Short Tip: Dealing with FreeBSD for noobs

I had the pleasure to work with FreeBSD again in the past week. I have not touched it in over a year and would consider myself a Linux-only person. I designed a new backup infrastructure which requires a FreeBSD server. Here are some of the issues I had to deal with during the installation.

Starting the Installer
So I am working in a datacenter, and walking to the server and inserting a USB drive really sucks, I need PXE. Booting the official FreeBSD images via PXE did not work out. mfsBSD is a collection of scripts to create a FreeBSD live image that can be booted via PXE, I used it successfully in the past. Right now the FreeBSD 11 support isn’t completely implemented, my friend foxxx0 was so kind to test and debug mfsBSD until he could build a working image for me.

Enterprise Filesystem vs Enterprise Hardwareraid
The server is assembled with an LSI Raidcontroller. FreeBSD brings the awesome ZFS filesystem, to use the full potential you need to pass through all drives to the operating system and don’t create a hardware raid. Sadly, the damn LSI 9271 controller is unable to do that (but every cheap controller that costs only 30% can handle this…). As a workaround I have to create a raid 0 for each drive. This can be achived by the following command:
storcli /c0 add vd each type=raid0 pdcache=off

Getting more writable space into mfsBSD
The image I got from foxxx0 was around 87MB, it gets loaded into the ram and it writable, however the partitions are nearly filled up to 100% after the boot. I was to lazy to increase them (means: I had no clue how to do that and I am really really lazy). But instead we can create a tmpfs and mount it somewhere:

mkdir /usr/ports
mdmfs -s 500m md1 /usr/ports

This will create a 500MB tmpfs in /usr/ports.

Trying to Build Software in a fresh System
I need to build storcli, because it isn’t available as a package. This requires a few step. We did the following in a booted mfsBSD (we had to create the tmpfs in /usr/ports to get some free space before that):

portsnap fetch extract
cd /usr/ports/sysutils/storcli
make config fetch checksum depends extract patch configure build
make install

We were unable to run the commands without failures, after fiddling around with it for a longer time we tried the same on an already installed system and it worked out. The mfsBSD isn’t recognized as a proper FreeBSD during the compilation which leads to several errors.

Fixing bsdinstall
FreeBSD ships a tool called bsdinstall, this is a ncurses based installer. This is broken in freebsd11 or msfBSD. It needs a MANIFEST file which wasn’t present in mfsBSD. This can easily be fixed by running:

wget ftp://ftp.freebsd.org/pub/FreeBSD/releases/amd64/amd64/11.0-RELEASE/MANIFEST -O /usr/freebsd-dist/

After all this I was able to run the bsdinstall script and had a booting FreeBSD 11. More fun will come!

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