Archive for November 2013


I had a new experience last week: I installed OpenBSD. And wow, what an experience it was!

As a fan of trying new operating systems, I’ve been wanting to “learn BSD” for many years now. I had decided a while back to try out FreeBSD because it has the largest user base, and assumed it would be the “best BSD experience” for me. Well, my experience with FreeBSD was that documentation was sorely lacking (despite hearing the contrary) and the things I was most interested in seemed to be in a state of flux, namely package management and compilers. That and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be “one right way” to do almost anything in FreeBSD caused me to never really understand what I was doing, no matter how hard I tried. Or maybe I’m just an idiot. I don’t know.

Well, OpenBSD 5.4 just came out, and after reading a comment on OSNews from a fan absolutely gushing over it, I became really excited to try it out.

Now, I only knew a few things about OpenBSD:

  • It’s secure. Like, VERY secure.
  • The documentation is vast and superb.
  • It’s not very popular, even in the list of not-very-popular operating systems.
  • The mascot is cute.

I downloaded the latest release and read a bit of the installation guide. I was very impressed with the documentation, but not nearly as impressed as I was going to be after installing everything. One thing in particular stood out to me in the installation guide: the advice to install OpenBSD on an empty hard drive if it’s your first time. Pshhh, I’ve installed a million operating systems. How hard could it be?

Well, it wasn’t hard, but it was very different from what I was used to. At one point near the end of the installation after configuring the partitions, I had no idea whether or not all my personal files were still on my hard drive. After wiping my sweaty palms together and rebooting my computer, it turns out I’d done everything correctly and didn’t erase anything. Well, I guess I should say OpenBSD did everything correctly. For all the power it provides, the installer really is pretty automatic and smart. Anyway, as a responsible computer user I of course have a recent backup too, but it’s still nice to not have to need it.



And it’s at this point that the documentation really impressed me. I finish the installation and reboot. I login and it tells me I have a new email that I can read with the “mail” command. The email gives a welcome and a ton of information, including the suggestion to read “man afterboot”. That man page gives even more instructions on how to do things people often want to do after an installation. Every command has a manual. Ever configuration file has a manual. The documentation just kept going and going! And it’s all both high quality and current.

I installed a few applications with ease using the built in package manager. Although the X server is not “part of” the operating system, it was included in the install and was automatically configured.

I started X and had to laugh. OpenBSD is very much UNIX, and if ever I saw a GUI that screamed “UNIX” it’s the default in OpenBSD.

I can almost TASTE the 1970s.

I can almost TASTE the 1970s.

I decided to keep it, just because it makes me feel all hardcore UNIXy.

Also, OpenBSD feels fast. I don’t know if it’s just in my head or what, but the Internet connection in particular just feels so smooth compared to Arch Linux.

And that was pretty much it. The Internet, video (including 3D Radeon drivers), and audio were all configured automatically. I’m incredibly impressed with what I’ve seen. I haven’t decided where to go with OpenBSD from here, besides just “learn it more”, which I look forward to doing.

…posted from OpenBSD!