back to article OpenBSD 7.1 is out, including Apple M1 support

The OpenBSD Project has released version 7.1 of its eponymous OS for 13 different computer architectures, including Apple's M1 Macs. OpenBSD is the security-focused member of the BSD family. Project leader Theo de Raadt co-founded the NetBSD project in 1993, but after disagreements with other core team members, he left and …

  1. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

    Learn once

    There may be a lot to learn but it's a long term investment, the BSDs are indeed structured as traditional Unix, the skills learned don't change.

    I've been a NetBSD for 25 years, it's been my primary system for 20. If I had gone to sleep 20 years ago to wake up in front of a modern system it would still all look familiar. If I needed to install on a drive over 2TB sure I'd have to read up on that newfangled GPT stuff, may even need to spend a few minutes reading up on the rc.d system (systemd could learn a lot from it), but the bulk of the system would function just as you expected.

    Of course there have been plenty of developments and improvements in that time but not the back and forth breaking changes of other systems. The rate of change may be slower compared to Linux but it's also surer and more considered.

    1. FIA Silver badge

      Re: Learn once

      Yeah, that pretty much sums up the BSDs.

      I learnt NetBSD 1.4 whilst at uni by installing it on my Acorn in the late 90s. The 1.4 install didn't work, the 1.2 did, but stubborness meant I wanted 1.4. I learnt a lot from simply working out what was going on behind the scenes with the installer to manually install it. Learning that has served me well in my career.

      Stuck with NetBSD upto about 3 years ago when a yearning for ZFS and a desire to run Plex made me jump ship.... to FreeBSD. (Annoyingly about 6 months before NetBSDs ZFS became usable. :D )

      Never used OpenBSD, but my internet has (and continues to) run through the pf firewall for 25 years now. Oh, and openSSH ain't bad too. :)

      Plus it's nice for those who want a *nix style system that's not Linux or mac OS.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Learn once

      That actually sums up moderately modern Unixes (Unices?) in general.

      There's a structural principle behind it that, once grasped, allows you to also work on other similar but not quite identical platforms. Admittedly not as effective as the people who live inside a platform on a daily basis, but a large amount of fundamentals carry over. Although I started with Slackware on floppies on a self built PC and then other distros like SuSE, I have managed to find my way in SunOS, Salaris, IBM AIX, HP-UX, NetBSD and FreeBSD as well.

      As a matter of fact, as my ISP uses FreeBSD I am again spending much time on its command line. I also have a Linux vserver somewhere, but the 'somewhere' already indicated I use that less. As a matter, the instance is even switched off right now - it's so to speak a spare :).

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you can, always build on a strong foundation

    This is still one of my preferred platforms for deploying the services it supports. One of the few consistently reliable and nearly bulletproof distros, so if I need to deploy something that is public facing it's a good tool. Harder to set up, but easy to maintain once it's configure.

    Got to say though, that having a windowing system would feel a little weird to me after all of these years. Usually each box only has one or a handful of services deployed, so I am usually tunneling in from a more user friendly work environment. I can't say that having to install all of the kitchen sink stuff plays to it's strengths but it IS there for you if you want or need it.

    1. chasil

      X11

      OpenBSD is unique in that the X server does not run as root. This alone makes it makes it safer than most everything else that implements X11.

      After the switch of malloc() from sbrk() to mmap(), several use-after-free bugs were found and fixed in the X server, which benefitted all platforms that implemented the patches.

      OpenBSD is a great place to run X-Windows.

  3. thames Silver badge

    With regards to not being able to install Firefox due to the splitting up into partitions, I suspect that was a consequence of having a small VM disk and multiple partitions. If it was installed directly on hardware with a much larger disk this wouldn't have been a problem.

    I use OpenBSD as one of my testing VMs and installed the new version yesterday and started using it with no problems. I've been using it for testing for years and didn't find it any more difficult to get used to than say a new Linux distro.

