Formerly, my thoughts on OpenBSD were scattered around my website. I’d allude to its strengths when needed. However, that approach made my argumentation feel disjointed as a result. Overall, it seems more sensible to have a central place to talk about these things that can be linked to from elsewhere.
Firstly, I’d like to bring up the ‘dealbreakers.’ I wouldn’t recommend OpenBSD to those that:
$PREVIOUS_OS. There’s probably a way to make OpenBSD do what you want, but it’s the OpenBSD way, not the
If you remain unfettered by these, or at least aren’t bothered by them too much, continue on. Otherwise, perhaps Librehunt will be of more avail.
When I say simplicity, I mean architectural simplicity. OpenBSD follows the Unix philosophy and consciously avoids feature creep. There aren’t as many bells and whistles compared to other operating systems and that’s good! That means there’s less to sift through if something breaks.
Minimalism is another word that could be used to describe this concept.
One of Linux’s strengths is also a grave weakness: the abundance of choice. Deciding what implementation to use for a mail/web/DNS/NTP server is a task in itself, as there are many out there. With OpenBSD, one already has a sane, powerful, and secure suite of software to choose from, also known as the base system.
For instance, a web server with HTTPS and automated certificate renewal
can be had with
cron(8), all without installing any
See OpenBSD’s “innovations” page for more cool software and ideas developed by the OpenBSD project. Did you know that OpenSSH is an OpenBSD project?
OpenBSD feels transparent and comprehensible. Between the FAQ, man
pages, and mailing lists, as well as other resources like
/usr/local/share/doc/pkg-readmes, the user isn’t
lacking in ways to understand how the system works under the hood. An
OpenBSD installation is a didactic environment well-suited to anyone
with a DIY attitude.
Of course, no discussion of OpenBSD’s strengths would be complete without mention of its focus on security.
One example I like, albeit one not strictly focused on the base system,
is how Firefox and Tor Browser are packaged with
unveil(2) in mind. Speaking to the
latter system call, there’s no reason these browsers should be able to
~/.gnupg, so they can’t. They can only interact with
whitelisted paths (with permission to read, write, execute, create, or
any combination thereof, depending on what’s stipulated). As a result,
the amount of damage a malicious extension or browser exploit could
wreak is much less than usual.
kern.audio.record are both set to
default, meaning that no video or audio can be recorded without
I mean this both in terms of system stability and how fast things change. A constantly changing system is a nightmare to maintain for system administrators.
Users can depend on a new release being made available about once every
6 months. Every new release comes with documentation on changes made and
how to upgrade, which is a painless process with the
OpenBSD is very configurable, but usually it doesn’t really need to be configured. There’s no need to set up the plethora of things that minimal Linux distributions would demand of you, like time synchronization, cron, log rotation, local mail delivery, and so forth. I miss that seamless, integrated feeling every time I work with something that isn’t OpenBSD. The truly magical thing is OpenBSD does all this without feeling bloated.
Also, the things that do require intervention from the user are
usually pretty straightforward. For instance, enabling power management
and hibernate + suspend is a three step process involving
Enable the service.
# rcctl enable apmd
Ensure that it’ll be started in automatic performance adjustment mode.
# rcctl set apmd flags '-A'
Finally, start the service.
# rcctl start apmd