Enter OpenBSD – part 2!

I feel I have wronged OpenBSD in my earlier entry, while it surely deserves proper attention. My main problem was that it really surprised me with its minimalist approach. However, the more I used the default tools and read the documentation, the more it became clear to me. I especially needed to drop some presumptions I made based on Internet articles addressed to laymen:

  • OpenBSD has nothing to do with FreeBSD except for selected tools and features (rc.conf, PF firewall, Ports Tree design, etc.). Thereby, the two systems are not comparable to each other at all (except for its common heritage in BSD4.4 Lite). In fact, each BSD system is independent, contrary to the “Distribution” in the BSD acronym.
  • OpenBSD has very well defined goals (code correctness, security, stability, etc.), which do not require it to cater to the end-user. Therefore, it is not built with desktop users in mind specifically, though many desktop features are of course available thanks to contributions from members of the community.

Having the above points in mind, I approached OpenBSD as an entirely separate and unique entity. I am glad to say, I was quite happy with what I saw. It’s indeed amazingly documented and understanding it properly is mostly about reading that documentation. Everything needed to run a basic installation is there. The Ports Tree and packages lets the user expand on the already great base. On each operating system I usually install a set of essential tools I need for software development and leisure – vim (with GUI if possible), w3m (for command-line Web browsing), firefox, a file manager (mc, pcmanfm, etc.) and a music player (mplayer, for instance). I’m happy to report that all of those applications are available from the not-so-small OpenBSD repositories. In general, BSDs are not strong on games, though OpenBSD offers a nice selection still. I grabbed OpenTTD and 0ad instantly. Also, since the base contains xenocara, I added Openbox on top of the already provided fvwm, cwm and twm. Openbox is my absolute favorite among the *box window managers and with a small laptop screen, a tiling window manager such as i3 or awesome is not exactly what I would call convenient.

Since then, I’m running OpenBSD as my secondary operating system (FreeBSD being the primary). It’s quite smooth sailing, though I still have a lot to learn regarding setting up network services and rebuilding the kernel. I feel OpenBSD would be more suited for a small, space-limited server than FreeBSD. I didn’t yet have the chance to test it on an ARM device, though I guess there it should also shine.

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