Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

PC-BSD Day 22: From a virtual to a real hard drive… and back

Up to now I have been using PC-BSD on a virtual box. That’s not really a problem provided you have enough RAM for both the host and the guest operating systems. On a side note:the FreeBSD handbook made it clear that it is possible to use FreeBSD as a guest OS, but not yet as a host. On the website of PC-BSD you do find a link to Win4BSD, which should allow you to run a virtual Windows box. In order to test that I wanted to install PC-BSD on a real hard drive. That would provide the proper environment to test out the eye candy features and the gaming abilities for a later article as well. Plus, I needed to get the final release of 1.4 up and running.

Going from drive to drive to drive

I usually have more than one experiment running at the same time. Most of the time I use a virtual system to install and test some Linux distribution of the day. And I have a small stack of physical hard drives with a swappable bay for easy switching. Needless to say the side of my box is open for easy access to plug in new hardware. The disks are not the latest of the latest, but they all work. Why the explanation?

Well, I took the first drive, put the PC-BSD cd in the drive and rebooted. The graphical installer would launch and I went through all the steps. An attempt was made to create the partitions and then a long string of attempts to install packages passed by. Not enough space. Weird. Wouldn’t a 40 Gb drive not be sufficient?

Okay, then another drive which was happily using CentOS before this attempt. Nope. Same problem. Not enough space to install PC-BSD. At this point I started to get both annoyed and curious. I took a closer look at the messages that pass by when you fire up PC-BSD. It did give some DMA related warnings (FAILURE – READ_DMA status=51 error=84 LBA=0)

The third drive was loaded into the computer and the reboot didn’t reveal any error messages this time. I could finish the install without any warnings or glitches. Time for a hypothesis. Apparently Windows or Linux are less fickle about the quality of the hard drive they are installed on. PC-BSD does a check and when it fails at a point it simply stops. Either you take a good hard drive or you don’t get *BSD. Makes sense, but some information on why it failed would have helped. Anyway, I had my hard drive with PC-BSD. Or so I thought.

Rebooting the system brought me to the bootloader and the boot process, but along the line noticed an error message flashing by and a warning the system would reboot in 15 seconds. And again. And again. No doubt some hardware conflict is preventing PC-BSD to boot normally. However, after three attempts I didn’t feel like digging into the error message (couldn’t allocate kernel virtual memory), going online to check it out and try to fix it. After all, this is a regular working day and there are other things to do. The virtual box will have to do for the next few days.

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7 thoughts on “PC-BSD Day 22: From a virtual to a real hard drive… and back

  1. Sounds to me that your graphics card aperture is too big…

    Why don’t you try and set it at 128M or 64M?

    Hope it helps…

  2. Hi Gustavo. Thanks for the suggestion. I will give that a try.

  3. Update: Gustavo. You’re tops. This worked. Would you mind telling me where you got the idea from that this could be the problem? I love to learn.

  4. Read it somewhere, cause I had the same issue. Must have been the PC-BSD forum, but I am not entirely sure. I am just a newbie trying to give something back to the community.

  5. Update: I also had an issue where the computer would reset itself after installation. I solved it by fixing the loader.conf so that it would not load the splash image… Some weird issue with framebuffer…

  6. That second point sounds familiar. There was a Linux distribution with that problem, just can’t remember which one. Anyway, you just saved a few articles I wanted to write but which had to be dropped since I had no physical install. I really appreciate this.

  7. Flatland_Spider on said:

    I did a quick search and it looks like other people have had the “FAILURE – READ_DMA” problem. It looks to be a DMA setting that doesn’t agree with you drives.

    Here is the link. The solution is towards the bottom and on the top of the second page.
    http://forums.pcbsd.org/viewtopic.php?t=8226&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

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