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Big Scary Daemons

NetBSD for the FreeBSD User

06/01/2000

In the first installment of our new Big Scary Daemons column, Michael Lucas, a FreeBSD user, gives us a walk through of a NetBSD install.

I recently came into a pile of elderly hardware, including a Digital Alpha Multia and an SGI IRIS. I've run FreeBSD for years, but never had a chance to play with anything other than x86 architectures. My first thought was to install FreeBSD on the Multia. The install went simply enough, but I discovered that FreeBSD doesn't support the Multia's TGA framebuffer video. It makes a decent enough server, if you can call something that runs like treacle in February and generates enough heat to roast burgers "decent".

Unfortunately, I wanted this as a desktop machine. There's a certain amount of "geek stud" factor in having an Alpha workstation, even if it's a Multia. A bit of checking around showed that NetBSD supported the Multia's video, so I decided to give it a try.

I downloaded boot floppies from ftp://ftp.netbsd.org. Rather than FreeBSD's kern.flp and mfsroot.flp, these had the simpler names of "disk1of2" and "disk2of2". To this day, after more FreeBSD installs than I care to count, I still can't remember which floppy to use first. I used dd to copy the images onto floppies and booted.

The install is fairly straightforward; I booted off a serial console on my FreeBSD laptop, and the Multia picked it right up. A simple "boot dva0" made the machine boot the first disk, and it asked for the second a few minutes later.

The installer asked for the terminal type. When I took the default of vt100 it brought up the NetBSD sysinst program -- a very plain looking, text mode installer menu. It gave me a variety of options, including "set up network" and "install".

Welcome to sysinst, the NetBSD-1.4.2 system installation tool.
This menu-driven tool is designed to help you install NetBSD 
to a hard disk, or upgrade an existing NetBSD system, with a 
minimum of work.  In the following menus, you may change the 
current selection by either typing the reference letter 
a, b, c, ...).  Arrow keys may also work.  You activate the 
current selection from the menu by typing the enter key.

If you booted from a floppy, you may now remove the disk.

Thank you for using NetBSD!

       *************************************************
       * NetBSD-1.4.2 Install System                   *
       *                                               *
       *>a: Install NetBSD to hard disk                *
       * b: Upgrade NetBSD on a hard disk              *
       * c: Re-install sets or install additional sets *
       * d: Reboot the computer                        *
       * e: Utility menu                               *
       * x: Exit Install System                        *
       *************************************************

I started with the network setup. NetBSD recognized the de0 Ethernet card and took the network information flawlessly. I was pinging the Multia from the rest of the network when I finished.

The installation menu won't be any surprise to a FreeBSD user. There's the obligatory warning that NetBSD will be installed on your hard disk, overwriting the current operating system. It offers a variety of disk partitioning schemes, both with and without X. To my surprise, the default partitioning scheme didn't include a /var partition. The partitioning system gives you the option of using cylinders or megabytes, and it explains the difference. It also tells you the actual cylinder size of your current hard drive, which is helpful.

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