Install instructions badly out of sync with 5.1

Bruce A. Mah bmah at
Tue Jul 1 15:37:51 UTC 2003

If memory serves me right, Dub Dublin wrote:

> Someone needs to do a MAJOR rework of the installation instructions for 
> 5.1.  It's quite obvious that a LOT has changed w.r.t. the install since 
> those instructions were written, especially since CD-ROM installs are 
> barely mentioned and I cannot find any information anywhere on the site 
> as to what exactly the miniinst ISO image is supposed to do - if it's 
> there, it's well-hidden.  This compounds the fact that the installation 
> process itself is quite painful due to its seriously counterintuitive 
> nature in many places.

[I somehow feel compelled to respond to this email.  I am trying,
perhaps not successfully, not to take it too personally.]

I presume you're referring to the INSTALL.TXT and INSTALL.HTM files
that come with each distribution.  If someone (be it you or someone
else) wants to take on the task of bringing them up to date, that'd be
fantastic.  I'm at least somewhat responsible for the release
documentation (of which these are a part), but my main focus is the
release notes.  Rewriting the install instructions (paying particular
attention to the various platforms that we now support) is simply a
bigger task than I personally have time or energy for.

> In addition, documentation on hardware support, perticularly for laptops 
> and PCMCIA cards appears to be completely lacking - I only hope that it 
> doesn't reflect an equivalent lack of real hardware support.  (For 
> instance, my very common Netgear PCMCIA Ethernet card is apparently not 
> supported on anything on the CDs, leaving me stranded without net 
> access, which is completely unacceptable, especially for someone that 
> can't figure out how he's supposed to find and install new drivers on an 
> OS that's only half-installed.

You looked in the hardware notes, right?

We try not to list specific laptops because this list would: 1) A
moving target and 2) very long.  I remember at least one
externally-maintained list but can't remember the URL off-hand.

Updates for the supported hardware list are welcome.  More details
than "my very common Netgear PCMCIA Ethernet card" would be needed, of

I guess I'd sum up my response to the first two paragraphs as: "Yes,
these may suck, but making them better require that someone volunteer
to do the work."  Please don't volunteer me, I have enough to do with
a full-time job plus my existing FreeBSD projects.

> To put this in perspective, let me say that I am NOT a newbie - I have 
> nearly 20 years of Unix expereince, and was once a Sun SE and Network 
> Ambassador.  I have installed and worked with nearly every major Unix 
> out there starting with Version 7, as well as several Linux distros 
> including the dreaded Debian.
> The really sad thing is that I have so far been absolutely unable to get 
> anything remotely approaching a fully functioning system installed in 
> three tries.

Have you tried asking on the mailing lists for assistance?

> If I can't do it, you guys are hosed.  I really want to 
> use BSD, and I am staunchly opposed to the GPL, but really, the area of 
> installation needs some major work or you're never going to win anyone 
> over simply because they'll never see it run.  

My experience as one of the release engineers says otherwise.  I'd be
one of the first to agree that the installer could use a lot of work
but people do manage (somehow) to get the system running.  I'm
certainly not saying you're stupid, far from it.  But there's no shame
in asking for assistance either.

I presume you're also aware that we don't encourage the use of 5.X for
new FreeBSD users, at least not yet.  It still has quite a few rough

> I'm not a coder, but I'm a pretty good architect and a darn good product 
> manager, so if you need someone to head up a new installer effort, 
> please let me know - I'd be happy to help.

Unfortunately, the mailing list archives are littered with the corpses
of countless email threads, bikesheds, and flamewars about what a new
installer would look like.  It's not that the concept of a "better"
installer has never occurred to the FreeBSD community.  The problem is
that there has never been anyone with the right combination of
ability, time, and interest to actually pull this off.  If you're
really interested, I can (I think) point you in the direction of the
most recent group of people to show interest in this area.

I'm not sure where follow-up discussion should take place.  Installer
issues are definitely off-topic for freebsd-doc at .  :-p

Thanks for writing,

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