Perry Hutchison wrote:
The BIOS clears the screen and loads the boot sector, then nothing.
I'm not sure exactly what the problem is, but I can say I've installed FreeBSD x.y on just about every flavor of Dell hardware without much trouble, so it should work for you. Disclaimer: the Dimension line is highly variable re: component types, chip versions and overall quality, so all bets are off there, even though all the pieces are generally "mainstream hardware".

It's an Optiplex GX1, with 192MB/10GB.

Did you install using the default/suggested disk geometry and slice arrangement, or did you try to tune things as the installer went along?

I didn't try to mess with the geometry, but I didn't give FreeBSD the
whole disk -- I intend for it to coexist with Linux and a FAT32 OS.
I also adjusted the subpartitioning (and this seems to be necessary
-- see below).

Try this: Reinstall, and if prompted about disk geometry problems just let the installer do what it wants to. When prompted to choose a disk location to install to, choose "A" for "Use Entire Disk", and when prompted to slice up that disk area, choose "A" again for "Auto Defaults". When prompted for a boot manager, choose to install the FreeBSD MBR.

It worked better this time.  I suspect the important difference was
that I let it install the FreeBSD MBR (with considerable misgivings,
given the onscreen caution about PC-DOS -- but the FreeBSD boot
manager does seem to boot Windoze without problems).

Unfortunately, it looks as if I'll have to do it *again* because
the default /usr size was quite a bit too small -- even though
sysinstall had over 3GB to start with.

Using the default allocation of that 3GB, and selecting a Developer
configuration (including ports), the install stopped with

  Couldn't create directory /usr/compat: No space left on device.

"df" confirms that /usr is full (and the considerably larger /var
is nearly empty):

  Filesystem  1K-blocks    Used   Avail Capacity  Mounted on
  /dev/ad0s3a    507630   35212  431808     8%    /
  devfs               1       1       0   100%    /dev
  /dev/ad0s3e    507630      12  467008     0%    /tmp
  /dev/ad0s3f    832504  811572  -45668   106%    /usr
  /dev/ad0s3d   1190350     248 1094874     0%    /var

In case it matters, uname -a reports:

  FreeBSD gx1 6.1-RELEASE FreeBSD 6.1-RELEASE #0: Sun May  7 04:32:43 UTC 2006  
   [EMAIL PROTECTED]:/usr/obj/usr/src/sys/GENERIC  i386

Evidently I need to make /, /tmp, and /var quite a bit smaller,
so as to enlarge /usr.

... if you still have problems describe to the list
the end result you're trying to achieve by your tuning.

The first goal is to finish the install without running out of
space :)  I'd prefer to also arrange for FreeBSD to share the
Linux swap space -- thus freeing up more space for /usr or /home
by eliminating ad0s3b -- rather than leaving the Linux swap
unused when FreeBSD is running.  I've found some mentions of
Linux swap partitions in the FreeBSD source code, so I suspect
that this might be possible, but I didn't find any mention in
the docs of how to do it.

The drive currently has three primary partitions (Linux /boot,
FAT32, FreeBSD) and an extended partition containing Linux swap
and Linux root.  Partition Commander (commercial) shows the disk
layout as

    Ptn   size   ----- type -----  1st sector  # of sectors
    P1      7M   Linux ext2 0x83          63       16002
    P0   2.44G   FAT32      0x08       16128     5124672
    P2   3.34G   Unix       0xA5     5140800     7020405
    P3   3.73G   Extended   0x0F    12161205     7823655
     L0    392M   Linux swap 0x82    12161268      803187
     L1   3.34G   Linux ext2 0x83    12964518     7020342

To answer one forseeable question before it is asked :) I have
quite a bit of Un*x experience, but have not done much system
setup or administration since SunOS 4.1.

Well, it sounds like you're getting closer. You'll need a rubber mallet, a chisel, a shoehorn and plenty of WD-40 to get all you want out of 10GB total disk space, but it /could/ be made to work. It also sounds like you've got enough sense to work it out. Optiplex should be no problem at all.

re: applying the FreeBSD MBR, I really suggested it only because that would make one less unknown. Now that you know FreeBSD can boot, you can use any loader you like. For your kind of setup I might go with GAG.

Automated log rotation usually keeps /var bloat in check, so it doesn't really need to be very large, whereas /usr will tend to grow fast if you do a lot of /usr/local & /usr/ports work. I don't know anything about sharing a Linux swap space.

Personally, if this was just a learning/POC box and there was no other way but to cram all you want into 10 GB, I might be tempted to just give FreeBSD a swap partition (shared or otherwise) and / the rest of whatever space you have for it. That would be truly unholy for a production system and would mean you couldn't do certain file system maintenance tasks "in the proper manner", but given your constraints it could free you from a good bit of elbow room jostling now and in the future.

However you work the space, if you try to do anything very significant with the /usr/ports tree in 2-3 GB, you're in for no fun. I usually surpass that within hours after sysinstall finishes, but then I like to keep both packages and sources on hand after installing a port. It is possible to keep /usr bloat in check (somewhat) if you don't do that, and the portsclean utility can help you keep the raw materials tidy. Recommend you get a [bigger|second] disk if you can though, or housecleaning will be a constant chore.

Greg Barniskis, Computer Systems Integrator
South Central Library System (SCLS)
Library Interchange Network (LINK)
<gregb at>, (608) 266-6348
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