Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
OpenBSD on the Huawei MateBook X (jcs.org)
125 points by ryanmaclean 183 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 55 comments

A few years ago I bought a top spec MacBook Pro 15" as my main workhorse. I did it somewhat for the OS because there was a small handful of applications I needed that only ran on OS X or Windows and between the two the choice was clear. But the main reason for it was that the build quality of the laptop case, the screen, and the keyboard were superior to anything money could buy. I am still very happy with it, but I am just so happy to see that build quality is starting to become a thing manufacturs and consumers are starting to pay attention to and not the specs. I don't really care if I have an i5 or an i7. Both are damn fast and if I need more power I will rent it from AWS et al. But I can't rent a better screen hinge. Or a higher res display. Just look at this laptop in TFA. Five years ago you couldn't find a thing like that. X1 Carbon was just popping up and having a decent display was basically impossible. And don't get me started on the touch pads the size of my thumbnail. Competition is truly good for the consumer!

Totally agree on build quality. I'm a desktop linux guy since 2007, but a company I worked for a few years ago gave us all 15" MBPr's, and I've been using it ever since just for the build quality. Not a fan of closed source, walled gardens, or of running Linux in a VM, but the durability of the hardware is addicting.

Just to add an anecdote, I had a design/construction defect on every MacBook I owned after iBook, although almost all of them were covered by replacement programs:

2007 (?) 17" MBP - bad display (no recall), bad battery (recall)

1-gen MacBook Air - broken hinges (Apple used unsuitable metal in first shipments, replacement program), CPU throttling leading to long pauses (Intel issue? disabling one core 'fixed' it if I remember correctly, but there was no solution by Apple even though they tried), audio disconnecting (warranty-covered fix)

White MacBook - plastic case cracking in hands area (not sure if there was a replacement program)

2009 White Unibody MacBook — rubber bottom case ungluing (replacement program, although I was late to it, so didn't replace)

Mid-2014 MacBook Pro Retina — screen anti-reflective coating ungluing (just replaced a week ago)

Oh, and Apple cords. They are like printer cartridges. I bet most Apple users apply PVC tape to them (Apple claims their cords are PVC-free... sure, when sold).

I'm not a fan at all of the Macbook charger cords. They all invariably split, it's taken only 8 months for mine to split, so now it's wrapped in electrical tape, which gets all ugly.

That's not to mention that the cable always get filthy, they're made out of the perfect material to get all grey and yuck.

I'm on the fence about magsafe, although that's moot now that new Macbooks use USB-C.

I called mine Sparky!

You can also add, for every single one of those: thermal issues.

(And to add to your anecdote, I had a white macbook, and had the same case cracking problem on the hands area, plus the plastic around the monitor would start to "peel" off, revealing the inside of the case around the monitor)

What exactly do you mean by "build quality"? An aluminium case? Sure it gives a premium feel, but it's also heavy, dents and attenuates radio, so not really an obvious choice before Apple popularised it. Recently Apple have also standardised on glued-in batteries, which is not really representative of a premium "build quality" IMHO. Their trackpads have been very good, but I've always preferred the ThinkPad nipple.

> the screen, and the keyboard were superior to anything money could buy

You are showing your bias here. Thinkpad keyboards have always been more highly regarded than Apples. And not everyone wants a glossy glass-covered panel, even if it's a good one (i.e. not the MacBook Air).

I have both a MacBook Pro 2015ish and a Thinkpad T430 2016 issued through work and I would be hard pressed to choose which one I prefer. They're both well build and both keyboards are nice. Oddly I find the MacBook much more comfortable to use on my lap but prefer the Thinkpad on a desk. I have not found glare to be an issue and prefer the glass screen of the MacBook to the matte screen of the Thinkpad primarily because it's next to impossible to remove finger prints from the matte screen. I hate hate hate the sharp edge of the MacBook which digs into my wrists. I like the battery bump on the Thinkpad because it gives me a grip to carry it. I baby the MacBook because I know it will be a chore to repair or replace where as the Thinkpad is just a 15 min HDD swap so it receives a lot of abuse.

For screens at the time, there were no non-1080p displays on the market. Yes two years after the MPBr came out, you could get much nicer displays, but not at the time. Also, most laptops (though not all) did feature the 16:9 aspect ratio, and screw that.

I had a Thinkpad before and yes they were nice in that they felt very solid, but the nipple mouse thing is controversial at best. The touchpad was tiny (again, at the time), and the keyboard wasn't my cup of tea. I would certainly recommend Thinkpads, especially if you have a lower budget and want something that quickly dropped in price but still has a ton of life in it. But I could afford a nicer laptop, and at the higher end there was no comparison.

As for aluminum, yes I do like it. I have no dings on this machine and I do lug it around. The hinge still works great, which was my biggest issue, even with Thinkpads. They all get wobbly eventually.

> You are showing your bias here.

You are probably right, but I feel OK with my bias in some ways. I spent about 10 years avoiding Apple products all around because (a) I like FOSS and (b) I wanted to save money. I came around when my work issued me a MBP and I realized that I don't have to think about my laptop anymore. It just works and I don't need to worry about drivers, upgrades, whatever. Yes I know not everyone's story is as peachy, but my experience has been good.

