Sunday, December 19, 2010

I Hate Computer Hardware

I enjoy writing software, hacking on other software, and otherwise geeking out at the software level. But I hate computer hardware. It's not fun to work with, it's annoying, and requires an arsenal of special purpose tools to work with effectively.

I used to assemble my own x86 systems back when that could actually save you a couple thousand on a new system. I don't do that anymore. I will upgrade components like memory or a wireless card, but aside from that, I don't want to get inside the computer. And yesterday reminded me why.

I bought a new SSD for my Dell Mini 9. Specifically, the RunCore Pro 64GB 50mm PATA Mini PCIe SSD. That's a lot of technobabble to say I am quadrupling the hard disk space in my netbook.

The Mini 9 is a now discontinued netbook that exposes the wireless card, SSD, WWAN, and memory cards to the user. Remove them and install new ones if you want. The first thing I did when I got it last year was install more memory. The second thing I did was replace the wireless card with an Intel one so I could use it more easily under Linux. Replacing the SSD seemed equally trivial.

I stripped both screws in the process and only got one out. Ugh. So I've got some more tools en route to me as well as a Mini 9 screw kit. Have I mentioned I hate hardware?

Once I get the 64GB SSD in place, I'll do a reinstall of OpenBSD. Oh, right, I didn't tell everyone. I'm not using Fedora Linux on my netbook anymore. I'm tired of the constant changing of core system components. I can't effectively use Fedora for my non-work work and things change so fast that I have to constantly relearn how to do simple things. Or at least learn the new approved way of the week. Some people enjoy this, I just don't want that on my personal system. Call me a greybeard unwilling to change, I don't really care. I want a simple Unix system that runs modern software, but doesn't adopt every new half-baked idea that comes along. I thought of FreeBSD for a few minutes (I used that for about 5 or so years, I forget), but went with OpenBSD because it seemed more like what I wanted now.

Top 5 things I like about OpenBSD:
  • They discourage users from building a custom kernel. They tell users that config(8) on a compiled kernel will most likely do what people are looking for when they try to come up with their own kernel configuration.
  • They discourage users from rebuilding the entire operating system. I think this is what I hated most about FreeBSD. Yes, cool, I get it, I can compile the whole OS. So what?
  • Configuration of wireless devices is provided by ifconfig(8). No need for iwconfig, NetworkManager, or wpa_supplicant. It's nice.
  • Detailed man pages for everything! OpenBSD has great documentation, and a vast majority of it is available in man pages. I really wish Linux did a better job of this.
  • I install 36 packages from ports after installing OpenBSD and that doesn't expand to 2636 like it would on Fedora.
  • I can understand pf syntax unlike iptables.
That was actually 6 things. Ooops. But there are some things I dislike about OpenBSD. Top 5 dislikes:
  • Firmware for Intel wifi adapters is not included with the base system. I understand the reasoning, but even Fedora is shipping those. I think no BSD or Linux distribution has a correct grasp on what can and can't be included from a legal standpoint. I wish we would all normalize what we can include from wifi firmware, MP3 support, and the other taboo technologies that everyone uses but can't ship.
  • I wish there was a ports tree that was in sync with the -stable branch rather than exclusively following -current. If you want to contribute to ports, even just a patch, you more or less have to be running -current.
  • They still use cvs, which is excruciatingly slow. While I advocate git, just any of the other distributed version control systems would be an improvement.
  • fdisk(8) and disklabel(8) suck from a user interface standpoint. The installation goes from yes/no questions to this overly technical clown barf on the screen. This might be because I work on installation daily and partitioning and such is always on my mind.
That was only 4. Another oops. It's probably not the ideal system for everyone.

On the new SSD, here's the mountpoints I came up with:
  • / (100M)
  • swap (2048M)
  • /tmp (50M)
  • /var (100M)
  • /usr (600M)
  • /usr/X11R6 (300M)
  • /usr/src (1024M)
  • /usr/xenocara (1024M)
  • /usr/ports (512M)
  • /usr/obj (1500M)
  • /usr/xobj (1024M)
  • /usr/local (4096M)
  • /home (32768M)
That leaves 20390M unallocated. I predict /usr/ports, /usr/local, and /home growing, so I'll leave space where I can grow those somewhat easily.


Dan said...

Very tempted to get a SDD for my laptop as the HDD is the lowest rating on the windows experience index, its about 5.6 when all other components are 6+.

Dam them slow laptop hard drives running at 5400 rpm.

doris alonso said...

You must have the means of fixing up your computer which is why there is no need to rant over these hardware. I am pretty sure that data cabling might help in certain areas of your hardware enhancements.