a very challenging question?

Sam Hartman hartmans at mit.edu
Thu Dec 25 03:32:13 UTC 2014


I'll describe what's worked for me.  It may not work for you; my job is
not to solve your problem but simply to let you know what has been tried
and what worked for someone else.

I used a NetBSD desktop as my primary machine from around 1995 to 1999
or 2000, when I switched to Debian.

The very first time I installed NetBSD I did need someone to help me.
In general as a computer professional in an urban area finding a friend
or coworker to help with an install or repair is not a huge problem.  I
don't mind asking for help.
However, for critical systems I do prefer to be able to get to a point
where I can repair them on my own.

I still use Emacspeak with term-mode as my primary tex-mode screen
reader.  I did not have trouble accessing console messages (dmesg and
system log) nor using screen to get multiple terminal sessions.  I've
been using that approach from around 1994 and it still works today.  I
do have Speakup installed on my current Debian box and it is helpful for
repairing some boot problems but is by no means necessary even for

Once I got familiar with NetBSD, I built install media that would work
with a serial console.
I could boot these media to repair  or reinstall my system using another
computer as a terminal.
I've always had a laptop and desktop  so using one to repair the other
works for me.

Between that and ssh access I've not had much trouble.

These days however, if I wanted to approach BSD here are options I'd
look at:

* boot a linux CD with orca or speakup and use qemu (or kvm) in -curses
   to do the install, then boot into the real system

* above but use qemu -nographic with a serial image

* Use kvm -curses or qemu -nographic to install a VM and just run BSD in
  a VM

* Build install media that  ran an ssh server

* Build a PXE image that supported net boot, boot with an NFS root and
  use that to leverage a local install

* Buy a server with good serial bios and use that for a text mode

* Go put together a virtual image and run in Amazon ec2 or similar.
  Since EC2 doesn't really give you console access you'd want to
  snapshot a working image and use that to debug broken images.

* Go fix the issue between python speech-dispatcher and orca.  Orca is
  kind of a big pile of code, but s-d at least isn't so horrible, and
  for myself at least an excuse to get into the guts of Orca probably
  would serve me in the long run.

I'm fairly cofident that one of the above would work for me if I wanted
FreeBSD either as a primary system or as an image somewhere.  I
understand people are comfortable with different things and have
different requirement, so the above may be totally useless to you.

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