Discless Machine: Installation on USB Stick, CFcard or IDE Flash Module?



  • Already searched, but didn't find anything relevant. Is it nowadays possible to install on an USB stick?

    I've read something about problems with USB support in FreeBSD 6.2. I'd like to build a mini-ITX diskless machine, but as it looks like, IDE-flash or IDE-cfcard adapters are more expensive than USB sticks.

    What's the best, preferred and cheapest method for a discless pfSense system?



  • Not sure, but a good number of mini-ITX motherboards come with CF-IDE adaptors built in (I have 3 different ones and all of them do).  Just be aware of the limitations of the embedded install.



  • @Cry:

    Not sure, but a good number of mini-ITX motherboards come with CF-IDE adaptors built in (I have 3 different ones and all of them do).

    The intended mainboard (Intel D201GLY2) does not have one onboard, that's why I thought it may be easier & cheaper to just use an USB stick.
    @Cry:

    Just be aware of the limitations of the embedded install.

    What are the limitations, if not only the size of flash-memory? If it would be possible on a USB stick, one with 2 GB Flash is really cheap nowadays.



  • Roughly (for full details search the forum) packages aren't supported - it's base install or nothing.  If you want packages then you need a hard disk, but that includes Microdrives, so it doesn't have to be noisy.

    Having had a quick look at one UK based supplier (LinITX) you can pick up CF-IDE adaptors for about £10.  Prices in the US are no doubt similar (heck, EBay currently has some for under $10, including shipping).



  • Ok, I just found something called "IDE Flash Module", which plugs directly into the PATA port on the mainboard, and is available with memory from 32 MB up to 8 GB (although it ends at 2 GB, if the price should be reasonable).

    I just compared these with similar equipped CFcards + CF-IDE adapter, and it seems the IDE Flash Modules are slightly cheaper. On the other hand, a solution with CF-IDE adapter, that is mounted in a PCI-slot of the case, offers easy exchangeability of the CFcard from the outside.

    I have no idea, if there is any difference in the supported read/write cycles though.

    So as far as I understand, both solutions allow a full installation with additional packages, if needed. What would you say would be a reasonable memory size for such an IDE Flash Module or CFcard?

    And you are sure, that using a USB flash device only allows a base install, and no packages? USB modules would be really quite appealing, I also found some that are meant for internal use (can be plugged directly into internal USB sockets on the mainboard), and they all are a lot cheaper than comparable IDE Flash Modules or CFcards.



  • IDE Flash modules are more likely to be designed with that duty cycle in mind.  Consumer CF cards are unlikely to be designed for a write-intensive environment, though professional ones are.

    Both will allow a full install, as technically would a USB module if you could get it to boot, but such an approach is not recommended (search the forums).  Regarding size, try the official site: http://www.pfsense.com/index.php?id=43.



  • @Cry:

    IDE Flash modules are more likely to be designed with that duty cycle in mind.  Consumer CF cards are unlikely to be designed for a write-intensive environment, though professional ones are.

    Yes, seems to be the logical conclusion (professional CFcards are surely out of $$$ range).

    @Cry:

    Both will allow a full install, as technically would a USB module if you could get it to boot, but such an approach is not recommended (search the forums).

    Any particular thread in mind? I already searched the forums, but I could not find anything relevant concerning a recent (FreeBSD 6.2 based) USB installation. I know, that booting something from USB has always been kind of problematic, and I never played around with it (mainly due to the lack of a large enough USB media), but I assume it should be possible somehow.

    @Cry:

    Regarding size, try the official site.

    Still a good question, because I have no clue, what a full installation needs "2 GB hard drive or larger" for. I am actually running a full installation on a machine with a 18 GB softraid-1, and this is what the discs are used for:

    $ df -ah
    Filesystem            Size    Used   Avail Capacity  Mounted on
    /dev/mirror/gm0s1a     16G     83M     14G     1%    /
    devfs                 1.0K    1.0K      0B   100%    /dev
    /dev/md0              1.7M     28K    1.5M     2%    /var/run
    devfs                 1.0K    1.0K      0B   100%    /var/dhcpd/dev
    

    So even with some packages installed, we are far away from the specified minimum hardware requirement for harddrive size.

    Is it possible, that embedded & full installation just have the same memory requirements nowadays?

    Investing in a 2 GB IDE Flash Module seems like a waste to me under these circumstances, and I honestly have no clue what to do with the extra space on a full installation (even running the squid package wouldn't need that much additional memory, I guess).



  • @Master:

    Any particular thread in mind? I already searched the forums, but I could not find anything relevant concerning a recent (FreeBSD 6.2 based) USB installation. I know, that booting something from USB has always been kind of problematic, and I never played around with it (mainly due to the lack of a large enough USB media), but I assume it should be possible somehow.

    Many, but basically it comes down to the fact that consumer grade flash memory (which includes CF cards and USB disks) will "burn out" with a sustained write load.  The embedded install is designed with this in mind, but the full install isn't and writes merrily to the disk.

    @Master:

    Still a good question, because I have no clue, what a full installation needs "2 GB hard drive or larger" for. I am actually running a full installation on a machine with a 18 GB softraid-1, and this is what the discs are used for:

    <–-SNIP--->
    So even with some packages installed, we are far away from the specified minimum hardware requirement for harddrive size.

    Is it possible, that embedded & full installation just have the same memory requirements nowadays?

    The embedded install is a fixed size - no packages.  The full install is a variable size that depends on the packages you install and the size of the logs.  I suspect 2 GB was picked as a reasonable upper limit on what people would require.  My 4 GB microdrive (of which only 3.2 GB is usable) currently has about 0.5 GB used.  By this point a 1 GB unit would be looking a little too small for my liking.


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