My journey to installing FreeBSD is incomplete. (Story/intro/help request).

Ceegen

New Member


Messages: 5

Read this post at your own risk.

Talk about learning curve...

Yes, I read the manual. Read FAQs. Didn't understand a damned word anything was, let alone where to find definitions to things. I have the attention span of a squirrel. About four years ago I started using Ubuntu as just a way of fulfilling a curiosity, and part out of looking for *ahem* alternative operating systems. I had problems using the command line. I was a clicker in World of Warcraft for a few months, anyway. Things got better, I promise. Eventually learning about FreeBSD and the whole philosophy behind the free software movement, watching endless YouTube videos, went back to college and learned math stuff. (I'm American, and it is "M-A-T-H" you heathens).

TLDR: "Instructions unclear: Smoked weed and learned to program in CPython." (Obligatory: https://xkcd.com/353/ )

That's not a joke though. About a year and a half ago that is exactly what happened. I'm a disabled vet and would rather do that, than take pills. (It is legal in my state, before you xyz about it one way or the other). Before I hurt my back really bad (it was already bad), the promising prospects of being a carpenter and electrician were in hand. Not so much now. But, I have a bit of experience and background with electricity, which helped me become extremely interested in a more academic approach to computers. Previously, I had only viewed computers and their operation an arcane art, and beyond my comprehension.

It was. Life is hard. I didn't have a computer as a kid. First gaming system was an Atari 1600 dad picked up at the flea market. Came with a bunch of games. Was probably stolen. Later, got an upgrade: Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was 100% legit. Pressing buttons was my thing. I could press buttons really good.

Anyway, I read the documentation to Python. After about a week of straight reading (and smoking), programmed a text-based "dungeon" game from just all the CPython 3.6 built-ins. I think it was 3.6. Not sure. No pip or fancy 3rd party things though.

Did you know that the calculation for the "power factor" of electricity is the same calculation as the Pythagorean theorem? This is what originally piqued my interest in how computers operate. I want to know all the things. Eventually learning about resistors, capacitors and transistors. Stuff.

Currently learning about LLVM and LLVMlite for Python. PyPy is a thing. Read about Pyglets and OpenGL and OpenGLES. Can read binary and hex fairly well, because math. Not sure what its use for is, aside from feeding machine code directly into the cpu somehow. Probably seen a video about it at some time in the distant past. Don't remember.

Narrowing it down to the point though, sparing __all__ the details:
Been reading about the various flavors of BSD-inspired platforms. Thought FreeBSD would be a great start point, if nothing else, as a way of learning about more systems in general.

Short term goals:
Have a FreeBSD install USB. It seems to work on this laptop, but I didn't commit to anything. Didn't even try booting into the live environment.

Too scary to attempt alone, yet. I DID, however, read this page:
https://wiki.freebsd.org/Laptops
And I am fascinated with the idea of possibly helping/contributing by getting it to run on laptops with a production date of anything from 2013 to the current day. Will be acquiring a newer laptop soonish, and I can then safely mess around with this one. Mostly because I'm not comfortable without some kind of backup device, as this is currently my only personal cpu. Can't even run Civ IV, V or VI tho. Disappoint.

Speaking of: Tried installing on an older system (desktop setup) using an AMD Phenom II x4 995. Got as far as getting to some kind of command prompt after entering password and stuff, setting up the user/groups and such, but couldn't get it connect to the internet. Older outdated hardware that required I manually edit something in some configuration file with vi or whatever. DID NOT HAPPEN LOL. That was about a year ago, so gave up trying to do that again, for now.

Mid-term goals:
Get FreeBSD installed on this CPU (a Dell laptop) eventually.
Finish programming an "access tracker" application written in CPy3.7 for a real-world job, as a hobby.
Not getting paid, don't want to get paid. Want to contribute. Will be open source, as soon as it isn't crappy. Too embarrassed to post it.

Long-term goals:
Write a desktop environment with possibly PyPy or some Python-variant, maybe even a real video game. With graphics. Thinking of learning more about OpenGL. Still noob.

To the point:
Can you help me achieve my short term goal of installing FreeBSD on __this__ laptop?
More importantly, from the wiki previously linked to:

Code:
# mount -u -o rw /
# dmesg > /dmesg.out.txt
# pciconf -lv > /pciconf.out.txt
# devinfo -v > /devinfo.out.txt
# acpidump -dt > /acpidump.out.txt
# mount -u -o ro / ; sync
# zzz
I think I can handle that. But, is there anything else I should be doing? Other special commands? Not a whole lot on tutorials concerning installing FreeBSD on laptops that aren't even listed on any website when searching several different search engines, non of which shall be named.

