Today I’ve set up my first ZFS file system in production. I know ZFS is experimental and 7.0 is not yet even in beta but I like experimenting, and it won’t be a critical server for about two months. So far, absolutely everything has gone very smoothly: upgrade from 6.2-STABLE to 7.0, then backup, ZFS setup and restore. No hiccups anywhere in sight.
The main reason I decided to go this way is ZFS’s slick volume management, with the ability to “mix and match” devices into the same pool of storage and carve file systems out of it, with reservations and quotas. I haven’t done any specific ZFS tuning but since I have 2 GB of memory on this machine (i386) I’ve not yet encountered problems even with near-production loads. We’ll see…
So far there’s been one panic in ZFS, during a large rsync operation. I couldn’t track it down or provoke it again.
As the rtc bug is solved, I can finally go back to what I’m supposed to do. As a proof of concept, I’ve prepared one last “plain” FreeBSD LiveCD with integrated X11 and Xfce environment, with SMP kernel, without WITNESS & INVARIANTS & without debug symbols – in other words, a fully functional system that will not be much different from when 7.0 goes into RELEASE status.
The ISO image (which is no longer available for download) contains all of FreeBSD “base” system, a recent kernel (which includes fixes to the ZFS), and a basic X11 system with Xfce 4.2 desktop environment (you can run it as root by starting “startx”). The installer is not yet integrated into the image so ignore the startup message about the “install” user, etc.
This LiveCD is mostly usable to people that need a “rescue” CD or those which need to experiment with certain aspects of 7.0 like hardware compatibility. It’s not a general-purpose “desktop” LiveCD and it has at least one critical bug, a panic in unionfs which occurs very frequently.
I’ve got to a stage where I can build mostly functional LiveCDs! If anyone’s interested, here‘s one of the latest “working” CD image with X11. Download it, login as root and you can run startx to get a nice Xfce desktop environment. The LiveCD contains the whole FreeBSD “base” system, minimal X11 system (only VESA driver) and full Xfce.
But there are problems. Actually, one problem: xfdesktop. For some reasons, this little application is causing all sorts of trouble on the LiveCD (but not on *my* desktop, from which the binaries are picked up!). The latest problem is that it simply crashes when started, with abort trap in glib’s wrapper for pthread_cond_wait(). This is a show stopper bug but I don’t know how to solve it. The weird thing is that *some* CD builds (approx. 1 in 50) “just work”, with nothing traceable changed.
[update: this is solved]
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I finally decided to use the nice facilities on blogs.freebsdish.org and write something about what I’m doing.
I’m creating a new new FreeBSD graphical installer meant to be simple to use for most of people and work on most of hardware. The road to I’ve taken is to pick up some good ideas from recent Linux installer, like Ubuntu’s, and create a full LiveCD with X11 which can also “additionally” be used as an install CD. The actual installation tasks will be handled by a separate backend, which could later be used to perform generic system configuration.
So far, the work is progressing nicely.
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