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You are here: MacNN Forums > Software - Troubleshooting and Discussion > Alternative Operating Systems > Installing FreeBSD on a MacBook

Installing FreeBSD on a MacBook
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Posting Junkie
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Mar 29, 2008, 02:15 PM
 
I've got the original CD MacBook. I've been trying to install FreeBSD on it in BootCamp, but haven't had much luck. I've been using the tutorial at goddess-gate.com as a starting point, but for some reason it won't actually install and instead hoses my partition map which is obviously a huge pain in the ass (good thing I keep backups...). The problem appears to have something to do with my partitioning scheme.

The error occurs when it first starts attempting to write the files to disk. It gives me an error saying, basically, that it could write anything, and then just fails. If I restart I can usually boot into OS X (though sometimes I can't even do that), but Disk Utility no longer recognizes my partition map type and won't let me remove the bootcamp partition. I should also note that when I'm configuring the bootcamp slice from FAT to FreeBSD it gives me some error message about it not starting on a cylinder boundary or something along those lines.

I suppose I could give it another go so I can provide more details about the errors, but I'd rather not have to deal with all that just now as it takes several hours to go through the whole process of screwing up my computer and then getting it back into working order. But my guess is that it's the cylinder boundary error or whatever it is that's causing the problem. Do I just need to create a bootcamp partition of a different size?
     
Posting Junkie
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Mar 29, 2008, 05:04 PM
 
Put the non-OSX partition first on the disk.
     
Posting Junkie
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Mar 29, 2008, 05:07 PM
 
Hmm, I do remember reading something about that a long time ago when the Boot Camp beta was first released. I'll give it a shot.

Although... Is it even possible to do that non-destructively? I'm going to have to reformat my drive and re-install OS X, aren't I?
     
Mac Elite
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Mar 29, 2008, 06:29 PM
 
Originally Posted by nonhuman View Post
Hmm, I do remember reading something about that a long time ago when the Boot Camp beta was first released. I'll give it a shot.

Although... Is it even possible to do that non-destructively? I'm going to have to reformat my drive and re-install OS X, aren't I?
Probably. I don't know of any way to nondestructively move an HFS+ partition. If you've got Leopard, you can always just restore from Time Machine. Plus, now you can try to get FreeBSD on the bare drive, then worry about partitioning afterwards once that's good.

Any ramblings are entirely my own, and do not represent those of my employers, coworkers, friends, or species
     
Posting Junkie
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Mar 29, 2008, 06:43 PM
 
Yeah, that's what I thought. :/

Maybe I'll give it a try tomorrow. I just wish there were a faster way to restore my system... (Restoring from TimeMachine is slow )
( Last edited by nonhuman; Mar 29, 2008 at 06:52 PM. )
     
Mac Elite
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Mar 30, 2008, 02:35 PM
 
There's always Carbon Copy Cloner if you want to make a quick image of your disk to restore later. I'm not sure how much faster it is, though.
( Last edited by TheoCryst; Mar 30, 2008 at 02:36 PM. Reason: Bad URL)

Any ramblings are entirely my own, and do not represent those of my employers, coworkers, friends, or species
     
Posting Junkie
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Mar 30, 2008, 03:12 PM
 
Good call, I'm a little embarrassed I didn't think of that on my own.

Ooh, the new version of CCC is pretty.
     
Posting Junkie
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Mar 30, 2008, 06:49 PM
 
Argh, now the installer's hanging on probing devices...
     
Posting Junkie
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Mar 30, 2008, 07:04 PM
 
Ok, got past that, and didn't get any warning about my slice not starting at the beginning of the cylinder or whatever. But it is still failing to install:

Write failure on transfer! (wrote -1 bytes of 1425408 bytes)
     
Posting Junkie
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Mar 30, 2008, 07:06 PM
 
Well here's some crazy ****... Despite the installer claiming that it failed to write any data I can now boot into FreeBSD...
     
Posting Junkie
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Apr 2, 2008, 07:19 PM
 
Well, I'm posting this from Opera on my MacBook running FreeBSD. It's dual-booting with OS X just fine.

I've got it running on ZFS, which is pretty cool. I love that I can have my entire /usr/ports directory gziped at the filesystem level. I'm also incredibly impressed that WiFi worked out of the box. After all the time and effort I've put into getting WiFi working in Linux on various laptops this was just ...amazing.

Next step is getting a worthwhile wm installed. Currently I'm just using the default TWM because it's actually one of the easier ones to use with just a single mouse button... But I'm probably going to go with e17. I'd like to take KDE4 for a spin, but sadly it's not in ports yet.
     
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Apr 3, 2008, 01:18 AM
 
Any Linux distribution is absolute **** compared to FreeBSD. I've dealt with enough Linux in my life to be completely faithful to the BSDs and not ever look back.
     
Posting Junkie
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Apr 3, 2008, 08:19 AM
 
I'm starting to agree. I've always been a Gentoo user too, so FreeBSD is at the same time incredibly familiar in usage and incredibly easier to use. It's basically like Gentoo but better, with all the advantages Debian as well.

It is a little annoying how it takes longer for software to be ported, but I don't really require bleeding edge software so much as enjoy playing with it sometimes.
     
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Apr 3, 2008, 02:56 PM
 
Have you had a look at the FreeBSD handbook? It's probably the single, most comprehensive reference for doing 99% of what you'll want to do with the OS.
     
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Apr 3, 2008, 03:09 PM
 
well done, nonhuman... that's impressive.

what type of macbook do you have ? I'm particularly interested in the species of its wireless card. Everything i'd seen lead me to believe that newer mac wifi cards (i.e. Atheros AR5008) were still not supported in FreeBSD7.0 .

