State of accessibility on BSD systems

Tony Baechler tony at
Mon Sep 22 06:49:47 EDT 2008

Gregory Nowak wrote:
> On Sun, Sep 21, 2008 at 02:33:23AM -0700, Tony Baechler wrote:
>> Getting back to BSD installation, I can't comment on anything but  
>> FreeBSD but it uses a text installer so perhaps it would be possible to  
>> install via an emulator such as Bochs with a curses interface.
> Unless things have changed since the last time I used bochs (which
> isn't likely, given the goal of bochs), it's very slow. If you don't
> want to put freebsd/netbsd on a physical box, use something like
> qemu/vmware/virtualbox/one of those programs. The only draw back here
> would be the lack of guest additions, but you can still run without
> them. As for your comment about freebsd having an installer with a
> text interface, and therefore being possible to install on bochs,
> because it has a curses interface, I don't follow your line of
> reasoning here. The interface used by an emulator, and the interface
> of a install program for a specific os have nothing to do with each
> other. That's like saying you can dump coal in a car, because it
> burns, and so does gas, or is there something else you were getting at here?

OK, I was unclear obviously.  What you say is correct in most cases that 
an emulator interface has nothing to do with the guest OS.  However, at 
least when I played with Bochs a long time ago, Bochs was different.  If 
you didn't need graphics, you could set it to only use a curses 
interface for the emulated OS and it worked.  It comes with a sample 10 
MB Linux disk image.  If you tell it to not use a GUI but to run the 
image with the curses interface, you have a very minimal emulated Linux 
system.  There isn't a lot you can do with it, but I verified that it in 
fact worked.  I tried with other images but didn't get anywhere.  Maybe 
that has changed but it used to work.  Being that there was no GUI, I 
don't think it was that slow but I don't remember.
>> NetBSD  
>> claims to run on anything including the Vax so I'm sure it has a text  
>> installer that could run in an emulator.
> Yes, when I compared the list of architectures supported by nebsd, and
> by linux the last time I ran netbsd, it was certainly true that netbsd
> ran on lots more archs, and I wouldn't be surprised if it still
> does. Again, regarding your comment on the text installer, see above.
Again, see above but I would also add that I know of at least two Vax 
emulators which are text-based and do in fact work great with ssh.  I 
played a demo version of Zork for mainframes which told you to buy the 
commercial series now available from Infocom.  I don't remember the date 
on that particular Zork but it was from 1980-ish, clearly after the 
Apple II version was published.  It also had Adventure.  It was tops10 I 
think.  Now I'm not remembering the name of the emulator but it was 
specific to the Vax arch.  I found instructions for getting NetBSD 
working on it.  If this is something you're interested in, you can of 
course use Google or apt-cache search, but I could try to find the name 
of it.  I know there are at least two that work great from a console and 
at least one is in Debian.
> The thing that turned me off netbsd was that you had to build
> everything from source, other than the base system, which you could
> get as binaries. At the time, I was running it on a 133 MHz pentium,
> with 64 megs of RAM, so you can imagine how long it took to build
> stuff on it, especially if you wanted to customize the netbsd kernel
> to your hardware, which I did, just for the experience. Another thing

Huh?  Yes, the ports collection builds everything from source but you 
can download precompiled packages as well, at least on FreeBSD.  The 
dependency tracking isn't the best but it wasn't that bad.  I would 
check again, replacing XX with your country 
code.  I'm sure you'll find installable packages.  There is pkgsrc (or 
pkg-src, not sure which) which builds from source but you should also 
see a packages directory with a ton of installable software.  I know 
OpenBSD and FreeBSD do provide packages, but perhaps NetBSD doesn't 
because of the number of arches it supports.  I've installed FreeBSD 
packages before.  Yes, I used Gentoo first and I did like it, so it was 
no adjustment when I tried FreeBSD.  Gentoo is based on the BSD ports 
collection as you can imagine.  I never tried building a custom kernel.

> that turned me off netbsd is the lack of dependency tracking when
> installing software, this was true even for the binary base
> system. What I'll say to those using gnu/linux who want to try out
> netbsd is that if you've used gentoo, and like it, then you'll
> probably fall in love with netbsd as well. However, if you've used
> gentoo, and don't like it, then I'd say the chances are high you won't
> like netbsd either.

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