lucky13’s bsd blog

March 11, 2009

NetBSD 4.0.1

Filed under: my stuff, netbsd — lucky @ 11:00 am

I recently installed NetBSD 4.0.1 on an old 20GB hard drive which previously had been used for some Damn Small Linux-related work. The good news: NetBSD was able to install with USB keyboard and has no trouble with my crappy old BIOS and ACPI. The bad news: like the other BSDs, I have to use a powered USB hub to share the lone port through which the keyboard and ethernet adapter will function — neither will work in any other port. And this retarded computer only has USB ports and no PCI slots to insert a real NIC. At least the port works.

I did a  very slim install — base, development, and man pages — and I’m adding some stuff from source. I updated SSL and SSH and perl. I’m using emacs for the time being. I also installed thttpd and blosxom. That’s about it for now.

I wanted to automate blog post naming so I wrote a little script:

# wrapper to open emacs for posting new blog entry named blog-$datestamp.txt 

TIMESTAMP=$(date +%Y%m%d%H%M) 

emacs -fg cyan -bg blue $BLOGDIRECTORY/blog_$TIMESTAMP.txt

I chose emacs at least as a temporary measure because a lot of what I’ve been posting are outlines and I really like org-mode better than some of the vim outlining plugins. Now I can shell in and just enter “blog” and I don’t have to deal with random names. This works out fairly well because it’s unlikely — at least right now before I automate more stuff to post to the blog — I’ll make more than one blog entry in any given minute. If and when I start scripting things to add content, I’ll probably use a different naming convention like “autoblog” as a prefix before the time stamp. 

No immediate plans to go -current but I like what I’m hearing and reading about NetBSD 5.0.

January 14, 2009

Rebooting OpenBSD 4.3 and This Blog

Filed under: laptop, my stuff, openbsd — lucky @ 6:54 am

It’s been a while since I’ve added content to this blog. The reason(s) are explained on my Linux blog.

I restarted my primary desktop yesterday to transfer files to my Acer Aspire One (XP-based). The AA1 has become my primary computer, even though I had my ThinkPad, which also runs OpenBSD, with me in Houston. I think I booted the ThinkPad once after I got the AA1. It’s been even longer for the primary desktop: running last showed that I shut it down in late October.

I decided to play around while I was waiting for my music collection to transfer. I started Apache and pointed IE on my AA1 to the other computer. Ta da, the default page.


So far I’ve only logged into that computer via PuTTY; its keyboard is sitting on top of the case with assorted stuff on top of it. I might get some time this weekend to remember what’s on that hard drive that I need and what I can use.

I’ll probably update that computer to OpenBSD 4.4 when I get a chance. It probably will be relegated, though, to some kind of server duty (OpenBSD may seem to be overkill for home servers but in addition to being more seure by default it’s also one of the easiest server-oriented operating systems to configure thanks to the excellent documentation and the simplified/streamlined defaults). I just haven’t decided what to do with it, let alone decided to keep it — dittos for the ThinkPad. I just have so much catching up to do first and the AA1 has pretty much become my main computer now.

No decision yet on installing OpenBSD on the AA1. I know there was some developer activity focused on it back before my life was put on hold but I wasn’t paying close attention to progresss because I didn’t have an AA1 at the time. Maybe I’ll get a chance to check and see who’s done what this weekend, or in the near future.

October 4, 2008

Finally: OpenBSD’s bwi on My Laptop

Filed under: dragonflybsd, freebsd, laptop, my stuff, openbsd, wifi — lucky @ 10:38 pm

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to update this blog, so here’s a rambling omnibus catch-up.

The Laptop and the OpenBSD 4.4 Snapshot

I finally had a chance to burn the 4.4 snapshot I’d downloaded but, unfortunately, I only got dumps when I tried booting it on my laptop. So I grabbed the 4.3-install CD. I’ll download another snapshot shortly and give it another shot. I hope it’s not due to a change in ACPI/APM. I have a couple things ahead of it on my todo list before I’ll find out.