Did you not know about the Thinkpad? I think the T430 is built stronger than any Macbook.

I'm just happy to see new devices being made with high resolution 3:2 screens.

This. So much this. It boggles my mind that basically 100% of PC business laptops are stuck with productivity-averse 16:9 displays.

Corporations are willingly paying the 'enterprise' markup for business laptops, manufacturers should have at least the decency to come up with proper screens. But no. For almost all hardware-related design improvements, they will make a move only after Apple has kicked their asses and humiliated them and their derivative design...

I prefer my 21:9 on desktop, I feel like you'd be stuck with one window on 4:3, but with 16:9 you can make one full window and one smaller one and two full windows on 21:9. 16:9 seems more productive to me.

Desktops do not have the same constraints: you can choose the size (in a much more significant way than with laptops), orientation, and number of displays. I'm happy with my desktop 16:9 display, but mostly because it's a Gigantor Five-Thousand model whose span is taller/wider than my eyes can roll, making the actual aspect ratio kind of irrelevant.

On a laptop space is at a premium, and the ever-narrower displays have in practice been made even worse by modern UI, like the larger Windows taskbar, or that damn ribbon thing in productivity/office suites. On a laptop I often feel like I must scroll every three lines. A (IMO) saner 1.6 or 1.5 ratio would still allow for split screen will giving a better vertical real estate.

I prefer 16:10 on a 15-inch screen but can live with 16:9. However on anything smaller I find a 16:9 ratio too wide. I'm biased in that I spend most of my work time in a shell or text editor where there is a lot of value in vertical space.

The reason I say I'm happy to see a 3:2 screen is that many manufactures cough Lenovo cough say the market has chosen 16:9 or that taller screens aren't widely available enough for them to put into a product.

I too prefer the 21:9 for my desktop. I do notice that you really should mount it higher than I would normally to make feel more comfortable. About 2x what an iMac has for height.

In laptops, I miss the 4:3, and find 3:2 acceptable. I guess I want more square inches of screen. I keep seeing these laptops with 16:9 with a friggin numeric keypad interferes with proper centering.

While it obviously does run, it's still so broken it's hardly usable. You basically have a 'mobile PC' rather than a laptop/notebook. There is no suspend/resume, hibernation is slow, video not really supported and the touchpad doesn't fully work. Basically, it's fine for when you want a 'mobile server', but for desktop or human interaction via the local console this is just as bad as a cheap windows laptop: things are there, but they don't really work well.

Things like suspend/resume, hibernate, video drivers, and touchpads generally get fixed when developers have a need for them. You can hack it together yourself, or you can buy a developer the same model laptop that you wish had everything working and hope they like it enough to fix stuff. Or you can shut up.

And fwiw, cheap windows laptops "just work" far more often and far better than almost any linux distro I've tried.

Edit: Author notes he is working on improving touchpad. This is exactly how it gets done for OpenBSD.

Looks like $1500+ here. Bit steep, but I may try to find the cash so I can send one to any developer who can make HiDPI not suck on Linux.

I think one of the biggest challenges for FOSS (that proprietary software gets right) is making an app work and look right when half of it is on a HiDPI screen and half of it is on a lower resolution screen.

Sad to say, once I could afford $2500+ HiDPI laptops, I became a lot less picky about running proprietary OSes...

From what I've heard (I don't use proprietary OSes), Windows had a lot of issues with HiDPI in exactly the situation you're describing. They also had scaling issues with having different resolution monitors.

Or one can continue pointing out the deficiencies in the software as it relates to a consumer-ready laptop WITHOUT doing anything you mentioned, which is almost as impolite as you telling people to shut up when they notice an imperfection in the OS.

Was the table at the bottom of the page somehow insufficient? jcs managed to present all the same information, with more detail in fact, in an easily parsed format, so I'm not sure what contribution the comment really adds.

It's free software. Does OpenBSD owe you a perfect OS?

No, but if you want people to switch to it, then ignoring complaints is the first way for people to just boycott using your OS. I also work as a free software developer, and I don't understand why you would act that way when someone tells you they don't like the state of your project.

Responding to a reasonable complaint with "as developers we only scratch our own itch and we don't owe you a 'perfect OS'" is just hostile for no reason.

Also, nobody said they expect a perfect OS, but I also wouldn't call this a laptop install if everything that GP said didn't work was correct.

I stand to be corrected, but I don't think most OpenBSD devs care too much about getting others to switch to it.

They build the OS that they want, and make it available for anyone else to use.

There are some evangelists, to be sure. I just don't think it's a primary concern to many of the devs.

So, do you have a laptop to recommend where suspend/resume work well? Or should i just avoid openbsd if i want to use a laptop?

OpenBSD is very good at suspend/resume, particularly for non-bleeding edge laptops that developers have had a chance to use. I've had better luck with suspend/resume on OpenBSD than on Linux. I recommend Thinkpad X/T series laptops and have also had success with older Asus Eee PCs.

Great recs; i'll check out the thinkpad x!

This is obviously a work in progress, not a finished port.