    The one complaint that I have about it is that when run in VirtualBox shutdown won't actually shut it down. It announces the shutdown process but then doesn't actually do it. I have to issue an ACPI shutdown via the VM control to shut it down. I don't know if this is an issue on actual hardware or in other VM systems.

    1. Alistair
      Windows

      shutdown won't actually shut it down.

      I have the same issue in kvm/linux host. Poweroff works.

      1. karlkarl Silver badge

        it is

        "shutdown -p now"

        To shutdown and poweroff the machine.

        1. thames Silver badge

          Thanks, that works. It turns out the actual problem is rather subtle.

          If I type "shutdown now -h" in a Linux system, that works fine.

          However, OpenBSD "shutdown now -p" will ignore the "-p" if it comes after "now". If typed as "shutdown -p now" however, it works fine. I had used the first format because that is what I was used to with Linux. I've made a note of this for future reference.

          Thanks again.

      2. thames Silver badge

        "Poweroff" works for FreeBSD, but not for OpenBSD which uses "shutdown" in the default install (FreeBSD has both). However, the OpenBSD "shutdown" has slightly different semantics than the Linux version.

        Here's the Linux version on Ubuntu (this is just some of the options).

        -H, --halt

        Halt the machine.

        -P, --poweroff

        Power-off the machine (the default).

        -r, --reboot

        Reboot the machine.

        -h

        Equivalent to --poweroff, unless --halt is specified.

        Here's the OpenBSD version (again, not all the options).

        -h The system is halted at the specified time when shutdown execs

        halt(8).

        -p The system is powered down at the specified time. The -p flag is

        passed on to halt(8), causing machines which support automatic

        power down to do so after halting.

        -r shutdown execs reboot(8) at the specified time.

        Note the difference between lower and upper case in the above options.

        1. the spectacularly refined chap Silver badge

          Be careful there, I haven't checked the others but on Net poweroff essentially does just that, the kernel comes down and machine is powered off. A graceful shutdown and power off needs a "shutdown -p", otherwise to usermode processes (e.g. your DB server) the effect is the same as cutting the power.

    2. An_Old_Dog Bronze badge

      OpenBSD auto-partitioning & Firefox

      @thames: "... I suspect that was a consequence of having a small VM disk and multiple partitions..."

      In my experience, the auto-partitioning feature makes some sub-optimal choices. For discs smaller than 16 GB, I typically use one large partition mounted as root ("/"), and a few smaller partitions for /tmp/, /var/, and swap.

      On small-disc systems, if I rebuild the system from source, I temporarily hang a another disc off the system, partitioned to hold /usr/src/, /usr/obj/, /usr/xobj/, and /usr/xenocara/.

  4. Bartholomew Bronze badge
    Happy

    OpenBSD still rocks.

    One thing I love about OpenBSD is the secure by default philosophy (no daemons/services are enabled during insall). Oh and CARP, is still mind blowing ('... Left with little choice, we proceeded to reinvent the wheel or, more correctly, abandon the wheel entirely and go for a "hovercraft".').

    1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: OpenBSD still rocks.

      we proceeded to reinvent the wheel or, more correctly, abandon the wheel entirely and go for a "hovercraft".

      Whereas these two abandoned the wheel and went for Windows

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qopCQSWmpM

  5. VoiceOfTruth

    I am a big fan of the *BSDs, in particular FreeBSD

    I have used Net/Open/Free/Dragonfly to see what each has to offer, and I agree with your assessment and pigeonholing of the first three.

    In your review you mention the number of slices (particularly for /usr*) in the default install. I agree, It seems odd to me. On FreeBSD I have /usr and /usr/local. That's sufficient to keep things tidy. If I want to build the whole OS or a kernel I can still do that. I'm glad that you mentioned the size of the installation too. The *BSDs seem very tidy in comparison to other OSs.

