Tom Atkinson runs OpenBSD

My journey to OpenBSD is one of pure luck. One saturday afternoon in summer of 2016, I was browsing a bookshop when I came across a copy of Absolute OpenBSD. It was cheap enough for me to afford on a student’s budget, so I bought it, got home, pulled out my trusty T410 and followed the advice to get a fully functional OpenBSD machine. I’ve never looked back, so thanks @mwlucas.

When I read that book, one of the things that struck me is how much it focused on doing things the right way, not the quick way. I’m normally a very impatient person and, strange though it may sound, OpenBSD has helped me control that a bit more. Shortly after, I started getting involved with the community, which I had avoided in the Linux community because their differences in opinion tend to be steadfast and no manner of logical arguments tended to affect their opinions in the slightest. I strongly believe that a good community fosters a good environment in which to develop a project at it’s best and I strongly believe that OpenBSD and the wider *BSD community have achieved an almost perfect community in which to grow the projects.

Unlike many of these other stories, I can’t really talk about BSD in my work, because I’ve not long graduated university (one month at the time of writing) but I can talk about my hobby project with OpenBSD and my future job with OpenBSD as well. I have long held an interest in data and data visualisation and so in 2017, I started freelance development of custom data visualisation platforms built on OpenBSD using BCHS as a basis for them. This generally involves taking long, codified log files and taking them apart, classifying them and displaying the data in a user friendly way. I’m not really a web developer so when I came to my final exams in summer 2018, I hung up that hat and decided to start a new learning experience once I had a job.

My job is something that I have been looking forward to for the past six months since I got the offer. Two of my true passions in technology are networking and security. OpenBSD is exceptionally good at these so what a brilliant platform to base my work on. I have got a job which I am yet to start (but massively looking forward to) as a vulnerability researcher for networked devices. This means writing low level networking code of the type I admire from the OpenBSD base to attempt to take advantage of newly discovered vulnerabilities in networked products. Part of my responsibility is to find vulnerabilities in networking devices, such as routers and IoT devices, and the other part is to develop systems for, and produce, advisories to clients about suitable replacements. This means a chance to spread OpenBSD to more people as I develop my advisories on top of OpenBSD. This might involve suggesting a whole package solution in which I configure them a device to replace an insecure off the shelf piece of hardware or working with their IT team to work out how OpenBSD could more reliably support their needs.

My tech needs are very small so I tend to work with vim(1), firefox(1) and mutt(1) open on a normal day, using cwm(1) as my window manager. I’ve not done a lot with maintaining my own servers but I plan on doing so shortly, so I might have more tech to add soon.

I love to learn and there are probably many people I don’t know yet who have a lot of interesting things to say that I’d love to hear so please come and talk to me on Mastodon preferably, or Twitter if you don’t use Mastodon because I would love to know what you have to teach me.

12 Aug 2018

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