FreeBSD on Home Server

I had a desire to move out of my comfort zone so I’ve decided to install FreeBSD on Home Server, to replace Arch. I have mixed feelings about it and it’s possible I won’t keep it. Here are some of the annoyances…

Reboot on boot

I’ve tried FreeBSD in past, but installation didn’t work, my notebook restarted on boot, before I could even install the system. This time installation worked fine, but the system didn’t boot after it, the problem was the same, it restarted on boot.

First I thought this is due to my somehow unique situation: I’ve installed system on a USB Stick. Consequently I had to edit /etc/fstab setting device’s ufsid. That didn’t resolve the problem though.

The solution (kind of a) was much more mind boggling, and I must thank FreeBSD community for it. Specifically, bsd4me63 wrote, replying to my old question regarding installation:

Hold F8 while the ACER logo is on the screen, quickly let go and then hold again until the laptop beeps.

As odd as this sounds it did help; it doesn’t need to be F8 though, it’s enough if you press any key just once in BIOS. I have no explanation why this is needed, and it seems to be Acer specific problem, as on HP Notebook everything works without a problem.

File Systems

Unfortunately there’s no common (modern) File System which would have good support in both FreeBSD and GNU/Linux; Ext3, Ext4 and XFS can be mounted in read-only on FreeBSD, while ZFS (which is FreeBSD’s default) has kind of a questionable support on GNU/Linux, - kernel module can be build from AUR, but I’m not really happy with such solution; I have concerns whether this solution is reliable enough. Finally there’s Ext2 which is supported on both, but unfortunately, has no journaling support.

This is actually the biggest problem. It’s painful enough to push all my data around once, so I really wanted to find File System which would have a good support on both systems.

Upgrading Glitches

I’ve installed FreeBSD-10.1-RC3; when I’ve upgraded it to 10.1-RELEASE, I’ve got the following message:

The following files will be removed as part of updating to 10.1-RELEASE-p2: /

This was alarming, but I can’t say I cared much, this was pretty much freshly installed system, so I’ve tried to install an upgrade anyway. I was really curious if it will attempt to remove root. It didn’t, I’ve got the message:

Installing updates...rmdir: ///: Is a directory
done.

The issue is known, Dag-Erling Smørgrav addressed it on FreeBSD-Announce:

The second issue, attempting to remove ‘/’, seems to be the consequence of a bug in the freebsd-update build process which we do not yet fully understand, […] the error can safely be ignored, as freebsd-update will not actually remove anything.[1]

Although there was no damage done, the message did affect my trust in FreeBSD a little bit.

Conclusion

I like FreeBSD, it’s fun to deal with small (and big) differences between how things are done in it, compared to GNU/Linux. It’s fun to learn new things and to deal with various problems. The community seems friendly and there’s a lot of documentation available. I like the Handbook a lot, it was very helpful with various issues I had.

The File System problem, however, is a big thing for me and if I don’t figure out a good way to address it, I guess I’ll move back to GNU/Linux.