OpenBSD Journal

[Ask OBSDJ] Am I a wasting resources?

Contributed by Dengue on from the what's-it-take dept.

Dave Pote writes : "I love OpenBSD and have a lot of fun learning stuff on it, but every resource on the net I see for it is on firewalling, gateway applications, and securing a site. I just use it as a desktop OS. Its small, fairly fast and runs on my hardware (Sparc). I play games, surf the net, do the chat thing (BitchX, micq, tik, gaim), and everything else a typical M$ lusr would do. Is this a waste of what OpenBSD is for? I don't own an ISP, my company refuses to listen to my suggestion of using OpenBSD for their firewall, and all I do is putz around on it. I do pay for my CDs and have bought shirts to support the project so its not like I'm a total slug. Anyone else running OpenBSD just 'coz its cool? "

Editors Note: I sat on this and thought about it for awhile, and decided that it was a good question to ask after all. Is using OpenBSD as a desktop OS defeating the purpose?

(Comments are closed)

  1. By Anonymous Coward () on

    Hey ... use it, change it, do whatever you like with it. That's what free software is about! You can't 'waste it' by adapting it to suit your needs.

  2. By Paranoid Coward () on

    If you find OpenBSD useful as a desktop OS, more power to you. Just by participating you're providing another set of eyeballs to spot problems or opportunities for improvement. The out-of-the-box security of OpenBSD is just a bonus for you, but you'll be glad to have it when the next virus slams everyone else in your office.

  3. By Anonymous Coward () on

    OpenBSD, all things considered, is a fairly lightweight desktop OS (in comparison with Solaris, even Linux, and CERTAINLY with Windows of any type). So, if it accomplishes your needs, I'd say that it's the other way around: you're NOT wasting resources (CPU, RAM, diskspace, etc.) by running a more bloated OS. Pick the tool that does the job.

    That said, I personally just use it for servers/gateway apps on old Sparc hardware myself...

  4. By adtr0pis () on

    " Is using OpenBSD as a desktop OS defeating the purpose? "

    The answer here is NO! Sure, OpenBSD prides itself on being a stable and secure OS, but it has alot more to offer than that. I mean, if you just wanted a secure firewall, why not get cheaper hardware-based solution that is less hassle to maintain?

    You have to remember that OpenBSD is not just a firewall OS... it's also a fully-featured *NIX.

  5. By STeve Andre' () on

    To say that OpenBSD should be used just for a particular purpose seems very limiting to me. Yes, OpenBSD is focused on security matters but that isn't a reason to think that it is somehow a specialized operating system. Far from it.

    To be of value an operating system needs several characteristics. Among these are stability, security, compatibility and efficiency. I know there are other things that are important, but let's focus on these four components some.

    - Stability. After playing around with 2.5 and finally 2.6 for a production machine, I have found OpenBSD to be rock stable. As long as one uses the hardware guides for the proper selections, the system is simply wonderful. My personal experience has been that OpenBSD is more stable than the humans around it, who have unplugged it twice now. After 165 days of continuous uptime it had found nothing to complain about and only gave up when deprived of food. No one should fault OpenBSD for that!

    - Security. There is little I can say that others before me have not said better than I could, so I will simply remind people that OpenBSD's security record is *remarkable*. Properly used and configured it is very likely one of the safest systems on the planet. For all its faults the recent securityfocus listing of op system problems bears this out.

    - Compatibility. Not only does OpenBSD decend from the BSD breed, it strives to run Linux binaries, thus coverting the majority of applications from what is the most popular *nix platform out there. I believe OpenBSD can use Net and FreeBSD binaries as well, but I can't speak intelligently on that, so I won't.

    - Efficiency. Compared to the Monster Software operating system which most desktops seem to be using these days, OpenBSD is a svelte little beast. Try running Windows 9x on a 486 DX2/66 with 32M ram--it is barely tolerable. OpenBSD practically flies in comparison. True, it will bog down once X is in the picture, but at least it has fleeting moments of speed before it slows to a crawl. You can't say that about Mosterous Software at all--right out of it's init sequence, it's corpulance shows...

    There is another reason why I like OpenBSD, which is related to the security aspects everyone talks about. Simply stated, the security audit that OpenBSD has undergone has had a wonderful side effect of sorts, which is to make the system more stable. In looking for bad programming design and practice, not only are security problems flushed out but also general problems which cause garden variety problems. So as a bonus the system is simply better--by treating bad code as a problem in general, things get fixed--and bugs, sometimes real security problems get fixed long before anyone in the vandal community finds out about them.

    It's this last aspect of OpenBSD that I personally like the most: the proactive approach has undoubtedly saved us from problems which we may never know of...

  6. By Warp Eight Bot () warpeightbot at-sign yahoo! dot-com on

    I'm an RHCE by avocation, generic Unix admin and support critter by trade. Two weeks ago, I was thinking, what's the big deal with all the *BSD's? Then they released OpenSSH 2, which got my attention onto Two years without a hole, eh? This I gotta see. I've a spare box.... Wow, this really flies on a 486! And supports plug'n'play ethernet cards, and has a better firewall tool, and, and, and.... and now I gotta go get me ANOTHER box, so the 486 can be my new firewall, and I can have something with just a little horsepower (P75-133) to play around with this thing...

