The Saga and Legacy of FreeBSD 5.4 subject logo: UNIX
Posted by: badanov

We have been dealing with the installation of a new 160 gigabyte hard drive for a customer, and we have been encountering some problems.

We figured that installing a new hard drive would be a trivial thing; it usually is most of the time. The last hard drive we installed for FreeBSD 5.4, the version we are using for the current install, went famously for the 80 gigabyte drive. The drive currently resides on our One Dog Star server which currently is serving our RKKA site, including email.

When we began using FreeBSD 5.4 it was primarly because BSD 4.9, the version that supports this and about a dozen other sites, was no longer supported and was withdrawn from FTP servers. We were damn lucky to find an ISO for FreeBSD 4.9 and get it downloaded. FreeBSD 4.9 is the only version which supports our two DNS servers.

This was in September, 2005, and as we recall FreeBSD 5.4 was still a Production release. But sometime between then and just three days ago, FreeBSD 5.4 became a legacy release and FreeBSD 6.0 became the main production release.


Hard drives.

We went through extensive testing of the new hard drive trying to get the drive to mount the main data space ( ~ 152 gigabyte ), which the OS just refused to do. We found we were lucky to have even gotten FreeBSD installed. We used a trick of powering off the drive just before with CD started with its testing, so the program assumed the drive was okay and went straight to the installation shell.. Of course after installation was complete the drive could only be mounted in single user mode, worthless for any kind of meaningful work.

When we saw that FreeBSD 5.4 went to legacy and FreeBSD 6.0 was now the production release, it made sense, given that of the few 64 bit boards that were found to work with FreeBSD, only 6.0 was the preferred and working choice especially with the newer SATA controllers/drives.

The BSD 6.0 Release notes had this to say about drives:

The ata(4) family of drivers has been overhauled and updated. It has been split into modules that can be loaded and unloaded independently (the atapci and ata modules are prerequisites for the device subdrivers, which are atadisk, atapicd, atapifd, atapist, and ataraid). On supported SATA controllers, devices can be hot inserted/removed. ATA RAID support has been rewritten and supports a number of new metadata formats. The atapicd driver no longer supports CD changers. This update has been referred to as “ATA mkIII”

Also, we also were chatting with friends from Rantburg and we were told thusly ( hat tip to 3dc ):

...Alan Cox (#2 linux hacker) is trying to redo all of the IDE stuff right now with emphsis on the VIA chips. Currently he is crashing too much but I looks like 5 months down the road he is going to have all the IDE with special libs for new and old drives

So we have a problem with larger hard drives and it is system wide. and it even extends to Linux and the terrific working those folks are doing, as well as Microsoft ( believe it or not ). Five months is a long time, but in the interim we hope the 6.0 Release will work for this hard drive.

So the upshot to this story is: If you want to install an 80G or smaller drive, you're okay, otherwise, there will be problems until the code catches up with the manufacturers.

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