Discussion on the future of floppies in 5.x and 6.x

William Grim wgrim at siue.edu
Sun Jan 11 11:13:11 PST 2004

Marco van de Voort wrote:

>>I also don't think it's the issue that needs to be dealt with - 
>>distribution is much, much, MUCH bigger an issue than "shall we get rid 
>>of floppies"? I sent this to the list before, but it got ignored, so 
>>I'll send it again, where Jordan points out we have bigger issues to 
>>deal with when discussing the "floppy disk problem" whilst discussing 
>>libh:- (http://rtp1.slowblink.com/~libh/sysinstall2/improvements.html):
>>"As I mentioned in Section 2.3, one of the more annoying problems with
>>FreeBSD's current distribution format is the dividing line between
>>distributions and packages. There should really only be one type of
>>"distribution format" and, of course, it should be the package (There Can
>>Be Only One). Achieving this means we're first going to have to grapple
>>with several problems, however:
>>First, eliminating the distribution format means either teaching the
>>package tools how to deal with a split archive format (they currently do
>>not) or divorcing ourselves forever from floppies as a distribution
>>medium. This is an issue which would seem an easy one to decide but
>>invariably becomes Highly Religious(tm) every time it's brought up. In
>>some dark corner of the world, there always seems to be somebody still
>>installing FreeBSD via floppies and even some of the fortune 500 folks can
>>cite FreeBSD success stories where they resurrected some old 386 box (with
>>only a floppy drive and no networking/CD/...) and turned it into the star
>>of the office/saved the company/etc etc. That's not to say we can't still
>>bite that particular bullet, just that it's not a decision which will go
>>down easily with everyone and should be well thought-out."
>>And I have to say, I agree. If abondoning floppies is part of some
>>well-thought-out and well-planned package management strategy, I'm all for
>>it. Otherwise, let sleeping dogs lie?
>It isn't as far as I can understand from that link. JKH is talking about
>doing floppy only install
>(....some old 386 box (with only a floppy drive and no networking/CD/...) and
>turned it into the star of the office/saved the company/etc etc...)
>not loading an installation kernel and /stand from floppy and then transfer to
>network/cd later.
>This because when then base/packages need to fit on floppy. This isn't necessary
>for the current two-flop, then CD install which is discussed now. 
>P.s. for the record, I prefer Slackware's approach to floppy booting.
>Multiple cut down bootsets (SCSI, NET etc) with the ability to simply
>extract extra kernel modules from CD to a floppy (on a separate machine) and
>load them from floppy while still in the initial system ramdisk (before
>mounting CD). The loading/mounting etc must be done by hand, no extra
>new functionality required.
>Maybe the basic idea should be to forget the equivalence of floppy and cd
>boot, and deliver a set of kernel modules on CD, and a few basic boot/root
>floppies, and for the rest let users create their own custom driver discs,
>and do some extra work to keep their floppy boot running.
>That ends the one boot/root for all idea, but is maybe more flexible, ( didn't
>have to make something with custom kernel to install my Proliant 1500, but
>only select the right kernel disc and copy some extra kernel moduless to an empty
>flop) and at the same time decrease release engineering on the floppies.
>I think this is a good compromise:  Keep floppy option open, but shift some
>burden to the users.
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This idea dawned on me a few moments ago:

If it's really such a big deal to get rid of floppy support, how about 
we get rid of it and make sure an older version of FreeBSD 4.x/5.x is 
always available for download?  This way, floppy users could install an 
older version of the OS and cvsup to the latest version they want.

I see the above as a decent compromise.  This way, we no longer have to 
support newer floppy editions, but we leave people with floppy drives an 
option to perform the installation.

What do you think?

William Michael Grim
Student, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville
Unix Network Administrator, SIUE, Computer Science dept.
Phone: (217) 341-6552
Email: wgrim at siue.edu

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