back to article OpenBSD 7.2: The other other FOSS xNix released, runs on Apple M2 Macs

OpenBSD 7.2 is here, spanning an impressive 14 different computer platforms, including FOSS fans who have the newest Apple Arm-based Mac models. The Reg FOSS desk took a look at OpenBSD 7.1 in April, and for an overall assessment, what we said there stands. Version 7.1 was mainly noteworthy for including fairly preliminary …

  1. karlkarl Silver badge

    "Apple Arm-based Mac models"

    Thank you for avoiding the cliché and pretentious "Apple Silicon" marketing name!

    I use OpenBSD as my main machine. It is clean, consistent and "boring". I guess I am lucky that things that don't support OpenBSD tend to be time wasting distractions for me anyway.

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      That's the marketing name Apple has chosen for the processor family. If you don't like using marketing names, did you rail against calling Intel CPU's "Core 2" and decry every mention of AMD's "Zen"?

      1. karlkarl Silver badge

        Oh? You mean Intel Silicon and AMD Silicon?

        Silicon is actually already a thing. Zen and Core 2 aren't "things" so works as a brand name. The Apple Silicon thing is a gimmick name for their aarch64 extensions.

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          No "Silicon" was not already a thing, "silicon" was.

          Intel and AMD don't refer to their chips as "Intel Silicon" or "AMD Silicon".

        2. Liam Proven (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

          [Author here]

          > The Apple Silicon thing is a gimmick name for their aarch64 extensions.

          This is not the case... but I must admit that I thought it was myself, and I got pilloried on Twitter for saying so.

          Apple is, as always, secretive and has not disclosed much about its CPUs.

          However, it has the top tier of ARM Ltd licences. This gives it the right to design and fab its own CPUs using the Arm instruction set.

          Apple's CPU designs are entirely in-house. It does not use Arm CPU cores; it designs its own CPU cores, which implement the instruction set it licensed in from Arm.

          Apple bought several CPU companies, notably PASemi, which did its own range of PowerPC cores aimed at embedded roles, including the new Amigas that the Reg reported on a decade ago. This got the company ex-DEC chip designer Dan Dobberpuhl among others, including Jeff Wilcox and Johny Srouji.

          The Apple CPUs started in iPhones, moved to iPads, and now power Macs.

          They are in-house CPUs, with aggressively hyperscalar designs: multiple pipelines, multiple instruction decode units and so on.

          Apple is not using Arm CPU cores or designs and its CPUs are not based on Arm designs. They are original Apple CPU cores which implement the Arm instruction set because that's what older iPhones used and so the company has tooling, experience and so on with it.

          It is a very great deal more than Aarch64 with some extensions.

          In fact Apple's CPUs are significantly more advanced than Arm's own ones. Arm targets low power pocket devices with no cooling.

          Apple targets desktops with active or at least substantial passive cooling, as in the M1 MacBook Air.

  2. Martin an gof Silver badge

    Front page image

    Just out of interest, is it simply rights issues (money) that mean the images used to illustrate headlines on the front page are no longer repeated on the story itself?

    Nevertheless, the image used for this article has the interesting title of "Shutterstock_m1_user". So that's what a major picture agency thinks the typical Mac user looks like!


    1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Bronze badge

      Re: Front page image

      I dunno, it's just a woman using (presumably) a Mac. Most of the pictures seem to be quite a random selection, except that most feature young and photogenic people. Maybe there's a stereotype in that it's not the usual "man in a business suit" that was the media's typical PC user, though when I think Apple I usually think of Douglas Adams. Probably showing my age now tho'.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: Front page image

        I did wonder if a heavily tattooed young-ish woman was a typical BSD user. I guess things have changed without me noticing.

        1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Bronze badge

          Re: Front page image

          Dunno. I'm a lightly-tattooed no-longer-young woman and long time FreeBSD tinkerer so I guess that makes about 1½!

          1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

            Re: Front page image

            Well that's good news. I'm all in favour of people breaking stereotypes

    2. herman Silver badge

      Re: Front page image

      A travesty. That is not Steve on her arm.

  3. Tim99 Silver badge

    Early days

    Most of my early work with *NIXs was with BSD types - Including some weird diversions into MIPS and Perkin-Elmer, so I am probably comfortable with it. Later, IBM PCs and then Windows paid much of my salary; the rest included Novell, Ultrix and Debian. I still prefer BSD to Linux, possibly because that is what I used first?

    Now I'm retired (and in my dotage) I can still use much of the *NIX that I learnt back then in "Terminal" on an iMac. If I buy another computer it will probably be an ARM base Mac, and then the last traces of Microsoft (and Linux?) will probably disappear from my life...

    1. Claverhouse Silver badge

      Re: Early days

      I still prefer BSD to Linux, possibly because that is what I used first?

      Interesting point: as a child I was excited when an Airfix plastic miniature soldiers box in a catalogue was promising Bonaparte's Red Dutch Lancers --- when they came out, they were now Cuirassiers...