Thank you for your time. Please excuse my ignorance. Reading the forum guidelines resulted in this post. Just going cross-eyed trying to read documentation. A little shove in the right direction is appreciated.
 

Zirias

Aspiring Daemon

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Messages: 586

Wall of text is a bit scary ... is there some actual question? No offense, but I'm not sure what exactly you're looking for help with?

Just a word of warning:
Older outdated hardware that required I manually edit something in some configuration file with vi or whatever. DID NOT HAPPEN LOL.
Which editor you use doesn't matter, but if you're unwilling to edit configuration files yourself, FreeBSD isn't the operating system you're looking for. Really. Maybe TrueOS could be for you, I'm not sure, never tried myself.
 

tingo

Daemon

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Learning is the process of failing enough times to finally figure out how things works for the subject you are trying to learn - without giving up (it is ok to take breaks when things are too hard).
There is no magic, only try and try again until you get it to work. Asking smart questions helps.
 
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Phishfry

Son of Beastie

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Get FreeBSD installed on this CPU (a Dell laptop) eventually.
I run Dell E6420, E6220 and E6330 laptops. They work fine except for the ones with "Optimus".
This is Nvidia graphics built in with the Intel CPU graphics as well. Sort of a dual graphics machine.
They work badly on FreeBSD with ACPI being the culprit. Fans at full blast.
The ordinary Dell E6xx0 Intel CPU HD Graphics works very well. Optimus was an option. Service tag will show it.
Optimus machines are Windows centric and the Windows driver is best on these. Good AutoCAD machines.
 
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Ceegen

New Member


Messages: 5

I've been at it for nearly a year now. Just thought I'd ask a few questions as where to look next for answers.
 

Zirias

Aspiring Daemon

Reaction score: 214
Messages: 586

Well, the answer is probably 42 then. *scnr*

Seriously, first you need to know and articulate the concrete question. For all the generic guidance:
  • The FreeBSD Handbook should have you covered for installation and configuration of the base system, and a few things beyond that
  • FreeBSD's manpages are excellent, they're the first thing to look at for specific problems
  • FreeBSD is a "general purpose" OS, but many settings are more tuned to server operation by default. If you want a desktop, you will find the most common tuning options for that in many online resources like blogs and howtos.
  • If you run into a specific problem, you can search the bug tracker and/or ask here with a decent description of the problem.
In any case, be prepared to do a lot of configuration, mostly by editing text files. FreeBSD base comes configured in a way that should work for the most common scenarios, but is minimal. FreeBSD ports follow the philosophy to deliver software as originally provided by the authors, leaving you with the configuration (but often installing samples you can look at).
 

Gustaaf

New Member


Messages: 12

Forget about FreeBsd as a desktop environment.
I'm really sorry to say so, but unless you're lucky and your hardware is fully supported, it's a waste of time.
 

Zirias

Aspiring Daemon

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Forget about FreeBsd as a desktop environment.
I'm really sorry to say so, but unless you're lucky and your hardware is fully supported, it's a waste of time.
I wonder what that unsupported hardware should be? I'm running desktop systems here on an actual desktop PC and on a notebook without any hardware issues. And another desktop system runs in a jail on the server, for remote-desktop access via RDP...

FreeBSD had some problems with GPU support up to version 10 (IIRC), but since the inclusion of Linux drivers (graphics/drm-kmod), there shouldn't be many issues left.
 

ShelLuser

Son of Beastie

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I find it ironic that a wall of text scares a FreeBSD user.
It doesn't, but it does eat away in the time we reserved for trying to help someone out. And if such a story doesn't help us learn more about the exact problem it automatically becomes a waste of time. Note: for the purpose of trying to help out, nothing wrong with a story from time to time.

My take: get something such as VirtualBox which is a virtual machine that you can run on top of your current OS. Then install BSD in there, this will allow you to experiment to your hearts desire and by doing so learn more about the whole process. It doesn't matter if your specs aren't too high; you don't need a GUI, but more so hands on experience in running BSD.

Heck... I've been using BSD for years now and still remember doing this myself. I actually completely messed up the OS yet also managed to recover all my "breakages" through trial and error, which was quite an educational experience...

This way you can experiment, get hands on experience and you don't have to worry about accidentally trashing your system. Best of both worlds IMO.
 

Gustaaf

New Member


Messages: 12

I wonder what that unsupported hardware should be? I'm running desktop systems here on an actual desktop PC and on a notebook without any hardware issues. And another desktop system runs in a jail on the server, for remote-desktop access via RDP...

