Hi and welcome to another post of the Whole Net Digest! Today we’ll be covering OpenBSD 6.2 from a user perspective. First though, I’d like to preface that I am actually using OpenBSD 6.2 as I type this very post. I won’t be covering the history of OpenBSD, controversies or anything of that, just daily use from a layman who’s used to the Linux world.
I’d like to cover the installation process first. It’s very straightforward and yet it covers all the possible bases you would need for a typical install. OpenBSD’s base is pretty barebones, but for what it’s designed to do, it does it excellently. When you first come upon the installer, it usually gives you three options, which is to either Upgrade, Install or Autoinstall the operating system. I’ve never done an upgrade with OpenBSD before as this is my first time really using it seriously. Neither do I have use for auto-installing it because I don’t plan to install it on a bunch of machines, which I believe the auto-installer was designed to do. I don’t want to spread misinformation, so I’ll be sure to check on that in an upcoming post. Finally we come to the Install option. After you choose the install option, you’re presented with an option to choose your keyboard locale, I chose the US locale because that’s what where I live. After that, you’re asked to create a password for root. Take note, most operating systems don’t use a root password, they typically assign the user into the “sudoers” file so that the user can gain root privileges. OpenBSD isn’t default configured with sudo, but you can use su to become root. After that, you create a new user and assign them a password. This user is default assigned to the “wheel” group so they can su to root, as I stated above. Oh! I forgot to mention, you either configure your ethernet or wireless card before or after you create a user and/or assign root a password. After that, you’re asked for your timezone so that the ntpd daemon can correctly keep the time for your system. Note, the clock is default displaying military time. After that it’s finally time to partition the system, which for most users is very scary, but OpenBSD has sensible defaults, so it’s ok to just press “a” and let it do it’s thing automagically. Finally, you’re asked to install the parts of the base system you want, which includes the manual pages, the kernel, the X Windows system, base system utilities and so forth. I just picked all of it since my system is AMD64, and it went with the SMP kernel. After doing all of the above, now you can finally reboot into your new system!
After I rebooted the system, I was presented with a stark and barebones login, but having used OpenBSD in a VM, this didn’t scare me. I had copied down where to find packages, and after entering it into the “.profile” file and exporting the environmental variable, I was on my way to Unix heaven. I first went with nano, because I admit that I’m no VIM or EMACS master. Then I pulled in the XFCE desktop, which after some time, I decided not to use in favor of the base system’s window manager, cwm. After that I pulled in mpv, cmus and many other applications. It was all simple and straightforward, just by using the command “pkg_add -v [program name]” I could have access to hundreds of applications without any having to mess with other repositories or anything of the sort, unlike in Linux.
Starting my cwm session, I added firefox and the xfce4-terminal application and found that those are my most used applications, as I primarily use the Secure Shell(SSH) to login to other systems and chat with other users there. So far I’ve encountered no applications in the packages that have segfaulted or hung the system, except in 1 case. This case was when I had mounted a drive with Thunar open, and it caused a system hang. I don’t know how or why it happened, but when using other file managers, no such hang happened. Then there was the usage of a base system utility, “VMM” or the Virtual Machine Manager, which is OpenBSD’s hypervisor. I read all the documentation for the utility, but I believe my processor just may not be supported yet, or it’s just some quirk with my system. I had no problems, however, using VirtualBox on a Linux system, but I haven’t tried FreeBSD’s virtualization solution yet, Bhyve.
I’d like to conclude with the fact that I haven’t used any of OpenBSD’s other touted subsystems other than SSH, such as PF, OpenBSD’s firewall. I have a book and I plan to try it very soon, and on my next post, I will certainly say whether I could get it working successfully. Also I’d like to try tmux more, which is a terminal multiplexer, allowing you to have several programs open at once on a single terminal screen.
I might revise this post later to add more things in the few months I’ve used OpenBSD as my main system, so look forward to that!