      So once I had them French Cuirassiers became my favourite uniform of all time, maybe because I used them first.

    2. Ozan

      Re: Early days

      I could have that as well: I love Slackware because it was the first thing I used.

    3. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Bronze badge

      Re: Early days

      I still prefer BSD to Linux, possibly because that is what I used first?

      Could be. I (mis)used Ultrix on a Vax at college and then moved to SVR3.0 at my first job. It was a bit... well, I missed a lot of stuff about Ultrix's BSDisms, not least the sudden absence of job control, FFS and a multitude of other stuff. And no source code nor internet. System V felt pretty solid but dull; I eventually learnt to kinda sorta like it once I'd customised my environment enough and at least it wasn't MVS which is what all the old beards there were using.

      Time passes and Linux materialises (alongside SVR4 for Serious Work Stuff). It's not really either of the above but it feels somewhere in the middle; I wanted something a bit more "together", for want of a better word (I guess I prefer the cathedral to the bazaar) and migrated to FreeBSD which after all that time now felt slightly unfamiliar but once I was reacquainted with the various BSDisms I finally felt I was home again.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Early days

        I was disappointed for years that all the wonderfully amazing functionality of LDOS on an 8-bit Z80 TRS-80 never seemed to catch on. System libraries loaded/unloaded on demand, system overlays when addition features or functions are needed then unloaded, device independent drivers so you route print jobs a file instead, a print spooler, device "filters" to change a devices behaviour, a proper Job Control Language and too many other clever features to mention normally only seen on mainframes and minis!

        Anyone not old enough to have used LDOS or maybe are but never came across it (and the later TRS-DOS 6 which is LDOS re-branded by Tandy to replace their in-house TRS-DOS, really ought to at least take a look at the contents page in the link above to see what it was it about.

        1. Vometia has insomnia. Again. Bronze badge

          Re: Early days

          Thanks for the link! I'd never heard of it before but it sounds really very interesting. I'm still of the opinion there's so much to be learnt from interesting systems of the past that could do cool stuff with very limited resources; sometimes it feels like a bit of a lost art (though I sometimes wonder if I'm a being bit too purist when I'm in the mood to code in an overly "frugal" manner; so often the outcome isn't a feeling of accomplishment but just another instalment of "life's too short for all this faffing about"). Er anyway, it sounds a remarkably ambitious and accomplished system and the description reminds me of some of the PDP-11 OS family.

          I've never actually used any sort of TRS-80 in spite of it almost being My First Computer; but even if that'd happened, I wouldn't've been able to afford the FDDs and other accoutrements. As it is, I ended up with a Dragon 32 (not really a TRS-80-alike, the TRS Color Computer* it was so similar to was quite a departure from the rest of the series) which had such wonders as Flex and OS/9... if I could've afforded the FDDs etc. But none of yer newfangled "disc" "drives" for me, I had my trusty Bush cassette player (well actually my granddad's; who incidentally was more of a gamer than I was) and its crinkly tapes, so my teens were an exciting venture into adventure games!

          * Yeah I know, US spellings in spite of all my griping, but that's its name...

    4. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Early days

      BSD doesn't fuck anything like as much with the system as many of the Linux distros do. This makes sysadmin easier but also ensures consistent and, therefore, reliable.

      While there have been various package manages, changing into relevant directory and

      make install
      still always works. The Linuxes are, by and large, preferred those who are keen on deskilling.

      1. VoiceOfTruth Silver badge

        Re: Early days

        I particularly like that FreeBSD installs non-system packages in /usr/local and non-system configuration files in /usr/local/etc. It is so much tidier than everything under the sun ending up in /usr/bin and /etc which I nearly always see in Linux.

        -> The Linuxes are, by and large, preferred those who are keen on deskilling.

        I have made a similar point previously. While I am happy to see more people using Linux (or Unix in general), it has resulted in producing a lot of low end Unix users. It does seem sometimes as though the idea is to have GUI apps running on Linux, and treating the desktop as a sort of Windows on Linux instead of Linux. Also the "Linux is more secure" mantra doesn't always hold water when the people administering them do not know what they are doing. I see the evidence of this daily when I get script kiddie level attacks from compromised Linux machines.

        1. mrjayviper

          Re: Early days

          I've seen software putting its config files in /vsr. Annoying to be.

          So annoying I've symlinkrd all third party config to /use/local/etc like in FreeBSD

    5. Roo

      Re: Early days

      OpenBSD has been consistently consistent from the first time I ever used it to the very latest release. I love the fact that the man pages are the first place to go for documentation - everything you need is in there and always has been, there has never been a need to try and find a book, hunt down info pages, search the web etc. I do tend to run Linux on the desktop - but if it's anything that absolutely has to work 24x7 without missing a beat I use OpenBSD. Not having to relearn everything for every release is quite nice too - they work hard at keeping the interfaces the same (and consistent) from release to release, it has made running a system for decades (Trigger's Broom style) A) possible and B) easy.

