I <3 Open(ed)BSD: A Puffy Thing!

I have always been curious about the BSD part of the UNIX universe, so I stepped into the unknown today and had my first taste of working with a currently supported distribution called OpenBSD.

OpenBSD is a sort of "more open" fork of the NetBSD project. And there's a fascinating story there as well, read more into the Wikipedia page for OpenBSD and you'll see what I'm talking about.
Wikipedia page on OpenBSD here.

And there's a wonderful book:
"Free For All:
How Linux and the Free Software Movement Undercut the High Tech Titans" by Peter Wayner. It profiles the people and events behind open source distributions like Linux, OpenBSD and others. And going with the open source tradition, it too is available as in print and as a free digital download here. The book's chapter on BSD is here.

Getting Dirty: If you're looking for a distro where you control everything from the packages that are installed to the choice of shell, the algorithm used to encrypt /etc/shadow then this is the distribution for you. The package management scheme is really simple. Know where your package is? Fetch the path and get it! With just one command. Simple, get dirty with OS to know it fully. Imagine doing this with Windoze! (hypocritcal, I know.)

Warning: the system that you get is barebones and contains virtually nothing that you'll recognize if you're too comfortable with distros like Ubuntu and OpenSUSE. This is a truly customisable distritbution that forces you to take a look at the man documentation if you want anything done.

C? H? S? Can? How? Show!
The installation procedure, especially the hard drive partitioning scheme left me flummoxed and clutching at /s! You are simply put, forced to hand-code the partition table. You'll be confronting the C/H/Ss (Cylinders/Heads/Sectors) of your hard drive. The context-sensitive help is not very helpful if you have no clue what you're dealing with here, so, if you really need to use BSD, get a friends help, or print out a good walkthrough for reference. You'll need it during the installation, trust me.

Whew! I made it past the install but it doesn't boot!
This happened to me the first time. Some mess up in the partioning. Forgot to set the bootable flag on the correct partition! Had to re-install! :-)
Once you get past the partitioning stage, the rest is a breeze (make sure you're well cooled!). You'll also learn the importance of depending on the man pages here itself. Most of the tools you'll be using for the partitioning have man pages that can be pulled up within the installer itself. So, read the man pages, and you'll be hacking away at /dev/com0 in a couple of hours.

Now wait! so, this is just like Linux?
And for those of you who use linux: BSD is NOT linux. Repeat, NOT linux. It's a completely different implementation of the original AT&T UNIX. You'll find many things the same, especially the API calls, but if you're used to GUIs and find working with the terminal a hard job, then this is not for you, but if you're willing to learn and explore, then, go for it!

The OpenBSD and Linux developers team have never thought much about each other. It's like two nerds competing for marks! One more mark, and I'm better. Each thinks the others work is sucky! In fact, there are some interesting quotes:

Linus Torvalds wrote here:
"I think the OpenBSD crowd is a bunch of masturbating monkeys, in
that they make such a big deal about concentrating on security to the
point where they pretty much admit that nothing else matters to them."

more quotes from Linus here.

And here is Theo's take on the Linux kernel:

It's terrible, everyone is using it, and they don't realize how bad it is. And the Linux people will just stick with it and add to it rather than stepping back and saying, 'This is garbage and we should fix it.

quoted in Lyons, Daniel. "Is Linux For Losers?", Forbes, 2005-06-16. URL accessed on 2007-01-10

more quotes from Theo here.

Yep, no love lost there alright, but, they are some of the best minds on earth. And they make the best software out there!

rooting In:
You get a nice reassuring email in your /root/mail from the creator of the OpenBSD project Theo de Raadt when you boot in for the first time as root.
I'll put up a not-so-detailed, yet, superficial walkthrough of my installation process and what I went through post-install. That should make it a little clearer!


And so therefore:
It's a great distro to learn UNIX sys administration from the ground up. It leaves you with nothing but the documentation to depend and very little GUI to work with, if any.

It's all about the learning. I think I'll like OpenBSD. It's nothing like what I've experienced in the *NIX universe. And Puffy looks cute! Don't worry Tux! I <3 you too!

Thank you Theo, and Linus!
Post a Comment