FreeBSD had some problems with GPU support up to version 10 (IIRC), but since the inclusion of Linux drivers (graphics/drm-kmod), there shouldn't be many issues left.
Well, I'm on a mid 2010 macpro.
It has a Broadcom BCM4322 wireless card.
I had to recompile the kernel to get some support, and even then performance is flaky.
It has an ATI R6xx Audio Group.
I had to recompile the kernel to get HDMI sound out of it.
It has a Macintosh Extended AZERTY Keyboard.
There is no keymap available for it.
I have to make do with a French Macintosh keyboard, which serves its purpose, but has no sound-up, sound-down, mute, and cd/dvd eject/insert keys.
I have two Brother printers available, which I can print to using generic drivers that don't recognize half of the options, and misinterpret the other half.

For the last three months, I spent most of my spare time trying to get basic things to work, and what have I got to show for it ?
Something that very vaguely resembles an operational desktop.

I won't badmouth FreeBsd.
I enjoyed the experience, but as a desktop environment, at least in my case, it's a waste of time.
 

malavon

Active Member

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I enjoyed the experience, but as a desktop environment, at least in my case, it's a waste of time.
Yeah, with exotic unsupported and undocumented hardware it becomes difficult. The same statement isn't true on supported hardware though, I've been running a full-time FreeBSD
for 17 years now.
 

Zirias

Aspiring Daemon

Reaction score: 214
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My take: get something such as VirtualBox which is a virtual machine that you can run on top of your current OS. Then install BSD in there, this will allow you to experiment to your hearts desire and by doing so learn more about the whole process. It doesn't matter if your specs aren't too high; you don't need a GUI, but more so hands on experience in running BSD.

Heck... I've been using BSD for years now and still remember doing this myself. I actually completely messed up the OS yet also managed to recover all my "breakages" through trial and error, which was quite an educational experience...
This might be the best advice so far. I did the very same thing before deciding to switch to FreeBSD. And, of course, I started from scratch with that virtual machine a few times. Once I was satisfied, I used this VM to build my own FreeBSD installation memory-stick (which is impressively simple to do from the source tree) and used that to install my new server (because back then, I was on 11-CURRENT, as 10-RELEASE didn't have some stuff I needed). I'd advice against doing that, though -- if -RELEASE has everything you need (which should be the case almost always), use an official installer image :)

Anyways, I keep saying: don't even try if you're unwilling to edit config files (a lot of them).
 

Gustaaf

New Member


Messages: 12

Yeah, with exotic unsupported and undocumented hardware it becomes difficult. The same statement isn't true on supported hardware though, I've been running a full-time FreeBSD
for 17 years now.
I wouldn't call Broadcom, Ati Radeon, Brother or Mac exotic or undocumented hardware.
 

Sevendogsbsd

Well-Known Member

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Apple hardware is designed for OSX. I would certainly not base my FreeBSD experience on a hardware platform that is designed and married to a proprietary OS. I'm just sayin...

I am running FreeBSD as my desktop on a homebuilt PC and have zero hardware issues. The install of the OS takes about 7-8 minutes and the packages longer because of their size. I have done some tweaking for desktop use but nothing drastic.
 

malavon

Active Member

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Messages: 167

I wouldn't call Broadcom, Ati Radeon, Brother or Mac exotic or undocumented hardware.
undocumented: not having public documentation available which can be used to write drivers
unsupported: not on the FreeBSD supported hardware list
exotic: anything that's not supported as tier 1

Broadcom: doesn't release anything remotely close to documentation in the form of developer manuals
Brother: has no open source drivers for FreeBSD (as opposed to e.g. HP which does support it 10 years past release), no public documentation to write drivers with
ATI: more complex to say, only recently AMD started to open-source its drivers and before that there was next to no documentation, no idea about R6xx exactly
Mac: don't even get me started, Apple does everything it can to prevent people from using their machines (and software) in a way that is not supported by them

I stand by my statement. It's an issue with hardware makers not disclosing how their hardware works. Drivers aren't extremely difficult to write with documentation, but when reverse engineering
comes into play that changes drastically.

I have noticed that in general it's harder to get FreeBSD running correctly on Laptops than it is on desktops (built from parts, not brand ones). Laptops tend to use more exotic hardware ;)
That might be because the general desktop motherboards will have processors and chipsets that can be expected in low-end servers, which FreeBSD does tend to target as well as high-end ones.
 

CraigHB

Active Member

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Messages: 114

I'm running desktop systems here on an actual desktop PC and on a notebook without any hardware issues.
Same here. I'm currently putting together a new machine to run FreeBSD, but I had no issue with it as a desktop system on my old hardware (I moved long distance recently and retired all of my old hardware, putting together a new FreeBSD box right now).

