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Old 7th January 2012
argv argv is offline
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Default A brief comment about bootblocks

Imagine you want to install FreeBSD/NetBSD/OpenBSD and
1. you do not have a CDROM drive
2. you do not have an existing installation of the OS and
3. you do not have network access to one of the above (no PXE).

How would you do it?

FreeBSD and NetBSD each provide "memstick" images for their install sets. You could login to their ftp server, download the img, write it to your device and boot. Very simple.

You can even install either of them from... gasp... Windows using a small standalone program that can write images to physcial or logical devices. Amazing.

All BSD's provide such utilites; NetBSD has a good one. I believe future versions of Windows may even enable this to be done without using third party software. Things are getting easier.

What if you purchase a netbook that is loaded with Windows? What if your computer does not have a CD/DVD drive? Do you have to purchase an external one? Do you have to run a hefty virtual machine, just to make a bootable fs image? Not with NetBSD and FreeBSD. Your problems are solved because they provide imgs to download.

With the FreeBSD and NetBSD memstick images you can install BSD anywhere, assuming you know what you're doing, you can create live USB's, live CD's, whatever you want to do. You can run from RAM, on read-only USB, HDD, whatever. It's a great convenience.

But the real reason providing these images is such a great benefit is because without an existing BSD installation how do you install the appropriate BSD bootblocks?

To replicate the system, e.g., to make your own bootable "live" installation, you always need at least three things: bootblocks, a bootloader and a kernel. At least.

It would be nice if you could install OpenBSD biosboot to a device or fs image file using FreeBSD, or install FreeBSd's boot1 using NetBSD. Or maybe you could do it with some ad hoc Linux utility. Alas, all these OS's are subtly different in how they handle booting and so their code for the disk utilities differs as well. Is the code for FreeBSD's fdisk and Net/OpenBSD's installboot the same? Do they locate their bootblocks in the same place? I wish.

Once you have an existing installation of your target BSD, then this bootblock issue is no problem. You can replicate it at will.

But what if you do not have one?

OpenBSD still does not officially provide a memstick image.

My understanding is we have to get the memstick image from Sourceforge. Or run an iso in an emulator. Is this correct?

If so, why? There must be a good reason for this.

It's not a big deal. It can be worked around. But I'm just curious. Memstick images are an amazing service.

Thank you for your time.

Best wishes for 2012.

Last edited by argv; 7th January 2012 at 08:38 AM.
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