Skip site navigation (1)Skip section navigation (2)

FreeBSD Manual Pages


home | help
LOADER(8)		  BSD System Manager's Manual		     LOADER(8)

     loader -- kernel bootstrapping final stage

     The program called	loader is the final stage of FreeBSD's kernel boot-
     strapping process.	 On IA32 (i386)	architectures, it is a BTX client.  It
     is	linked statically to libstand(3) and usually located in	the directory

     It	provides a scripting language that can be used to automate tasks, do
     pre-configuration or assist in recovery procedures.  This scripting lan-
     guage is roughly divided in two main components.  The smaller one is a
     set of commands designed for direct use by	the casual user, called
     "builtin commands"	for historical reasons.	 The main drive	behind these
     commands is user-friendliness.  The bigger	component is an	ANS Forth com-
     patible Forth interpreter based on	FICL, by John Sadler.

     During initialization, loader will	probe for a console and	set the
     console variable, or set it to serial console ("comconsole") if the pre-
     vious boot	stage used that.  Then,	devices	are probed, currdev and
     loaddev are set, and LINES	is set to 24.  Next, FICL is initialized, the
     builtin words are added to	its vocabulary,	and /boot/boot.4th will	be
     processed if it exists.  No disk switching	is possible while that file is
     being read.  The inner interpreter	loader will use	with FICL is then set
     to	interpret, which is FICL's default.  After that, /boot/loader.rc is
     processed if available, and, failing that,	/boot/boot.conf	will be	read
     for historical reasons.  These files are processed	through	the include
     command, which reads all of them into memory before processing them, mak-
     ing disk changes possible.

     At	this point, if an autoboot has not been	tried, and if autoboot_delay
     is	not set	to "NO"	(not case sensitive), then an autoboot will be tried.
     If	the system gets	past this point, prompt	will be	set and	loader will
     engage interactive	mode.

     Loader's builtin commands take its	parameters from	the command line.
     Presently,	the only way to	call them from a script	is by using evaluate
     on	a string.  If an error condition occurs, an exception will be gener-
     ated, which can be	intercepted using ANS Forth exception handling words.
     If	not intercepted, an error message will be displayed and	the inter-
     preter's state will be reset, emptying the	stack and restoring interpret-
     ing mode.

     The builtin commands available are:

     autoboot [seconds]
	     Proceeds to bootstrap the system after a number of	seconds, if
	     not interrupted by	the user.  Displays a countdown	prompt warning
	     the user the system is about to be	booted,	unless interrupted by
	     a key press.  The kernel will be loaded first if necessary.  De-
	     faults to 10 seconds.

	     Displays statistics about disk cache usage.  For depuration only.

     boot kernelname [...]
     boot -flag	...
	     Immediately proceeds to bootstrap the system, loading the kernel
	     if	necessary.  Any	flags or arguments are passed to the kernel,
	     but they must precede the kernel name, if a kernel	name is	pro-

	     WARNING: The behavior of this builtin is changed if loader.4th(8)
	     is	loaded.

     echo [-n] [<message>]
	     Displays text on the screen.  A new line will be printed unless
	     -n	is specified.

     heap    Displays memory usage statistics.	For debugging purposes only.

     help [topic [subtopic]]
	     Shows help	messages read from /boot/  The special
	     topic index will list the topics available.

     include file [file	...]
	     Process script files.  Each file, in turn,	is completely read
	     into memory, and then each	of its lines is	passed to the command
	     line interpreter.	If any error is	returned by the	interpreter,
	     the include command aborts	immediately, without reading any other
	     files, and	returns	an error itself	(see ERRORS).

     load [-t type] file ...
	     Loads a kernel, kernel loadable module (kld), or file of opaque
	     contents tagged as	being of the type type.	 Kernel	and modules
	     can be either in a.out or ELF format.  Any	arguments passed after
	     the name of the file to be	loaded will be passed as arguments to
	     that file.	 Currently, argument passing does not work for the

     ls	[-l] [path]
	     Displays a	listing	of files in the	directory path,	or the root
	     directory if path is not specified.  If -l	is specified, file
	     sizes will	be shown too.

     lsdev [-v]
	     Lists all of the devices from which it may	be possible to load
	     modules.  If -v is	specified, more	details	are printed.

