Peter Hansteen runs BSD

My name is Peter Hansteen. I am a sysadmin who builds and runs infrastructure with Unix boxes and other network thingies.

My preferred operating system is OpenBSD, without which neither The Book of PF or the freely available blacklists (see the traplist home page or various blog posts such as this one) would be possible. I try to insert OpenBSD boxes in the environments where I work whenever appropriate, but I have been known to tolerate and operate systems such as FreeBSD, Solaris, Linux or even brand name systems that pretend not to be built on a BSD or Linux foundation. Other than a few very specific use cases, I still prefer OpenBSD over them all.

But anyway, part of purpose here is to tell the personal story. I’ll go all the way back to the very beginning.

My first contact with BSD systems did not seem at all consequential at the time.

This was the second half of the nineteen-eighties, and I was working as an office clerk (a typist, and although the IBM Selectric typeball machines age was deemed over, we still had some within reach) at the Norwegian School of Economics and Business administration.

My original career plan did not include computers at all (at the time I still—for no good reason—fancied myself a musician of sorts) but I started hanging out with colleagues who worked for the institution’s computer department, and this being the late eighties, the school had very recently gotten attached to the European research network, which in turn was in a sort of ‘inter-network’ arrangement with the US ARPANET.

The school itself was mostly DEC (TOPS-20 and VMS) oriented, but we were allowed to log on to systems elsewhere, and more often than not those would run something called “BSD Unix”. I never got around to doing any real work on those system, only some exploring and a bit of harmless playing around. The details have largely faded from my memory now.

Fast forward a few years that included me morphing from typist to IT support staff while taking night school programming classes, jumping to the private sector to do mainly software localization and documentation but always a bit of other tinkering, even starting a consulting business, and in the early nineties my company and a partner firm found we needed Internet access along with proper email, with such things as domain names matching the company names and so forth.

I’d read the Dr. Dobb’s series about porting BSD to i386 when the articles came out, so I was aware that BSD Unix was becoming available on hardware I actually had within reach. I found a source for FreeBSD CD sets but also bought an early Red Hat Linux as something to explore. As it turned out, FreeBSD was not actually usable on the hardware I had (again I forget the details, but I think it had something to do with non-SCSI CD drives attached to sound cards), so I ended up setting up our first Internet gateway and mail server on a Linux system. Sendmail and words about the same were had, as was to be expected at the time.

If you’ve bothered to read this far, you know it didn’t stay that way forever. I kept hearing good things about FreeBSD and found spaces where it fit in the things I did. Once OpenBSD materialized some twenty-odd years ago I decided that the emphasis security and correctness in code made it worth checking out.

Installing OpenBSD for the first time after dabbling mainly in Linux and FreeBSD was quite a revelation. The minimum hardware requirements were even more modest than the Linux distributions I was used to slinging around, and poking around the system I found that anywhere I looked, what I saw just made sense. A lot more sense than the others. Everything seemed well thought out and everything had a man page that actually made sense and was up to date with its subject.

Over the years that followed I started inserting OpenBSD boxes in the places they fit in with systems in my care. At first mainly with PF firewalls, incrementally expanding with other functionality as I learned how.

Some of these things have, time and client confidentiality allowing, surfaced as blog posts or even parts of The Book of PF. You can find more at my infrequently updated blog at where I tend to write about the more unusual and hopefully interesting experiences. When conferences will have me, I have been known to do tutorials and talks on topics more or less in the same vein.

The email address I use on OpenBSD mailing list is likely the most convenient way to reach me. I’m also on Twitter and Mastodon as well as the Facebook and Google+ OpenBSD groups.

14 Aug 2018

Maintained by Mischa Peters and Roman Zolotarev
Hosted by OpenBSD Amsterdam
Sponsored by netzkommune