OpenBSD 4.3 on Laptop

I’ve run 4.3 on this laptop before, albeit wired rather than wireless. I typically run my router with my SSID hidden and with WPA. This has made it difficult given the fact that some operating systems don’t fare so well with hidden SSIDs, and OpenBSD pre-4.4 lacked WPA. Still, I wanted to use OpenBSD on this laptop with this card, which uses the bwi driver, even if it means using WEP until I can install 4.4.

I installed 4.3 Thursday night and started my updates Friday morning, and just before an IPv6-related patch was released (which failed when I rebuilt the kernel on my desktop but I’ll save that subject for later after I get a chance to see what happened). The install was fast, but it takes a while to build the system on a sub-ghz computer — and I’ll be honest, I don’t like compiling anything on this poor little old laptop.

Wireless Configuration with bwi

Anyway, I had a chance today while watching some college football to configure wireless and set up X. I figured I would at least have to broadcast my SSID again. I considered turning off all encryption to see if I could connect at all but that wasn’t necessary. The biggest issue seems to be timing intervals — I get watchdog timeouts before getting a DHCP offer from the router. This was time-consuming and annoying because it would go through that charade for a few minutes before giving me a login.

Running “ifconfig bwi0” showed that I didn’t have a lease (so did looking at the router). So I took it down, brought it back up, ran dhclient, and got my lease. Now I can shell in from the laptop (which I’m doing now).

(Edit: I wrote a script that adds a sleep period that allows enough time for the router to give me a lease; I’ll add that to my rc.local tomorrow.)

Comparisons of Broadcom 43xx Between Operating Systems

Let me give some impressions about differences between FreeBSD, OpenBSD, and Linux as it relates to Broadcom 43xx-based wifi. Broadcom has an excellent and well-earned reputationwith their communications equipment. While their chips work very well in Windows and in Apple products where they can protect their intellectual property by agreement, it’s been a long road for open source operating systems in trying to support these chips. I understand Broadcom’s reasons for not divulging anything that could harm their business. I respect that. I also commend their decision this summer to release a Linux-specific driver for other 43xx cards (not mine), which I presume was made because of Dell’s offering of Ubuntu on laptops (Dell is a big client of Broadcom) and perhaps a shot at getting more of these particular chips in the burgeoning netbook niche.

This card wasn’t my first choice, it was just what remained after selling another laptop and card combination (to a friend who was impressed with OpenBSD and didn’t want to install it himself) and my USB wifi adapter (Atheros) swiped by another friend. I held onto this card because I knew there was active development among the Linux community. I crossed my fingers. And I also cursed a lot.

I’ve now used this card in Windows XP, Linux (2.6 but not 2.4), FreeBSD (6.2, 7.0), and OpenBSD 4.3. Needless to say, it works wonderfully in Windows. The manufacturer has all the leverage when it gets to write a driver that’s designed to work in only one operating system. Too bad I don’t have that operating system on my laptop.

It’s been hit and miss in Linux. I wanted to use it in DSL but between the older versions of ndiswrapper, 2.4 kernel, and wireless extension/tools, it just wasn’t to be. The card has been a pain in the ass to configure in kernel 2.6 since the bcm43xx driver was split up (bc43 and bc43legacy), and it wasn’t very easy to configure before then depending which version of wireless extension/tools were used. The one distro that had it working easiest and as I wanted it to (hidden SSID, WPA) had too many shortcomings for me to continue using it.

I’d briefly used the card in FreeBSD 6.2 early last year, but preferred the native Atheros driver to using ndis. Prior to installing OpenBSD 4.3, I decided to try a quick FreeBSD install to see how easy it would be to set it back up like I want. Getting it to work with a hidden SSID was a failure. I was able to use wpa_supplicant once I un-hid the SSID. I decided to give 7.0 a quick shot to see if it was any better with respect to ndis or wpa_supplicant. The one thing I appreciated was having wpa_passphrase in 7.0 (missing in 6.2?). One thing I don’t like about FreeBSD is having config and setup in /boot/loader.conf and in /etc. I was able to get it working in both 6.2 and 7.0. To FreeBSD’s credit, ndisgen is much easier than manual ndiswrapper configuration in Linux was.

