What it is: OpenBSD is a free, open source operating system focused on security.
The problem with most operating system is that they try to balance between user convenience and system security. That’s why most operating systems err on the side of user convenience by leaving flaws wide open in the operating system by default. The theory is that this makes the computer easier to use for novices, but also leaves gaping security holes open that will likely hurt novices the most since they’ll be least likely to understand how to protect themselves.
In OS X, you can see an example of this user convenience that sacrifices system security. Just open Safari, click the Safari menu, choose Preferences, and click the General icon. At the bottom of the window you should see a check box that allows the downloading of supposedly “safe” files such as PDF files, audio files, and movies.
Unfortunately this assumption that certain files are “safe” is completely wrong. Viruses and other forms of malware can sneak into a computer through PDF, audio, and video files. However if this feature were turned off, the majority of users would be puzzled when they couldn’t download such commonly shared files. In this case, OS X offers user convenience at the sacrifice of computer security.
That’s why OpenBSD is a different type of operating system. Instead of leaving gaping security holes wide open and hoping the user won’t be attacked, OpenBSD prefers to shut every possible security hole. Now it’s up to the user to deliberately choose which features to open. This not only teaches users where they might be vulnerable, but also shows them how to open (and close) different security flaws. Ideally, an Open BSD user will be technically proficient enough not to panic when they can’t do a common task like download a PDF file.
While OpenBSD is great for tech-savvy users, it’s still hostile to novices who don’t want to become computer experts but just want to use a computer. IN that case, using OpenBSD will force users to become more knowledgeable about computers whether they want to or not. Most novices will simply choose another operating system rather than go through the hassle of turning on and off various security flaws in OpenBSD.
So if you like fiddling with operating systems, you’re the type of person who might be interested in OpenBSD. If you just want to use a computer, then you’ll be better off using OS X or even Windows. These more popular operating systems will be easier to use, but be aware of the possible sacrifice of security in the process.