Installing NetBSD on a Laptop

NetBSD, an open source version of unix, is my favorite operating system. I regularly use it for web servers, mail servers, firewalls, and anything else where I need to get something up and running relatively quickly. But I haven’t used it on a laptop for several years…not since the days of version 1.3.2. The current version is 4.0.

NetBSD-smallest.jpg Over the last several days, I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be handy to have NetBSD on a laptop. So this morning, I downloaded the installation CD image, burned it to a disk, and installed it on an old HP Omnibook 6000.

This was very smooth and I was happy to find that the network device was recognized as well as both the LCD screen and touch-pad mouse. X, the graphical windowing system, just seemed to work out of the box. A much better experience than when I last installed v1.3.2 on an IBM 755CD many years ago — getting everything working back then was a major struggle.

With the base system installed, I downloaded and installed pkgsrc (package source), the application installation subsystem. I could have installed quite a few pre-compiled packages from CD, but I’m rather old school and like to compile everything myself. This, of course, takes time on a 700MHz system — XFCE, my favorite windowing system, required nearly 9 hours to build along with all it’s prerequisite applications. Not that I had to sit in front of the laptop for that long, I just changed to the xfce4 directory in pkgsrc, and issued a “make install clean” command. Then I could go out to do something else.

Now that I have the graphical environment and a few tools such as Firefox and Open Office installed, the laptop is all set for working on unix development projects or just about anything else while on the go and without having to worry about viruses or other such nasties that are so prevalent on Windows based systems.

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