Despite the issues I mentioned above, OpenBSD is by far the easiest to set up this card. By FAR. The card has been detected as “Broadcom 4306” whether it’s been configured or not. I obtained the recommended firmware using pkg_add, which installs it in the appropriate firmware directory in /etc. Once that was installed, I manually entered:

ifconfig bwi0 nwid "mynetwork" nwkey "mywepkey" 
ifconfig bwi0 up

I looked to make sure it was correct (ifconfig), then:

dhclient bwi0

and I had my lease.

Another point in OpenBSD’s favor is how the configuration files are all in /etc. It’s very easy to set up new interfaces: set up /etc/hostname.if (where if is the interface name) for each interface — e. g., hostname.url0, hostname.bwi0, hostname.ral0, and so on. When all goes well, these are scanned at boot and the interfaces brought up (or attempted). See the man page for hostname.if for details whether using DHCP or whatever. It’s very easy.

As I noted earlier, I’m getting watchdog timeouts using hostname.if so I’m going to see what I can do about that or else stick with starting the network via script or alias (edit: see other edit above). I’m content either way because, short of installing Windows (not going to happen), it works and it works easily.

So even though Windows is by far the easiest way to use this card, OpenBSD wins the ease contest among the BSDs (actually, DragonflyBSD deserves credit because they wrote the driver), and FreeBSD trumps Linux in getting bcm43xx cards set up with WPA. The newer bc43/legacy drivers very well may work best (short of Windows), but that’s been the most difficult setting up with my particular card.

I’m still going to try getting a 4.4 snapshot installed so I can use WPA.

Don’t Pass the Kool-Aid… Yet

Finally, not everything has been smooth sailing. OpenBSD can be finicky about certain things. That’s to be expected when security is Priority One.

There are some USB-related issues I’ve experienced. The first is the inability to use a USB keyboard during installation, which is a longstanding issue among the BSDSs (I’ve had mixed success with FreeBSD in this regard with it working in one release and breaking later; I was able to use  my USB keyboard during my lone install of NetBSD 3.1). My primary desktop is all USB, no PS/2, no onboard networking, and no PCI slots. So I installed on another computer and moved the hard drive back here.

FreeBSD and OpenBSD also have a similar issue in requiring a particular port for USB keyboards — they seem to work in only one port, no other. Unfortunately for my desktop, it’s the same one required for the USB-ethernet adapter. The solution is a USB hub inserted into that port so both devices can share the address.

Next USB issue: I inserted a USB stick to transfer some config files. I couldn’t mount it. I checked dmesg and saw that the stick wanted to draw twice as many milli-amps as the USB port allows. Not just one stick, all of them. So I took the mouse out of my external USB hub — which is powered — and inserted in it. Voila. Fortunately the mouse can work in another unpowered USB port in the computer. Not a big problem and it’s not OpenBSD’s problem that this rinky-dink computer is underpowered and quirky.

I’ve also encountered issues with ACPI, which isn’t limited to any particular operating system because BIOS writers seem to have their heads up their asses. This has been on both laptop and desktop. I wrote about the ACPI issues I had on my desktop (while using FreeBSD 6.2) that made me choose between powering down and using my floppy — an easy choice for me to make. OpenBSD has some trouble with the same computer: I can’t halt it and even pressing the power button to shut it off after halting causes it to reboot (whoops!). OpenBSD works wonderfully on the laptop but FreeBSD won’t boot without first disabling ACPI. Like I wrote above, this is beyond the BSDs. Some Linux distros also have had (more or less) trouble with either or both of these particular computers. It’s something that comes with the territory, just like the thing with ndis or any other device requiring proprietary code to operate properly.