    While I have used Linux for a long time, I gravitated to FreeBSD. I have a few complaints about Linux. One of them is the ridiculous number of wafer-thin-differences-between-them number of distros. Another is far deeper - it is how the Linux developers seem to have gone down a path of making things as complex as possible. We all know about systemd, but that is not the whole story. It is merely symptomatic. FreeBSD seems remarkably clean and straightforward in comparison.

    I will give the latest OpenBSD a spin but it won't be going into production.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I chose my ISP because they run BSD

    It's easily the best money I spend in a year. They run all the usual (Apache, MariaDB and install scripts for WP, Joomla and a few other ones), I have SSH and SFTP access, and their email facilities even generate a quick iPhone profile if you want the easy install.

    Worth it.

    1. whyme

      Re: I chose my ISP because they run BSD

      Would be good to know what the ISP is as it's always good to have a recommendation :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I chose my ISP because they run BSD

        It's Swiss provider Hostpoint. I've used the link to their 'webhosting' offers because it's so much more than just cranking out pre-cooked WP/Joomla/Drupa (et al) sites (the service includes that too, of course, and your sites automatically get a maintained Let's Encrypt cert assigned), they're proper vhosts. I have so much space on one account I am actually thnking about online backups using SFTP.

        And yes, I think they do affiliate linking but I'm of the opinion that that dilutes an honest recommendation.

        BTW, if you think that them running FreeBSD also means they have competent support then you're right. They do. In four different languages, no less, but that'll be probably of less interest to a British audience :).

  7. david 12 Silver badge

    MS dropped BSD

    Microsoft SFU (System For Unix) was a BSD based Windows subsystem until Win10 switched to a Linux virtual machine

    1. karlkarl Silver badge

      Re: MS dropped BSD

      I am always surprised that Interix (the precursor to SFU) chose OpenBSD specifically. I have yet to find the reasoning back then. I am guessing even back then, OpenBSD was just really clean.

      Their Winsock stack is still heavily based on an (old version of) the BSD network stack.

      All in all, a part of the OpenBSD project they imported finally(!!!) was OpenSSH. Windows can almost be administered in a professional way now after 20+ years.

  8. herman Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    OpenBSD is Faaast!

    OpenBSD installs easily and runs very well on any laptop machine. It is blazingly fast and makes any Linux distro look very amateurish, performance wise.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: OpenBSD is Faaast!

      I've liked it when I've played with it - the only difference I found with other Linuxes was a lack of pre-built software and the odd library missing for some of the more obscure software I dip into occasionally - though that is becoming more common on big Linux distributions anyway.

    2. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

      Re: OpenBSD is Faaast!

      Blazingly fast? It's noticeably slower than Linux. I have it on a 2nd-gen i5 and it's usable as a desktop running xfce, thunderbird, firefox etc, but it works a lot harder than it did under Debian. Not criticising, it's not the focus of the project.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        Re: OpenBSD is Faaast!

        As a desktop, you probably have an accelerated gui with drivers for your GPU under linux, but not under bsd. I don't think this is how I would measure the performance of this type of OS.

        1. Bitsminer Bronze badge

          Re: OpenBSD is Faaast!

          OpenBSD with AMD GPUs has accelerated graphics.

        2. chasil

          Re: OpenBSD is Faaast!

          Linux is [currently] far more able to run fragments of the kernel on multiple CPUs at the same time.

          OpnBSD started out with one large kernel lock that was a bottleneck (as did Linux 2.2), but has proceeded much more slowly in allowing kernel features out from behind that lock.

          That being said, there are some things that feel much faster in OpenBSD 7.1.

        3. VoiceOfTruth

          Re: OpenBSD is Faaast!

          Nvidia has official drivers for FreeBSD and has had them for years. I don't know about the other BSDs.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: OpenBSD is Faaast!

          You might like to have a play with a modern BSD system.

          OpenBSD has similar GPU driver support to Linux these days (which is only a little behind Windows). The only one it lacks is Nouveau (for NVIDIA cards).

