PC-BSD

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PC-BSD

Postby gaoesa » 03 Nov 2013, 13:07

http://www.pcbsd.org/

Quite interesting option. It is practically FreeBSD, but with user friendly graphical installer that installs X Windowing, desktop and a lot of the stuff majority of users would install right from the start. I'm installing it right now on VirtuaBox to see what it is.
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Re: PC-BSD

Postby gaoesa » 05 Nov 2013, 17:05

Since I made this promotion post I think it is proper that I give some warning to people thinking of making it dual boot with Windows 7.

First you should consider the installer to have an ideology that it will destroy everything unless you figure out a way to stop it. The following things are critical to not lose everything on your computer.

Assuming you have created primary partition where you intend to install the second boot. It must be primary partition as said in the manual. The manual also recommend Parted Magic CD for partitioning, but unfortunately it lacks some powerfull features. It is good to have though as it has some usefull basic tools ad also FireFox for searching info. What I ended up using for creating the proper partition, after shrinking with windows own tool, was MiniTool Partition Wizard Home Edition. It is free, clean install and very powerfull.

About the small but critical bugs in the PC-BSD installer (Applicable to version 9.2 and most likely version before it):
1. By default it will try to use the whole drive, even though it is full of partitions, it does not ask what to do. So be sure to click customize button.

2. Unless you stop it, the installer will overwrite the original MBR. You will not be able to boot into Windows after this. This one tricked me because previously with Linux dual boot problems, at least the installers have installed their boot on their own partition. Not overwriting the one that starts Windows. This is simple bug caused by the installer not recognizing any other OS.

3. The installer is not going to ask the keyboard layout before asking for passwords. The chances are that you will have to log into the syste with default US keyboard and there doesn't seem to be any option to change the keyboard once logged in.


Now how to fix this on a Asus laptop with 64 bit Windows 7
=============================================

You need the Rescue CD that you need to make before starting the installation. Alternatively you can use Windows install DVD, but with laptop it is likely that you don't have any.

Reproducing exactly the steps I did (which probably weren't the easiest way):

1. Start rescue CD and run repair startup. - It claims to do something but nothing changes. The GRUP will load the PC-BSD. On following start of the Rescue CD, it will no longer find anything wrong with startup.

2. Press F9 on startup during the Asus logo. This is supposed to start system repair. - Nothing changes, the GRUB will be loading the PC-BSD. At least it has reliable loader.

3. Start rescue CD. Now it doesn't see the Windows anymore. So the F9 actually did something. It will search for windows and it will finally find issues on the MBR. Let it fix them and restart. - It will load into the PC-BSD using GRUB.

4. Start the rescue CD again. Now it has found the windows. Run the repair startup again. It will find stuff and it will fix something. - The computer will finally load into the system restore.

5. Don't restore the system and lose data. Open command prompt and use "bootrec.exe /FixMbr". - When restarted the Windows will load again like before.

Most likely I could have skipped many of the steps if I had known to use "bootrec.exe" commands instead of trying the not existing "fixboot" and "fixmbr" commands.


The bootrec.exe commands (in order of use if necessary)
===========================================

bootrec.exe /FixMbr

This will fix the MBR record. If it does not work use:

bootrec.exe /FixBoot

This one is supposed to finally fix it, if you have Windows in your machine. Everything is rewritten.

And as a last resort:

bootrec.exe /RebuildBcd

This is supposed to scan for bootable OS's and create boot loader for them.

These are applicable to PC-BSD 9.2. The version 10 is already on closed testing and I don't know if that will fix the issues of the installer. Let's hope so. However, be very aware of the installer. It is a pretty package that is actively trying to hide total destruction of you computer. With unfortunately small, but even more serious bugs.

Will be testing more of this because I actually like it when running.

Final notes and Reminder
====================
- The installer will try to destroy your computer with increasingly devious methods unless you stop it.
- Any trickery with partitions will not fix the boot issue. The original loader is completely wiped out by the installer.
- The Asus recovery, luckily, does not solve your issues. At least try to go directly with the "bootrec.exe" commands if you lost the MBR.
- Don't try to install dual boot unless you are comfortable figuring how to fix completely broken systems.
- Backup everythig important just in cse you need to do full recovery (reinstall).
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Re: PC-BSD

Postby gaoesa » 05 Nov 2013, 17:24

Additional note about the install.

The DVD must be in the drive when you restart after the install. However, if you have the boot order set to DVD first, it will load the installer again. So it is necessary to change the boot order settings from BIOS. If you would restart without having the DVD in, it will load windowing manager but it will stay empty and useless.
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Re: PC-BSD

Postby gaoesa » 06 Nov 2013, 13:55

Continuation to the install PC-BSD (9.2) "failblog".

I did new attempts to install the system. However, they failed this time also. With 2 different issues and installing 9.1 is not a possibility.

1. Trying to install the PC-BSD in a way that the boot loader is placed on it's own partition

At the end of the first stage install, once the installer notices that it should be placing the boot loader to it's own partition, it rejects the thought completely. And there is no other option but to abort the install. Based on some web research, this happens because the GRUB2, that is used in the 9.2 version, does not understand the zfs file system very well. The zfs file system is a new generation file system, designed by Sun Microsystems.

2. The default install and the hope that EasyBCD could be used to set up the boot later on.

This one started to fail as well. It seems that the bug which is causing the empty desktop on second phase of the install is not really or only caused by the missing installation media after all.

3. Issue with the 9.1

I tried this one too, but because this version has issues with my on board intel video, this installer is stopping at blank screen already on the first stage of the install.