Everything considered, I’m pretty satisfied with the performance of OpenBSD on my computers. It installs with a lean configuration, making it ideal for the “classic” computers I use. It’s installed on my primary desktop complete with X. It’s now on my laptop. I also run it on a server here at the house. It’s proven itself to be worthy of use across the board. (I also boasted of its superior sound driver in a post on my Linux blog.)

I’m down to Linux on one hard drive now, and that’s become a spare since I bought a much larger one for the desktop. I have some data and multimedia on it to copy over to the desktop computer and then I’ll probably repartition it for use with OpenBSD. Maybe stick it in the server. Maybe use it as a floater between computers.

Who knows, and who knows when I’ll get around to it with my schedule lately.

September 17, 2008

Not Much of an Update…

Filed under: hurricanes, my stuff, openbsd — lucky @ 4:45 pm

It’s been a while since I’ve updated either of my blogs. I’ve had little time to do much else with my computers lately. I was going to install an OpenBSD 4.4 snapshot on my laptop but that was delayed between a much-shortened vacation, one of the worst respiratory infections of my life, and two hurricanes affecting family and close friends and turning our lives upside down. Hopefully everyone will have power, water, and natural gas service restored as soon as possible.

One quick and unapologetic appeal: I’m grateful my friends and family have mostly been spared the worst of the damage. There are many people, though, who will need assistance getting their lives back together or relocating, especially those in coastal Louisiana who were still recovering from the effects of Katrina and Rita when Gustav and Ike struck this year and destroyed the region again. Please donate to the Red Cross or another relief agency if you haven’t already. These agencies don’t focus relief on any one region or one kind of natural disaster — they assist victims of earthquakes, blizzards, hurricanes, droughts, tsunamis, and other disasters like fires and war as well. The American Red Cross delivers 94 cents of every dollar donated to them in actual services to those in need (much more efficient than FEMA and other government-based services). For the cost of a couple premium coffees, you can make a significant difference in helping those who’ve been left with literally the clothes on their backs.

Back to blogging… One thing I’ve scratched off my to-do list is update sylpheed to version 2.5.0 on my primary desktop. I’d installed the version (2.4.5) from OpenBSD 4.3 packages but it was crashing often, usually when deleting more than one e-mail at a time.

I’ve also compiled a patched version of dillo for tabs and SSL support. I prefer it to Firefox even though its lack of Web 2.0 features limits what it can be used for. Fortunately, most of the sites I need to use work wonderfully in elinks (which remains my primary browser). That includes gmail — which is much faster without the intensive javascript overhead Google uses to slow down users. I use dillo for the rest, and Firefox as-needed.

Most of my use continues to be in console/terminals. I’ve run the same session of screen for nearly a month. In between all my distractions, I’ve had a little time to write new scripts and set up more things in cron.

Hopefully I’ll have more updates soon, maybe even something about actually getting that OpenBSD 4.4 snapshot (or a new one) installed on this laptop.

August 21, 2008

Biting a Bullet

Filed under: laptop, my stuff, openbsd, wifi — lucky @ 5:01 pm

I’m currently downloading a snapshot of OpenBSD 4.4 for use on my laptop. I’m uncertain the bwi driver will work for my card, but I’m tired enough of broken support for it in Linux (splitting the bcm43xx driver into three separate drivers has led to too many issues for me that I’ve reverted to earlier kernel versions and even using ndiswrapper) that I’ll either get another card or install FreeBSD (or NetBSD or maybe MidnightBSD) with ndis since that should work with this particular card. Who knows. Maybe the card will work fine in OpenBSD even though it remains unlisted among known-working cards.

I’ve yet to enable Linux binary support on my desktop so I’m using elinks primarily and the i18n patched dillo secondarily.

I don’t regret switching my desktop back to BSD. I have much better sound support (@*#$ alsa!), the configuration is better thought out (or less retarded depending on your perspective and how much benefit of the doubt you give others), and starting with a clean slate is a lot easier on system resources than whittling down a load of stuff that’s seemingly thrown in just to fill out a 700MB CD. My only hesitation with the laptop is the question about Broadcom drivers and finally having my most recent Linux install exactly the way I want it — much leaner and lighter than the developer of a “light and fast” distro made it.

