RELEASE(7) BSD Miscellaneous Information Manual RELEASE(7)


release — release building infrastructure


FreeBSD provides a complete build environment suitable for users to make full releases of the FreeBSD operating system. All of the tools necessary to build a release are available from the CVS repository in src/release. A complete release can actually be built with only a single command, including the creation of ISO images suitable for burning to CD-ROM, installation floppies, and an FTP install directory. This command is aptly named ’’make release’’.

Before attempting to build a release, the user is expected to be familiar with the contents of build(7), and should have experience upgrading systems from source. The release build process requires that /usr/obj be populated with the output of a native ’’make buildworld’’ compiled from sources matching the currently running kernel. This is necessary so that the object files for a complete system can be installed into a clean chroot(8) environment. The release procedure also requires that the md(4) (memory disk) device driver be present in the kernel (either by being compiled in or available as a module).

This document does not cover source code management, quality assurance, or other aspects of the release engineering process.


The release makefile (src/release/Makefile) is fairly abstruse. Most developers will only be concerned with the release target.


Uses ’’make installworld’’ to install a clean system into a chroot(8) environment on the file system. Checks out the specified version of the source code and then rebuilds the entire system in the clean environment with ’’make buildworld’’. The detailed steps that follow are then executed to package up the different distributions, build the installation floppy disks, build release documentation, and so on.

This target must be built as root with the kern.securelevel sysctl set to −1 (the default).


Assumes that the output of a release build has been manually modified, and performs the minimal number of steps to rebuild the release using the intermediate output of the previous ’’make release’’.


Generate a new set of boot and fixit floppies. This will call the release.4, release.8, floppies.1, floppies.2, and floppies.3 targets to re-generate the floppy images of a previous ’’make release’’. This is most often used to build custom boot floppies.

Targets called by ’’make release’’:


Cleans out the ${CHROOTDIR}/R directory and uses mtree(8) to build the directory hierarchy for the system.


Installs the system into the distribution directories.


Makes and installs the GENERIC kernel as well as any other kernels listed in KERNELS.


Uses crunchgen(1) to build ’’crunched’’ binaries to live on the installation floppies.


Builds synthetic distributions, and cleans up the previously built distribution trees.


Creates tarballs of the assembled distribution trees.


Makes source distributions.


Creates the MFS root file systems.


Creates the boot and kernel floppies.


Creates the fixit floppy.


Finalizes the ${CHROORDIR}/R/ftp/stage/floppies staging directory.


Sets up a suitable area for FTP installations in ${CHROOTDIR}/R/ftp.


Sets up a suitable area to build CD-ROM images in ${CHROOTDIR}/R/cdrom.


Builds two ISO images (installation and ’’live’’ file system) from the CD-ROM release area (disabled by default, see MAKE_ISOS below).


Fetches distfiles needed during the release build that are not already in RELEASEDISTFILES.


Builds all of the necessary tools to turn the FreeBSD Documentation Project source documents (SGML, XML) into HTML and text documents that will accompany the release. Also, builds and installs the actual user documentation. This includes the Handbook, FAQ, articles, and so on.


Builds the release documentation. This includes the release notes, hardware guide, and installation instructions.


Variables that must be specified:


The name of the release to be built. This is used to set the RELEASE value in sys/conf/, which affects the output of uname(1).


The directory to be used as the chroot(8) environment for the entire release build. This file system should have at least 3.2 gigabytes of free space on the i386 architecture.


The location of the FreeBSD CVS repository. This path name is in reference to the real system root, not the root of the chroot(8) directory tree.

Optional variables:


Additional arguments for cvs(1) checkout and update commands. For example, setting this variable to ’’-D ’01/01/2002 00:00:00 GMT’’’ for ’’make release’’ or ’’make rerelease’’ will ask cvs(1) to check out or update sources as of 00:00:00 GMT, January 1 2002, respectively.


The list of languages and encodings the SGML-based documentation should be built for. If not set, the documentation is built for all available languages.


The CVS tag to use when checking out the documentation tree. Usually, the head of the documentation tree is used by default. If RELEASETAG specifies a release tag, then the associated release version is used as the default instead.


The directory that will be copied to ${CHROOTDIR}/usr/local.


The directory specified by this variable will be copied into ${CHROOTDIR}/usr/src instead of that directory being populated by a CVS checkout. For ’’rerelease’’, this will NOT be copied; cvs update will be used instead.


The contents of this variable are passed to make(1) when building kernels during the release build. For example, setting this variable to ’’-j 4’’ will instruct make(1) to execute up to four processes at a time.


Specifies a list of additional kernel configurations to compile and install into the ’’base’’ distribution. Each kernel is installed into /boot/<config> so that it can be booted from the loader via ’’boot <config>’’.


Patch files against /usr/src that will be applied in the chroot(8) environment before the release build begins.


