June 6, 2012

The next trip report is from Davide Italiano:

A couple of week ago, thanks to the grant I received from the FreeBSD Foundation, I was able to attend the FreeBSD Devsummit and the BSDCan conference in Ottawa. This was my first BSD-related event and I was very excited. I’m pretty satisfied with the whole experience, that I’ll try to explain in the next paragraphs.

I arrived in Ottawa on 7th May, and I left the city on 13th May. I stayed in the University of Ottawa dormitory, sharing a room together with Ollivier Robert. The trip was really nice for a fair amount of reasons. For example, it gave me the possibility to talk/work/deal with some people I’ve only interacted with on IRC or FreeBSD mailing lists. Then, considering that I’ve never been in Canada, it was a nice occasion to test my English knowledge skills (and they weren’t as bad as I expected) and to interact with people from different cultures.

The DevSummit itself was really intense. Lots of interesting ideas have been presented during the working groups. On the morning of the 9th, I attended the Offload Engines workgroup coordinated by Jim Harris. He (with others) explained the motivations for an offload framework in FreeBSD and what the issues in the implementation of it. I was suprised because the people talking were so good that I ended up with understanding everything even though I wasn’t really aware of the problem before attending. I hope Jim and his team at Intel will continue this work. If you’re interested, the slides (as well as the material of all the working groups and the talks) may be found onĀ  the DevSummit Page of the FreeBSD Wiki.

On the afternoon of the 9th I attended the Desktop Workgroup and I talked with some of the PC-BSD guys (in particular Kris Moore), proposing to them some features I’d like to see included in the next PC-BSD release (among others, better wireless support and automated kernel crash report). They were really happy to have feedback on their work.

During the evening the Vendor summit took place, moderated by gnn@. Consumers requested what they need from FreeBSD, and developers tried to get companies to bring code back to the community. I asked for the Ivy Bridge hwpmc support which is still missing and needs specific hardware to work on. It seems that we’ll get access to some Ivy bridge machines soon, so it was worthwhile to ask.

At the Virtualization workgroup (which was on the morning of the 10th) some guys from NetApp presented the status of BHyVe. An overview of the shape of Xen in FreeBSD was also discussed. In the afternoon (of 10th) the working group reports were presented and I was able to know what was discussed in the working groups I didn’t attend due to overlaps. As a university student, the report from Robert Watson on “how to teach an OS course using FreeBSD” caught my attention. The methodologies explained by Robert are pretty different from the ones used in Italy (at least in the university I attended), and as always, looking at things from another point of view helps.
The BSDCan conference had lots of useful talks: in particular I liked the one from Kirk McKusick on FreeBSD Locking and the one on Tuning ZFS by Justin Gibbs and Will Andrew. During the Devsummit track of the BSDCan conference I presented my work for the Google Summer of Code 2012 and I got nice feedback from lots of people (in particular, from my mentor at GSoC, Alexander Motin, which was really helpful and helped me in the design of the project I’m currently working on). A video of the presentation may be found on youtube at this link. I was a bit nervous because it was my first talk, but I hope you’ll enjoy it in any case.

In the evening, every day, developers shared food and beer, and later on, hacking sessions were set up in some room at the Uottawa dormitory.

To sum up, this experience was fantastic in any sense. I hope to attend other conferences in the future. Thanks again to the FreeBSD foundation for the grant and all the FreeBSD Developers which shared this adventure with me.