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OpenBSD after 3 years' use

Why I'm posting this
I switched to OpenBSD from Linux (Arch and Debian) for my desktop a little over three years ago and I thought it might be useful to summarise my experience over that time and the main differences from Linux that I've found. I've blogged a lot about this previously (see the bsd tag) so this is really just an update.

In brief, I still like OpenBSD and have no thought of going elsewhere. I use the -current flavour and update the system about once a week. OpenBSD -current is roughly the equivalent of Arch or Debian sid, This may suggest that you need a lot of experience to use it and that doing so is rather risky, but I've found it to be more stable than either of the linux. distributions.

There have been occasional hiccups, mainly with packages rather than the base system (these are separate in the BSDs, of course), but there have been no show-stoppers and I've been able to solve problems with help from various kind people on the internet. But OpenBSD differs from Linux when it comes to finding help.

Getting help
OpenBSD users are always advised to read the (excellent) man pages, which often provide the answer, so that's usually the place to start. The online FAQ is also essential reading.

All the Linux distributions I've used have mail lists and these are probably the most widely accessed resources for help with the different distributions. OpenBSD has a general mail list (misc@openbsd.org) but this is not the place to ask newbie questions. Most of the discussion is more technical than what you will find on a typical LInux list and many of the topics are not relevant to desktop users. I read it daily and learn from it, but even after 3 years much of it still goes over my head.

A better place to go when starting out with OpenBSD is daemonforums.org. There are some very knowledgeable people there who kindly and patiently answer beginners' questions. Remember to search the site before you ask your question; you'll often find that it's already been answered.

Google (or in my case duckduckgo) might seem like an obvious place to go for help but be careful. A lot of what you find there is out of date or misleading so this should be a last resort.

If you think you've found a bug either in the base system or in a package you probably haven't, but if you're fairly sure you have you can submit a bug report. Even if you don't do this it can be useful to search the bug reports you can find at https://marc.info/?l=openbsd-bugs. If the problem is with a package you can email the package maintener; I've had very helpful responses in this way.

If you are following -current you should certainly keep an eye on https://www.openbsd.org/faq/current.html.

Finally, anyone who has decided they want to use OpenBSD regularly should get a copy of Absolute OpenBSD by Michael W. Lucas.




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Mike on :

I like the ethos and security of OpenBSD but unfortunately, they're not quite there in terms of hardware support for me. I have a newer Dell laptop that runs fine with Linux but I can't get the wireless to work with OpenBSD. Oh well, maybe some day in the near future it will be supported. That'll teach me for wanting something shiny and new.

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