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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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Old 7th January 2012
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Few OpenBSD developers -- Project members -- visit this forum. Since your question is aimed at them, you have a better shot at reaching them via official channels. Approximately half of the developers follow misc@, which is where such questions should be posted.

However, I think I know what some of the answers you would receive are likely to be, were you to reach out to the Project. The most polite comments you might receive may be:

  • "You are thinking of the most popular architectures only. We have 17 architectures to support in production, and another 8 architectures in development. We are only able to provide a limited set of install media choices with our limited resources, and as well we provide a limited set of tools for Windows users to aid their transition, as long as they have access to install media or a virtual machine. The latter are freely available."
  • "Good idea. Do the work, submit it, and we'll look at it and see if your application might be added to the /pub/OpenBSD/<release>/tools directory."
You are likely to get less polite comments, also.

Keep in mind, the OpenBSD Project goals do not include pleasing us. The members don't see the user community as a market with unmet needs. Instead they write what they need for their own use, and we lucky users go along for the ride.

Patches and new modules the community at large produce are reviewed and graciously included in the base if acceptable. (If not accepted, usually advice is given as to what can be done to improve the code or to make it acceptable, if possible.) Feature requests are ignored, unless they include hardware, funding, or both to meet the needs of the effort.

This is all my opinion about the culture of the Project, of course. But it comes from watching the rough-and-tumble of discussions on the mailing lists ... and making my own share of mistakes there.
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Old 7th January 2012
argv argv is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jggimi View Post
Few OpenBSD developers -- Project members -- visit this forum. Since your question is aimed at them, you have a better shot at reaching them via official channels. Approximately half of the developers follow misc@, which is where such questions should be posted.

However, I think I know what some of the answers you would receive are likely to be, were you to reach out to the Project. The most polite comments you might receive may be:

  • "You are thinking of the most popular architectures only. We have 17 architectures to support in production, and another 8 architectures in development. We are only able to provide a limited set of install media choices with our limited resources, and as well we provide a limited set of tools for Windows users to aid their transition, as long as they have access to install media or a virtual machine. The latter are freely available."
  • "Good idea. Do the work, submit it, and we'll look at it and see if your application might be added to the /pub/OpenBSD/<release>/tools directory."
You are likely to get less polite comments, also.

Keep in mind, the OpenBSD Project do not include pleasing us. The members don't see the user community as a market with unmet needs. Instead they write what they need for their own use, and we lucky users go along for the ride.

Patches and new modules the community at large produce are reviewed and graciously included in the base if acceptable. (If not accepted, usually advice is given as to what can be done to improve the code or to make it acceptable, if possible.) Feature requests are ignored, unless they include hardware, funding, or both to meet the needs of the effort.

This is all my opinion about the culture of the Project, of course. But it comes from watching the rough-and-tumble of discussions on the mailing lists ... and making my own share of mistakes there.
Thanks for your candid reply.

All I can say is the cat is out of the bag: someone is already offering memstick images via Sourceforge. So users who are not OpenBSD developers are going to get the images, one way or another.

Another thing I did mot mention- curiously, OpenBSD does not include makefs. That is a very useful utility in making bootable images. It's been accepted by all the other BSD's. The decision not to include it is an interesting one.

There's really no "development" needed to offer memstick images. It's simply a matter of including them in the routine builds. NetBSD has more arch's to support and they have memstick images. Hence those canned mailing list replies are nonresponsive.

OpenBSD developers are users too. They have little control over the often seemingly irrational decisions of hardware manufacturers. In time, I'm certain OpenBSD will offer memstick images because I'm sure some of them will eventually find themselves using computers without CD drives, and having to jump through too many hoops just to install OpenBSD.

Meanwhile there is probably a way to write OpenBSD bootblocks using another BSD.
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Old 7th January 2012
shep shep is offline
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Quote:
All I can say is the cat is out of the bag: someone is already offering memstick images via Sourceforge. So users who are not OpenBSD developers are going to get the images, one way or another.
The Sourceforge usb install images are dated. Release 4.7 is no longer supported. A internet search should also provide you with multiple hits about making your own usb installer.
Here is one
OpenBSD usb key installer

Last edited by shep; 8th January 2012 at 01:40 AM.
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Old 7th January 2012
argv argv is offline
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shep:

1. If you download 4.7 image you can use it to make install media for 5.0.

2. The instructions on the website you mention assume you have a working installation of OpenBSD. Note the use of installboot and the bootblocks in /usr/mdec.

What if you have no working installation of OpenBSD to begin with?

In any event, I've found a workaround endorsed by an OpenBSD developer: the vax floppy50.fs loaded via simh.

qemu has too many dependencies for my tastes. It requires Xorg just to compile. And I'm only interested in console use with the -nographics option anyway.

Bochs is another possibility I have not explored.

Still, having to install an emulator just to make install media is jumping through too many hoops, imo.

Unless there is an easy way to install OpenBSD bootblocks without using OpenBSD itself (cat+dd?), my prediction is the OpenBSD developers will eventually grow tired of jumping through hoops to install OpenBSD on hardware that lacks a CD drive. And we will see them generate memstick images for their ftp site, just like NetBSD and FreeBSD.

Of course, another possibility is that eventually emulators in one form or another will become part of the base BSD distributions (e.g., see NetBSD's rump).
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Old 8th January 2012
ocicat ocicat is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by argv View Post
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?
  • USB CD-ROM drives run $50-$100US. Most won't find this price range exorbitant.
  • And in addition to jggimi's comments, most serious OpenBSD users have more than one computer.
  • NIC/motherboard combinations supporting PXE have been around for several years. Many have access to such hardware.
This covers your three concerns.

As the Open Source movement has matured, one fundamental axiom has emerged -- if one can't implement needed features themselves, one can either pay someone else to do the work or wait until the cognoscenti do the same. The OpenBSD project is small in comparison to most other OS efforts. Their target audience is themselves. Casual users have no say in directing the project unless they are willing to submit code for consideration or make a sizable donation towards the same ends.

For better or worse, that pretty well summarizes the cultural view.
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Old 8th January 2012
shep shep is offline
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The build instructions on the sourceforge site utilize QEME which is available for Linux and Windows.
Also fdisk is available for many operating systems but disklabel will be a challenge. I have not taken time to play with it but this article indicates that linux fdisk can make the needed slices/partitions. Your mileage may vary and if I were in your shoes I would try QEME first.
http://tldp.org/HOWTO/Linux+FreeBSD-2.html
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Old 8th January 2012
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The bootloader install programs require an understanding of FFS filesystem metadata, a formatted filesystem containing the bootloader, a proper BSD disklabel, all as dependencies.

It is not trivial to write such tools...else someone would have completed the effort.

But this is moot, as we are the wrong audience for this message...we are users.
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