Ashe runs BSD

I’m Ashe, a.k.a. @kivikakk. I’m a senior systems engineer at GitHub, where I work on things related to Markdown and VFS for Git.

Programming was a hobby for me since I was young, usually derivatives of BASIC, and occasionally messing around with some scripting languages. It was in the early 2000s that I discovered Linux and its suitability as a playground for developing my skills; back then I was using Red Hat 7.1 and the Linux Programming Bible by John Goerzen (of Debian fame)—an absolutely amazing text that is single-handedly responsible for my becoming a career programmer.

As I progressed into my career, then, Linux was naturally my system of choice. I eventually moved onto Ubuntu and then Debian as my distribution of choice, but there was no question that Linux was the best choice for the range of tasks I undertook; it served well as my desktop, and as far as I was aware, was the only option for the server outside Windows Server or mainframes.

In 2008 I landed a job where using Mac-based systems was mandatory, and so I had to put aside my criticisms of Apple and finally use one of their products. It was a bit bewildering at first—the system behaved like one I knew in many ways, but differed in many others. It was the first time I experienced the difference between Linux and UNIX. In my mind I maintained that the differences were unpleasant, and that Linux on the desktop would be much better. (Any year now.)

Over time, my use of Linux outside headless servers dwindled, and I spent all my personal computing time in macOS (or OS X as it was then known). My Linux-specific knowledge also began to recede, especially with big changes in the scene, like systemd. It felt like the required reading to operate Linux just kept ballooning, and with a full-time job and family, I didn’t care to keep up.

Since then, I operated various VPSs for personal services for my family and friends, but I could never quite be sure that I had a full handle on what I was operating. I’m used to developing and maintaining an intimate understanding of systems I build, in the more general sense of software systems, but it was just not feasible for this stuff I was operating in my spare time. I didn’t want to have to spend a whole lot of time learning the new hotness.

At some point I remembered the BSDs exist. I picked OpenBSD to try for both its security and minimalist stances—I needed a server OS specifically, as my personal computer remains on macOS for work purposes. FreeBSD was the other system I gave serious thought to, but OpenBSD won out on both points of consideration.

It took maybe two months of operating a VPS (and submitting some patches) to feel like I was acquainted with the whole system—there have been very few surprises, and at every point it’s been rock solid. Now I can be found submitting patches to projects here and there to ensure OpenBSD compatibility where possible :) Similarly, I add OpenBSD as a target to build for (on top of Linux and macOS) on my own projects. I never wonder where the line between Linux and UNIX is any more ;)

Find me on Twitter and GitHub.

31 Jan 2019

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