FreeBSD Installer Roadmap

Devin Teske dteske at
Sat Feb 19 03:34:39 UTC 2011

On Feb 18, 2011, at 7:46 AM, Nathan Whitehorn wrote:

> On 01/18/11 11:38, Nathan Whitehorn wrote:
>> This plan ensures that we have a minimum of three months of testing of the new installer on snapshot media before the 9.0 release, which should ensure a minimum of bugs. I would also like to point out that there are no roads in this map that end up with us having sysinstall as the default installer past the 18th of February. After 15 years of sysinstall being "greatly in need of death", it will finally be time to retire it.
> Today is the 18th of February. Josh Paetzel and I (mostly him) have done a significant amount of infrastructural work required to do the bsdinstall/pc-sysinstall merge, but it is not quite done yet, so I have imported bsdinstall into HEAD with its own backend. As per the original roadmap, we will now continue work on merging (first retaining the bsdinstall partition editor backend combined with the rest of pc-sysinstall) while simultaneously working on release integration and bug fixes for bsdinstall.
> Many thanks to everyone who provided test results and feedback. Recent test ISOs can be found at the BSDInstall wiki page at for amd64, i386, powerpc, powerpc64, and sparc64.
> -Nathan

I've been following this (and related) threads for months (regarding alternatives to sysinstall), and yet I am still hesitant to write this e-mail (perhaps unnecessarily-so)(that is to say, that I've been biting our collective tongue until now). However, the fact remains that this is perhaps going to raise some ire (or perhaps the opposite ... maybe people will like what I have to say), and for that I apologize in advance. Okay, here we go.

I -- having a _deep_ love and respect for sysinstall and further having spent many years of my life in the deep annals of its twisted home-grown code base -- plan to create/manage/maintain a 3rd-party distribution installer that continues to use sysinstall to install the later (assumed bsdinstall-based) versions of FreeBSD.

There are many reasons for this, and none of them are selfish (although it remains possible to drum-up some selfish reason, all of the reasons behind our motivation are in-fact unselfish). Truth-be-told, I welcome the replacement of sysinstall but am very wary that ANY replacement will be able to exactly replicate the hardware compatibility that sysinstall currently enjoys. I do indeed envision a great celebration as FreeBSD-9 bucks sysinstall but also at the same time have nightmares of receiving waves of calls from people having trouble (for example) "installing FreeBSD-9 on their AMD K6 based system, circa long-long-ago in a universe far-far-away." (yes, we do have data centers running that very equipment with uptime in the 1,000's of days).

This project is simply to give people an alternative as bugs are ironed-out in the new installer.

A quick note however... this project will _NOT_ be continued in perpetuity. That is to say that I will only offer a sysinstall-based alternative to the newest releases using bsdinstall for a limited time. How limited? Until I can get our "universal installler" migrated over to the new install platform AND prove that said new installer can work on *every* machine that we employ in production. That being said, we may be looking at years of offerings (no less than one, but beit far-fetched for me to consider maintaining this longer than 3-4 years; *self-check* I just _know_ I'm going to eat those words some day).

The code to keep this running has already been developed in-house and will be published in the next 6 months on

The long and the short of this is... with a large distribution of over 1,000 FreeBSD systems running in production (that's an ultra-conservative estimate by the way), we will be damned-sad to see sysinstall bite the dust yet eagerly await the day we can perform real-world tests with the newer installer -- however until then we are fully intending on extending the life of sysinstall to service our customer's production-level requirements (sysinstall has served us well, so we intend to return the favor by extending its life -- and we hope that there are people out there that have the same sentiments about this aged-but-rock-solid code).

P.S. Call us luddites, call us slow-movers, but don't call us haters ^_^ (I for one welcome our new bsdinstall overlords -- we just need more time for the transition but don't want to be pigeon-holed into running FreeBSD-8.x as our last production OS simply because the FreeBSD-9 installer is different).

P.P.S. I've got _no_ idea what kind of response I'm going to get from this. But (holds up a snifter of sherry), here's to hoping that someone out there will be sounding the trumpets in favor of someone willing to carry on the legacy! (hey, I'm all for advancement, but there's something to be said for paying homage to your roots).

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Devin Teske

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