      With Linux and Windows I usually have to nuke & reinstall every ~3 years because something drastically changed under the hood causing an upgrade to jump the tracks. I still love using Linuxen but I confess that I tend not to look under the hood anymore - there are not enough hours in the day to keep up with the churn these days. :)

      Another reason for loving OpenBSD is that it did remind me of the better bits of SunOS & OS/MP (Solbourne's version of SunOS) which were the first Unices I used... Until OpenBSD every UNIX that followed SunOS seemed a bit more broken than it needed to be; the best bits of Solaris were GNU tools if they were installed, AIX was always weird, OSF/1 & Tru64 OK but differently special, and Linux was great because it wasn't Solaris and had the GNU tools installed by default.

      Anyway - glad OpenBSD is still going - and long may it continue so I don't have to fart about relearning how to do everything with every new release of an OS/systemd/SELinux/whatever.

      Beer icon for deRaadt and his OpenBSD massif.

  4. Bitsminer Silver badge


    The keys for me are:

    - understandable. You can look as the "ps ax" output and understand what all those processes are and what they do (or find a manpage). Compare the hundreds of "services" on Windows.

    - small but powerful. Everything you need to run X is there: cwm window manager (OK a bit odd but it works) and all the usual simple utilities. Add a few packages and it's a complete workstation.

    - AMD graphics accelerators work and work quickly

    - very quick updates published whenever needed (not every monthly Tuesday)

    - very quick automatic upgrades from the last release

    And installation is quick. Hint: try a VM to play, but use a realistic virtual disk size like 50GB or more -- see the review for why.

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

      Re: Features

      [Author here]

      > Everything you need to run X is there: cwm window manager

      TBH this is what impressed me.

      OpenBSD default install: you're in a terminal window on a graphical screen after a graphical login.

      FreeBSD: you're dumped at a text terminal. Want a GUI? Off you go and install one then. There's a tool for it, but the installer never mentions it, and it pulls in all the WIP versions from Git etc. and takes an age to install.

      Just want the latest stable versions of a GUI? Install 'em yourself. Good luck.

      It did not fit with my understanding of the products' relative designs and goals. I was pleasantly surprised by OpenBSD, and a bit unpleasantly surprised by FreeBSD... but now I've learned to do it, it's a very capable system while lighter than Linux.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Features

        Heh? Installing window managers, etc. is a doddle using the FreeBSD installer, which gives you packages of released versions.

    2. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: Features

      "Add a few packages and it's a complete workstation."

      Depending on what software you want as part of a graphical workstation, the 'few packages' will pull in a significant number of dependencies. So expect a few gigs of stuff if installing a Web browser, a DE such as xfce and LibreOffice / Lyx / Audacity / GIMP / the usual suspects.

      And *always* read the pkg-readmes after installing big applications


      Having said this, I've found OpenBSD to be a viable alternative should my preferred Slackware become unmaintained in the future (probably unlikely)

      Icon: for all *BSD teams

  5. Charlie Clark Silver badge

    "OpenBSD's licensing is a little complicated…"

    What? You then link to the page which starts Copyright law is complex, OpenBSD policy is simple . It's the GPL that politicises open source development and thus makes it difficult.

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

      Re: "OpenBSD's licensing is a little complicated…"

      [Author here]

      > You then link to the page which starts Copyright law is complex, OpenBSD policy is simple

      Yes. Meaning that there is no single licence, no overall single view.

      Linux isn't 1 OS: it's a thousand pieces of software flying in very close formation.

      The idea of the xBSDs is that they *are* one piece of OS, built by 1 team. But there is not one overall licence. That surprised me, and while there are good reasons for it, it's not what I expected. It's substantially more complicated.

      So I said so.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: "OpenBSD's licensing is a little complicated…"

        Because the OpenBSD copyright imposes no conditions beyond those imposed by the Berkeley copyright, OpenBSD can hope to share the same wide distribution and applicability as the Berkeley distributions.

        Again, what's complicated about this? OpenBSD doesn't have it quite as easy as a distro as FreeBSD, which does work hard to have a single licence, but OpenBSD can used and redistributed out of the box.

        As for Linux software being "in close formation": there's loads of non-GPL code in many of the distros, including quite a bit of *BSD stuff, precisely because it's liberally licensed. The fun starts with proprietary and political licences.

  6. druck Silver badge

    A big advantage of ****BSD... systemd, and never likely to to be.

    1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

      Re: A big advantage of ****BSD...

      Lest you forget, there are a number of SystemD-free Linux distros.

  7. bigtreeman

    7.2 arm64 framebuffer

    Graphics via framebuffer make the arm64 port basically useless

    unless you aren't running a headless boxen.

    Wireless keyboard and mouse, not a problem, has worked for a long time.

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