November 2019

16 GB Ought to be Enough RAM for Anybody

While importing a large (30GB) MySQL database, I quickly found out that my ThinkPad X220's 4GB or RAM was woefully inadequate.

Since I run OpenBSD as my primary OS, and run very lightweight applications by design, I don't often hit any RAM issues, however there are times when having extra RAM comes in handy.

After looking up the maximum specs for the X220, it appears that you can actually install 16GB as opposed to Lenovo's stated 8GB maximum memory.

A few clicks later, and 16GB of RAM was headed my way in the mail. What an amazing world we live in.

Dual-Booting, as a Means to Travel Lighter

I had a realization the other day, that if I installed Windows in a separate partition, I wouldn't have to haul around my MacBook Pro for the random times I need to use TeamViewer, Zoom, or some other piece of proprietary software which is incompatible with OpenBSD.

That way when I have to travel, I'll be able to simply toss my ThinkPad into the case, and hit the road. We'll see how it goes.

Dual-Booting Windows 10 with OpenBSD 6.6

I haven't experienced many failures with Solid State Drives, so when my SSD drive went out on my ThinkPad recently, I found it very interesting to witness. First off, it wasn't a complete failure, but data corruption on a particular partition. The computer would run like normal, and then the kernel would randomly crash, stating a "softdep" error.

After this happened to me twice in a 30 minute period, fsck failed, and the system wouldn't boot, I figured it was time to install a new drive. Interestingly enough, I was able to boot off the drive a few days later without an issue, which helped in the data transfer process.

I've been wanting to setup dual-boot environment anyway, so it was a perfect time to get that setup. Getting the UEFI bootloader was a pain, and the OpenBSD FAQ entry on the topic was outdated and incompatible with Windows 10, so I had do do some searching on the mailing list and some Googling (er, Ducking?) along with a little trial and error to get everything configured properly.

For reference, the key is to copy the OpenBSD EFI bootloader to the FAT32 EFI partition, and create an entry for the OpenBSD bootloader via the Windows bcdedit command. As usual, the mailing list gave some good advise.

For those who want to do something similar, here's a recap:

  1. Install Windows 10
    1. Allow the Windows installer to create the default recovery and EFI partitions
    2. Create a partition for Windows (32 GB minimum)
    3. Create a partition for OpenBSD
  2. Install OpenBSD
    1. Using the OpenBSD installer ramdisk, change the partition type for the OpenBSD partition to OpenBSD (A6)
    2. Configure your OpenBSD partition as you like, and install like normal
    3. When installation is complete, drop down to shell, create the necessary dev nodes (using MAKEDEV)
    4. Mount the Windows generated EFI partition (FAT32), mount the /usr partition, and copy the EFI bootloader (/usr/mdec/BOOTX64.EFI) to the EFI partition
    5. Boot into Windows, use bcdedit command to add the bootloader to the menu
  3. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the best of both worlds

P.S. If you're having trouble booting, make sure that "Secure Boot" is disabled on your BIOS. Additional links and commands can be found on the OpenBSD mailing list.


I did it, I finally bought a refurbished DEC VT420 serial terminal. As a hard-core command line user, I've only ever used software terminal emulators. The allure of being able to use a physical hardware terminal was too much for me to resist. Now I'm able to dive into the wonderful world of amber glowing CRT monitors, strange serial ports (MMJ), a slightly odd keyboard layout, missing Etc and Alt, but having a Compose key.

Hello World

I'm posting this entry from my VT420. It's shockingly different using a hardware serial terminal, as opposed to a software terminal such as xterm or st.

The first thing you notice is the screen lag. There's a definite delay in redrawing the screen, so using applications which don't thrash your display makes a big difference.

The second thing is UTF-8, or more precisely the lack thereof. The VT420 thankfully has full Latin-1 encoding support, but you'd be surprised how many terminal apps take advantage and use UTF-8 for rendering.

Thirdly, there's nothing quite like a strictly monochrome display, it's very visually clean and avoids a good many distractions. I'm curious to see how this affects my overall use of the computer.

I'm definitely going to be experimenting with more minimalist dotfiles.