August 23, 2017

 It was right after my presentation and just before closing session at BSDCan 2017 in Ottawa, that several FreeBSD folks informed me that next FreeBSD developer summit would take place in Cambridge and application deadline for travel grants would be closing in a few days.  I appreciate that the FreeBSD Foundation provided me with a valuable opportunity for attending 2017 Cambridge Developers Summit (BSDCam).

The developer summit that was co-located with BSDCan 2017 was the first FreeBSD developer summit I have ever participated in. I found that BSDCam was different not only from the previous developer summit, but from all other type of conferences I had been to. Though BSDCam format was called an “unconference style” conference, I didn’t have any idea about what that meant until I joined. I arrived at Cambridge on Tuesday evening, the day before the conference, with Yutaro Hayakawa, who is my labmate and was also attending the developer summit for the first time.

In the morning of the first day, all the attendees gathered in one room at the Computer Laboratory of the Cambridge University. Robert N. M. Watson, the chair of BSDCam, asked people to introduce themselves, what they are interested in, and what they would like to discuss in this conference. He wrote down the topics they mentioned on the whiteboard. Security related themes collected many votes this time. The most popular subjects are given the time slots, and some are added to the agenda after being merged into one topic.

Since the two tracks have took place in parallel, folks chose between one of the two topics. I started with virtualization session, then security mitigation, testing, and so on. Some of the working groups had short talks,  while some began with a concrete problem presentation, but every session included open discussion, where anybody could suggest the agenda, declare their opinion, and ask for their ideas. Discussions were always active and constructive. I felt their passion to make FreeBSD better. In addition, there is at least one person who was taking notes.  They created todo list and decided who would manage it by the end of the meeting.

Personally, FreeBSD’s support for provisioning tools, which was discussed in the Provisioning & Management session, was interesting and useful. For example, in our university, many students use Vagrant to create VMs for setting up their own developing or testing environment. However, there were many troubles with FreeBSD vagrant box image. It often didn’t work by default and required ad-hoc configurations to boot up, causing students to give up using FreeBSD. I thought that was a problem because Virtualbox + Vagrant environment is now very popular, especially among the students who don’t have their own physical servers. FreeBSD could lose many new users just because of this. Thus, I was glad to know that support for provisioning tools are discussed in an active way.

Because I’ve started using FreeBSD to implement a new kernel IP forwarding function, one of my reasons to attend the conference is knowing the future direction of FreeBSD’s networking architecture and talking to relevant people. Unfortunately, there were very few networking folks attending this time. However, I could casually talk with a lot of developers, not only in the meeting room, but in other occasions such as in social dinner or in non-official meetups during the event. In particular, chatting with people in hacker lounge after closing was one of the best experience of this trip.

Lastly, I am very thankful to Benedict Reuschling and Gavin Atkinson for giving me the information about the grants and the invitation to the conference. I also feel grateful to the FreeBSD Foundation for covering my travel expenses. Even though I have just started using and developing with FreeBSD and there is a lot of things I need to learn, I would like to be more involved and contribute to the FreeBSD ecosystem in near feature.


Contributed by Nanako Momiyama