Monday, August 4, 2008

PCBSD Install - GRUB issues

Installing PCBSD was a breeze. It is based on FreeBSD, with focus on ease of use for the newbie. There is just one point where the install can go bad , and this entry contains a solution to that problem. Now, I had Debian on a logical partition and Windows on the only Primary Partition on my harddisk. Since I had just one Primary partition and PCBSD will install only on a primary. I was forced to delete my Windows partition (which I hadn't touched since its install ) .

1. Make sure that you have a Primary Partition.

2. Once you have a primary partition ready, just put in the installer disc and follow the instructions. All the steps are simple with explanations and tips. (And oh! I forgot to tell you that PC-BSD is not for CLI addicts :-| ). Everything went fine till it came to the "Install PCBSD Boot Loader" part.

3. The PCBSD Boot Loader: This is the tricky part.
If you check this option, the install process will go on and install the PCBSD boot loader, which wipes out GRUB (much like Windows) (And the installer wont warn you about this!!). So, you cant boot into your other OS anymore . It is better to leave it unchecked. ( Or maybe, there is a way to edit the BSD boot loader menu, but if you're trying BSD for the first time, it makes more sense to leave the option unchecked, doesn't it?) This will preserve GRUB, and after BSD has successfully installed itself, you can boot into Linux and add a line in the boot loader file (which is /boot/grub/menu.lst in Debian). See this for details on what to add and why they are that way.

GAG: GAG is a graphical boot loader. Refreshing and different. But if you want it to display the Linux entries on the loader page it is necessary that the original boot loader be still present (i.e. if you installed the PCBSD loader instead, GAG would be helpless about your Linux or any other OS).

Now, what if you, like me, checked the "Install PCBSD boot loader" option? (see how important RTFMing is?!!) What ll happen is , you ll just keep booting into BSD, and for some reason it takes very long to start up, not less than twenty minutes(on my computer). But once X is up and running it seemed faster than Debian on Gnome/KDE.

OK, now that you screwed up GRUB, how do you restore it?
i)With a Debian or Ubuntu CD in rescue mode, which will reqiure you to get familiar with the GRUB's device naming conventions and do strange nerdish stuff, which went way over my head.

ii) The easiest way to restore GRUB is using "Super Grub Disk" (SGD) . It has a simple user interface which ll just require to specify your root directory, and viola!! GRUB is back! Now, that was super sweet! ( It took me two days to figure that out though :-|)

And finally, thanks to Sreeharsha for his fiery pro-BSD speeches that drove me to try this OS
and to SV Vikram for the SGD suggestion.

and to Shiva and MAK for their patience (and their computers ) with my experiments. :)

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