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OpenBSD: Unix. Secured.

Contents

Introduction

Not too long ago, I began using OpenBSD as a part of the Aleph 0 Computing Project in lieu of GNU/Linux. I'm still learning the best way to do most tasks, but I'm at the level that I can use it as my primary operating system. Below is a bit about why I made the switch, as well as a small collection of tips to help you along in a similar—or vastly different—setup.

History

I discovered OpenBSD during the summer of 2004, and soon thereafter used it to replace the continuing development of Infinit GNU/Linux, which had gone more slowly and unsuccessfully than I had hoped. I began developing my own Linux distribution because I couldn't find an existing one which satisfied me, and to teach me about the myriad ways a modern Unix-like system is put together. The difficulty, of course, is that the answer to “How is a modern Unix-like system put together?” seems to be “Not very well.” A modern UNIX system, on the other hand, seems to be working great for me. There's little question of following UNIX tradition and standards, the documentation is fantastic, and (if possible), OpenBSD is even more free than GNU/Linux.

(A quick note is in order here. From a legal standpoint (and only a legal standpoint), none of the BSDs can actually call themselves UNIX, and rely instead on the term “UNIX-like”. This makes some sense, but is also fairly misleading. Linux, Minix, and some similar systems are “UNIX-like”; they're clones built from scratch, influenced by various systems. The BSDs, on the other hand, are evolutionary, and may contain absolutely none of the original UNIX code, but were stepwise removed, not reinvented.)

So why OpenBSD instead of NetBSD or FreeBSD? They have slightly different aims. My impressions (and I have no experience whether they're accurate or not) include NetBSD concentrating more on portability (something that is important to me, but not really of primary concern at the moment), FreeBSD being cutting-edge (which is nice, but not at the cost of stability or security), and OpenBSD being an outstanding, stable, secure, and standard UNIX system—something I've been seeking for months or years.

Dual-booting OpenBSD and Windows XP

I've included information from the OpenBSD FAQ entry on dual-booting an OpenBSD machine, as well as added a few tips on “little things” like making the clock work properly in both operating systems, in a brief guide to dual-booting OpenBSD and Windows XP. I no longer use Windows XP and OpenBSD on the same machine, but plan to leave the tips archived here indefinitely.

Running OpenBSD on a Dell Inspiron 1000

For a couple of years, I ran OpenBSD on a Dell Inspiron 1000 laptop. It ran reasonably well, but there were plenty of issues I was able to work around, and others appear to have found those tips helpful from time to time. Though I no longer run OpenBSD on that particular machine, I have archived the info on running OpenBSD on the Inspiron 1000.