The hardware

Since I had chosen the Thinkpad x220 for my platform in this experiment.  I needed to think through exactly what my goals were.  Specifically I wanted to have a platform where I could:

  • Dedicate the entire drive to OpenBSD
  • Still be able to access things in Windows if I had to in a pinch (I promise I wash my hands after using Windows every time)
  • Do software development in both C/C++ (on OpenBSD and ports)
  • Do software development in Java/JavaScript (for work or personal projects)

The system needed to be secure above all else and responsive too.

Given all of this, I decided that I would take advantage of the fact that the x220 supported an mSATA drive.  This means that I can have the primary hard drive dedicated to OpenBSD but use the mSATA drive to boot some other operating system.  I wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of installing Windows straight up on it so instead I opted for a compromise – I would use a Linux distribution as the host OS and run Windows in a virtual machine under it.

So now the question was – which Linux distribution do I use for my host OS.  I ended up choosing Arch over all of the other contenders.  I have a significant amount of personal experience with Debian, but I felt that Arch was closer to the spirit of how you work when you are in OpenBSD.  I knew I was taking on some periodic maintenance (you never want to fall too far behind on Arch because big changes can really sock it to you if you eat them all at once), but I figured a weekly reboot into Arch would be good to have as a regular maintenance regimen.

I spent some time researching whether or not I should use Grub, etc. to handle the booting between Arch and OpenBSD when I finally realized I was over-complicating my life.  Since the two operating systems would be on different physical drives and I would be dedicating the entire drive to each one, I could just use the BIOS boot menu on the x220 to choose which one I wanted to boot up, leaving OpenBSD as the primary that would be booted into by default.

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