          FreeBSD even has the official proprietary NVIDIA driver for those who like old fashioned closed source stuff.

    3. thames Silver badge

      Re: OpenBSD is Faaast!

      I run a large set of benchmarks for my software in VMs on my PC, testing a wide variety of Linux and BSD OS distros. FreeBSD and OpenBSD were always measurably slower than any of the Linux distros, and roughly comparable to Windows. I suspected that this was mainly a reflection of the respective compilers.

      A big gap opened up however after Meltdown/Spectre mitigations were put into place, with OpenBSD and FreeBSD slowing down very significantly, OpenBSD much more so than FreeBSD. I suspect this was a result of different ideas of what a suitable compromise was in terms of security versus performance.

      Whether any of this makes a difference will depend on your application. If your application is I/O bound, then the CPU performance difference probably won't matter. So, OpenBSD might be a good choice for a mailserver or firewall or the like, but not a good choice for a supercomputer. Benchmark your application and keep the security / performance trade offs in mind.

  9. keithpeter Silver badge
    Windows

    apmd

    Worth mentioning that OpenBSD 7.1 includes a change in the apmd power management software so that when plugged into the mains, a laptop will tend to run at maximum processor speed. See

    https://dataswamp.org/~solene/2022-04-21-openbsd-71-fan-noise-temperature.html

    for references and a user space daemon to provide sane defaults.

    The multi-slice default automatic disk partitioning is apparently something to do with write XOR execute permissions on various slices, see

    https://undeadly.org/cgi?action=article&sid=20160527203200

    I'm always impressed by the documentation *within* an OpenBSD install. The FAQ and man pages for the base system are also available from openbsd.org. Reading

    https://www.openbsd.org/faq/faq1.html#OtherUnixes

    might help with the initial orientation.

    The 'learn once' comment above rings true to to me, similar to Slackware in the Linux world.

  10. pitrh

    The "What every IT person needs to know about OpenBSD" article series

    If you've read to the end of comments, you might be interested enough in the subject that you could be enticed to read a reference-rich 3-piece article series over at apnic.net, starting with https://blog.apnic.net/2021/10/28/openbsd-part-1-how-it-all-started/, also available as one piece minus APNIC's edits as https://bsdly.blogspot.com/2021/09/what-every-it-person-needs-to-know.htm, by yours truly about the time OpenBSD 7.0 was finalized.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

      Re: The "What every IT person needs to know about OpenBSD" article series

      I think you have a typo in your own link!

      Did you mean this?

      https://bsdly.blogspot.com/2021/09/what-every-it-person-needs-to-know.html

      1. pitrh

        Re: The "What every IT person needs to know about OpenBSD" article series

        Exactly. I tried to make the links clickable but my post-initial post editing time ran out, sorry.

  11. Bibbit

    Sorry if I am being dim...

    But I thought there might be more fanfare/comment about the Apple M1 support. I only say this because of all the fuss and plaudits being rightly sent the way of the boffins at Asahi Linux. Does M1 support mean it is good to go on the new silicon? Impressive if true and I bet it goes like stink.

    1. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Bronze badge

      Re: Sorry if I am being dim...

      [Author here]

      I do not own an M1 Mac so I couldn't test this.

      But: I think you need to take it in the context of the above comments.

      I.e. if you run OpenBSD, do not expect great SMP performance, do not expect great power management, do not expect great GPU acceleration (if any) or GPU drivers, and so on.

      In other words, it does not take very full advantage of a modern PC, and as such, when they say it's good to go on M1, that means it won't take advantage of most of the functionality of the Apple hardware either.

      But it will, I think, boot and run and get you online, which is most of what the kind of users drawn to OpenBSD will care about.

      And it is very probably *not* what the kind of person who goes out and buys a new Arm-based Mac would be content with.

      Lower goals and lower expectations mean that a port does not have to do as much to be considered fully functional.

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