August 6, 2008

More OpenBSD Desktop Install

Filed under: apps, my stuff, openbsd — lucky @ 4:05 pm

I’m now at 4.3-stable on the desktop and have X(enocara) up and running. Thinking of moving to current so I can run Firefox 3, but that’s not something I’m going to rush into because I can wait a couple months for 4.4. Still no decision about ports/pkgsrc.

I installed ratpoison (1.4.3) from source and copied most of my config files for ratpoison, screen, etc., from my laptop to the desktop. Nice to be able to have everything set up with congruency like that and in sync. Well, for the most part. I installed the lite version of aterm so my .Xdefaults file needs tweaking or I need to install or compile the full version.

August 5, 2008

OpenBSD Installed on Primary Desktop

Filed under: my stuff, openbsd — lucky @ 6:55 am

I just bought a new, larger hard drive and have installed OpenBSD 4.3 on my desktop. Still updating but my kernel was ready this morning. (Shots taken while shelled in on laptop.)

The rest of the system is compiling now. I opted to initially use a combination of packages and source while I weigh using OpenBSD’s ports or pkgsrc. I’ve installed only console things for now. I should have time this evening to set up X (not my priority since I’ll mostly run ratpoison, screen, and console apps anyway).

Here’s a sign of OpenBSD’s low initial resource demands — and this is with several things already running (including an IRC client and a text browser).

One of the things I love about OpenBSD is that it ships without every possible daemon and process running in the background. While that’s primarily for security reasons, it also makes OpenBSD ideal for older hardware and for users who don’t want to have to go through default install values and turn off a bunch of crap. While that may not seem like a big hassle for most users, try using a low-resource computer that’s swapping or about to once X is started.

I raise the last point because most Linux distros — there are notable exceptions that give users more control over defaults or that don’t cater to the “bloat is good” mentality — have become nothing but a dick-measuring contest with who has the “biggest” version numbers and what’s the “easiest” to run out of the box. The result too often is buggy and insecure and bloated installs that cripple a computer. And that’s not even touching on the slavish devotion to aesthetic appeal, all of which clogs RAM for nothing more than a beauty contest.

The problem is, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and this beholder doesn’t care to devote half his RAM to shiny fonts, big-ass wallpaper, or animated desktop effects.

August 2, 2008

Propaganda Volume I

Filed under: openbsd — lucky @ 1:58 pm

Just playing around with GIMP; it’s too hot outside to do anything. Puffy, copyright OpenBSD. Scaled down wallpaper and emblem. IASNAA (I am SO not an artist).

June 30, 2008

Productivity Apps for <= 64 MB Computers

Filed under: apps, openbsd — lucky @ 5:10 pm

This is just a partial shot of sc (console spreadsheet) running in GNU screen on OpenBSD 4.3. With vim and sc and screen, who needs Open Office?

June 29, 2008

Just Fiddling Around

Filed under: Uncategorized — lucky @ 11:14 am

Haven’t had much time to mess with the ancient box and OpenBSD. I installed some packages, removed some of them, built vim 7.2a-beta from CVS (updated to patch level 8 yesterday), and wrote a few scripts. I also built a few more things from source.

One of the packages I installed and later deleted was zsh. I love zsh. It’s just not all that great on a computer with 64 MB RAM (52 of which are available). I’m back to using ksh, which is much lighter.

Speaking of light, I’m impressed that I’m only using about 650 MB of disk space so far. That’s with the X sets installed (required for some of the stuff I wanted to install that isn’t X-related) plus what I’ve added so far, not to mention files I’ve installed or moved to this computer. I haven’t bothered setting up X yet — not using it as a desktop anyway.

The above shot (partial view) is from a system stats script I wrote this morning.

Still thinking about installing OpenBSD on my laptop. I may shrink one Linux partition to reclaim enough space for it so I can at least try the bwi driver.

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at