ska, my MVME167, has two disks. One of them contains a working and reasonably up-to-date Debian/m68k unstable installation; the other can contain any number of things, which I update every once in a while — it's mainly used for debian-installer testing (which is now mostly finished for Sarge; I'll probably not revisit that before Etch releases). Now, both for fun and to see how Debian compares against NetBSD, I wanted to install the latter on that disk. It's not that I really really need NetBSD, but if they have support for some hardware in my chassis that Debian does not, porting the drivers would be a nice project.

Reading the installation instructions, I quickly found out that they're quite... strange. To do a network-based install on NetBSD, you apparently have to:

  • Set up an NFS root
  • Set up a TFTP server (which I already have, no big deal)
  • Get the kernel and the bootloader on the TFTP server (no big deal either)
  • Boot the NFS root
  • Partition your hard disk
  • gunzip and dd a miniroot.gz to your swap partition
  • Boot from your swap partition, start sysinst
  • Use sysinst to format your root partition, copy files to it, and make the system bootable
  • Reboot again, this time from the actual root; then, nuke the miniroot and create swapspace out of it, which you can then activate

Congratulations, you now have a running NetBSD system. I think.

Of course, when I just tried the above, I made a little error (guessing you need to gunzip the kernel as well; not sure though). As a result, I had to call dad to power-cycle ska. I decided I'll postpone the project 'till tonight or tomorrow.

Personally, I prefer Debian over that bunch of... hm... well... you know. Debian-installer is far easier to use, while still allowing you the same freedom which the NetBSD "installer" gives you; and if you don't have enough RAM, there's still the ability to set up an NFS root and use debootstrap, similarly to the only option the NetBSD folks give you. But at least on Debian, you have a reasonable choice.