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My first FreeBSD install - ugh... - MegaZone's Safety Valve
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zonereyrie
zonereyrie
My first FreeBSD install - ugh...
OK, I just installed FreeBSD 4.7 on a box here at work. It is going to dual-boot that and Red Hat 7.3 (which is updating at the moment) for development.

I have to say, Linux in general, and Red Hat in particular, has me spoiled. I found the FreeBSD installer to be tedious, a bit confusing, and just generally a pain in the ass. (Since I'm not up on FreeBSD distros, this is the CD set from FreeBSD Mall in case it really matters.) The little booklet that came with the CDs didn't match what happened in the installer either.

By comparison the RH installer is a breeze. And RH got the HW detection and X config right, FreeBSD didn't. I had to muck with the X configuration manually until I hit the right settings. Oddly, running xf86config from shell did a better job at creating a starting point than the installer did. Not quite right, but close enough. The installer's config was out in left field.

Yes, I'm a geek and I can do the installs from scratch, and I don't really need a nice installer, etc. But, dammit, it makes life easier, and I have shit to do. I'd rather have a tool that lets me work faster.

Oh, and the first time through the FreeBSD install, when I got to the X config step I selected the graphical config tool. And it wouldn't display on my monitor. Suck. So I had to go around again and the second time I did it text based.

Even after being configured, there is something different in FreeBSD. The Gnome desktop in FreeBSD looks a lot cruder than the one under RH7.3. Probably something FreeBSD doesn't install by default that I missed while slogging through the installer picking things.

The FreeBSD boot loader doesn't seem as nice as Lilo, and Lilo is old - GRUB kicks both of their asses.

So far the experience just makes me glad I started using Linux all those many years ago. :-) The FreeBSD install reminds me of Linux circa 1995 or so I think. I've often heard FreeBSD users lament the dominance of Linux in the market. Well, you know, there are reasons for that.

I am: working working

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Comments
kimera From: kimera Date: November 26th, 2002 03:38 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
If you really want to be spoiled, try SuSE's YAST installer. I'd go so far as to say that it's as easy, mayber easier, than a Win2000 installation. Like you said, I can go either way, but I missed YAST when I redid the machine for RedHat (sans X).
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: November 26th, 2002 03:45 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
I've heard good things about YAST. I may be installing SuSE on another partition, so I'd get to check it out.
From: kentarokurahone Date: November 27th, 2002 01:05 am (UTC) (Direct Link)

Eh?

FreeBSD 4.7 has XFree86 4. This means that "X -configure" works. :) As for Gnome,
I wouldn't really know but perhaps http://www.freebsd.org/gnome/ has the answers that you seek.

As for the bootloader, FreeBSD's bootloader is better than Lilo. In terms of functionality it's about equivalent to GRUB, the main thing being that it understands FFS filesystems. So there's no need to reinstall the bootloader after recompiling a kernel.....

Dunno personal preference I guess.
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: November 27th, 2002 07:32 am (UTC) (Direct Link)

Re: Eh?

Didn't know about 'X -configure', and Google and the man pages didn't help. But that was probably me not entering the right string.

GRUB seems to handle booting FreeBSD ok. I have the box dual booting fine now, and FreeBSD is mounting the Linux file system and Linux is mounting the FreeBSD file system. (Though the latter is currently read-only. Looks like Linux might not grok FFS for writing at this time. Not critical for me, and I gave Linux a larger partion anyway, since it will be the primary platform for the box, so I can always store things there and access them from FreeBSD.

I was posting while cranky yesterday. Once I had both of them installed, getting things working under FreeBSD wasn't really any harder than Linux for me. I was able to get the ext2fs module compiled and installed intuitively. Just poking around for the right src directory.

I *use* FreeBSD every day - sidehack.gweep.net, which is where megazone.org lives, runs FreeBSD. I've just never administrated a FreeBSD box before. I have been running Linux for a long time, and I'm an RHCE (admittedly circa 6.1), so I've never really had trouble making things work on Linux. But it is what you know, I'm sure.
reddragdiva From: reddragdiva Date: November 27th, 2002 03:53 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
I didn't find the installer notably more painful than Leegnux.

What I do vastly prefer is the process of administering the thing once it is installed. Too much attention to the installer itself. And the ports system.
reddragdiva From: reddragdiva Date: November 27th, 2002 04:08 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
That is to say, I like the administering itself, and the ports system. I am surprised how much attention is paid to installers in the Linux world, and how little to the thousand little pains of running the thing. Quite a lot of which FreeBSD alleviates with /etc/rc.conf .
blarglefiend From: blarglefiend Date: November 27th, 2002 04:39 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
Different goals: many Linux distros seek to be a Windows replacement. FreeBSD (and Net/OpenBSD, for that matter) do not.

In a sysadmin context, the target market for Redhat seems to be NT admins. The target market for FreeBSD is UNIX admins. Both are perfectly valid targets to aim for. This (to my mind) explains the pretty installer and GUI config tools on Redhat, and the relative simplicity of administration on the BSDs.