Could you post (or send me privately) a dmesg output ?

Thanks.
     
Posting Junkie
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Apr 3, 2008, 06:36 PM
 
Thanks.

It's the first-gen MacBook, 2.0 GHz CD. FreeBSD 7 supports the card in the CD MacBooks, but not in the C2D MacBooks. Shows up as /dev/ath0.

Originally Posted by dmesg
ath0: <Atheros 5424/2424> mem 0x90100000-0x9010ffff irq 17 at device 0.0 on pci2
ath0: [ITHREAD]
ath0: using obsoleted if_watchdog interface
ath0: mac 10.3 phy 6.1 radio 10.2
First time I've ever been happy that I didn't wait a while and get the newer one with 802.11n!
     
Posting Junkie
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Apr 3, 2008, 06:37 PM
 
Originally Posted by Tomchu View Post
Have you had a look at the FreeBSD handbook? It's probably the single, most comprehensive reference for doing 99% of what you'll want to do with the OS.
I've been looking through it as I encounter specific questions, but I haven't taken a very comprehensive look at it yet. It's a pretty impressive piece of documentation though!
     
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Apr 3, 2008, 07:35 PM
 
Originally Posted by nonhuman View Post

It's the first-gen MacBook, 2.0 GHz CD. FreeBSD 7 supports the card in the CD MacBooks, but not in the C2D MacBooks. Shows up as /dev/ath0.
Damn... that's what I was afraid of. My macbook is a later-model core 2 duo. Guess I'll just have to be patient, or dive into the code and see what can be done...

I went from linux-->FreeBSD-->os x, but I really appreciate the polish, sophistication, and admin simplicity of FreeBSD; it's by far my favorite OS for use as a development platform.

Keep us posted of your progress,troubles, etc... It's all very interesting to follow.

Thx a bunch.
     
Posting Junkie
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Apr 5, 2008, 06:03 PM
 
Well, I've basically got my MacBook fully functioning. I'm running e17 for my wm, I've got both Opera and Konquerer installed (though I've removed all the KDE packages other than kdebase and its dependencies, most I just wanted kate), and I've got pidgin installed. I've also got gvim and xemacs for work. I think I'm set.

The few issues I've come up against:
1. Trackpad - there's no support for advanced trackpad features yet. The synaptics drivers available for FreeBSD won't recognize the USB trackpad that Apple uses, so it works only to move the cursor and left-click. I've currently got it set up so that F10, F11, and F12 set the mousebutton to be left-, middle-, or right-click, and I'm working on hacking together a script to let me ctrl-click for right-click.
2. fn key - there's no support for the fn key on the MacBook keyboard which means that I can't use my Home, End, PgUp, or PgDn keys. This is annoying. Fortunately this doesn't affect the usefulness of the brightness and volume keys as you can use xbindkeys to handle that.
4. Battery monitor - the built-in e17 battery widget is only somewhat functional. It tells me if my battery is full, otherwise it says 'DRIVER'. Oddly enough this does not appear to indicate a driver problem as I can get all the information about the state of my battery at the command line. Since that information is so easily available, I figure I'll either just patch the e17 widget or write my own. I'll also probably try a few exiting alternatives first to see if any of them just work.
3. Firefox - for whatever reason I have yet to be able to get Firefox working. I've tried the firefox, firefox-devel, linux-firefox, and linux-firefox-devel packages to no avail. I figure I'll just stick with Opera and Konqueror for now and wait until Firefox 3 is released and available for FreeBSD.

Other than those four things, I've been able to do pretty much everything I've wanted to, and all quite easily.
     
Clinically Insane
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Apr 6, 2008, 02:29 AM
 
It's cool to see that there are some FreeBSD fans here. I like FreeBSD a lot, I just wish more Desktop apps would work smoothly on it (stuff like MythTV, VMWare, etc.)

I believe ZFS support in FBSD 7 is experimental, right? Any of you running ZFS? Does it seem stable?
     
Posting Junkie
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Apr 6, 2008, 10:26 AM
 
I am running ZFS, and I haven't had any problems with it at all. It does give me a warning every time I boot up that it's considered experimental, but no crashes or anything.

Also, if anyone else is interested in running FreeBSD on their Mac Laptop, I've come up with a method to use ctrl-click as a right click!

You have to install xvkbd and then add this to you .xbindkeysrc:
"xvkbd -text '\m3'"
Control + b:1

"xvkbd -text '\m2'"
Alt + b:1
This will allow you to ctrl-click for a right-click and alt-click for a middle click.

The one problem is that you have to compile the latest version of xvkbd yourself as the one in ports is old. I came up with this with the help of Rui Paolo who's responsible for the MacBook page in the FreeBSD wiki. He figured out that we needed to use the latest version of xvkbd. I'm going to take this as a chance to try building my own port.
( Last edited by nonhuman; Apr 6, 2008 at 11:29 AM. )
     
Clinically Insane
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Apr 6, 2008, 06:41 PM
 
OS X Server needs something as slick as FreeBSD ports before it approaches becoming useful in an enterprise environment where infrastructure is based on OSS.
     
Posting Junkie
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Apr 7, 2008, 01:15 AM
 
Well there's MacPorts...
     
Clinically Insane
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Apr 7, 2008, 01:19 AM
 
Originally Posted by nonhuman View Post
Well there's MacPorts...
I know, and unless things have changed it is nowhere near as strong as FreeBSD Ports.
     
   
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