Title photo
frugal technology, simple living and guerrilla large-appliance repair
Sun, 24 Sep 2017

I'm thinking about OpenBSD again

I received an email recently from Ewa Dudzic of BSD Magazine asking to interview me. I demurred because I'm barely using Linux right now, let alone a BSD. My "intense" BSD period was around 2008-09 when I had a laptop that wouldn't boot from CD, and OpenBSD's floppy image (you heard right) allowed me to get it up and running.

I blogged a lot about it. I had a lot of fun with OpenBSD, and I tried a couple of others with endings both catastrophic (FreeBSD, where updates puzzled me and broke the system) and anticlimactic (DragonFlyBSD, where too many applications didn't work).

I've done a few sporadic OpenBSD tests since then, but circumstances at both my work (needing Citrix) and personally (not so interested in operating systems or free software as a movement, seeing overall interest in free software wane considerably since Windows 7 came out, and my growing interest in programming) led me to the point where I was running Fedora on my "old" laptop and Windows 10 with the Windows Subsystem for Linux on my "new" laptop.

I'm still very much involved in programming, using Ruby, Java, the Bash shell and a little bit of Perl.

And in my day job, I can mostly leave my Citrix-delivered system behind in favor of a whole lot of WordPress.

And -- yes there is another and -- these days I mostly use an old Roku (with USB input) for video, so my laptops don't double as entertainment machines.

Could I set up my old laptop as a development machine using OpenBSD?

The one difference in favor of this is the JDK being available as a package. Installing the Java Development Kit back in 2009 was far from easy. I can't remember if I was even able to do it.

Adding Ruby and Node seem easy. Will Ruby gems and npm packages work? That's something I'll have to investigate as I go.

Whenever I look at the OpenBSD website, documentation and, more importantly, extensive list of available packages, I get hopeful about the system working for me.

I'm not afraid of a little maintenance, and the new syspatch utility promises to make updating the base system quicker and easier than ever before. Being OK with the same non-base packages for six months is potentially unsettling, but for a sane system that just works (just works is very, very important to me these days), I could be OK with it. What I don't want is problem after problem after problem with basic functionality (display, WiFi, sound, CPU heat, suspend/resume). I'm cautiously ... cautious.

I have learned that there are OpenBSD communities on Reddit and Facebook and probably in other places (obviously including openbsd.misc).

I've already started collecting links (mined from Reddit) to help me get an OpenBSD system installed and configured:

Since my old laptop (HP Pavilion g6 from 2010) has easily swappable drives, I can put test OSes on their own drive and not worry about partitioning or blowing out a production system.

I just got an OpenBSD 6.1 image on a USB drive using Win32 Disk Imager in Windows 10, and I'm ready to do the installation.

So am I a good candidate for a BSD-focused interview? I'm not an OS developer, or a serious sysadmin. (I do play at being a sysadmin, don't get me wrong. I run a CentOS system on the live Web, though I do have help when the going gets tough.)

I'm just a user, but I have blogged plenty about what I do with the software I use, and that's not as common as you'd think (and seeming to be out there alone did push me away from my steadfast commitment to open-source operating systems). So the answer is "maybe," and maybe in the days ahead I'll have something to say about OpenBSD in the late 2010s.

Updates (newest first):

  • I have done two OpenBSD 6.1 installations on my HP Pavilion g6. The internal Atheros WiFi doesn't work, so I'm using the wired network and an old Realtek-based USB WiFi stick. I blew up the first installation, and now I'm working on the second. I still can't believe that it's so easy to get the JDK installed and running (add the package, add the path to the JDK binaries -- /usr/local/jre-1.8.0/bin -- to your path in .profile ... and that's it).
Tue, 19 Sep 2017

Udacity Flying Car Nanodegree Program

The Udacity Flying Car Nanodegree Program https://www.udacity.com/flying-car -- this appears to be a real thing, people of the world

Sun, 17 Sep 2017

Building a Twitter clone with Meteor

From The Meteor Chef:

Run your Meteor app anywhere with Meteor Up

Run your Meteor app anywhere with Meteor Up http://meteor-up.com

Sat, 16 Sep 2017

A Common-Sense Guide to Data Structures and Algorithms from @pragprog

A Common-Sense Guide to Data Structures and Algorithms from @pragprog https://pragprog.com/book/jwdsal/a-common-sense-guide-to-data-structures-and-algorithms

I wouldn't be using Ode at the 1,000+ post mark if I didn't think it was the best thing out there

I wouldn't be using Ode at the 1,000+ post mark if I didn't think it was the best thing out there

Fri, 15 Sep 2017

WordPress is dumping React over Facebook patent clause

WordPress is dumping React over Facebook patent clause https://ma.tt/2017/09/on-react-and-wordpress

Tue, 12 Sep 2017

There IS a place to recycle household batteries in the San Fernando Valley, even on weekdays

My workplace used to have a box for recycled household batteries, and that was a very useful perk. It's not up there with free air-conditioning and coffee but useful nonetheless.

Now that box is gone forever, and my dead-battery stash, consisting of a bunch of plastic bags in my car, was starting to build.

And it's surprisingly hard to find a place that will take them. EVERYBODY uses batteries. And you're not supposed to throw them out in the regular trash, so this seems like a huge problem.

One place that definitely takes used batteries -- and not just the rechargeable kind that are suprisingly easy to unload -- is the city of Los Angeles at its LA City SAFE Centers, which are only open on weekends.

According to some web sites, IKEA Burbank accepts batteries for recycling, but I see no mention of it on their web site.

I did figure it out. I stopped at Best Buy. They take used batteries, rechargeable and the other kind. I was at the Woodland Hills location on Victory Boulevard near Owensmouth Avenue, and I unloaded all the battery-filled plastic bags in my car.

Thanks, Best Buy.

Fri, 08 Sep 2017

Ruby is magic

I'm working on a program that connects to a server via FTP. I tried hacking at it in Node, Java and now Ruby. Good thing Ruby is magic.

Mon, 04 Sep 2017

Rob Eshman, longtime Jewish Journal editor-in-chief and publisher, to leave post for writing projects

Rob Eshman, longtime Jewish Journal editor-in-chief and publisher, to leave post for writing projects http://jewishjournal.com/opinion/rob_eshman/223784/rob-eshman-long-time-jewish-journal-editor-chief-publisher-leave-post-writing-projects