    So in short, I'm taking it as a learning experience, just to hack around on and see what it'll do. I might even contribute something back.... like gpm, or a floppy-based router distro. Who knows?

  7. By Jan Johansson () on

    My record states 16 days uptime (on the desktop box), I have never seen a Windows box do that without a performance penalty do that. (It would have been 31 days if I had not errored in my NFS use.)

    On this baby I run everything that I am experementing with such as Apache, PostgreSQL, imap, pop, fetchmail.

    Using VNC to administrate our NT network and to connect to the Win NT box under my desk. As we use this stupid phonesystem that has a Windows only software. (And for thoose things I have not yet had time to move from Windows such as Excel and Audiocd).

    I have even started suggesting we move compleatly or some parts of our organisation over to OpenBSD desktops as we have alot of sales people using just telnet to connect to our Sun database server.

    OpenBSD has also given me some ideas as I have implemented sudo on our solaris servers.

    And of course we have a couple of firewalls and a ftp running the superior OS we all know.

    With posters on the wall and t-shirts on people are saying I am fanatic, who wouldn't be..

  8. By Niekze () on

    I used OpenBSD 2.6 for my desktop OS for quite some time. But....just recently i was going to kill X and restart it, it froze the whole box. no big deal, but then when i /home paritition was screwed. It was a mess to fix (since it was hosting a temp backup for another box on that partiton) leaving everything in /home/lost+found/ in folders like #0230914 and stuff.

    Other than that though...its been a great Desktop box. By the way, i blame that freeze on Netscape. The only things i want are the desktop are XMMS and uhh..thats about it :), i have everything else i need. (smbfs in the kernal would be nice too..i hate sharity) I just ead a great ipf howto and implemented it on my OpenBSD firewall and DAMN am I impressed with the configurability.

  9. By capy () on

    Ive been using OBSD since 2.3 and I only use
    it as a desktop OS. (i dont have my own network)
    Ive tried a lot of OSs; Solaris, 1000s of Linux
    Distros, FreeBSD, NetBSD and a few others.
    OBSD seems to be the most stable of all OSs that
    I installed on my box. I also like its clean
    design, the up-to-date manpages, the new USB support and the i386-pcvt-console driver =)
    The thing I like most is that only the programs which you need are integrated in the standard-distro.
    (And yes, Perl should be integrated in the standart distribution of a good operating system) Ill buy the 2.7 CDset too.

  10. By Nicolas () on

    On a kind of related note, I helped a friend install the SuSE release of Linux the other day (he insisted), and while the install was very graphical and neat, I was shocked at how much....stuff was put onto his system. It was a 6 CD set, and it asked for all 6 CDs during the install (!). I use OpenBSD for a desktop OS and for general screwing around, I love the clean base install and ease of putting other software on my system. The only real 'techincal' thing I've tried on it besides compiling my kernel was getting NAT running and a little messing around with X windows (what can I say....why run Netscape on your own machine when the University has a whole lab of SPARCs just keeping the room warm? :)

    I would love to contribute to the project one day, but until I'm a little more qualified I use it as a brilliant desktop OS (and try to convince others to do so :)

  11. By Arthurdent () on

    I Think that if you want to run Openbsd and you have a box..then your just the right person for BSD. I run OpenBsd @ my work for their Firewalls and my desktop...i even have a home box that doesnt even boot that i've turned into a bookself for books of such OS'es. So bottom line... run what you will on anything you can get your hands on:)

  12. By Anonymous Coward () on

    I use OpenBSD 'coz it has a cool blowfish logo. The other BSDs look satanic.

  13. By Anonymous Montrealer :-) () on

    I have been using OpenBSD since the 2.1 release.

    Previously, I was a Linux convert, amazed at the power of Freenix OSes running on my old 486 with 4 megs RAM.

    I moved onto OpenBSD out of curiosity, and it has been my main Desktop OS since.


    • I don't feel like patching something that has already been fixed years ago by OpenBSD
    • Lean layout. I'm sorry, but just because I want X libraries doesn't mean I want all the X applications in the world installed too (are you listening RedHat?)
    • Perl, and nc (netcat) installed by default. That really really impressed me. And this was WAY before anyone else included perl by default.
    • Standardization: Linux is a nightmare with the way certain things operate. (eg. killall(8).. need I say more?).
    • Security by default; After installing my box, I don't have to spend 4 hours downloading and installing updated packages/tarballs/patches.
    • The OpenBSD organization: the way the project functions, and the composition of the developers. I have more faith in OpenBSD developers than a 15 year old high school student working on a kernel patch.

      that said, I seriously don't see why one would NOT run this as a desktop machine.


  14. By Damien Sullivan () on

    For a machine like mine, a desktop right on the internet thanks to static IP DSL, OpenBSD seems like a fine choice. I do have services (ssh, smtp, bind, ntp, sometimes http) but have no firewall, since I just the one box; this means my machine is out there, open to attack. Seems that a secure-by-default OS is exactly what I want. It's not overkill on the desktop; it's overkill for the firewall. :)


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