I bet one month from now things will look much better.


Accounts that continue to post like this get banned. Please stop.


Is anyone else concerned about buying a laptop from a Chinese manufacturer?

I own a number of MacBooks and while they were all assembled in China I don't have any concerns about the firmware. As more of these make it to US markets I'm sure if there is something it will come out but I'm currently taking a wait and see approach.

Your firmware was flashed in China. At the end of the day, everything comes from China and if you're worried about Huawei firmware you should also be worried about Macbook firmware. For reference, some time ago it was discovered that Lenovo firmware also had Chinese backdoors[1].

[1]: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/07/29/lenovo_accused_backd...

Do you really think your MacBook firmware was not flashed in China?

My impression is that all electronics contain components from Shenzhen. Like, everyone I know who did a hardware startup moved to Shenzhen and spent at least six months there (if they didn't move part of the team there permanently).

So you should (dis)trust all consumer-facing manufacturers equally, and find another way to verify that your system is running correctly. For example, here's how Chromium OS / Chrome OS does it:



I'd be more worried about the cooling. I'm not sure that they'd have put the work into cooling this properly.

What are you concerned about exactly?

I imagine compromised security due to government meddling. Huawei's ownership structure is complicated and government influence is a concern. See Australia's decision to ban Huawei from it's National Broadband Network tender:


I have yet to hear of any proof that Huawei has actually compromised any of it's products or work.

As an Australian, I'm not sure that I would recommend listening to any advice from us in relation to the NBN. Also from my experience working with them in upstream projects like runc, Huawei has a lot of very interesting technology in their offerings.

Also note that basically every modern piece of technology is assembled and has its firmware flashed in China (or other various Asiatic nations with questionable governments).

I'll second this. The NBN is more politics than technology these days - and the politics have meant they've chosen yesterday's technology. I wouldn't use them to back an argument for technical sanity.

I really need to take Huawei more seriously, as they apparently offer me more control over what i supposedly own than most.

What would be the draw of OpenBSD on a consumer laptop over, say, FreeBSD, or even Linux?

The "consumer" you're talking about is a very technical user for starters. Something doesn't have to carry all the traits of "consumer" software for it to be useful to someone.

I used openbsd on a laptop some years back until that hardware died and my replacement didn't have some driver I wanted. It was a joy to use if you appreciate a light, no-nonsense Unix. Only pain point is that upgrades are very manual.

Now a decade later I have a different machine running freebsd which has a pretty similar feel, and I do appreciate the easier upgrades. I thought for a while in the recent past obsd had more up to date Intel graphics drivers but that was remedied in my use case by freebsd 11.

As for "why not linux", I feel like the BSDs as a desktop have a lot of the "on your own" feel that linux used to in the late 90s. Some people I suspect will loathe this. I like it.

> As for "why not linux", I feel like the BSDs as a desktop have a lot of the "on your own" feel that linux used to in the late 90s. Some people I suspect will loathe this. I like it.

Ditto that. Especially post- (dare I say it) systemd, Linux distros seem intent on going the commercial model of dictating how the "experience" should work, and I find I don't live in any of their target niches. Fedora is probably the closest, but is way too RHEL, and I kinda hate the way they do a lot of things.

The BSDs are by and for unix folks. If you're (for want of a better phrase) "culturally unix", they're a better fit.

and no SystemD. I like that part. :-P

Upgrades and patches in modern openbsd are much improved from years back.

Upgrades can be less manual these days if you follow the release (not current): syspatch will apply binary patches for the errata. If you are prepared to trust M:Tier, they provide a script called openup that will also patch packages for the current stable release.

But each to his/her own.

OpenBSD performed so abyssmally poorly on my old X220 that I simply couldn't tolerate it.

Debian on the same hardware was significantly more performant, so for me that answered the "why not Linux?" question


OpenBSD doesn't suffer the terrible churn and break-and-change-everything syndrome that makes the Linux UX so miserable. I can't compare it to FreeBSD, but I think OpenBSD can be more attractive for its focus on the head of development.

Secure-by-default, reliability, consistency, and good docs. There's lots of people who would appreciate that even if they weren't technical experts. From there, you have the split of who would be interested in it as-is versus who would use it if someone set up the UI, apps, and so on for them. Mac OS X is probably the ultimate example of layering a great UI for lay people with "just works" mentality over UNIX. I bet something like that on OpenBSD would have significant, even if single percent, market.

Why try Linux? Why try FreeBSD? We try different operating systems to drive development and to try new and different things.

Why climb a mountain? Why cycle a 90km trail? Why travel the world? Because it's there and we can.

Curiously, if you read my original comment, I never used the word "Why". The question you're answering seems to be "Why would you put OpenBSD on a laptop?" But the question I specifically asked what advantage is has over other comparable distros.

At least in my experience on several Lenovo laptops and even a 2012 MacBook Pro, OpenBSD has a much better GUI experience than FreeBSD, down to things like suspend and resume working with no tweaking required.

This hardware looks to be a pretty good value. I was looking to get an X1 Carbon but this has piqued my interest.

I love the design of this site. I'm not sure I've seen anything like it.

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact