March 6, 2023

We were back at it again, promoting FreeBSD at FOSDEM and State of Open Conf’23 earlier this month. Drew Gurkowski, FF Marketing Coordinator, and I headed out to Brussels to help promote FreeBSD at FOSDEM. This was the first in-person FOSDEM since 2020, and you’d never know that anything happened in-between. It was back to wall-to-wall open source enthusiasts, enjoying this free and volunteer-run conference. 

You can find out more about our advocacy effort at FOSDEM by reading Drew’s report here.

After FOSDEM was over, we both picked up some Belgian chocolate (well, ‘cause you have to), and took the Eurostar to London, for the first ever State of Open Conf’23. This is where my more extensive report begins!

We arrived in London on an unusually warm day. After we checked into our rooms, and unpacked a bit, we headed over to the conference venue to set up our table. We were blown away by how beautiful the venue was, and the views from our table were incredible!  Once we were done, we got some food at a little pub  hidden away and fairly empty. After heading back to the hotel, I quickly mapped out a running route around one of the many parks by the hotel, but realized it was getting dark. Since I wasn’t familiar with the area, I opted to run on the treadmill and make it an early night before the two day conference.

On Tuesday, we headed over to the venue early, where we met up with Konrad Witaszczyk, a PhD student working on CheriBSD under the guidance of Professor Dr. Robert Watson at the University of Cambridge (UoC). He graciously lugged a Morello/CheriBSD demo to the event on a train down from Cambridge. We found that the University of Cambridge floor sign, promoting the work they are doing with FreeBSD, helped draw a lot of folks to our table. In fact, our focus at this conference was promoting the research being done with FreeBSD at the University of Cambridge and the Arm Morello/CheriBSD collaborative project. This exciting project is defining the future of security, with more than 30 UK companies currently experimenting with it. Check out UoC use cases for FreeBSD here.

The venue, which was at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre, Parliament Square London, was huge, which provided lots of room for organizations to spread out over 4 floors of the building. While the size of the venue reduced the volume of folks visiting our table, it also gave us greater opportunities to have more in-depth conversations with attendees. Having the headshot booth two tables down from us was also a plus, as it brought a lot of attendees to our floor. All-in-all, we had a steady flow of people stop by our table over the two days. Konrad spent most of his time focusing on the UoC work and Drew and I talked about FreeBSD in general. It was also helpful for Drew and me to hear from Konrad about all the reasons he enjoys working with FreeBSD, and why it’s been the operating system of choice for UoC and the Morello project.

With this conference being less crowded than FOSDEM, I felt like we were able to have more meaningful discussions with other attendees (it was so much easier to talk and be heard!). 

The conference had an impressive lineup of speakers, from various areas of the tech world, including people from the White House, UN, UK Parliament, universities, technical companies, and many open source projects. The range of sessions addressed important topics of the day, and I look forward to watching the recordings of some of the talks that I missed. I highly recommend checking out the talks here, especially the keynote by Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales.

In summary, I believe having a FreeBSD presence at this nascent conference was beneficial to the FreeBSD Project and organizations who can greatly benefit from adopting and using FreeBSD. Showcasing the Morello/CheriBSD work that has been significantly funded by the UK government was an important use case for many of the attendees to learn about. Participating in this conference was a great example of the Foundation investing our resources in promoting FreeBSD in order to convince more organizations to adopt using it. We look forward to participating in this conference again next year, as well as, other significant open source conferences around the world.

– Contributed by Deb Goodkin