FreeBSD installers. BSDInstall and pc-sysinstall to merge

Most readers here will agree that FreeBSD would benefit from an updated installer with more functionalities. One of many reasons e.g. is support for the Zetabyte File System (ZFS). A number of FreeBSD users even think that FreeBSD can do with a more attractive installer (me included).

I’m aware of the reasons why many FreeBSD users prefer a text-based installer, but I think a GUI installer is nicer. Please don’t start a flame war ;-) Remember, for new users, first impressions count…..

FreeBSD sysinstall

Over the last couple of  years there have been a few projects endeavouring to create a user friendly graphical installer for FreeBSD. As far as I’m aware these have now been discontinued. Two of which are:

Kris Moore, the founder of the PC-BSD Project, saw the need for an alternative installer for his project and created pc-sysinstall, a visually more pleasing installer with more advanced features than FreeBSD’s sysinstall. There’s an article in this month’s BSD Magazine (FreeBSD and ZFS) with some background and technical details of pc-sysinstall.


Last year work was undertaken by iXsystems to port PC-BSD’s graphical pc-sysinstall to a text-based installer as a replacement for the current sysinstall FreeBSD installer: txt-sysinstall, but this hasn’t been worked on for the last nine months. Will Backman has an interview with John Hixson on this: bsdtalk 199.

I was somewhat disappointed when Nathan Whitehorn (nwhitehorn@) announced his BSD Install project. Instead of working with the guys from iXsystems/PC-BSD and improving pc-sysinstall/txt-sysinstall he deciced to create BSD Install to replace FreeBSD’s current installer:

This project started because we have never, in three major releases, shipped an installer on PowerPC capable of installing a booting system without absurd amounts of handholding and use of external tools. This is especially galling when we have tools in the base (gpart, newfs, and tar) fully capable of doing this. As it turns out, by the time you’ve written a shell script to combine these things, you’re well on your way to deciding to write a new installer.

The goal of this project then, was to maximally reuse existing tools and to make the installer a chain of easily modifiable or replaceable components so that future installer-tinkerers will not run away in terror as quickly as I and many others have from sysinstall and libdisk.

PC-BSD pc-sysinstall

Choice and competion are a good thing, but sometimes cooperation towards a common goal is the better option.

Nathan recently emailed (FreeBSD Installer Roadmap) that he is now together with Josh Paetzel and  Warner Losh, both from iXsystems, and it was agreed to merge the BSD Install frontend with the pc-sysinstall backend:

After some discussion with M. Warner Losh and Josh Paetzel of iXsystems, we’ve come up with the following roadmap for an installer for 9.0. Over the next month, we intend to try to adapt bsdinstall as the front-end for the more featureful, but lacking a terminal-compatible user interface, pc-sysinstall. This implies that the user interface and installation flow for the hybrid installer will be extremely similar to what is currently available in bsdinstall, so please continue sending feedback and bug reports on it. What will be different is the backend code, which will allow use of additional features not currently present in bsdinstall, such as ZFS installation.

I’m happy that the two teams/projects are working together now to create the best installer for the upcoming FreeBSD 9.0.

It is my personal opinion, but I think FreeBSD should come with a graphical installer by default. However, when launched there should be an option to exit the GUI and continue with the text based installer for those who prefer this.

As most of you will know there’s also a BSD Installer which is used by pfSenseDragonflyBSD and previously by FreeNAS.

If you want, please take part in the “what FreeBSD Installer do you like” poll.

Virtualbox 4.0.4 for FreeBSD (CFT)

A call for testing has gone out for VirtualBox 4.0.4.  The latest version in ports is 3.2.12 (/usr/ports/emulators/virtualbox-ose) so it’s nice a number of devs working to get this port updated. 4.0.4 is the most recent stable version, released on 17 Feb.

A few of you have probably wondered what happened to our VirtualBox efforts for FreeBSD. Well it took a bit longer then expected and a few problems were found that needed to be resolved first but most of the things are looking fine now and almost all patches have been pushed upstream with 4.0.4 so here we are now.

