When I read The Old Computer Challenge I knew this wasn’t really for me.
I’m not doing a lot of personal programming at the moment, and the things I do actually work a lot better (or at all) on a machine that’s not 15-20 years old.
Yes, I admit it, it’s mostly playing games that were released when 512 MB RAM weren’t the norm any more, or using YouTube (which eats a lot of CPU, I tried it).
But I found the idea interesting nevertheless, and I do have an old laptop here, my first one, actually.
It’s a hp compaq nx7010 that I bought in 2004 for university, it has a nice widescreen 15,4” screen with 1680x1050 resolution (ATI Radeon Mobility 9200/ATI Radeon Mobility M9), a 1.5 GHz single-core Centrino CPU, and was upgraded to 1.5GB of RAM. And it was really expensive, but I used it for at least 6 years as my main laptop, and I think I really only stashed it away in 2013 when I got my work x230 that I could also use for private stuff.
I had installed OpenBSD 6.2 at some point in 2017, when it was the latest version and since then I hadn’t done a lot. I booted it once in a while, I think I even committed an OpenBSD-only bugfix for i3-statusbar or something, and that was that.
But I wanted to update the OS for a while already and now this was the perfect opportunity. So in my lunch break I downloaded the latest 6.9 install image and ran with it.
Unfortunately some things weren’t working out of the box, so I had to stop and wait until work was over, but I think it’s good enough for now.
So here’s a little guide to running OpenBSD on a very old laptop.
I’ve actually typed up most of this post on the laptop, in vim, although the file is sitting on another computer - but I’m using xterm on ratpoisonon OpenBSD. Yes, I do prefer i3, but I won’t bother to even change the keybindings, ratpoison seems reallyok out of the box, just ctrl-t is a bit weird. And netsurf seems fine to check how this post looks as a finished html page, haven’t tried some real web surfing.
The install instructions
Download the install image file, install69.img from https://www.openbsd.org/faq/faq4.html and write to a USB stick:
# dd if=install*.img of=/dev/rsd6c bs=1M
The OpenBSD installation itself is pretty uneventful, just go with the defaults, wired networking via DHCP worked fine. WiFi didn’t work out of the box, but I may as well just have fat-fingered something. The interface was up but it didn’t connect. Or maybe the wifi is too new for this card…
I ran with the defaults for partitioning and everything.
But then it got interesting:
Notice that as soon as the kernel has booted you only have a blank screen, search the web. find a fix.
boot> boot -c UKC> disable radeondrm UKC> quit
or do it permanently:
# config -ef /bsd UKC> disable inteldrm UKC> quit
sudo, so when in Rome, do as the Romans do:
# enable doas for group wheel echo "permit :wheel" > /etc/doas.conf # check config doas -C /etc/doas.conf
Now it’s time to see how outdated the install medium was and do an upgrade:
syspatch -c syspatch
Then notice that something with KARL didn’t work:
# it tells me to run this /usr/libexec/reorder_kernel
It didn’t help, but in the log file there are some steps I should do, those do work.
But still, X won’t start.
I learn that
startx is deprecated, and I should do:
rcctl enable xenodm rcctl start xenodm
Sadly it didn’t change anything, but the fix is actually easy if you RTFM correctly:
echo machdep.allowaperture=2 >> /etc/sysctl.conf reboot
(thank you, helpful people of r/openbsd)
So now I can finally log in to a graphical interface and am greeted by the horrible, horrible
After 5 minutes of trying and not liking
cwm and deciding that
i3 is too resource heave for this, I want to try
Then simply edit the
$HOME/.xsession and restart X:
xsetroot -solid rebeccapurple & xterm -bg black -fg white +sb & ratpoison
Finally install a few applications I will or might need:
pkg_add git zsh tmux vim irssi mutt netsurf htop