OpenBSD on the Huawei MateBook X (2020)

My old 2017 Huawei MateBook X has been my most reliable laptop and continued to be my daily-use workstation despite trying half a dozen others (and a desktop or two) in the past four years. Every time I'd try a new laptop, certain components wouldn't work properly, or the keyboard would feel strange, or the screen quality would be poor, or a constantly-running fan or some coil-whine noise would drive me nuts. And every time, I'd return to my trusty MateBook X and everything would just work silently.

I finally have a newer model of the MateBook X and I'm happy to say it lives up to its predecessor and has replaced my 2017 model.

huawei matebooks x

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OpenBSD on the Microsoft Surface Go 2

I used OpenBSD on the original Surface Go back in 2018 and many things worked with the big exception of the internal Atheros WiFi. This meant I had to keep it tethered to a USB-C dock for Ethernet or use a small USB-A WiFi dongle plugged into a less-than-small USB-A-to-USB-C adapter.

Microsoft has switched to Intel WiFi chips on their recent Surface devices, making the Surface Go 2 slightly more compatible with OpenBSD.

surface go on desk with keyboard attached

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Touchpad, Interrupted

For two years I've been driving myself crazy trying to figure out the source of a driver problem on OpenBSD: interrupts never arrived for certain touchpad devices. While debugging an unrelated issue over the weekend, I finally solved it.

It's been a long journey and it's a technical tale, but here it is.

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OpenBSD in Stereo with Linux VFIO

I use a Huawei Matebook X as my primary OpenBSD laptop and one aspect of its hardware support has always been lacking: audio never played out of the right-side speaker. The speaker did actually work, but only in Windows and only after the Realtek Dolby Atmos audio driver from Huawei was installed. Under OpenBSD and Linux, and even Windows with the default Intel sound driver, audio only ever played out of the left speaker.

Now, after some extensive reverse engineering and debugging with the help of VFIO on Linux, I finally have audio playing out of both speakers on OpenBSD.

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OpenBSD on the Microsoft Surface Go

For some reason I like small laptops and the constraints they place on me (as long as they're still usable). I used a Dell Mini 9 for a long time back in the netbook days and was recently using an 11" MacBook Air as my primary development machine for many years. Recently Microsoft announced a smaller, cheaper version of its Surface tablets called Surface Go which piqued my interest.

surface go with keyboard on desk

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OpenBSD on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th Gen)

ThinkPads have sort of a cult following among OpenBSD developers and users because the hardware is basic and well supported, and the keyboards are great to type on. While no stranger to ThinkPads myself, most of my OpenBSD laptops in recent years have been from various vendors with brand new hardware components that OpenBSD does not yet support. As satisfying as it is to write new kernel drivers or extend existing ones to make that hardware work, it usually leaves me with a laptop that doesn't work very well for a period of months.

After exhausting efforts trying to debug the I2C touchpad interrupts on the Huawei MateBook X (and other 100-Series Intel chipset laptops), I decided to take a break and use something with better OpenBSD support out of the box: the fifth generation Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

thinkpad x1 carbon running openbsd on desk

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OpenBSD on the Huawei MateBook X (2017)

The Huawei MateBook X is a high-quality 13" ultra-thin laptop with a fanless Core i5 processor. It is obviously biting the design of the Apple 12" MacBook, but it does have some notable improvements such as a slightly larger screen, a more usable keyboard with adequate key travel, and 2 USB-C ports.

It also uses more standard PC components than the MacBook, such as a PS/2-connected keyboard, Intel WiFi card, etc., so its OpenBSD compatibility is quite good.

huawei matebook on desk running openbsd

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OpenBSD (not) on the Surface Pro 4

I recently had access to a Surface Pro 4 and tried to boot OpenBSD on it. It did not go well, so I am just putting this here for posterity.

The 2016 Surface Pro 4 is basically just a keyboard-less x86 (Core i5 on the model I had) tablet with some tightly integrated (read: not upgradeable) components. Its optional Surface Type Cover is just a USB-attached keyboard and trackpad, which magnetically secure to the bottom of the device.

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The 2016 MacBook Pro

I've been using an 11" MacBook Air as my primary computer for six years. It's a great computer that satisfied a lot of requirements I had for a laptop: thin, lightweight, small form factor, excellent keyboard and touchpad, mostly silent, but not an Atom or Core M processor.

I've done a lot on this little computer, like compiling and maintaining an Android ROM, writing the Rails, iOS, and Android apps for Pushover, creating Lobsters, recording and editing 40 episodes of Garbage, and lots of OpenBSD development.

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OpenBSD on the Chromebook Pixel (2015)

chromebook pixel running openbsd showing three terminal windows

The Chromebook Pixel LS (2015) has an Intel Core i7 processor (Broadwell) at 2.4 GHz, 16 GB of RAM, a 2560x1700 400-nit IPS screen (239ppi), and Intel 802.11ac wireless. It has a Kingston 64 GB flash chip, of which about 54 GB can be used by OpenBSD when dual-booting with a 1 GB Chrome OS partition.

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