We will continue to work on VirtualBox for FreeBSD and upstream is also very helpful to us but we could need a few more hands to better keep up with the work and especially improve and fix the Guest Additions. So if you want to help please contact us or have a look at our Todo list.

If you have a spare PC, please let the devs have your feedback.

More info and a list with current developers can be found on: VirtualBox 4.0.4 for FreeBSD

About VirtualBox: VirtualBox is a general-purpose full virtualizer for x86 hardware, targeted at server, desktop and embedded use maintained by Oracle.

“RAIDZilla”, a FreeNAS based, advanced featured NAS appliance

FreeNAS 8 is shaping up nicely (FreeNAS 8.0-BETA available) and developers at iXsystems are putting in a lot of time and work into it. Apart from working on the software side, iXsystems also offers a FreeNAS based appliance, the iX-2120.

I had a chat with Matt Olander, CTO of iXsystems, about a new FreeNAS appliance they’re working on, internally codenamed ‘RAIDZilla’. When launched, it will get a corporate name in line with some of their other products, probably something like iX-NAS XXXX.

“RAIDZilla” is a combination of specially developed hardware running FreeNAS. iXsystems is building an inexpensive, standardised and fast NAS appliance with easy to use management tools. RAIDZilla runs FreeNAS with some closed-source goodies such as like drive failure detection, notification, auto-replacement option and NFS head failover, along with array duplication so both head units can write to the same array.

By providing both the hardware platform and an optimised operating system, iXsystems is able to maximise the appliance’s reliability and speed, as well as to provide a good user experience. iXsystems plans to open-source the closed-coded features in the future.

The big thing about the new iX-NAS, especially enterprises will be interested in this, is that it’s going to be available in Europe as well. A main distributor is getting set up to finish FreeNAS builds in Belgium, and there will be opportunities for VARs (value added resellers) and integrators to sell units at retail price after a channel partner discount and earn additional income providing consultation, setup, and deployment services. If you’re interested, please contact Matt (matt at ixsystems dot com).

There’s a post on the iX blog with an interview between Corey Vixie and Doug White, Senior Test Engineer at iXsystems about RAIDZilla: Doug White on RAIDZilla.

  • What exactly is RAIDZilla?
  • What makes it different than FreeNAS?
  • What does the software platform look like?
  • What about the hardware?
  • Tell me about ‘Head Redundancy’?
  • Speaking of cool features, a little bird mentioned something about Fusion-IO cards being an option
  • So, just how fast is very fast?

I’m looking forward to the launch of this appliance and will let you know when it’s available.

Debian meets FreeBSD: Debian 6.0 debuts FreeBSD version

After two years in the making, Debian 6.0, code-named “Squeeze”, was announced earlier this week. It features the KDE Desktop and Applications, the GNOME, Xfce, and LXDE desktop environments.

Debian GNU/Linux supports a number of nice architectures which include: 32-bit PC / Intel IA-32, 64-bit PC / Intel EM64T / x86-64, Motorola/IBM PowerPC, Sun/Oracle SPARC, MIPS, Intel Itanium, IBM S/390, and ARM EABI.

Debian 6.0 is different in two ways from previous versions: 1) all non-open source firmware modules have been taken from the kernel and can be downloaded seperately, permitting completely “free” installations, i.e. it comes with a completely free-as-in-freedom Linux kernel, and 2) in addition to Debian GNU/Linux, Debian GNU/kFreeBSD is introduced as a technology preview with a version of the FreeBSD kernel in the Debian userspace.

FreeBSD, meet Debian

The Debian GNU/kFreeBSD technology previews are currently available only on x86 platforms: 32-bit PC (kfreebsd-i386) and 64-bit PC (kfreebsd-amd64). The FreeBSD releases offer “strong” support for common server software, combining “the existing features of Linux-based Debian versions with the unique features known from the BSD world,” says the project. However, the project goes on to note that “some advanced desktop features are not yet supported.”

It would be interesting to see when the GNU/kFreeBSD versions comes out with ZFS and those sort of goodies.

I’ll install and test Debian GNU/kFreeBSD over the next few weeks and let you know. In the meantime, Gary Sims, from Learning FreeNAS, as posted some screenshots.

