The Penguin Grows Horns: Installing FreeBSD

Penguin Pete installing FreeBSD. I’d just suggest to Penguin Pete, if he reads this, to either install PC-BSD or DesktopBSD next time and he would save himself a lot of head-banging, unless he really wants to understand and know how FreeBSD works ;-) Here is his (extracted) feedback:

FreeBSD Logo (big)It has always bothered me that this site and my experiences stay inside of Linux so much, when the whole site is about “free and open source software”. I’ve only dabbled in non-Linux FOSS with live CDs and such, but I’m ready to install a real BSD and stick with it for awhile. So, the recently-acquired box with Windows-XP will now be sharing space with a daemon. Windows on the first hard drive, BSD on a second, exactly as I did with Windows and Red Hat almost a decade ago.

First impressions: FreeBSD is hard to install. I am the veteran of some 50 to 100 operating system installs in my lifetime, and I blew FreeBSD five amazing times and had to start over. It is well-documented and everything, but I still fumbled around with it. One misfire was the result of filling the 4.1 gig hard drive to capacity by selecting “all” for install options, reasoning that it couldn’t get that big. It could. It would help if somewhere it told you how much space each installed module would take up.

My chief hassle was disk partitioning. It might be argued that it’s more difficult to come from Windows to BSD than it is to come from Linux to BSD, because when you came from Windows you’re a blank slate and can learn Unix the BSD way. Come from Linux, and you already have Linux-based ideas about Unix, and BSD is only about 75% similar to Linux. You get comfortable with BSD, thinking you can handle this, and then it throws a partition named “/dev/ad2s3b” at you.

Anyway, Linux users trying to grok BSD will have to throw away their definition of ‘partition’. In BSD, what you call a partition is actually a slice, and the slice is divided into partitions.

Wandering around and coming back, I was surprised to find that the FreeBSD text-mode screensaver had kicked in. There, before me, was the cutest colored-ASCII drawing of the daemon mascot I’d ever seen, happily bouncing around the screen. A text-mode screensaver – something you never see in Linux. It looked at me with it’s soulful puppy eyes. I melted.

How I finally did it: I threw all caution to the wind in the partition-label part and just made a 256MB swap partition and the rest is / ! Ha! After that, I picked the base “X-User” install and added some packages after that (Emacs, Window Maker, rxvt, and such). Clean install, room to spare, works like a charm. I know there are partition-zealots out there fainting at this, but this box isn’t even going online or fooling with ports – just a test-install to get ready to dual-boot it on my Slackware box, perhaps, someday.

I also chose not to install a boot manager, because we’re sharing this computer with you-know-who. When it comes to dual-booting with Microsoft, I like to just slap in a second hard drive, put the other OS there, and boot to it from a floppy, leaving Windows in the only known condition in which it cannot possibly cause trouble.

I found no obvious way to make a FreeBSD boot floppy. Instead, I used my handy-dandy all-purpose GRUB floppy. At GRUB’s prompt it was a simple matter of typing:

* root (hd1,a)
* kernel /boot/loader
* boot

…and FreeBSD lives and breathes! The daemon is back to frolicking happily on the screen while I run /usr/libexec/locate.updatedb in the background to begin exploring. All is right with the world!

Read Penguin Pete’s full post here

One thought on “The Penguin Grows Horns: Installing FreeBSD

  1. Penguin Pete says:

    But I *like* banging my head, it keeps my skull soft and pliable! (-:

    No, I picked FreeBSD mostly because it would be

    pure, hardcore BSD and not some Windows-wannabe. Also, the more problems I have, the more solutions I find, and then I can share them with my

    readers.

    Heck, FreeBSD isn’t the hardest system I’ve ever run. Plan Nine from Bell Labs – now *there’s* the distro from Mars!

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