Oh, and Zoner? The reason GNOME on FreeBSD isn't as pretty as it is on Redhat is because what you get on FreeBSD is the stock GNOME setup. On Redhat what you're getting is a heavily customised setup. Even more so on 7.3 than earlier releases. Stock GNOME just plain isn't very impressive, and you'd see the same thing on, say, a Gentoo box.
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: November 27th, 2002 08:14 am (UTC) (Direct Link)

Re: Eh?

Even taking away the prettiness, functionally the RH installer did a better job of auto-detecting the HW and configuring the OS for it. It grokked the video card and the monitor without any help - FreeBSD didn't really try either. And simply selecting the graphical X installer during the process hung me up, since it switched to a graphics mode my monitor didn't support. Later I found Ctrl-Alt-Backspace would probably have dumped me back, but it was still annoying.

That makes sense about GNOME, I've only ever really seen it on Linux distros like RH and SuSE.
blarglefiend From: blarglefiend Date: November 27th, 2002 05:01 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)

Re: Eh?

The other bit I forgot to mention is that *BSD isn't really aiming at being a desktop OS at all. Most *BSD boxes run without a local display, so getting X11 running isn't really critical. The *BSD kernels are generally pretty good at autodetecting hardware -- I can remember a time when it was much easier to get sound working on FreeBSD than Linux, for example.

You can turn any of them into a fine desktop if that's your goal, but it isn't what they target so you wind up having to do some of the legwork for yourself.

(The downside of this, of course, is that it becomes much harder to "sell" *BSD into Windows shops, where the "admins" generally can't cope without GUI configuration tools. I can understand why RH and friends have done things the way they have when looked at from that perspective.)

This is why I typically use a Mac running OS X -- or Debian if I'm stuck with a PC -- for my desktop and *BSD for the headless server jobs.
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: November 27th, 2002 05:10 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
I admit that I like the GUI tools. I started out doing everything on the command line, and I still do a lot that way, but some of the tools just make life so easy. If I need to edit whats on for certain run levels, the GNOME and/or KDE tools make it easy. Nothing to edit, etc. X configuration, network, etc, the GUI just makes life easier.

I'm sure there are admins who can't manage without the GUI, and that's not good if you have to do anything remotely. But I know I have to watch myself when I don't have anything remote to need to cope with for a while, I start to forget the 'manual' way to do things if I always have the desktop in front of me.
blarglefiend From: blarglefiend Date: November 27th, 2002 07:29 pm (UTC) (Direct Link)
Yes, needs vary. Most of the machines I admin are not my desktop, and they are usually at least a few rooms away if not on the other side of the planet. Having to use a GUI to make sense out of things (and RH's configs are sufficiently different to everything else -- and last I checked, largely undocumented -- that sometimes the GUI is the only way to get something done quickly) is bad enough when you just have to remote-display across the campus WAN, and *really* sucks when you have to do it with a host in Vancouver. From Melbourne.

This almost certainly colours my views.

That said, the server management stuff Jobs demoed when Apple released the Xserve looked pretty cool, and I'd love to get my hands on a rack of those things to try it out. The new gig involves vast hordes of honking great servers, so I may even be able to con Apple into giving me one or two for "evaluation"...
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: November 27th, 2002 08:02 am (UTC) (Direct Link)

Re: Eh?

Being my first experience with actually adminning FreeBSD, I haven't seen this first hand yet. I have some friends who like to praise FreeBSD's management.

One thing I'd like to know - does FreeBSD have anything like Red Hat's 'Red Hat Network', Ximian's 'Red Carpet', or Debian's apt-get? I find these very convenient for keeping the system up to date, grabbing patches, installing new software, etc. Actually being alerted when there is a bugfix, etc, does make life easier. I read the CERT advisories, but that doesn't cover everything. And I'm not a full-time admin, basically I'm running these boxes to use for development and testing. I don't have the cycles to keep up with everything as it stands.

I know FreeBSD has pkg_add, and the ports, but it is more of a manual process of finding the package you want to install and downloading it... Hmm... I see 'pkg_add -r', that is probably useful. I've read a bit on ports - I picked up "The FreeBSD Handbook, 2nd Edition" along with the CDs - and it does seem like a nifty system.

From: kentarokurahone Date: November 27th, 2002 08:43 am (UTC) (Direct Link)

Re: Eh?

cvsup /etc/cvsupfile. That combined with portupgrade, make, sh, and cron will keep a system up to date. Security advisories are available from the freebsd web page. :D

'course having an automated system running around replacing binaries does have it's pitfalls, and drawbacks. YMMV.
zonereyrie From: zonereyrie Date: November 27th, 2002 09:07 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
Well, I wouldn't full automate it. I don't do that on Linux either. I run RHN as a monitor and let it tell me when there are patches, then I review what they are and decide to have it install or not. No way would I let something auto-update my systems like that. TiVo gets away with it, but not my machines. ;-) I don't let Windows do it either.
reddragdiva From: reddragdiva Date: November 27th, 2002 08:46 am (UTC) (Direct Link)
Er, the ports (or packages) system serves the same purpose as apt-get. I liked apt-get about equally myself.

For security, http://www.freebsd.org/security/security.html and mailing-list freebsd-security-notifications.

The full handbook is also in /usr/share/doc , by the way, or should be.
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