The trick is you pick the hardware for the OS rather than picking up a box and expecting everything to work. You can do that with a mainstream retail OS, but that's not FreeBSD on the desktop. You have build the box (or chose component options) with FreeBSD compatibility in mind.

For example my new laptop computer was purchased to run Windows. I won't even try to load FreeBSD on it, I already know of several hardware issues I'd run into if I tried. I'm putting together a little mini-ITX desktop system for FreeBSD using components I know will work well. Though I'm thinking of taking it to the edge a little with the latest AMD APU, haven't decided yet.
 

Sevendogsbsd

Well-Known Member

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Funny, I built a new PC (first in 10 years) and didn't pick anything specifically for FreeBSD. Everything works perfectly. Intel CPU, Msi motherboard, flawless experience. Maybe I am lucky but my last PC, now my build server, was commercial and also worked flawlessly. maybe maybe sticking to mainstream hardware is the way to go.
 

mark_j

Member

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Messages: 29

[...]

I stand by my statement. It's an issue with hardware makers not disclosing how their hardware works. Drivers aren't extremely difficult to write with documentation, but when reverse engineering
comes into play that changes drastically.

I have noticed that in general it's harder to get FreeBSD running correctly on Laptops than it is on desktops (built from parts, not brand ones). Laptops tend to use more exotic hardware ;)
That might be because the general desktop motherboards will have processors and chipsets that can be expected in low-end servers, which FreeBSD does tend to target as well as high-end ones.
I think you should stop saying 'exotic' and simply say unsupported?

Regardless, if a driver isn't available for the most basic of devices, then it's a unarguable point whether FreeBSD is waste of time; it is. If a hardware manufacturer cannot be bothered writing a driver and releasing code for Linux, then they will not even consider the even tinier install base of FreeBSD. Kudos to AMD for at least trying to rectify this. Firmware availability is even a problem in Linux where reverse engineering is the only solution. Linux therefore has the edge over FreeBSD - there's more developers working on it.

Don't get me wrong, FreeBSD is a good OS, it's just not a strong point on the desktop. It's nowhere near the level of Windows 10 (Eek! but supports nearly everything) or even OSX (supports only its own hardware mainly) and probably far behind Linux.

I think we can argue all day about supported devices, but in the end, if the end user can't use a printer, a keyboard, scanner, wifi or network (to name but a few) then they're going to continue to not use FreeBSD. FreeBSD is terrific headless as a server OS, I wouldn't try to use it on a laptop UNLESS:

As CraigHB wrote:
"The trick is you pick the hardware for the OS rather than picking up a box and expecting everything to work "

That is the absolute key.

Some makers (DELL, System76 and Purism) do make laptops designed for Linux, with devices that Linux can support.
 

mark_j

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Funny, I built a new PC (first in 10 years) and didn't pick anything specifically for FreeBSD. Everything works perfectly. Intel CPU, Msi motherboard, flawless experience. Maybe I am lucky but my last PC, now my build server, was commercial and also worked flawlessly. maybe maybe sticking to mainstream hardware is the way to go.
Go buy a laptop and let us know how successful you are?
Support for the 'basic' PC is pretty good, it is when you get a bunch of realtek and broadcom hardware that things go ... BOOOM ...
 

Gustaaf

New Member


Messages: 12

Apple hardware is designed for OSX. I would certainly not base my FreeBSD experience on a hardware platform that is designed and married to a proprietary OS. I'm just sayin...
Why not ?
On that same Apple hardware I'm running Windows10 and Ubuntu18.
Windows10 needed some minor tweaking, Ubuntu was operational right out of the box, including the Broadcom driver, the Ati Radeon card, and the Brother printers.

Malavon said:
As CraigHB wrote:
"The trick is you pick the hardware for the OS rather than picking up a box and expecting everything to work "
Sure, probably the right thing to do for FreeBsd, but in my opinion that's a serious drawback.

Anyhow, I'm afraid this is getting way off topic.
 

CraigHB

Active Member

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That line is actually getting a little fuzzy now between laptop and desktop with these small form factor desktop devices. You can even use ARM devices that would fit in a pants pocket. Right now I keep a keyboard/mouse combo in my laptop bag. So really the only difference from a small form factor desktop system is there's no attached monitor and no battery. Otherwise I could fit the stuff in the same bag.

In any case laptop computers are notorious for using specialized hardware, that's just what makers do when they design them. It is possible to use FreeBSD on a laptop and people do it. You have to be super picky about the hardware and there's a FreeBSD laptop computer compatibility list I've viewed around here somewhere.

At one I thought in terms of using a laptop system with FreeBSD, but I've decided to go with a small form factor desktop system instead. Still not as portable as a laptop, but I don't travel much so it's not a problem.
 
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