Maybe the developers can make the name a bit simpler. Debian GNU/kFreeBSD technology preview or Debian GNU/kFreeBSD is such a mouth full. What about Debian 6.0 (FreeBSD)?

The release notes and installation manual have been posted, and installation images may be downloaded right now via bittorrent or HTTP.

Link: Debian GNU/kFreeBSD website

Ports update: KDE 4.6, OpenOffice and LibreOffice

KDE 4.6

A new update for KDE came out recently: KDE 4.6. Miwi, one of the guys porting KDE to FreeBSD, mentioned on his blog that a FreeBSD port of KDE 4.6 will come out after FreeBSD 8.2 has been released.

The FreeBSD KDE Team is happy to let you know that KDE SC 4.6.0 has been released a few Days ago, and the Release is ready for a public test. Before you ask, no, we do not want to put KDE 4.6.0 in the ports tree before FreeBSD 8.2/7.4 is released.

4.6 comes with a lot of bugfixes, is faster and more responsive. If you can’t wait for the official port, go over to the post (KDE SC 4.6 for FreeBSD) for update instructions.

LibreOffice

As most of you will be aware there was a rift between Oracle and OpenOffice developers, so a number of ex-OpenOffice developers forked OpenOffice and set up LibreOffice, with support from Google, Redhat, Ubuntu etc.

What is the exact difference between OpenOffice and LibreOffice? At the moment, LibreOffice 3.3 is based on OpenOffice 3.3 with some additions, tweaks and improvements, but it is expected that the projects will grow further apart in the future. These are two links comparing OpenOffice and LibreOffice:

LibreOffice 3.3 was released and is now available as FreeBSD port: /usr/ports/editors/libreoffice/. OpenOffice 3.3. can be installed from /usr/ports/editors/openoffice.org-3

LibreOffice is the free power-packed Open Source personal productivity suite for Windows, Macintosh and Linux, that gives you six feature-rich applications for all your document production and data processing needs: Writer, Calc, Impress, Draw, Math and Base.

Oracle doesn’t have a good track record with regards to supporting open source projects (MySQL, OpenOffice, it’s not clear what’s going to happen to VirtualBox (paid extensions?) etc). Personally I think we should support LibreOffice. What do you think?

FreeBSD News WordPress Template (free)

Recently I came across this free ‘FreeBSD-themed’ WordPress Template (WordPress is a web-based platform creating a websites or blogs):

Features:

  • 2 columns,
  • black, red and white colours
  • Pages in header
  • RSS Feed button in footer
  • free WordPress template
  • Sidebar  on right hand side

If you want to set up a FreeBSD themed blog with standard FreeBSD colours, but without having to do much/any tweaking, have a look at this theme: FreeBSD News Free WordPress Template

Available: FreeBSD 8.2-RC3 and 7.4-RC3

Ken Smith has announced the 3rd Release Candidate of FreeBSD 8.2 (production version) and FreeBSD 7.4 (legacy version). This release is slightly delayed (planned for 24 January) and there are still a few outstanding items on the todo lists (8.2, 7.4).

FreeBSD 8.2-RC3 is available for AMD64, i386, IA64, PC98, PowerPc and Sparc64, while FreeBSD 7.4-RC3 only runs on AMD64, i386, Pc98 and Sparc64. Instructions how to update to the release candidate versions can be found in the announcement.

Links:

McKusick tells of the BSD days as only he can

Marshall McKusick is a great public speaker (some youtube videos) and recently he did again a great presentation at LCA 2011:

“The drought of those who speak without depending on slides has ended at the 12th Australian national Linux conference.

“Last evening, Marshall Kirk McKusick, a well-known BSD hacker, took those assembled down a slightly different track – after all, this is a Linux conference – with his narrative history of BSD. And what a rollicking ride it was!

“McKusick was, rather unfortunately, put down for the last slot of the day, 4.45pm, when many tired and footloose souls had vended their way homewards to charge their batteries for the next day. And the venue for his talk could hold only 100 people.”

Read more: McKusick tells of the BSD days as only he can