Before describing my first steps with OpenBSD I have to do a short briefing on my history with OS.

I have been a long time Linux user for servers and for desktop (work) until ... 4-5 years ago. At this time I got tired of always playing with my OS to have a good desktop experience (it was fun when I was younger but really got annoying on the long run). So I switched to the devil MacOS X for my laptop and I enjoyed it :)

Now I'm still using MacOSX on laptop, Windows 7 on desktop (I am a gamer guy so ...) and until recently Linux (Gentoo) on a dedicated server.

Why try OpenBSD and not just stay with Linux ? because I am curious and I wanted to try OpenBSD for years but never had the opportunity. OpenBSD focus on security is appealing to me but I also heard of its simplicity and nowadays with things like systemd coming to Linux I will gladly take a cup of that simplicity.

First try - OpenBSD 4.9 stable release

After reading a good cup of documentation (another strength of OpenBSD) I chose what seems to be the simplest path: latest stable release. Too bad for me, my shiny new server is built on the sandy bridge platform ... so it does not went as expected :)

I got stuck at the network configuration as my network card was not recognized ... well ... ok I have to admit with a 6 months release cycle and a smaller team than Linux, OpenBSD may not be the OS of choice for new hardware....

But I am not the kind of guy who drops an idea without fighting so it is time to try ... a snapshot of the upcoming release (5.0).

Second try - OpenBSD 5.0 snapshot

Snapshots are under development versions of the OS, the goal is to test new additions to the OS but without the need to build (compile) the full OS. So between two releases, snapshots are made regularly by the OpenBSD team and released to the public.

As the sandy bridge is not an exotic platform, it has a great chance to be supported. I was not totally right ..

During the install process my network card was still unrecognized ... before raging and begin downloading a Gentoo ISO, I skipped the network part of the install to see how the remaining of the install process looks like. And, except for the network part, everything goes smoothly. For the disk partitioning I was a bit lost as I had no previous experience with OpenBSD so I chose 'Auto partitioning'. 1To is quite a large disk so the automatic partitioner let me with space available if I need to add more.

So install finished, it is was not a GUI install it was shell, it was basic and it was great ! (I know, a lot of people find my love for console quite disturbing considering I am a Mac user).

Reboot TIME !!

No third try - new OS starting

It was really a great surprise to find my network card working on reboot, it seems that the kernel used for the installer is not the same than the one used for the system. So finally I got a working OpenBSD (minus the unconfigured network card as I skipped this during install).

So first thing first, configuring your network card ... I just need to find the place to say "USE DHCP!!" but it was not that easy to spot, mainly because I still have my linux habits so I start poking around, looking for the right file. No luck :(

Finally I did what is the best answer to a problem: man dhcp ... reading 10 lines of well written doc and I got my answer ... as simple as that ... "man dhcp" I teach my students to use the man pages but I was surprised by this one.

Basic configuration

I will not detail all the basic configurations I did, just list what were, for me, the first steps (after reading the afterboot message and some more documentation):

  • Configure shell prompt
  • Configure some environment variables (like PKG_PATH to simplify package installation and use a server close to me)
  • Activate ntpd to keep my server clock on time (just simple ... edit the/etc/rc.conf.local file ... documentation is great, config is simple ... I LOVE THIS !)

OK so now I have got an OpenBSD server up and running, time to start adding some daemons to it.

See you in the next entry !