From OpenBSD to GNU/Debian Linux

Yet another blog article about moving from BSD to Linux

Funérailles d’un officier de marine sous Louis XVI, Eugène Isabey

There’s a scene in the documentary Open Ocean when Spanish sailor Didac Costa is repairing his laptop’s battery. There he is, performing surgery on his computer’s guts while his boat slams into waves, competing in the toughest endurance race humanity has invented so far, the Vendée Globe. More people have been to space than have survived, never mind completed, the Vendée Globe.

I like that idea. Yeah, he’s getting shit done, running on fumes of remaining perseverance to keep himself and his gear in one piece for 100 days of isolation in the literal middle of nowhere.

I like that idea, but it’s not me. At least, that’s not how I use my laptop.

OpenBSD ftw

For my daily personal driver, I’d been using OpenBSD for about 10 years. OpenBSD’s simplicity and cohesiveness drew me in. And it didn’t hurt that it still has an indie vibe to it that someone like Costa might appreciate.

Practicality overrules delusion

Then I jumped from permanent employee-hood to freelance consulting. I was on my own, just me and OpenBSD to tack into entrepreneurial headwinds.

It wasn’t a practical decision. To help my clients, I needed (needed!) to use commercial software. I was forced (forced!) to sometimes use Windows.

Yeah, there are workarounds that let me keep using OpenBSD. I’m not going to link to them here because it doesn’t matter. My time is valuable to my clients, I don’t have time for chasing workarounds on the interwebs.

I ended up with two laptops. One runs Windows and the other ran OpenBSD:

So the time came for me to decide. Instead of continuing to enjoy using OpenBSD, I decided to get more billable work done with Debian Linux.

Why Debian? Convenience and familiarity. It’s the first Linux I ever used, back in the 1990s. I’ve tinkered with it off and on since then with Raspberry Pi and introducing my father to Ubuntu. And it’s well supported and has countless packages, Debian and third party.

What I gained with Linux

Bottom line: I get the “mostly works for what I need it to do” feeling about it.

What is a pain with Linux

Bottom line: The days of OpenBSD’s easily-diagnosed, easily-understood, ruthless simplicity are gone.


It’s been about a month since I switched. I still use two laptops, one still runs Windows and now the other runs Linux. I find myself needing to use the Windows laptop less now, and that’s a good thing.

I miss OpenBSD, but I have no regrets. I’m not enduring the planet’s worst conditions alone with fixed resources, I’m running a business and my clients depend on me to get shit done. For what I do, Linux lets me do that more easily.