Dave's OpenBSD Blog 4. Servers and X

Created: 2022-12-30

Go back to my OpenBSD page for more entries.

Two chapters of Absolute OpenBSD, 2nd Edition (nostarch.com) complete.

Summary (in my words):

These two chapters couldn’t be more different. My opinion is that OpenBSD really excels as a server. It’s solid and predictable and secure. I may revisit this and related chapters if I end up converting my local setup to a BSD box. (But the two applications of OpenBSD I’m more interested in are as a web server (to run the site you’re looking at right now, which is running on Slackware Linux as I write this) and as a packet filter on my home network.

I’m not sure how current Chapter 16 still is, but it’s well written and everything I looked at on my current OpenBSD install seemed to be relevant. I think SSH just continues to eat everything and things like FTP get more and more obscure (as they should).

Chapter 17 is about using OpenBSD as a desktop OS. I have some thoughts on why this won’t actually be for me, but I’m saving those for a conclusion at the end of this blog mini-series. I think OpenBSD is a solid desktop OS for plenty of types of use.

The X.org section is the most out-of-date part of this book so far. Instead of startx, you’re supposed to use xenodm now, which is one of those desktop managers that include the login as well. So as soon as you enable it as a global rc, you’ll be logging into X instead of the terminal.

I found this out because following the instructions for enabling video memory and running startx wasn’t working. THE INTERNET told me that we don’t do this anymore. And sure enough, the OpenBSD FAQ states it clearly:

The recommended way to run X is with the xenodm(1) display manager. It offers some important security benefits over the traditional startx(1) command.


So there you have it. Sure enough, that worked.

The other big change is that cwm, which Lucas recommends in the book, is now the default window manager. So there’s no need to add it to .xsession.

Oh, and opening a terminal in cwm is currently CTRL+ALT+ENTER, so that’s changed a bit too. (I got that one from the man page.)

A lot of the software I use is in the terminal and I’ve already tried it on OpenBSD with no problems. For development, I have to use Chrome for work (to test) and I prefer to use Firefox for personal use. Browsers are, for better or worse, pretty much essential for my day-to-day computing. They’re also a massive distraction, so I try to avoid them when I want to get some personal work done!

I’d be curious what it’s like to install and run Krita, Inkscape, and Gimp, which are the graphical applications I use the most to create art and edit photos. If those run fine, I’d be pretty much set.

This is another short blog entry. The next three chapters are about fooling with the kernel and upgrading OpenBSD, so they felt super unrelated to this "user space" material.

See you then!