The next FreeBSD book?

BSDCan hasn’t officially started, and I keep getting asked when I will write a third edition of Absolute FreeBSD?

The short answer is: I don’t know.

The slightly longer answer is: it depends in part on you.

The much longer answer is:

FreeBSD has added lots of stuff since Absolute FreeBSD came out in 2007. The big, screaming, basic change is that ZFS is really well-supported, and considered a core feature.

But you can’t install to ZFS. Or to a mirror. Or to any of the other really cool options available on FreeBSD. There’s good stuff there, but new users can’t have it.

There are ways around this. For a new user, they range from ugly to absurd. I had hopes for the new FreeBSD installer, but none of the rumored improvements have reached real users. I could write “To install FreeBSD, install PC-BSD.” But my gut rebels. If you want PC-BSD, install PC-BSD.

If I was to write a big FreeBSD book today, it would have to be “1001 ways to install FreeBSD.” It would cover getting FreeBSD onto ZFS, or mirrors, or GELI, or any of the other cool options. That’s not a fun book to write and would not be fun to read.

Some discussions at BSDCan give me hope for an improved installation process. I don’t care if it’s the current installer, or a port of PC-BSD’s installer, or a resurrected sysinstall.

I have no problem spending a chapter on planning an installation, or on things you should know before installing — just look at Absolute OpenBSD. But that chapter can’t be “Here’s FreeBSD disk management system, so you can boot off a live filesystem and manually edit disks and create zpools and GELIs and mirrors and and and…” Experienced FreeBSD users put up with this, but you can’t give this to a new user.

FreeBSD should have a decent partitioning scheme at boot. If the OpenBSD folks can manage that with their text-only installer, surely FreeBSD could do so. But at least it’s possible to partition the disk with the current installer.

So: if you’re a programmer and want a new version of the book, work on the installer.

If you’re not a programmer: bribe one.

I have some small books on FreeBSD on my schedule, but that’s a very different thing. Until the installer changes, Absolute FreeBSD 3 isn’t even on the schedule.

11 Replies to “The next FreeBSD book?”

  1. If I *were* to write a book. Sorry, Catholic grade school ruined me.

    FreeBSD is feature and option rich which makes writing about it hard. Absolute OpenBSD second edition is about the right size for a tech book and it reads well. If I’m not mistaken the first Absolute OpenBSD was a lot smaller. I own and read the second edition of Absolute FreeBSD. That book was the right size and helped me prepare for the BSDA exam. Even without the install stuff, a third edition of it might end up like some tech books – wider than it is tall.

    In any case, you write wonderfully (was/were notwithstanding), and I’m not just blowing smoke up your ass when I say that. I hope something can be resolved and Absolute FreeBSD third edition sees the light of day. My 2 cents.

  2. Carl,

    One of the things you learn when writing professional books is: grammar does not matter, at least not in the way they teach it in school. Grammar is not rules. Grammar is a weapon.

    But thank you, it’s nice to hear you like the books.

  3. Some discussions at BSDCan give me hope for an improved installation process.

    I noticed there was a talk about PXE installs using pc-sysinstall, but I’m wondering if there’s any consensus around what any future installer should be? Were people still talking about pc-sysinstall as being the future of any installer, or has the discussion moved on to something else? I’m keen to work on the installer, but I’m not a fan of sh(1) which rules out working on both bsdinstall and pc-sysinstall 🙂

  4. FreeBSD 10 installer does ZFS. Still doesn’t let you easily partition system, but at least it gets bits on the disk.

    The brand new FreeBSD book is one step closer now, right?

  5. I would also like to buy an up to date Absolute FreeBSD book with coverage of ZFS including ZFS root and encrypted ZFS. I’m currently reading Absolute OpenBSD 2nd Edition and am very pleased that it is up to date.

  6. I already own edition 1 and 2 (physical book).
    I wouldn’t mind buying the 3rd edition.
    That said, I know that writing a book is hard. Writing the 2nd edition of the same book is even harder (I just have to imagine writing the 2nd edition of my diploma-thesis…).
    Very few make it to the 3rd edition (like Liu & Albitz who made it to the 5th edition of DNS&BIND).

    But I have to take a look at your DNSSEC-book – didn’t know you had written that.

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