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[20170608] g4u 2.6 released
After a five-year period for beta-testing and updating, I have finally released g4u 2.6. With its origins in 1999, I'd like to say: Happy 18th Birthday, g4u!

About g4u: g4u ("ghosting for unix") is a NetBSD-based bootfloppy/CD-ROM that allows easy cloning of PC harddisks to deploy a common setup on a number of PCs using FTP. The floppy/CD offers two functions. The first is to upload the compressed image of a local harddisk to a FTP server, the other is to restore that image via FTP, uncompress it and write it back to disk. Network configuration is fetched via DHCP. As the harddisk is processed as an image, any filesystem and operating system can be deployed using g4u. Easy cloning of local disks as well as partitions is also supported.

The past: When I started g4u, I had the task to install a number of lab machines with a dual-boot of Windows NT and NetBSD. The hype was about Microsoft's "Zero Administration Kit" (ZAK) then, but that did barely work for the Windows part - file transfers were slow, depended on the clients' hardware a lot (requiring fiddling with MS DOS network driver disks), and on the ZAK server the files for installing happened do disappear for no good reason every now and then. Not working well, and leaving out NetBSD (and everything elase), I created g4u. This gave me the (relative) pain of getting things working once, but with the option to easily add network drivers as they appeared in NetBSD (and oh they did!), plus allowed me to install any operating system.

The present: We've used g4u successfully in our labs then, booting from CDROM. I also got many donations from public and private instituations plus comanies from many sectors, indicating that g4u does make a difference.

In the mean time, the world has changed, and CDROMs aren't used that much any more. Network boot and USB sticks are today's devices of choice, cloning of a full disk without knowing its structure has both advantages but also disadvantages, and g4u's user interface is still command-line based with not much space for automation. For storage, FTP servers are nice and fast, but alternatives like SSH/SFTP, NFS, iSCSI and SMB for remote storage plus local storage (back to fun with filesystems, anyone? avoiding this was why g4u was created in the first place!) should be considered these days. Further aspects include integrity (checksums), confidentiality (encryption). This leaves a number of open points to address either by future releases, or by other products.

The future: At this point, my time budget for g4u is very limited. I welcome people to contribute to g4u - g4u is Open Source for a reason. Feel free to get back to me for any changes that you want to contribute!

The changes: Major changes in g4u 2.6 include:

  • Make this build with NetBSD-current sources as of 2017-04-17 (shortly before netbsd-8 release branch), binaries were cross-compiled from Mac OS X 10.10
  • Many new drivers, bugfixes and improvements from NetBSD-current (see beta1 and beta2 announcements)
  • Go back to keeping the disk image inside the kernel as ramdisk, do not load it as separate module. Less error prone, and allows to boot the g4u (NetBSD) kernel from a single file e.g. via PXE (Testing and documentation updates welcome!)
  • Actually DO provide the g4u (NetBSD) kernel with the embedded g4u disk image from now on, as separate file, g4u-kernel.gz
  • In addition to MD5, add SHA512 checksums
The software: Please see the g4u homepage's download section on how to get and use g4u.

Enjoy!

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Disclaimer: All opinion expressed here is purely my own. No responsibility is taken for anything.

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