

$: nano /usr/local/etc/nginx/mime.types

We find the entry indicating the text / plain content type, and append the log to the end of the current list of file types separated by a space:

text/mathml                         mml;
text/plain                          txt log;
text/vnd.sun.j2me.app-descriptor    jad;

Now, we can display the Poudriere web interface by going to the domain name or the IP address of our server in our web browser, bsd.«domain».

Configure package clients

Now that we have created packages and configured a repository to host our packages, we can configure our clients to use our server as a package source.

Configure the build server to use the own package repo

We can start by configuring the build server to use the packages it built.

First, we need to create a directory for our repository configuration files:

$: mkdir -p /usr/local/etc/pkg/repos

In this directory, we can create our repository configuration file. It must end in .conf, so we’ll call it poudriere.conf to make its purpose cleaner:

$: nano /usr/local/etc/pkg/repos/poudriere.conf =>

poudriere: {
  url: "file:///usr/local/poudriere/data/packages/13-0x64-HEAD",
  mirror_type: "srv",
  signature_type: "pubkey",
  pubkey: "/usr/local/etc/ssl/certs/poudriere.cert",
  enabled: yes,
  priority: 100

If we only select packages that we have created ourselves (the more secure option), we can omit the priority setting, but we should disable the default repositories. We can do this by creating another repo file that will overwrite the default repository file and disable it:

$: nano /usr/local/etc/pkg/repos/freebsd.conf =>

FreeBSD: {
  enabled: no

Regardless of our configuration choices, we should now be ready to use our repository. We’ll update our package list by entering:

$: pkg update

Now, our server can use the pkg command to install packages from our local repository.

Configure remote clients to use your build machine’s repository

One of the most compelling reasons to set up Poudriere on a build machine is to use that host as a repository for many other machines. All we have to do to get this working is downloading the public SSL certificate from our build machine and setting up a similar repository definition.

To connect to our build host from our client computers, we should start an SSH agent on our local computer to store our SSH key credentials.

We need to add our SSH key by typing:

$: ssh-add

Then, we first have to create the directory structure (if it doesn’t exist) so that we can save the certificate. We’ll go ahead and create a directory for keys so we can use it for future tasks:

$: mkdir -p /usr/local/etc/ssl/{keys,certs}

Now we can connect to our build machine with SSH and send the certificate file back to our client machine. Since we’ve forwarded our SSH credentials, we should be able to do this without asking for a password:

$: ssh user@server_domain_or_IP 'cat /usr/local/etc/ssl/certs/poudriere.cert' | tee /usr/local/etc/ssl/certs/poudriere.cert

This command connects to the build machine from our client computer using our local SSH credentials. As soon as the connection established, it shows the content of your certificate file and directs us through the SSH tunnel back to our remote client computer. From there, we use the tee combination to write the certificate into our directory.

Once this is done, we can create our repository directory structure, like on the build machine itself:

$: mkdir -p /usr/local/etc/pkg/repos

Now, we can create a repository file similar to the one used on the build machine:

$: nano /usr/local/etc/pkg/repos/poudriere.conf =>

poudriere: {
  url: "https://server_domain_or_IP/packages/13-0x64-HEAD/",
  mirror_type: "https",
  signature_type: "pubkey",
  pubkey: "/usr/local/etc/ssl/certs/poudriere.cert",
  enabled: yes,
  priority: 100

If we just want to use our compiled packages, the file should look something like this:

poudriere: {
  url: "https://server_domain_or_IP/packages/13-0x64-HEAD/",
  mirror_type: "https",
  signature_type: "pubkey",
  pubkey: "/usr/local/etc/ssl/certs/poudriere.cert",
  enabled: yes

If we only want to use our packages, we must remember to create a different repository configuration file to override the default FreeBSD repository configuration:

$: nano /usr/local/etc/pkg/repos/freebsd.conf =>

FreeBSD: {
  enabled: no

After we’re done, let’s update our pkg database to start using our custom compiled packages:

$: pkg update

Cron job

So that Poudriere automatically updates the jails and builds the packages, we will set up a cron job.

We create the following file under /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/scripts:

$: mkdir /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/scripts

$: nano /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/scripts/poudriere-cron.sh =>


SCRIPTNAME=`basename "$0"`

# check for running script
STATUS=`ps ax | grep "$SCRIPTNAME" | grep -v grep | wc -l`

# compare to 2 because the ` create a sub process
if [ "$STATUS" -gt 2 ]; then
  echo "already running ... exit"
  exit 0

# The build

poudriere_build() {
    for JAIL in $JAILS; do
      for REPO in $REPOS; do
        echo "Started $JAIL / $REPO / $SET ("`/bin/date | /usr/bin/tr -d '\n'`")"
        "$POUDRIERE" bulk -j "$JAIL" -z "$SET" -p "$REPO"  -f "$PORTLIST" > /dev/null
        echo "    Cleaning $REPO ("`/bin/date | /usr/bin/tr -d '\n'`")"
        "$POUDRIERE" pkgclean -j "$JAIL" -z "$SET" -p "$REPO" -f "$PORTLIST" -y > /dev/null
        echo "    Finished $REPO ("`/bin/date | /usr/bin/tr -d '\n'`")"

repos_update() {
  echo "[$SCRIPTNAME] Updating ports tree..."

  for REPO in $REPOS; do
    echo "[$SCRIPTNAME] Updating ports tree... $REPO"
    "$POUDRIERE" ports -p "$REPO" -u > /dev/null

    if [ $? -ne 0 ]; then
      echo "    Error updating ports tree."
      exit 1

  echo "    Ports tree has been updated."

echo "This is a log of poudriere. Details: $URL"
echo ""


echo "[$SCRIPTNAME] Cleaning distfiles..."
"$POUDRIERE" distclean -p "$REPOS" -f "$PORTLIST" -y > /dev/null

echo "[$SCRIPTNAME] Finished. ("`/bin/date | /usr/bin/tr -d '\n'`")"
exit 0

Then make it executable:

$: chmod +x /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/scripts/poudriere-cron.sh

Then we should run the script once to test whether everything works correctly.

If everything fits, we can include it in the /etc/crontab as follows:

§: nano /etc/crontab =>

10      0       *       *       *       root    /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/scripts/poudriere-cron.sh

The build process will then run every night. If we have packages such as Chromium where the build takes longer than 24 hours, it can be adjusted here.

Command list

Poudriere make.conf

$: nano /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/make.conf

Poudriere conf

$: nano /usr/local/etc/poudriere.conf


$: nano  /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/port-list

Create a new jail

$: poudriere jail -c -j 13-0x64 -v 12.0-RELEASE

Update a jail

$: poudriere jail -u -j 13-0x64

Update ports

$: poudriere ports -u -p HEAD

Remove unused packages

$: poudriere pkgclean -j 13-0x64 -p HEAD -f /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/port-list

Set options for the port list

$: poudriere options -c -j 13-0x64 -p HEAD -f /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/port-list

Set options for a package

$: poudriere options -c -j 13-0x64 -p HEAD  databases/mariadb103-client

Build packages without a cronjob

$: poudriere bulk -j 13-0x64 -p HEAD -f /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/port-list

When upgrading the system, copy the options to the new version

$: cp -R /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/12-2x64-HEAD-options/**.* /usr/local/etc/poudriere.d/13-0x64-HEAD-options/