     lsmod [-v]
	     Displays loaded modules.  If -v is	specified, more	details	are

     more file [file ...]
	     Display the files specified, with a pause at each LINES dis-

     pnpscan [-v]
	     Scans for Plug-and-Play devices.  This is not functional at

     read [-t seconds] [-p prompt] [variable]
	     Reads a line of input from	the terminal, storing it in variable
	     if	specified.  A timeout can be specified with -t,	though it will
	     be	canceled at the	first key pressed.  A prompt may also be dis-
	     played through the	-p flag.

     reboot  Immediately reboots the system.

     set variable
     set variable=value
	     Set loader's environment variables.

     show [variable]
	     Displays the specified variable's value, or all variables and
	     their values if variable is not specified.

     unload  Remove all	modules	from memory.

     unset variable
	     Removes variable from the environment.

     ?	     Same as "help index".

     The loader	has actually two different kinds of `environment' variables.
     There are ANS Forth's environmental queries, and a	separate space of en-
     vironment variables used by builtins, which are not directly available to
     Forth words.  It is the latter type that this section covers.

     Environment variables can be set and unset	through	the set	and unset
     builtins, and can have their values interactively examined	through	the
     use of the	show builtin.  Their values can	also be	accessed as described

     Notice that these environment variables are not inherited by any shell
     after the system has been booted.

     A few variables are set automatically by loader.  Others can affect the
     behavior of either	loader or the kernel at	boot.  Some options may	re-
     quire a value, while others define	behavior just by being set.  Both
     types of builtin variables	are described below.

	       Number of seconds autoboot will wait before booting.  If	this
	       variable	is not defined,	autoboot will default to 10 seconds.

	       If set to "NO", no autoboot will	be automatically attempted af-
	       ter processing /boot/loader.rc, though explicit autoboot's will
	       be processed normally, defaulting to 10 seconds delay.

	       Instructs the kernel to prompt the user for the name of the
	       root device when	the kernel is booted.

     boot_ddb  Instructs the kernel to start in	the DDB	debugger, rather than
	       proceeding to initialize	when booted.

     boot_gdb  Selects gdb-remote mode for the kernel debugger by default.

	       Prevents	the kernel from	initiating a multi-user	startup; in-
	       stead single-user mode will be entered when the kernel has fin-
	       ished device probing.

	       Requests	that the kernel's interactive device configuration
	       program be run when the kernel is booted.

	       Setting this variable causes extra debugging information	to be
	       printed by the kernel during the	boot phase.

     bootfile  List of semicolon-separated search path for bootable kernels.
	       The default is "kernel;kernel.old".

     console   Defines the current console.

     currdev   Selects the default device.  Syntax for devices is odd.

	       Sets the	list of	binaries which the kernel will try to run as
	       the initial process.  The first matching	binary is used.	 The
	       default list is

	       Has the value "ok" if the Forth's current state is interpret-

     LINES     Define the number of lines on the screen, to be used by the

	       Sets the	list of	directories which will be searched for modules
	       named in	a load command or implicitly required by a dependency.
	       The default value for this variable is "/;/boot;/modules".

	       Sets the	number of IDE disks as a workaround for	some problems
	       in finding the root disk	at boot.  This has been	deprecated in
	       favor of	root_disk_unit.

     prompt    Value of	loader's prompt.  Defaults to "${currdev}>".

	       If the code which detects the disk unit number for the root
	       disk is confused, e.g. by a mix of SCSI and IDE disks, or IDE
	       disks with gaps in the sequence (e.g. no	primary	slave),	the
	       unit number can be forced by setting this variable.

     rootdev   By default the value of currdev is used to set the root
	       filesystem when the kernel is booted.  This can be overridden
	       by setting rootdev explicitly.

     dumpdev   The name	of a device where the kernel can save a	crash dump in
	       case of a panic.	 This automatically sets the kern.dumpdev
	       sysctl(3) MIB variable.

     Other variables are used to override kernel tunable parameters.  The fol-
     lowing tunables are available:

		   Set the size	of a number of statically allocated system ta-
		   bles; see tuning(7) for a description of how	to select an
		   appropriate value for this tunable.	When set, this tunable
		   replaces the	value declared in the kernel compile-time con-
		   figuration file.

		   Set the number of mbuf clusters to be allocated.  The value
		   cannot be set below the default determined when the kernel
		   was compiled.  Modifies NMBCLUSTERS.

		   Sets	the size of kernel memory (bytes).  This overrides
		   completely the value	determined when	the kernel was com-
		   piled.  Modifies VM_KMEM_SIZE.

