NetBSD on Notebook

So I am running NetBSD 4.0 now on my Notebook. How come you may ask. Well the root cause way yet another bug in Foresight 2 Alpha version. Wfarr documented bug and fix. I knew I could do that, but instead I decided not to run anything unstable any more on that specific box. It has been working mostly but still I think most of the things that are important to me do not work. Going back to version 1.4.x was no choice as this does not support my RT61 ralink card. So my decision originally was tpo install OpenBSD which i did but thenr saw and remembered that last time I treid not the card was the problem but the lack of WPA support in OpernBSD. I know what OpenBSD guxs would say – use OpenVPN. But fact is I have one wireless routrer that i am sharing with many folks – and I still think its now simpler to use WPA – even if its not as secure as OpenVPN. Maybe I will go that route once I have my server up again.

But for now I decided to use NetBSD. So my first impressions? It looks a lot like OpenBSD besides OpenBSD seems to be a lot cleaner and also “man XY” more often gets a nice doc on OpenBSD than on NetBSD. At first NetBSD didnt recognize my ral based card. Then I downloaded latest snapshots ans rebooted and then ral0 was found and the wpa config I added before was found and the connection was up with no interaction. Fine!
I have some trouble with the X11. While on OpenBSD I just got a nice running Fvwm on NetBSD I get a broken twm(?) by default with some error message that is too big so I can only read a few words. My plan is to install a wmii as a window manager. Before that I need to do some tweaking for the package management. Because pkg_add says it gets no route to some IpV6 address. Maybe NetBSD really tries IP6 via my network access? Could this work without tunnelling? Guess not and maybe thats the issue . OTOH normal FTP and protocols work. After that I ned to find some nice defaults for the Xorg and then install wmii and hopefully some working browser. Thebn i need to look at how I can do extend my screen for a video projector that I want to use to display slides or show a movie. I guess this will also require some hacking – and today I am rather in the mood to progress slowly with handwriting the perfect xorg.conf rather then hoping that some tool will help. Because ion my experience all tools I have seen from Fedora and Ubuntu and on Foresight suck. I really havent seen things to improve – So I am tired on depending on some bad tools. The only thing I found working nicely mostly is NetworkManager. But NM also has some bad sides:

  • If you dont log in your box is not connected and you cant access it if you haven also configured network system wide.
  • Sometimes NM fails to fetch an IP address or takes a long time.
  • You have to type a password in every time you log in. That can be changed but Foresight decided not to change it,yet
  • NM is not helpful on multiple cards and multiple networks that have a slightly complicated setup.

So, NetBSD 4 introduced wpa_supplicant which I knew from Linux already. And as I wrote above it worked nicely. I cant really say that I love NetBSD (sorry guys). OpenBSD is really much more elegant, but the bad it did not support WPA 😉 wow, I hate to make compromises…. but thats how live is. There is no such thing as the perfect OS. And believe me I am not a distro switcher for fun… I guess if I would have used OpenBSD for longer time I wouldnt have used WPA in the first place.

NetBSD is ok as it seems to be quite nicely compiled and has still a lot more docs as manuals other than most Linuxes, which you will love when your box has no internet access. I think updated manuals are nice and I also love wikis, but I still like to have some help in text form on my box.

This old T23 thinkpad should jsut do some tasks. At home I like to use to to log into different boxes in my intranet ot the internet. Then i use it for presentations. I like to looks at the possibility to use more simple tools for presentations. What i dont want is to have a lot of RAM and CPU usage on this box while idle. And on Foresight GNOME I saw increasing number of applciations started like beagle, Gnome Do, Glipper . To make it clear: I am not against graphical stuff – but my feeling is that the increase of applications just leads to nowhere. And thats because there is nobody with a plan. Basically they follow the Windows way in that they present a basic desktop environment and you add things like applications, applets, widgets,…. So the idea is that the user needs to install and add things he needs. I think thats partly ok if we talk about things only few people need. But generally I prefer the idea of a selection that fits together well and where I can do everything I need and use most of the hardware that people use.

And here I think Linux and BSDs greatest obstacle can be found: This is all and mostly a random mix. Many think its the greates accomplishment of Linux that you can choose between 100 different music players – and that all have their own databases (and all suck ! 😉 ). While I think maybe its not that important that the applications are all the best of its kind but rather that the selection is good meaning the software does work and is well localized (which isnt true for Foresights preferred player Banshee).
I am not saying I know exactly how things should work, but seriously are not as good as they should be.

Talking about BSDs they seem to do some things better as they try to keep a whiole system in sync. There are only one problem with that: If they all maintain their own kernel this is a lot of work. I personally think that Linux way of sharing a unified kernel is smarter, although I would prefer of having different kerknels for different purposes OR not having some stuff inside the kernel like Minix is trying to do.

But then there is Xorg/X11. OpenBSD has its own implementation named Xenocara. Not sure how NetBSD handles this – but I think the GUI system needs to be more natural to an OS and not as alien as it is mostly nowadays. Besides using an OIS as a server only I think most users like soem kind of GUI – and if its only to display only terminals more nicely. But this whole thing is still very messy. Another thing is the window managers. Freedowm of choice is nice. But what I would prefer is if liek Foresigth does it every OS comes with a Xorg plus a nice defautl window manager out of the box. And NetBSDs twm just isnt ok. I know this is Xorgs default, but its not really maintained. It does not need to be a desktop environment, but it should be a window manager that fits nicely into the rest of the OS. I think Fvwm is soemthing that is ok as a default. But still I think this should be tight more to the OS. MacOS and WIndows both have their GUIs strictly tight to the OS. I am not saying one needs to make changing to an alternative a mess – but instead that the default GUI can be easily identified with the OS that is good enough and does what he should – and is the WM that the OS suggests. I mean every OS seems to have some kind of logic – and some WMs fit better to an OS than others.

From my experience with different OSes I think every OS can learn from others. I think OpenBSDs decision to make one install CD was smart, even if some may now use this in an unexpected manner. RTFM is still what users should do. But I think software in general should not depend on a lot of configuration before you can use it. Its ok if your software uses sane defaults that are more secure or if some things dont work unless they are configured. But like the GUI: It should just work simply if people start it – it shouldnt fail – it can suggest the user to optimise it but the user should not need to dive into the core or the code it to do simple things.

This shoudl be like the “ls” command: Type it and it does the most simple thing – you want more? Then read man ls! I know some things are more advanced topics and you cant work with them unless you have read more about it.

That what I like about the ideas of Plan9: They invent some new file systems like wikifs and then allow applications to work on top of that. And editors like Acme also try to use new concepts. I dont think that many applications like irssi are really cool. I dont like applications that depend so much on customisation – and also that do not share their settings.

Enough for now. Have to go back to NetBSD.

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