Friday, December 10, 2004

NetBSD 2.0 Installation Issues

I wanted to install NetBSD 2.0 on a real system, so I called on one of the mightiest boxes in my arsenal to host a new installation. I picked a Dell-built 1996-era Pentium (original, not "Pro") 200 MHz with 32 MB RAM. This box was running Windows 98, and my father-in-law donated it to my collection when he bought a new system.

I had multiple problems with this box. First, it has a Sony CDU311 CD-ROM that refused to read the CD on which I had burnt NetBSD 2.0. I created boot floppies and did an FTP install. I missed a crucial part of the partition creation process, however, that caused the system to hang at "Mounting all filesystems..." after a reboot. If you look at the screenshot below, you'll see that NetBSD by default offers to host the "tmp" partition on a RAM disk:

By default the size is 0, meaning this "memory file system" (mfs) won't be created. However, I moved my cursor down to the "tmp" row and added a 1024 MB entry. I didn't stop and think that I should have created a real "/tmp" partition on the hard drive. When I rebooted, the system wasn't able to create a 1024 MB memory-resident "tmp" partition, so the system hung.

Before I fixed the problem, I was able to boot into single user mode with 'boot -s' at the boot loader. I then knew the problem involved the filesystems I had built. I reinstalled the system and created a "real" /tmp:

juneau: {2} cat /etc/fstab
/dev/wd0a / ffs rw 1 1
/dev/wd0b none swap sw 0 0
/dev/wd0e /usr ffs rw 1 2
/dev/wd0f /var ffs rw 1 2
/dev/wd0g /home ffs rw 1 2
/dev/wd0h /tmp ffs rw 1 2
kernfs /kern kernfs rw
procfs /proc procfs rw,noauto
juneau: {3} df -h
Filesystem Size Used Avail Capacity Mounted on
/dev/wd0a 497M 19M 453M 4% /
/dev/wd0f 2.5G 535K 2.3G 0% /var
/dev/wd0e 4.8G 153M 4.5G 3% /usr
/dev/wd0g 993M 8.0K 943M 0% /home
/dev/wd0h 249M 1.0K 237M 0% /tmp
kernfs 1.0K 1.0K 0B 100% /kern

I chose not to install the games or X distributions. Take a look at how much of the /usr partition is occupied -- 153 MB. That's what I call avoiding software bloat!

Now my monster NetBSD box is running like a champ. The only change I've made so far is enabling OpenSSH by adding this line to /etc/rc.conf:


If you want to see dmesg output, visit This is a good example of taking hardware that would otherwise go to the dump and making something useful out of it. I could turn this system into a low-volume mail, Web, or DNS server, for sure.


Anonymous said...

Typo: "I wanted to installed NetBDS 2.0"

Should be: I wanted to install NetBSD 2.0

Richard Bejtlich said...

Muchas gracias.