		   Limits the amount of	KVM to be used to hold swap meta in-
		   formation, which directly governs the maximum amount	of
		   swap	the system can support.	 This value is specified in
		   bytes of KVA	space and defaults to around 70MBytes.	Care
		   should be taken to not reduce this value such that the ac-
		   tual	amount of configured swap exceeds 1/2 the kernel-sup-
		   ported swap.	 The default 70MB allows the kernel to support
		   a maximum of	(approximately)	14GB of	configured swap.  Only
		   mess	around with this parameter if you need to greatly ex-
		   tend	the KVM	reservation for	other resources	such as	the
		   buffer cache	or NMBCLUSTERS.	 Modifies VM_SWZONE_SIZE_MAX.

		   Limits the amount of	KVM reserved for use by	the buffer
		   cache, specified in bytes.  The default maximum is 200MB.
		   This	parameter is used to prevent the buffer	cache from
		   eating too much KVM in large-memory machine configurations.
		   Only	mess around with this parameter	if you need to greatly
		   extend the KVM reservation for other	resources such as the
		   swap	zone or	NMBCLUSTERS.  Note that	the NBUF parameter
		   will	override this limit.  Modifies VM_BCACHE_SIZE_MAX.

		   Overrides the IRQ normally assigned to a PCCARD controller.
		   Typically the first available interrupt will	be allocated,
		   which may conflict with other hardware.  If this value is
		   set to 0, an	interrupt will not be assigned and the con-
		   troller will	operate	in polled mode only.

		   Overrides the compile-time set value	of TCBHASHSIZE or the
		   preset default of 512.  Must	be a power of 2.

     When a builtin command is executed, the rest of the line is taken by it
     as	arguments, and it is processed by a special parser which is not	used
     for regular Forth commands.

     This special parser applies the following rules to	the parsed text:

     1.	  All backslash	characters are preprocessed.

	  +o   \b , \f ,	\r , \n	and \t are processed as	in C.

	  +o   \s is converted to a space.

	  +o   \v is converted to ASCII 11.

	  +o   \z is just skipped.  Useful for things like "\0xf\z\0xf".

	  +o   \0xN and \0xNN are replaced by the hex N or NN.

	  +o   \NNN is replaced by the octal NNN	ASCII character.

	  +o   \" , \' and \$ will escape these characters, preventing them
	      from receiving special treatment in Step 2, described below.

	  +o   \\ will be replaced with a single	\ .

	  +o   In any other occurrence, backslash will just be removed.

     2.	  Every	string between non-escaped quotes or double-quotes will	be
	  treated as a single word for the purposes of the remaining steps.

     3.	  Replace any $VARIABLE	or ${VARIABLE} with the	value of the environ-
	  ment variable	VARIABLE.

     4.	  Space-delimited arguments are	passed to the called builtin command.
	  Spaces can also be escaped through the use of	\\ .

     An	exception to this parsing rule exists, and is described	in BUILTINS

     All builtin words are state-smart,	immediate words.  If interpreted, they
     behave exactly as described previously.  If they are compiled, though,
     they extract their	arguments from the stack instead of the	command	line.

     If	compiled, the builtin words expect to find, at execution time, the
     following parameters on the stack:
	   addrN lenN ... addr2	len2 addr1 len1	N
     where addrX lenX are strings which	will compose the command line that
     will be parsed into the builtin's arguments.  Internally, these strings
     are concatenated in from 1	to N, with a space put between each one.

     If	no arguments are passed, a 0 must be passed, even if the builtin ac-
     cepts no arguments.

     While this	behavior has benefits, it has its trade-offs.  If the execu-
     tion token	of a builtin is	acquired (through ' or [']), and then passed
     to	catch or execute, the builtin behavior will depend on the system state
     at	the time catch or execute is processed ! This is particularly annoying
     for programs that want or need to handle exceptions.  In this case, the
     use of a proxy is recommended.  For example:
	   : (boot) boot;

     FICL is a Forth interpreter written in C, in the form of a	forth virtual
     machine library that can be called	by C functions and vice	versa.

     In	loader,	each line read interactively is	then fed to FICL, which	may
     call loader back to execute the builtin words.  The builtin include will
     also feed FICL, one line at a time.

