On devils and bentos s

Found at: zaibatsu.circumlunar.space:70/~solderpunk/phlog/on-devils-and-bentos.txt

On devils and bentos

That's a bit more of a colourful title than "On BSDs and Thinkpads", right?

There has been a little bit of discussion in Gopherspace lately on these two
topics and I wanted to throw in my two cents.  Well, probably more like twenty
cents knowing my limited ability for parsimony.

I am a long time *BSD fan, and NetBSD is my flavour of choice, although I also
have a deep fondness and tremendous respect for OpenBSD.  At one point in my
life, long ago, when I had the time and energy for such nonsense, I really
agonised over my choice of operating system, believing it to be some deep
reflection of my inner character (I'm freely admitting to this embarrassing past
only because I strongly suspect that at least half the people reading it this
will not be able to point fingers, having been there themselves).  At that point
I could have, on demand, launched into a very detailed explanation of why I
chose Net over Open, citing feature lists and benchmarks and support for third
party software and bla, bla, bla.  All of these details are lost to time, but I
do remember that I could only ever make a pretty slight argument for one over
the other.

Eventually some pragmatic requirement (again now lost in time) forced me to
start using Linux as my daily desktop instead of NetBSD, but I continued to use
NetBSD for my personal servers, and still do up to this day.  It has been an
incredibly reliable, hassle free system for me.  The rate of change regarding
major features is incredibly slow, which suits me just fine.  I don't like
change for the sake of change, or being forced to learn new stuff every few
years even when the old stuff worked fine for me.  If it ain't broke, don't fix
it.  NetBSD gets this, and I mostly do stuff just like I did 10 years ago.

Because my NetBSD servers just happily keep on running with very minimal care
for years on end, I actually feel a little bit out of touch with the OS,
compared to when I used it daily for everything.  I am dimly aware of
interesting new stuff happening (a Lua interpreter in the kernel - not yet sure
how I feel about this - and also this "rumpkernel" concept), but I have probably
forgotten a lot too.  I might try to correct this soon.  I have a currently
unused Raspberry Pi 1 sitting around.  After reading Pet84rik's posts about
OpenBSD, I thought perhaps I should put OpenBSD on it and explore the road that
I so very almost went down instead.  But it turns out that, actually, not many
OSes support the Raspberry Pi 1, so OpenBSD is not possible, and neither is
Minix 3.  But, like they say, "Of course it runs NetBSD!", so I guess I'll set
that up some time and play around.  Heck, maybe I'll run a gopher server on it,
why not?

I like old Thinkpads, but honestly, who doesn't?  It's a bit of a cliche,
really.  But I am onboard with the standard arguments: they have very nice
keyboards, the build quality is high and perhaps most of all I appreciate the
fact that they are designed for easy servicability, and that there is a wide
range of replacement parts available on eBay to facilitate this.  I am
especially enamoured of the ultraportable X series.  I like small and light
laptops, and unlike a lot of geeks I really have no lust for huge, high
resolution displays.

Right now my "daily driver" when I am at home is a refurbished Thinkpad X220
which I bought just before I moved to Finland.  It has 8GB of RAM, a 1 TB
spinning disk that I keep my stuff on and a 32 GB SSD drive that has the OS
(Debian Stable) and swap space on it.  I regret the drive setup a little:  I
was trying to be frugal and it largely bit me in the ass.  I was unaware at
the time that SSD speed is quite strongly dependent upon size, and the very
small ones are scarcely worth it.  This one does *read* faster than a
spinner (I think I measured it at roughly twice the speed), but writes are
actually about the same speed.  Still, for a system disk this is not critical.
And the 1TB spinner was discounted as some kind of vague refurb.  It was
described as "removed from a new laptop" and came with a one year warranty, so I
figured it probably wasn't going to be a lemon.  And it works just fine, but it
occasionally makes the kind of sounds you don't want a drive to make, so I worry
about it's long term prospects.

I hope to be able to flash Coreboot or (if they get X220 support) Libreboot to
the BIOS sometime this year.

Previously I used an X60s, again a refurb.  It was quite a nice machine, but I
actually didn't have a lot of luck with it.  The internal WiFi card was quite
flakey (easily remedied with a cheap USB replacement), but the screen also
developed some sort of weird defect which manifested as two vertical lines of
garbled, mostly black pixels, extending upward from the bottom of the screen.
They grew over time.  It was definitely not a software issue or issue with the
graphics card, these lines were visible even when the machine was powered off,
it was something to do with the physical LCD panel itself.  Very strange, as it
was not subject to any kind of trauma.  I always meant to post photos somewhere
and see if somebody knew what was up.  Anyway, having bought the X220 I decided
it was time to part with this machine.  I tried very hard to find it a good
home, listing it for weeks at ludicrous prices (in the end a mere NZ$1, I
think) on the local auction site.  So in the end, with my move looming, I
relisted individual parts, sold the RAM sticks, hard drive, hard drive caddy and
power adapter and was forced to recycle the rest.  This is a shame and a waste,
but I honestly did everything I could.