Karl Denninger karl at denninger.net
Wed Mar 30 21:30:24 PST 2005

On Wed, Mar 30, 2005 at 10:44:38AM -0800, Drew Tomlinson wrote:
> >
> I missed the beginning of this thread and apologize if my question has 
> already been covered.  But can you tell me if this issue might be the 
> reason my PC locks up intermittently ?  I have whatever cheap card came 
> with a Maxtor 160 GB SATA drive installed in this machine and the PC ran 
> fine with Windows.  Now I'm trying install FBSD from the 5.4-BETA ISO I 
> downloaded from the ftp site.  The PC runs POST fine and always boots 
> from the CD to the boot menu.  After picking the default option 1 
> (normal boot) the PC locks up anywhere from the dmesg output to 
> sysinstall actually beginning to install the base package after doing 
> the fdisk and disklabel stuff.  Should I download 5.3-RELEASE and try 
> installing from that?
> Thanks,
> Drew

5.3-RELEASE may lock up too, but in different ways.  In a non-redundant disk
situation a bogus fatal write error hoses you in extremely bad ways, including 
possible file or filesystem metadata damage. I would NOT run 5.3 in an attempt 
to get around this, in that such damage could remain "hidden" (although not
without notice, as the errors will show up on the console!) for quite some
time until you discover "holes" in your files or a critical metadata write
craps out and causes a crash - possibly with a corrupted disk that fsck
can't fix. Grave danger (to your data) lies down that road....

5.4-PRERELEASE, once the tests are complete (that I'm working on now), the 
decisions on what to commit are made, and a new ISO is cut, should work - 
it will bitch (a LOT) about retried writes, but it should work.  At least
that's what I'm seeing right now - I can provoke the error, but it doesn't
kill the machine anymore and it also doesn't appear to corrupt data as the
retired write is (by all appearances) successful.  It'll be a couple of days
before I can be SURE that what appears to be working right now is in fact
stable though, then however long it takes for the back room stuff to get
done and new ISOs generated.

BTW its NOT your hardware at fault here - the same hardware that returns 
these complaints for me on 5.x works perfectly with 4.11.  There have been 
changes made to the ATA code that apparently interact VERY badly with 
some controllers - particularly some very common SATA (SII chipset, used 
on Adaptec and Bustek boards, among others) ones.  

I don't know if GEOM/GMIRROR is truly involved here although that's the
easiest way for me to provoke it - I suspect not - its just that
GEOM/GMIRROR produces an I/O load pattern that is conducive to the 
breakage showing up.  Specifically, a "DD" from one or more disks does NOT
fail - a mix of reads and writes and fairly significant load appears 
necessary to cause trouble.  Of course installation produces a very nice
load of that type....

I opened a PR on this quite some time ago - IMHO this sort of breakage
should be considered a critical fault sufficient to stop a release until 
its completely resolved.  A workaround that stops the system from blowing up
but leaves the pauses and errors isn't really a fix - I doubt anyone
will consider that acceptable as a means of truly addressing the problem 
(at least I hope not!)

I got "surprised" by this (in a bad way) and have been fighting 
workarounds since 5.3 was deemed "production" quality.  Going back to 
4.x is possible for me, but highly undesireable for a number of reasons, not
the least of which is the official FreeBSD posture on where work is and will
be done on the OS down the road.

The Intel ICH-based SATA adapters appear NOT to have this problem.  I've
beat the living SNOT out of my two systems with ICH-based motherboard SATA
controllers on them for days at a time and have been unable to provoke 
the problem - using the same disk drives.  

The SII-based chipset boards I have (one Adaptec and one Bustek) reliably 
puke within seconds with a simple large-directory copy.

Both ran for a VERY long time under 4.x and were completely stable.

Unfortunately I've yet to find an actual <BOARD> with the ICH chipset on 
it - it is common among motherboard SATA controllers, but that doesn't help
people who need the adapter on a PCI card.

ATA-GenIII may fix all this but I've yet to try it.  In any event that's a
research project right now, although it will likely soon get committed to
-HEAD.  That still doesn't help you though in that it won't show up in
-STABLE until people are satisfied that it at worst is at least as good 
as what's in there now.....

Karl Denninger (karl at denninger.net) Internet Consultant & Kids Rights Activist
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