How to install NetBSD on a libreboot system

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This section relates to preparing, booting and installing NetBSD on your libreboot system, using nothing more than a USB flash drive (and dd). They’ve only been tested on a librebooted ThinkPad X60.

It is expected that you use text mode in libreboot (txtmode images), for the early boot process in NetBSD. Suspend/hibernate is broken, according to at least 1 user.

Thanks go to ioxcide in this Reddit post for the initial instructions.

This section is only for the GRUB payload. For depthcharge (used on CrOS devices in libreboot), instructions have yet to be written in the libreboot documentation.

netbsd.iso is the installation image for NetBSD. Adapt the filename accordingly, for your version of NetBSD.

Prepare the USB drive (in NetBSD)

This page on the NetBSD website shows how to create a NetBSD bootable USB drive from within NetBSD itself. You should use the dd method documented there.

Prepare the USB drive (in FreeBSD)

This page on the FreeBSD website shows how to create a bootable USB drive for installing FreeBSD. Use the dd on that page. You can also use the same instructions with a NetBSD ISO image.

Prepare the USB drive (in LibertyBSD or NetBSD)

If you downloaded your ISO on a LibertyBSD or NetBSD system, here is how to create the bootable NetBSD USB drive:

Connect the USB drive. Check dmesg:

$ dmesg | tail

Check to confirm which drive it is, for example, if you think its sd3:

$ disklabel sd3

Check that it wasn’t automatically mounted. If it was, unmount it. For example:

$ doas umount /dev/sd3i

dmesg told you what device it is. Overwrite the drive, writing the NetBSD installer to it with dd. For example:

$ doas netbsd.iso of=/dev/rsdXc bs=1M; sync

You should now be able to boot the installer from your USB drive. Continue reading, for information about how to do that.

Prepare the USB drive (in GNU+Linux)

If you downloaded your ISO on a GNU+Linux system, here is how to create the bootable NetBSD USB drive:

Connect the USB drive. Check dmesg:

$ dmesg

Check lsblk to confirm which drive it is:

$ lsblk

Check that it wasn’t automatically mounted. If it was, unmount it. For example:

$ sudo umount /dev/sdX\*
# umount /dev/sdX\*

dmesg told you what device it is. Overwrite the drive, writing your distro ISO to it with dd. For example:

$ sudo dd if=install60.fs of=/dev/sdX bs=8M; sync
# dd if=netbsd.iso of=/dev/sdX bs=8M; sync

You should now be able to boot the installer from your USB drive. Continue reading, for information about how to do that.

Installing NetBSD without full disk encryption

You might have to use an external USB keyboard during the installation. Press C to access the GRUB terminal.

grub> knetbsd -r sd0a (usb0,netbsd1)/netbsd
grub> boot

It will start booting into the NetBSD installer. Follow the normal process for installing NetBSD.

Installing NetBSD with full disk encryption

TODO

Booting

Press C in GRUB to access the command line:

grub> knetbsd -r wd0a (ahci0,netbsd1)/netbsd
grub> boot

NetBSD will start booting. Yay!

Configuring Grub

If you don’t want to drop to the GRUB command line and type in a command to boot NetBSD every time, you can create a GRUB configuration that’s aware of your NetBSD installation and that will automatically be used by libreboot.

On your NetBSD root partition, create the /grub directory and add the file libreboot_grub.cfg to it. Inside the libreboot_grub.cfg add these lines:

default=0
timeout=3

menuentry "NetBSD" {
    knetbsd -r wd0a (ahci0,netbsd1)/netbsd
}

The next time you boot, you’ll see the old Grub menu for a few seconds, then you’ll see the a new menu with only NetBSD on the list. After 3 seconds NetBSD will boot, or you can hit enter to boot.

Troubleshooting

Most of these issues occur when using libreboot with coreboot’s ‘text mode’ instead of the coreboot framebuffer. This mode is useful for booting payloads like memtest86+ which expect text-mode, but for NetBSD it can be problematic when they are trying to switch to a framebuffer because it doesn’t exist.

In most cases, you should use the vesafb ROM images. Example filename: libreboot_ukdvorak_vesafb.rom.

won’t boot…something about file not found

Your device names (i.e. usb0, usb1, sd0, sd1, wd0, ahci0, hd0, etc) and numbers may differ. Use TAB completion.

Copyright © 2016 Leah Rowe info@minifree.org
Copyright © 2016 Scott Bonds scott@ggr.com
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License Version 1.3 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation with no Invariant Sections, no Front Cover Texts, and no Back Cover Texts. A copy of this license is found in ../fdl-1.3.html

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