Skip site navigation (1)Skip section navigation (2)
Date:      Sun, 11 Jun 2000 17:36:03 -0700
From:      "Crist J. Clark" <>
Subject:   Multi-Location Configuration
Message-ID:  <>

Next in thread | Raw E-Mail | Index | Archive | Help
Something I have been meaning to ask about but never seem to get
to. So, on a lazy Sunday afternoon by the pool I type...

There have been threads on this list about how to best setup a
notebook PC to operate differently depending on how it is being
used. Since notebooks are, by design, meant to be moved around, they
often will be hooked into different networks, have different hardware
connected, and have other changes made. Tools like PCCard support by
their very nature support this type of thing, but many other systems
on FreeBSD assume things do not change from boot up to boot up. (I am
not going to touch the issue of moving a live system around.)

My particular solution has been to make a tree in /etc called
/etc/location. In this directory are any number of subdirs which each
correspond to a different setup, plus there is one symlink pointing to
the configuration presently in use. For example,

  % ls -l /etc/location
  total 5
  lrwxr-xr-x  1 root  wheel   10 Jun 11 13:20 current -> standalone
  drwxr-xr-x  2 root  wheel  512 Jun 10 13:38 earthlink
  drwxr-xr-x  2 root  wheel  512 Jun 11 13:21 home
  drwxr-xr-x  2 root  wheel  512 Jun  5 19:29 work-dialin
  drwxr-xr-x  2 root  wheel  512 Mar 26 21:02 work-office
  drwxr-xr-x  2 root  wheel  512 Jun  5 19:28 standalone

Each directory contains files that are customized for each location,

  % ls -l /etc/location/home
  total 99
  -rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel    308 Apr  4 19:05 fstab
  -rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel    191 Jun  3 16:38 hosts
  -rw-------  1 root  wheel    985 Feb  7 15:51 master.passwd
  -rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel    851 Feb  7 15:51 passwd
  -rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel  40960 Feb  7 15:51 pwd.db
  -rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel    531 Jun  3 20:35 rc.conf
  -rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel     91 Feb 16 18:53 resolv.conf
  -rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel  12587 Feb 13 13:10
  -rw-------  1 root  wheel  40960 Feb  7 15:51 spwd.db

And the corresponding entries in /etc for each of the files is a
symlink to /etc/location/current.

When booting up a system in a new environment, I stop in single-user
mode and change the symlink,

  # mount /
  # cd /etc/location
  # rm current && ln -s home current
  # ^D

This works well enough, but what would be really neat would be to have
the system stop, offer the configurations available, report the
current choice (the present default), wait a few seconds for user
input, and then continue with the boot with the default or user's
choice. I wrote scripts that do most of the work for this, but there
are problems,

  - This needs to be done _very_ early in the boot process (rc.conf is
    one of the first files read by /etc/rc as well as
    /etc/fstab). There is a chicken and egg problem in that I want to
    use a custom /etc/fstab, but in order to change /etc/location, we
    must have already mounted the filesystems (the root fs anyway)

  - The passwd(1) (via pwd_mkdb(8) I believe) command will clobber the
    symlinks in /etc and write the new files directly in /etc. For
    chpass(1)-type operations, root can edit
    /etc/location/<loc>/master.passwd and then run pwd_mkdb with the
    -d option, but requiring a root login is a hassle and still does
    not fix the password making/changing issue.

  - I need a sendmail(8) god to figure out how to get messages in the
    queue to be sent properly no matter which networked configuration
    we start in. (Of course we want them to be queued up correctly in
    standalone too.)

I think those are the main issues. If anyone has any ideas, whether or
not you feel they are worthy traffic on the list, let me know.

Oh, and as one other aside about startup, getting mice to be
"auto-detected." Sometimes I plug in a three-button serial mouse (it's
not that the builtin trackball on my DELL is a pain, I actually find
it quite usable, but it only is two-button). Anyone have a method to
auto-detect a serial mouse? If it is there, I'll use it and change my
XF86Config apropriately. If not, I use the default PS2 trackball and
turn on three-button emulation. Once again, it is a hassle to get in
there as root and make the manual changes, especially if I realize I
already started X with the three-button emulation improperly set.

Thanks for any help.
Crist J. Clark                 

To Unsubscribe: send mail to
with "unsubscribe freebsd-mobile" in the body of the message

Want to link to this message? Use this URL: <>