Installing FreeBSD 4.11 on a Compaq Armada E500

Installing FreeBSD 4 onto this laptop wasn’t very hard, though there were a few surprises.

Firstly, FreeBSD 4.11 is completely without support, and is not even available at FreeBSD mirrors. To install FreeBSD 4 one has to use the FreeBSD Archive at ftp://ftp-archive.freebsd.org. I had thought that every release would continue to be available at its original location, but apparently not.

Secondly, the operating system does not support CardBus – and says so as soon as a CardBus card is installed. This means that my Zonet ZEW1502 wireless card is unsupported in FreeBSD 4.

Thirdly, the Linksys USB wireless 802.11b/g adapter (with Wifi finder!) is also unsupported – but this is not immediately apparent. Upon installation of the Linksys device (based on a ZyDAS chipset) the system reports a ZyDAS USB Wireless device is installed as device ugen0. Trying to configure ugen0 results in failure, and ifconfig -a doesn’t report ugen0 as being present. It must be supported as the system reported it by name – right?

However, it turns out that the ugen0 device is a generic USB driver which is not good for hardly anything, and that the name report comes from the device itself. Thus, the actual report is that the Linksys device is unsupported.

Then, to top it all off – it is not considered possible (or wise) to upgrade from FreeBSD 4 to FreeBSD 5 – not even from FreeBSD 4.11 to 5.0. Apparently, among other drastic things, even the filesystem changes. So it looks like it’ll be time for another reinstall. I have yet to burn the FreeBSD 5.5 “boot only” ISO to CDROM. Once that is done, I’ll be putting FreeBSD 5 on the laptop – and using it for a desktop.

6 thoughts on “Installing FreeBSD 4.11 on a Compaq Armada E500”

  1. I installed FreeBSD 4.11 because I’ve the CDROMs on hand. With dialup for Internet access, I tend to avoid downloading if I can.

    I also decided to try it since the latest versions of most things wont run in 128M.

    However, considering the lack of support, I don’t think I’ll be running 4.x in any case.

  2. Indeed, by installing 4.11 you’re just asking for a world of headaches and bringing frustration upon yourself. Unless you’re into masochism, I’d do whatever necessary to install 6.2, even if it means waiting for a friend to mail you a burnt CD-R.

  3. Problem with installing FreeBSD 6.x is nothing current seems to want to install in 128M of RAM. Solaris Express wants 768M, as does Ubuntu 7. Kubuntu wants 512M. Fedora Core 5 crashes. Nexenta wants 256M.

    Even so, we’re talking about the OpenSolaris and Linux kernels here – my experience with Linux is that FreeBSD has a smaller kernel and runs in smaller places.

    Thought about running Dragonfly but haven’t yet. I may also yet try Knoppix or Puppy or some such. I’m off to go get FreeBSD 5.5 bootable ISO burnt.

  4. Quick follow up: I did wind up installing FreeBSD 6.x; leave it to FreeBSD to be installable where other systems are too big.

    I’ve run into this before; floppy-based Linux distros won’t run in places that the similar PicoBSD will (8 megabytes comes to mind). For the moment, I’ll be remaining with FreeBSD 6.2 on the Armada E500, though I may switch to OpenBSD at some point if I’m desperate for wireless support (using the malo driver).

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