Jim Abercromby runs OpenBSD

Whats, up! My name is Jim and I am a retired United States Air Force Master Sergeant since 2005, and then retired from the civilian sector in 2013. I live alone with my wife and dog in New Jersey. I pretty much do that or I am reading, cooking or riding my bike.

So I have been around computers all my life since my first exposure to them via a Radioshack TSR-80 in 1979. I have also used civilian and military mainframes, Amigas and Commodores.

In December of 1996 while living in San Antonio, TX, I was on IRC using Mirc32, Windows 95. I stumbled into some hacker channel, and this guy was talking mad shit to me about how real men ran Unix or BSD if they wanted to be real hackers etc. I instantly became a man on fire and this totally blew my mind, so later that night at Barnes and Nobles I found an O'Reilly book on Red Hat Linux. At first I was so clueless, I literally recruited the help a doctorate student from the nearby uni to help with installation. When we were finished in a strange way I was underwhelmed because I was like. “OK, I can do a ‘ls’ what do I do now?” A few months passed by and I was PCSed to Aviano Air Base, where I hooked up with a local ISP, and then had to endure hours on irc with profanity laden rants of RTFM, tough-love, and outright abuse on how to succesffully configure my dial up scripts. At this point I learned to compile the kernel source by hand as well and other linux tasks etc. My first time of feeling like a god, hahahahahaha. I was proud.

I first installed OpenBSD version 2.5 which the release date was in May 1999. Prior to this I was a Linux zealot, obsessed with GNU, and Open Source concepts and ideology. I was stationed in Italy at the time, so everything was done over a modem or you actually mailed off and bought the CDs. Unfortunately I cannot recall accurately whether I was successful at the onset of using my modem with OpenBSD, but now the thought occurs to me that I was using FreeBSD with my modem so yes I do now know for sure that I did have connectivity via OpenBSD on the modem.

At this time I was using both OpenBSD and FreeBSD for my go to Desktop and I turned one of my troops on to it at work, and he installed OpenBSD on a Sun Sparc Station but I have no idea nor recollection of what we used it for if anything. The United States Air Force was not down with us just doing guerrilla installs and deployments of Unix Like Operating Systems into “Production” so when we did it it had to be a perfect and instantly working use case of which we had none for that box. But it sure was cool to dick around on for the time being.

My first very real use case was just learning Packet Filter, and configuring a correct and robust rule set to protect my home network in 2001. I always loved to buy the Shirts and listen to the songs, and to be honest the packaging for the CD sets was impeccable. Back in those days I felt so “l33t” to be a desktop user of OpenBSD, and being somewhat immature in this context was drawn in by the “OpenBSD” user mystique, and also the legendary status of the project’s leader and all the main software projects that it produced SSH, OpenBGP etc. etc. But these are all the WRONG reasons to advocate for an Operating System to a certain degree.

From 1997–2001 I was stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy. I passionately looked for every opportunity to use Linux or BSD in various use cases. The first one was I was able to recycle old Pentium desktops and HP Misc Servers to run Debian and use them as slave backup DNS boxes. Then our Netscape Proxy server kept dying a painful depth during the middle of the day. This situation provided the perfect opportunity to install FreeBSD and set it up to be our new proxy by deploying at first Apache and using it in proxy mode, but then switching to Squid.

I also did this in AL Udeid Air Base Qatar back in 2003 using FreeBSD for DNS and Samba.

While I was in the Air Force from 1985–2005 I had done everything from work on Teletypes, Mainframes, MS Exchange and File Servers, to the Network Security Perimeter (e.g. Firewall, Intrusion Detection, Perimeter/Edge Routers, Proxy). When I retired in 2005 for 5–6 years I worked for “Cash” doing network penetration testing for the DoD and USN, and then Web Application Security for Vonage. I also held a few “Certifications” (sic) such as Cisco CCNP, Security+, and SANS G542 Web Application Security Pen Tester. In the end it’s all bullshit though. Our country says we desperately need more Information Technology Professionals in the Free Market (sic) but the cost and business model for the certifications themselves is almost prohibitive unless you are already employed. Almost everything you need to learn is freely available on the internet legally.

In 2010 I became very incensed with mini-itx architecture and bought about 6 machines that I set up as routers in my home to carry out various experiments with network design using OpenOSPF and OpenBGP, but at this point in my life I was already retired so I had no direct avenue of deployment in a large production environment, so the project kind of died off. One my dreams was to be able to run a BGP route registry using a router built by myself and run it on OpenBSD. Once I started working at Vonage, I became immersed in Web Application Security, and I figured that while I loved being the router/switch and network guy. My passion lied in learning to do webdev and code as well as doing sql stuff. All you need is a laptop and a connection somewhere.

My only use case right now is running dethronedemperor on a machine hosted by Vultr. This box serves up my blog via httpd, and amce lets-encrypt. Both applications are without a doubt top shelf military grade, in the sense that they always deliver. At home I have a Lenovo Thinkpad, my go to wm is of course cwm and also sometimes for de I run Xfce. I write alot of posts, do javascript, java and python development. I also listen to a ton of music and watch videos on YouTube on a daily basis. Also something that I gave sparse attention to writing this post, is that I am a big LaTex/Tex user, I have written many college papers and resumes with this set of tools. LaTeX FTW.

My biggest wish right now regarding OpenBSD is I would love to be able deploy it using hostapd but performance leaves it something to be desired as a viable use case. Hopefully, down the road this will come to fruition. When it does, I am on it immediately.

There is also an Reddit subreddit for OpenBSD gaming, and this is something I am really fired up about as well. (Edit: What a pleasant surprise there is a post by Adam Wolk here)

But I guess the main thing I still keep doing is writing, and coding.

OpenBSD is like an old friend, strong and long throughout the years.

A nerdy little surprise that comes and goes every six months.

I am glad that the Project never compromised and stuck to it’s guns, in all honesty I believe that most of the “other” Open Source projects have been sold-out, and commodified in varying degrees.

I have much gratitude that OpenBSD has never bowed down or compromised it’s core values.

So I am an old crow (54) retired, I use OpenBSD daily in the house rocking a Thinkpad. But there is a guy that I want to point at here who’s name is Denny and he a OpenBSD Blog, and I don’t what what happened, hopefully he didn’t fall on bad times or pass on.

I also want to shout out to Roman for graciously providing this opportunity to contribute and express my experience and use of OpenBSD.

Most days I am in Hermit mode, but you can find me on Mastodon instance Fandom and Mastodon instance bsd network. I truly hate social networks, but with some gentle prodding from Roman, I am giving Mastodon at try and I am very pleased thus far.

Some of my other strong interests atm are learning ed, tradition vi, sed and awk.

Current reading: The Bug Hunters Diary

I read, do security research, try to learn more coding, and also freecodecamp.com.

If there is anything I can do please reach out, and I will gladly see what I can do as part of this growing community.

And lastly OpenBSD helps to ensure my autonomy as a human being.

15 Jan 2019

RunBSD is maintained by Mischa Peters and Roman Zolotarev.