Monday, August 27, 2012

The Fossil Project, Part II: Choosing and Installing FreeBSD

I decided to install a variation of Unix on the Fossil (if this means nothing to you, read this post first), and I decided I didn't want it to have a GUI because I wanted to learn Unix commands with nothing to lean on.  I also have this great copy of Unix for Dummies (4th edition! copyright 1998! bizarre and fantastic gift from someone) that assumes no GUI, so it seemed like a good route to take.  After all, why do a project like this if it's not more difficult than necessary?

The book, however, assumes that you've been saddled with Unix by someone at your office and just have to figure out how to use it, so the choosing and installing of the new OS was up to me.  I did what anyone else would do - I took the question to the Unix/Linux node of the StackExchange network.  I put in my requirements and the specs of the machine as far as I knew, and posed my very simple question:

I got quite a lot of answers.  Some were more helpful than others, of course, and somehow the one that got the most upvotes was entirely based on how I really could have a GUI if I wanted.

I've seen more of this than makes sense to me, this thing with people assuming I secretly want a GUI but just don't believe in my machine enough.  I commented on the post pretty quickly that I specifically asked for no GUI, but it still got a bunch of upvotes.

Of course, I get to accept whatever answer I like, and so I started with the one that looked most painless - a suggestion of FreeBSD.  I figured if it didn't work I'd try ArchLinux next, if my machine could handle it, or Gentoo, or whatever else was suggested by the fine and helpful people of the StackExchange (which is a thousand times better than a forum for actually getting questions answered).

I went through the process of downloading the big installation of FreeBSD - dvd1 - which would include all the documentation and a bunch of packages besides the OS itself, as well as a small installation (disc1) with just the OS and docs.  Knowing the Fossil has no network card and being uncertain if I'd ever be able to connect it to the 'net, I wanted to install as much as would fit right off the bat.  I burned dvd1 to a DVD, booted up, and inserted the DVD into the CD drive.

Windows 95 booted.

Well, okay, that makes sense, I just needed to change the boot order.  So I rebooted, went into the BIOS, and put the CD drive first.  And...go!

Windows 95 booted.

Maybe I didn't put the DVD in fast enough.  I rebooted again.

Windows 95 booted.

The CD drive literally only reads CDs, not DVDs.  "It's red lasers!  What's the difference!?" I complained to someone I know, who laughed and said "We're young," clearly indicating that we expect things to work that once did not.

Fine.  Minimal installation from a CD it is.  And this time it worked, and installed fairly painlessly, and has no GUI by default.  I haven't run into any problems yet, except that the only text editor is vi - which sounds a lot worse that it really is.  I don't hate vi.  So I count this as a win.

Thank you, timmmay, for your perfect and simple answer, and to Sardathrion for clarifying which of timmmay's suggestions to take.  Of course, now that I have FreeBSD, what do I DO with the thing?  That shall be answered in near-future posts.

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