May 25, 2023
I am grateful to report that the FreeBSD Foundation offered to fund my trip to Ottawa, Canada for the 2023 FreeBSD Developer’s Summit and BSDCan conference. I boarded my flight and arrived at the YOW airport on May 16th late at night. I took OCTranspo’s 97 bus line to the Hurdman station where I rode the Hurdman East light rail to the uOttawa University. I had arranged to share a double suite with Mark Johnston, so I headed over to the U90 Residences to find my room. After arriving, I set my alarm for the next morning and quickly fell asleep.
Upon waking up I started walking to the Summit only to meet Kirk McKusick on the way over. I had read Kirk’s “The Design and Implementation of the FreeBSD Operating System” book and I consider him a computing legend, so I was eager to speak with him. Kirk was friendly and we got to know each other well over the course of the trip.
The first day of the Developer’s Summit was exciting, but exhausting. The Foundation took the stage and gave logistical and core updates. I enjoyed Mark Johnston’s guided code reading, where he spoke about the internal mechanisms that compose the ULE scheduler. Mark did a great job at summarizing the scheduler and walking through the code in an interactive manner. Later that night, a large group gathered in the hacker lounge to get some coding done. Warner Losh and Mark Johnston were kind enough to help me debug my FreeBSD timerfd implementation.
The second, and final day of the Developer’s Summit was probably my favorite day of the trip. I enjoyed listening to the discussion and planning around FreeBSD 14.0 and 15.0. It was particularly exciting to see what features we can expect and what will be axed in the upcoming releases. A notable topic of discussion was the deprecation of 32-bit support, and it was ultimately decided that 32-bit will likely be left behind in 15.0. After the main session, I walked with Kirk McKusick, Mike Karels, and Pierre Pronchery to the Father & Sons Restaurant. Thefour of us talked about traveling and Kirk told us some of his craziest UFS development stories while we ate.
The next day was BSDCan day one. I attended five talks, but Colin Percival’s Porting FreeBSD to Firecracker and Kirk McKusick’s Gunion(8): a new GEOM utility in the FreeBSD Kernel were my favorites. I particularly liked Percival’s focus on minimizing FreeBSD’s boot time where he managed to get the time before entering userland to 33.382 ms. Kirk’s talk provided an intuitive overview of FreeBSD’s I/O model and served as a needed refresher.
The final day of BSDCan featured Fan Chung’s VT-IME: Input Method Editor in FreeBSD vt(4) talk where he spoke about adding multi-byte symbol support into the FreeBSD virtual terminal. This is especially useful for those who want to write in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean in the tty.
Fan gave an excellent demonstration, and his work was impressive. Warner Losh’s kboot: Booting FreeBSD with LinuxBoot was probably the most technical talk that I attended, but was also the most captivating. Warner noted a lot of design flaws in UEFI and proposed that LinuxBoot may be a better pre-boot environment going forward. His slides on the FreeBSD LinuxBoot mascot were also a lot of fun.
Finally, Kirk, Mike, and I walked to the BSDCan after party. The three of us were accompanied by Warner Losh, John Baldwin, Brooks Davis, and Pawel Dawidek while we ate. We all discussed the future of FreeBSD and how we can attract a younger audience. Abandoning IRC and supporting a pre-installed FreeBSD image for the Framework laptop were among the most popular topics.
The next morning, I met up with Joseph Mingrone while heading back to the YOW airport. Joe is responsible for referring me to the Foundation for this travel grant and an internship, so I can’t thank him enough. The two of us talked about our trip experiences and sat at the airport gate until I boarded my flight.
Attending the Developer’s Summit and BSDCan allowed me to build connections with some of the most prevalent members in the BSD community. I am thankful that the FreeBSD Foundation provided this opportunity. I plan on attending another BSD conference in the future, and hopefully I’ll be working with BSD full-time by then.
Contributed by Jake Freeland