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Date:      Wed, 3 Aug 2011 09:35:34 +0200
From:      Polytropon <freebsd@edvax.de>
To:        "Conrad J. Sabatier" <conrads@cox.net>
Cc:        freebsd-questions@freebsd.org
Subject:   Re: Fw: 8.2-RELEASE-amd64.iso weirdness (help!)
Message-ID:  <20110803093534.13998932.freebsd@edvax.de>
In-Reply-To: <20110803020651.41a146a5@serene>
References:  <20110803020651.41a146a5@serene>

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On Wed, 3 Aug 2011 02:06:51 -0500, Conrad J. Sabatier wrote:
> Interesting to see the changes that have taken place in the meantime.
> I've certainly got some catching up to do here.  :-)

You learn something new every day using FreeBSD. :-)



> I much prefer to use ports, myself.  I just like to install cvsup from
> packages on a new install, to get the ball rolling, as they say.  I was
> very surprised to see so few packages available in sysinstall, I must
> say!

No need to install cvsup or cvsup-without-gui. The
csup utility is part of the base system and has the
same functionality. It can be used to do "make update"
for the ports collection and the src/ subtree.



> I always liked using "DD" mode.  Why use a boot manager
> or even a plain-vanilla MBR if you don't really need one, right?

As far as I know, you can still use it, but sysinstall
won't support it. The dedicated mode is still useful
when you need to keep fdisk-partitioned disks (e. g.
for compatibility issues), but don't have need for a
separate slice as FreeBSD doesn't essentially need
it, and if you don't want to access FreeBSD's partitions
from a different OS that can't handle the dedicated
layout - it should be fine.

For maximum compatibility, it's still often suggested
to use the fdisk + bsdlabel + newfs approach, if you
need it "old-fashioned". :-)

Of course, GPT is the current modern way to go.



> I ran the install CD a bunch of times, and have tried both installing
> FreeBSD's boot manager as well as installing an ordinary master boot
> record.  I thought that would be all it would take to override grub,
> but not so!

It _should_.



> I've tried just about everything I can think of, and still that nasty,
> grubby (pun intended) little sucker is still there when I reboot.  It's
> downright infuriating!

Try with

	sysctl kern.geom.debugflags=16

set, it should make sure the writes are "direct", and
there's nothing "preserving" data of previous installations.
Partitioners other than fdisk may store data in other
regions of the hard disk, e. g. some meta-data at the
"end", or "bottom" of the disk? :-)



> Yes, I've been shelling out and shelling out from sysinstall, but still
> not getting the results I want.  It's almost as if my hard drive has
> turned into a "grub magnet" and it just won't come off!  :-)

A powerful contra-magnet should fix it. :-)



> Exactly.  I haven't looked up the error codes (either 15 or 17,
> depending on what I was trying just before the reboot), but that's as
> far as it gets, outputting the code and then just sitting there.  I
> suspect the codes are related to grub not finding the menu.lst file it
> expects to find buried down in a subdirectory of /etc (God, I hate
> Linux!).  :-)

Those codes may also be generated by the BIOS. For
example, my system outputs two-digit codes in the
lower right corner of the screen during boot to
signal some states I don't know in detail. Such a
state could be "cannot boot, didn't find anything"
when transfering control from BIOS to 1st stage of
booting (traditionally MBR) fails. Some systems
show an "please insert diskette and press Enter"
message, others keep rebooting, and some just show
a mysterious number.



> I've got to say, this whole experience really took me by surprise.
> I've been using FreeBSD since 1996, and could breeze through an install
> procedure in my sleep.  Never expected these sorts of complications to
> arise.

Even if the basic dialogs you're visiting are nearly
the same since 4.0 (the time when I started using
FreeBSD regularly).

Today, I mostly do installs per command line, and
often scripted, so sysinstall isn't an "everyday tool"
to me. Still I can remember how to blaze through its
screens to get a basic system installed. Maybe that's
causing the typical sysinstall-related lazyness. :-)



> I ran dd and zeroed out the entire first gigabyte of space on the
> drive, yet grub was still there!  I couldn't believe it. 

Then it seems that there is either a error during write
(e. g. a protection mechanism that reports "write done,
all successful", but in fact does not perform the
actual write operation to the MBR), or parts of GRUB
are located in "later" parts of the disk. Or, if both
does not apply, it's a BIOS supplied status code.



> I'm on the
> verge now of just zeroing out the entire drive.  Hate to have to resort
> to such a ridiculously extreme method, but at this point, there seems
> to be little else left to try.  The unfortunate thing is that, after
> all these repeated failures, I then have to go back and reinstall Ubuntu
> Linux to get back online, post questions, do further investigation, etc.
> Very time-consuming.

Dual-booting (or secondary system) would be good in this
case. But dual-booting can also lead to strange observations
(as you described).



> By the way, I'm just wondering, how long have you been using FreeBSD,
> and do you like the way it's been evolving since you started? 

I'm using it since version 4.0 both for servers and for
my home desktop (exclusively). Other systems I use are
OpenBSD and Solaris. From time to time, I try some Linux,
see that it's not my cup of tea, and move on. :-)

The development of OS and the constantly good quality
impress me at every release. On the same system, the
OS boots faster each time it gets updated. Sadly, the
installed applications do a "good" job of "compensation",
so keeping the same hardware, things tend to run slower.
But that is not FreeBSD's fault.

Many comfortable tools are now part of the base system,
like a CVS program, a binary system updater, or a
program to fetch up-to-date ports/ subtrees. This
makes building systems "from scratch" more easy.

So for the OS, I have no complains, except the one that
it doesn't identify my Sun USB keyboard properly since
after version 5 (6 not tested, 7 missing identification
string, but it WORKS without problems).

For the removal of the dedicated mode from sysinstall:
It seems that this mode is hardly used, and other operating
systems may feel threatened by not being able to play
with a dedicated disk (that's why the misleading
prefix "dangerously"?), so using this approach has been
moved to the "very professional" area of the installer,
which is the pure command line. But as sysinstall is
going to be deprecated anyway in favour of a new installer
that also will surely provide GPT and ZFS installation
dialogs, MAYBE the dedicated mode comes back as a valid
choice because - what's wrong about using it?

(NB those are just _my_ very individual impressions, but
I hope it's okay to share them on-list.)



> I was
> madly in love with FreeBSD (and still am, if I could just get it
> running again) before I bought this machine and had to abandon it
> because it wouldn't properly detect either my CD-ROM or my hard drive.
> You can imagine what a disappointment *that* was!

I can - disk and optical drives are considered basics.
I know it would be too much to require the system to
properly detect any proprietary and broken-by-design
piece of cheap commodity hardware from the home consumer
crap sector. :-)



> Thanks for replying to my post.  I do appreciate it very much.  I'll
> let you know if I ever do manage to get anywhere with this problem.

Try the sysctl and then dd. Wipe the MBR first, and to
be sure, add some MB of /dev/zero's. In worst case,
consult your mainboard's documentation to make sure
the numbers are _not_ BIOS status "messages".



-- 
Polytropon
Magdeburg, Germany
Happy FreeBSD user since 4.0
Andra moi ennepe, Mousa, ...



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