Arguments for the patch(1) command used to apply LOCAL_PATCHES patch file.


A script that will be run in the chroot(8) environment immediately after any local patches are applied.


If defined, bootable ISO CD-ROM images will be created from the contents of the CD-ROM stage directory.


The label used for the CD-ROM created from the disc1 contents, the default label will be ’’fbsd_miniinst’’.


The name used as part of the ISO file name for the CD-ROM created from the disc1 contents, the default will be ’’miniinst’’.


The label used for the CD-ROM created from the disc2 contents, the default label will be ’’fbsd_livefs’’.


The name used as part of the ISO file name for the CD-ROM created from the disc2 contents, the default will be ’’disc2’’.


If defined, the CD-ROM stage directories will not be created.


If defined, the SGML-based documentation from the FreeBSD Documentation Project will not be built. However, the ’’doc’’ distribution will still be created with the minimal documentation set provided in src/share/doc.


If defined, no boot and fixit floppy disk images will be created (for those platforms supporting them).


If defined, the Ports Collection will be omitted from the release.


If defined, readme files will not be created for each individual port in the Ports Collection. The default behavior is for ’’make release’’ to run ’’make readmes’’ from ${CHROOTDIR}/usr/ports, which can be a very time consuming operation.


The CVS tag to use when checking out the ports tree. Usually, the head of the ports tree is used by default. If RELEASETAG specifies a release tag, then the associated release version is used as the default instead.


If this variable is defined, then distfiles needed during the release build will not be downloaded prior to entering the chroot(8) environment. Note that if NO_PREFETCHDISTFILES is not set, the fetching is done after any distfiles are obtained via RELEASEDISTFILES.


The directory where the distribution files for ports required by the release build can be found. This may save a significant amount of time over downloading the distfiles through a slow link.


If this variable is defined for ’’make rerelease’’, the source code will not be updated with ’’cvs update’’.


The CVS tag corresponding to the release that is to be built. If undefined, the release will be built from the HEAD of the CVS tree (a ’’-CURRENT snapshot’’).


The target machine processor architecture. This is analogous to the ’’uname −p’’ output. Set this to cross-build for a different architecture.


The target hardware platform. This is analogous to the ’’uname −m’’ output. This is necessary to cross-build some target architectures. For example, cross-building for PC98 machines requires TARGET_ARCH=i386 and TARGET=pc98.


The directory where ’’make buildworld’’ was run; defaults to ${.CURDIR}/.. which usually points to /usr/src.


The contents of this variable are passed to make(1) when building world during the release build. For example, setting this variable to ’’-j 4’’ will instruct make(1) to execute up to four processes at a time.



The following sequence of commands was used to build the FreeBSD 4.9 release:

cd /usr
cvs co -rRELENG_4_9_0_RELEASE src
cd src
make buildworld
cd release
make release CHROOTDIR=/local3/release BUILDNAME=4.9-RELEASE \
CVSROOT=/host/cvs/usr/home/ncvs RELEASETAG=RELENG_4_9_0_RELEASE

After running these commands, a complete system suitable for FTP or CD-ROM distribution is available in the /local3/release/R directory.

The following sequence of commands can be used to build a ’’-CURRENT snapshot’’ of a locally modified source tree:

cd /usr/src
cvs diff -u > /path/to/local.patch
make buildworld
cd release
make release CHROOTDIR=/local3/release BUILDNAME=5.0-CURRENT \
CVSROOT=/host/cvs/usr/home/ncvs LOCAL_PATCHES=/path/to/local.patch


cc(1), crunchgen(1), cvs(1), install(1), make(1), patch(1), uname(1), md(4), drivers.conf(5), make.conf(5), build(7), ports(7), chroot(8), mtree(8), sysctl(8)

FreeBSD Release Engineering

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FreeBSD Release Engineering of Third Party Packages

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FreeBSD Developers’ Handbook

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FreeBSD 1.x used a manual checklist, compiled by Rod Grimes, to produce a release. Apart from being incomplete, the list put a lot of specific demands on available file systems and was quite torturous to execute.

As part of the FreeBSD 2.0 release engineering effort, significant effort was spent getting src/release/Makefile into a shape where it could at least automate most of the tediousness of building a release in a sterile environment.

With its almost 1000 revisions spread over multiple branches, the cvs(1) log of src/release/Makefile contains a vivid historical record of some of the hardships release engineers go through.


src/release/Makefile was originally written by Rod Grimes, Jordan Hubbard, and Poul-Henning Kamp. This manual page was written by Murray Stokely <murray [AT]>.


Infrastructure changes are occasionally made to the FreeBSD documentation set in such a way that release builds on security branches can fail. To work around this, release builds can be made to checkout the documentation from the last fully supported release of FreeBSD. For example:


BSD August 10, 2004 BSD