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Big Scary Daemons

NetBSD for the FreeBSD User: Customizations


In a previous article, I installed NetBSD on a rather decrepit Alpha Multia. I finished in single-user mode, at the familiar "enter path for shell, or RETURN for /bin/sh:" message.

Typing exit generated a warning about rc.conf not being configured. I tried vi /etc/rc.conf, and got a warning that my terminal can't support vi. I was installing over a serial console from a FreeBSD system, so I typed in:

TERM=cons25; export TERM

and vi fired right up.

The rc.conf file has a two-column format; the first column enables a service, and the second gives any flags to that service. Unlike FreeBSD, rc.conf variables don't appear in quotes. The first setting I changed was rc_conf_configured=YES. NetBSD forces the administrator to configure the system before it finishes booting. This certainly makes sure that an unconfigured machine doesn't go up on the Net.

I picked an IP address off my LAN, set the default gateway, and ran through the rest of my BSD install routine (disable portmapper, set up ntp, gut inetd.conf, and generally put things in what I consider proper shape). A few minutes later I typed exit, and my Multia booted into multi-user mode.

One of the best tools for learning a new Unix breed is locate, if you're lucky enough to have it. The locate database wasn't set up yet, of course, but man locate led me to /usr/libexec/locate.updatedb. I let the hard drive churn for a few minutes and had a working locate database. (If you're not familiar with locate, try it.)

Like FreeBSD, NetBSD's base install is rather spartan. To work on this system for any length of time, I needed to customize it further. The first place to start is added software.

In NetBSD, a "port" is a hardware platform, and a NetBSD "package" is the same as a FreeBSD "port." Similarly, a NetBSD "binary package" is the same as a FreeBSD "package." Everything's available, just under a different name.

I'm perfectly happy with binary packages, especially on a 166-MHz Multia. I was quite surprised, though, to find that has no precompiled Alpha packages for NetBSD 1.4.2. I e-mailed the netbsd-help list asking about that. Only a couple hours later I received a nice message back from a developer. It seems that NetBSD doesn't have a bulk package machine for the Alpha architecture, but they expect to have one in time for NetBSD 1.5. Modern Alpha owners have more computer power than they could ever hope to use, so this isn't that big a deal. So, it was time to roll my own.

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