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OpenBSD installer: party like it’s 2000

[Random Thought] The original title was going to be "OpenBSD: only trivial changes in the installer in one heck of a long time" a take off of their blurb on their site about remote exploits in the default install.

I like OpenBSD, well I like it as a firewall -- I love pf. I've used ipchains, iptables, ipfwadm, ipf (which I think pf was originally based off of and was spawned due to a licensing dispute with the ipf author(s)), ipfw, Cisco PIX and probably one or two more firewall interfaces, and pf is far and away the best that I've come across.  I absolutely detest Linux's firewall interfaces by contrast, going all the way back almost 15 years now.

I do hate the OpenBSD user land tools though, probably as much as the *BSD folks hate the Linux user land tools. I mean how hard is it to include an init script of sorts to start and stop a service? But I do love pf, so in situations where I need a firewall I tend to opt for OpenBSD wherever possible (when not possible I don't resort to Linux, I'd rather resort to a commercial solution perhaps a Juniper Netscreen or something).

But this isn't about pf, or user land. This is about the OpenBSD installer. I swear it's had only the most trivial changes and improvements done to it in at least the past 10 years, when I first decided to try it out. To me it is sad, the worst part about it is of course the disk partitioning interface. It's just horrible.

I picked up my 2nd Soekris net5501 system and installed OpenBSD 4.8 on it this afternoon, and was kind of sadened, yet not surprised how it still hasn't changed. I have my other Soekris running OpenBSD 4.4 and has been running for a couple years now. First used pf I believe back in about 2004 or so, so have been running it quite a while, nothing too complicated, it's really simple to understand and manage. My first experience with OpenBSD was I believe back in 2000, I'm not sure but I want to say it was something like v2.8. I didn't get very far with it, for some reason it would kernel panic on our hardware after about a day or so of very light activity, so went back to Linux.

I know pf has been ported to FreeBSD, and there is soon to be a fully supported Debian kFreeBSD distribution with the next major release of Debian whenever that is, so perhaps that will be worth while switching to for my pf needs, I don't know. Debian is another system which has been criticized over the years for having a rough installer, though I got to say in the past 4-5 years it really has gotten to be a good installer in my opinion. As a Debian user for more than 12 years now it hasn't given me a reason to switch away from it, but I still do prefer Red Hat based distros for "work" stuff.

First impressions are important, and the installer is that first impression. While I am not holding out hope they will improve their installer, it would be nice.

TechOps Guy: Nate

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I’ve yet to find a better installer… It’s so succinct, fast and does just what an installer is supposed to it—get the OS installed. Once installed, I have the full power of the OS to make any changes I desire afterwards. I wish more installers worked like OpenBSD’s.

  2. I agree with Bink. It takes maybe 5 minutes to install it. I don’t really understand why an installer matters. It takes a lot more time to debate an installation than to do one.

  3. I share your opinions on firewalls and userland tools. I use pf for firewalling and Linux for other Unixy things.

    I’ve been running OpenBSD 4.7 on my Net4801 for 6 months. I just upgraded to 4.8 and I’ve had 3 kernel panics in a 24 hour period. Time to go back to 4.7.

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