     The words available to FICL can be	classified into	four groups.  The ANS
     Forth standard words, extra FICL words, extra FreeBSD words, and the
     builtin commands; the latter were already described.  The ANS Forth stan-
     dard words	are listed in the STANDARDS section.  The words	falling	in the
     two other groups are described in the following subsections.







     compare	    This is the	STRING word set's compare.





     sliteral	    This is the	STRING word set's sliteral.








     $ (--)    Evaluates the remainder of the input buffer, after having
	       printed it first.

     % (--)    Evaluates the remainder of the input buffer under a catch ex-
	       ception guard.

     .#	       Works like .  but without outputting a trailing space.

     fclose (fd	--)
	       Closes a	file.

     fkey (fd -- char)
	       Reads a single character	from a file.

     fload (fd --)
	       Processes a file	fd.

     fopen (addr len --	fd)
	       Opens a file.  Returns a	file descriptor, or -1 in case of

     fread (fd addr len	-- len')
	       Tries to	read len bytes from file fd into buffer	addr.  Returns
	       the actual number of bytes read,	or -1 in case of error or end
	       of file.

     heap? (-- cells)
	       Return the space	remaining in the dictionary heap, in cells.
	       This is not related to the heap used by dynamic memory alloca-
	       tion words.

     inb (port -- char)
	       Reads a byte from a port.

     key (-- char)
	       Reads a single character	from the console.

     key? (-- flag)
	       Returns true if there is	a character available to be read from
	       the console.

     ms	(u --)
	       Waits u microseconds.

     outb (port	char --)
	       Writes a	byte to	a port.

     seconds (-- u)
	       Returns the number of seconds since midnight.

     tib> (-- addr len)
	       Returns the remainder of	the input buffer as a string on	the

     trace! (flag --)
	       Activates or deactivates	tracing.  Does not work	with catch.

	     TRUE if the architecture is IA32.

	     TRUE if the architecture is AXP.

	     FreeBSD version at	compile	time.

	     loader version.

     /boot/loader		 loader	itself.
     /boot/boot.4th		 Additional FICL initialization.
     /boot/boot.conf		 loader	bootstrapping script.  Deprecated.
     /boot/loader.conf.local	 loader	configuration files, as	described in
     /boot/loader.rc		 loader	bootstrapping script.
     /boot/		 Loaded	by help.  Contains the help messages.

     Boot in single user mode:

	   boot	-s

     Load kernel's user	configuration file.  Notice that a kernel must be
     loaded before any other load command is attempted.

	   load	kernel
	   load	-t userconfig_script /boot/kernel.conf

     Load the kernel, a	splash screen, and then	autoboot in five seconds.

	   load	kernel
	   load	splash_bmp
	   load	-t splash_image_data /boot/chuckrulez.bmp
	   autoboot 5

     Set the disk unit of the root device to 2,	and then boot.	This would be
     needed in a system	with two IDE disks, with the second IDE	disk hardwired
     to	wd2 instead of wd1.

	   set root_disk_unit=2
	   boot	/kernel

     See also:

     /boot/loader.4th		      Extra builtin-like words.

     /boot/support.4th		      loader.conf processing words.

     /usr/share/examples/bootforth/   Assorted examples.

     The following values are thrown by	loader:

	   100	  Any type of error in the processing of a builtin.

	   -1	  Abort	executed.

	   -2	  Abort" executed.

	   -56	  Quit executed.

	   -256	  Out of interpreting text.

	   -257	  Need more text to succeed -- will finish on next run.

	   -258	  Bye executed.

	   -259	  Unspecified error.

     libstand(3), loader.conf(5), tuning(7), boot(8), btxld(8)

     For the purposes of ANS Forth compliance, loader is an ANS	Forth System
     with Environmental	Restrictions, Providing	.(, :noname, ?do, parse, pick,
     roll, refill, to, value, \, false,	true, <>, 0<>, compile,	, erase, nip,
     tuck and marker from the Core Extensions word set,	Providing the Excep-
     tion Extensions word set, Providing the Locals Extensions word set, Pro-
     viding the	Memory-Allocation Extensions word set, Providing .s, bye, for-
     get, see, words, [if], [else] and [then] from the Programming-Tools ex-
     tension word set, Providing the Search-Order extensions word set.

     loader first appeared in FreeBSD 3.1.

     loader was	written	by Michael Smith <>.

     FICL was written by John Sadler <>.

     The expect	and accept words will read from	the input buffer instead of
     the console.  The latter will be fixed, but the former will not.

BSD				March 14, 1999				   BSD


Want to link to this manual page? Use this URL:

home | help