I’ve been using FreeBSD for about 10 years on various machines but only in the last fewyears have I really tried to use it as a desktop. It’s not as straightforward as I’d like it to be and all the development around X desktops is taking place in Linux systems, meaning that FreeBSD is constantly playing catch up. It’s frustrating.

My desktop system has never been as stable as I would have liked. I had a problem with some memory, but even after that was replaced it wasn’t as stable as I wanted it to be. I’m not sure why, but the hardware RAID on the motherboard I was using wasn’t 100% supported and there always seemed to be lots of problems with it. The downtime I’ve seen over the last few days has led me to finally decide that enough was enough and it’s time to try and cure thr problems and get a stable system. I need a desktop I can use.

Contemplating removing everything and starting again I wondered about swapping away from FreeBSD. nVidia make Linux drivers for their graphics cards, even for amd64 archictecture, so it would remove the problem of lack of drivers and hopefully mean I could remove the second graphics card from the machine. Additionally the Gnome desktop actually works very well on Linux compared with just working on FreeBSD, so the change should make the desktop more usable “out of the box”. Having heard good things about Ubuntu I decided to give it a try.

Thom told me that it could do software raid at the install stage, so I decided to try it. I want RAID 1 on the machine to try and provide a backup capability. 200Gb of storage isn’t as simple to backup as the smaller 1Gb drives we all remember! The install took a little while to get started as burning the ISO took 2 attempts before it would work, but then seemd to go well. It’s slick and straightforward asking sensible questions in a manner that should make sense to most people. Then we got to the hardest part of all Unix installations, the partitioning of the drives. It was here I ws expecting to have to setup the RAID and sure enough there were options for doing it. The next question was how to set it up – not as obvious as the previous options.

I eventually did it this way, which may not be how it should be done, but it seemed to work and kept the install happy. I have 2 200Gb SATA disks that I wanted to use as a RAID 1.
I used the default partitioning options and ended up with a small (6.8Gb) swap partition and the remainder as a single large partition.

In orer to be used for creating the RAID both disks had their large partitions edited to change the use to “physical volume for RAID”.

Choose “Configure software RAID” from the options

Create MD Device from the Multidisk configuration options

Select RAID 1 when asked

Answer 2 for active devices

Answer 0 for spare devices

Select the 2 partitions created (one per disk)

The new RAID partition was now created but had to be edited before it could be used.
Once complete the remainder of the installation went OK.

The most annoying part was getting to a point where I had a CD image that worked. It took me 3 attempts at burning the ISO before it would work.