OpenBSD as a “Desktop” (Laptop)

My daughter has finally finished transferring all of her files off to her new laptop, and I have graciously inherited the old one.  The laptop is a Lenovo Flex 3.  It has one of those screens that folds all the way around, and a touch screen so you can treat it like a “tablet” sometimes.  It has one RJ45 jack for a Realtek 8168 chipset ethernet device.  This can do up to 1000BaseT full-duplex, which is nice.

The built in wireless is an unsupported chipset, so I’m not using wireless networking on it, yet.  I’ll probably pull the adapter from the Hak5 field kit for use with this laptop.

There is no CD or DVD drive included.  This meant having to use a USB thumb drive for the installation.  This wasn’t a problem, just something to note.

The first thing I did was use the already made Linux Mint 18.1 thumb drive I had laying around from building my new work laptop so that I could boot the machine into a live system that I could take a disk image from.  I plugged in my 3TB Western Digital external drive, ran “dd” to dump the internal drive to an image file on the external drive, and then put the Western Digital back in its place on the shelf.

Next, I built a new USB disk with the OpenBSD 6.1 Release installation media image.  I had to go into the BIOS / UEFI settings and change the boot order for the USB drive to boot first, which I had already done to get Mint working in the previous step.  However, to get OpenBSD working, I also had to change the boot type to “Legacy Boot.”  I found documentation that says OpenBSD should work in UEFI mode, but it refused to install in that mode, so I’m noting it here that this setting had to be changed.  I also took advantage of the time to turn on the virtualization settings in the BIOS / UEFI, because I plan to play with the new vmm commands at some point.

Once I got OpenBSD safely installed using the default “use whole disk” and default partition scheme, I set up my package URL settings and pulled down the xfce package and its dependencies.  I only did this, because I use the XFCE desktop environment on Mint, and I wanted a familiar X experience, to start.  I don’t normally run X on OpenBSD, and it comes with some nice light weight window managers by default, but I want to ease into playing with those, so I installed the fluff.  I also installed Firefox and its dependencies, because I intend to do a lot of the work for both UnixSecLab and Jack of all Hobbies from this machine, moving forward.  To get “startx” to load XFCE, I created a “.xinitrc” file in my normal users’ home directories that just contain the line “xfce4-session” for now.  I am unhappy with the fact that as I type, if I brush the touch pad, it causes the mouse to steal focus and my typing either jumps around, or accidentally “clicks” on something it shouldn’t.  There is a utility built into OpenBSD that should help prevent that behavior, I just haven’t taken the time yet to set it up and tweak it.  It’s on my to-do list.

So far, everything works swimmingly well.  I have three users created: one is my “main” with doas permissions (doas replaced sudo recently,) as well as one each for the two blogs / businesses I’m running.

Speaking of “doas,” I’m actually happy that I have the option to install sudo as a package, while still retaining “doas” as the primary privilege escalation mechanism.  It means that when I do research and articles on sudo configuration, I can do all kinds of crazy configurations that are “broken” without breaking my production privilege escalation configuration.

Firefox works for all of my needs.  I’m able to do my Canva images for the “quote graphics” I’ve been posting, lately.  I’m able to watch YouTube videos in HTML5 mode without issues, other than the ads not playing.  I’m okay with that, except that I sometimes like to let the ad run for 30 seconds before skipping it, so that the channel gets some credit for it, and can get paid.  I like to support the people I like to watch, and that’s one way to do it.  You have to go to your YouTube settings to turn on HTML5 mode, if it’s not working for you by default.  Just google “youtube html5” to find the link for it.  Speaking of Google, all of its tools work fine as expected.  The only thing I can’t do from the OpenBSD machine that I can do from my Windows laptop is play Guild Wars 2, I think.

I still have some of my older series content that needs finalization, such as the SSH Start to Finish series, which should be easier to get going again on this new setup.

All in all, I’m happy with the system, but I’m an OpenBSD fan boy.  It’s hard to get mad at a system that generally “just works.”

3 thoughts on “OpenBSD as a “Desktop” (Laptop)”

    1. Since I don’t normally use HangOuts, I didn’t test this last week. Google has a thing about how their video works, and it doesn’t like the new Firefox, so video calls do not work. However, text chat messaging with HangOuts works fine.

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