Conclusions:

The version 9.2 is prematurely enforcing some features that are brand new and untested in a larger scale. It is also party good not to slow down development as the momentum seems to be good at the moment. So dropping the 32 bit from new versions is perhaps acceptable. But it is also clear that the zfs filesystem as the only option and especially replacing the zfsboot with GRUB2 without the possibility to use tested and working methods was a bad choice. The medium install customization is more of a beginner options with needlessly technical names for the selections. It is unlikely that I am able to install PC-BSD as a dual boot on this machine, as I lack the required knownledge of the BSD to use the CLI option for the installation. If that can fix the problems that is. Fortunately, the version 10 is already in the "internal" test phase so hopefully a lot of the issues are fixed with it. FreeBSD would probably work well.
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Re: PC-BSD

Postby gaoesa » 12 Nov 2013, 15:48

Some update to the thread. Because the PC-BSD developers have updated the installer with some positive progress and it would not be fair to leave the thread like it is.

In the new installer they have addressed many of the issues I have mentioned previously. I will first list the good things I noticed:
+ There is new boot screen right from the start. It has 3 options: Graphical installer, Graphical instaler with standard VESA driver and third option for CLI install and emergency console.
+ The installer no longer goes into a blank screen, but keeps listing what it does in text mode. This is extremely usefull to check cmpatibility and issues.
+ When selecting the graphical installer, and it fails to start, it will automatically load into fail safe mode. This is very usefull information for determining compatibility.
+ The medium settings with partition customization now lists several options. These include the legacy FreeBSD boot loader.
+ Some screens are either clearer to read or I'm just getting used to them and I'm getting familiar with the contents.
+ After both of my failed attempts to install, I was able to boot to Windows without any tricks or repair disc use. The repair disc is still needed just in case though.

However, the installation failed again, 2 times. But this time I have to accuse at least partly the Intel Optimus drivers instead of the installer. I will list both of the attempts below.

First Attempt
==========

In my first attempt to install, I tried the FreeBSD boot loader option. I know this loader works because I have installed vanilla FreeBSD too. Unfortunately, this one failed after the install in a blank screen after reboot. This is most likely caused by the Intel Optimus and X.org. If I understand correctly, the kernel should be started so that it loads the nVidia graphics driver instead of the incomplete driver implementation for the Intel. This is where GRUB2 comes usefull as it allows giving parameters to the kernel. I don't know how hard this issue would be to fix, if even possible, with configurations. But I believe the Intel driver implementation should be complete in the FreeBSD version 10. The positive side of this install option was that after the reboot, there was FreeBSD loader which correctly listed also the Windows for the boot.

Second Attempt
============

In this attempt I tried to use the GRUB sliced. However, this failed the same way as the older installer without the stamp the MBR option checked. However, again the positive side was that after the reboot, it actually did instantly boot to Windows.

In the end, it does look like that with natively compatible graphics card, it should be possible to install properly working dual boot with Windows 7. Care must still be taken not to wipe the whole hard drive. I think if the graphical installer succeeds to load the installer without falling to the failsafe mode, it could be possible to use the FreeBSD boot loading without it halting at blank screen. In any case, some sort of emergency repair disk is needed for just in case.


Disclaimer
Please don't use this thread as a recommendation to install dual boot with PC-BSD 9.2 and Windows 7. That option is currently most suitable to developer/power user level of experience. Repair disks are needed. For both fixing the boot manager/loader, selecting boot partitions and in the worst case, to restore Windows. The best way to test the PC-BSD is to install it for example to a VirtualBox image or on an idle computer with no valuable data.
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Re: PC-BSD

Postby gaoesa » 13 Nov 2013, 12:21

Little correction on the misinformation I posted. After some more research about the Optimus, it is unlikely to have been implemented.

http://forums.freebsd.org/showthread.php?t=41864

The optimus is practically about 3 things. The intel graphics chip, nVidia graphics chip. And dynamic switch between the two that allows balancing between performance and power use. This requires 3 parts, Intel driver, nVidia driver and some kernel parts. The current issue is with the kernel parts, if I'm not wrong again.

I suppose the few earlier cases when I had PC-BSD running in desktop was with VESA drivers. (Issue has all the time been about the dual boot) Though I thought when configuring with nVidia control panel, they had been properly set to nVidia. Sure enough, the default settings after boot were not good before doing the configuration step. Some distortions etc. This is about PC-BSD.
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Re: PC-BSD

Postby gaoesa » 18 Nov 2013, 01:39

Finally I got the PC-BSD installed. Though this is not really very pure installation. I installed FreeBSD 9.2 and then converted it into PC-BSD 9.2. Most parts work but unfortunately, not all. Some problems that there were, FreeBSD pkgng doesn't work. Luckily the PC-BSD one does, and it is a lot nicer to install packages from that repository rather then compiling stuff from ports. Turned out, that I had to also get X server running before the conversion had any real effect. And while doing that, I noticed that it had to be configured to use intel driver. The nVidia driver was only giving blank screens. AppCafe doesn't work and other system update tools have some issues too. I think that is caused by the mess I was doing while installing stuff. These did work with pure installation, which I couldn't put in a dual boot. But at least I'm writing this post with FireFox running on LXDE in some kind of PC-BSD/FreeBSD hybrid.

This should be the end of these posts finally. Don't mistake though, I intend to keep using this.
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Re: PC-BSD

Postby gR!ns » 18 Nov 2013, 14:26

gaoesa wrote:This should be the end of these posts finally. Don't mistake though, I intend to keep using this.

:D [smilie=good.gif]
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