October 24, 2019

EuroBSDCon 2019 was the first *BSD related conference that I have attended. During the conference I decided that throughout my conversations I would randomly ask individuals if they were a FreeBSD developer. If the answer was yes, I would have them write their name on the hardcover of my copy of “The Design and Implementation of the FreeBSD Operating System.” I also asked for them to state in a few words what they feel they have contributed the most to in *BSD. In order to keep it personal and creative there were no restrictions on what they could write. In the end I might of been remembered as the guy that was “annoying as a service…” – A copy of the page in question is available on demand –

Friday, September 20, 2019, was the first day of the conference and I attended the tutorial by Kirk: “An Introduction to the FreeBSD Open-Source Operating System”. As a matter of fact, I really liked the classroom style lesson as I really wanted to LEARN about FreeBSD and the kernel with no real computer science knowledge what so ever. Some of the highlights were process management and how they are tracked and stored in the kernel, as well as some of the key differences and design decisions between UFS/ZFS.

The next day I attended an introduction to ethics, which I really enjoyed. The talk was about the problems that programmers face today, with regard to the wider audience, and how to handle privacy and ethical decisions. In between breaks I had the pleasure of joining @jhb and @gallatin talking about kTLS and discussing recommended NIC’s if I ever want to upgrade my home LAN to 10 Gbit. In the morning session I attended the talk by Paul Vixie about DNS over HTTPS; it was very insightful to see that the DNS protocol has all the required features to make secure look-ups over TLS. And following that DNS over HTTPS had a more politically driven need than a technical one for its implementation. Next, I skipped a presentation and got caught up talking about satisfiability with @hselasky. Shortly after I met @mmokhi and Deb at The FreeBSD Foundation desk talking about all kinds of stuff, which opened my eyes and allowed me to experience how the FreeBSD project embraces new members as if they were already part of it. After lunch I went to the “fuzzing the kernel” talk by @andrew. It was interesting to hear how many tools are available to sanitize a kernel and make it ultimately crash in exploring those specific paths of syscalls that does just that. I was planning on attending Dan’s talk about thick jails vs thin jails, but I got surrounded by @allanjude, @bcr and @hrs. I got the privilege to poke @hrs and check how the progress on the DHCPv6 client import in base was going. I’m really looking forward to that. I stayed to attend Warner’s talk of “7th Edition Unix at 40”. Those graphs on his presentation visualizing the UNIX history tree were so nice, although the TESLA model S with the license plate really got me the most. The last talk of the day was about porting the robot operating system (ROS) to FreeBSD. I wasn’t really that interested in ROS itself although I was in the general flow how to port some software to FreeBSD. This got me to consider porting OpenFOAM again (was in the tree once) because: fluid dynamics.

Sunday was the last official day of the conference and I had to go to the talk of kernel TLS as I already got a brief intro before. I find it very interesting how Netflix keeps pushing their system for a very specific use case; pushing as many encrypted TCP packets over the wire as possible. There were a few changes needed to the kernel involving unmapped mbuffs. Taking it a step further, Chelsio and Mellanox implemented kTLS offload in their NIC’s reducing memory copies even further. Let’s all hope that TLS will be the de facto standard for a while now. Afterwards, I went to two ZFS talks, the first one was an introduction to ZFS as I couldn’t make it to Dan’s previous talk, I kind of owed it to him. It was not in vain. Even though I consider myself quite good in ZFS, you can always learn something even if you are just refreshing on the basics, which I had forgotten during the years of using ZFS. The second talk was about OpenZFS and its future within FreeBSD by @allanjude. I was already well informed in advance about the happenings, and followup pull requests quite closely in the ZoL repo to monitor progress. I think it is awesome to see so many platforms eventually coming together as one. After lunch I went to @manu’s talk about pkg base and if we are there yet. SPOILER ALERT: No, but close. At first pkg base might seem a simple concept, just package the base system, right? Well not really, the talk highlighted some caveats and the end strings that need to be tied up. I would like to think that pkg base has a lot of potential to make the stable and current branches more accessible to the wider audience who are willing to take a bit more risk. Whereas now only the release versions are supported with binary updates. The closing talk before the ending keynote was about Unbound and FreeBSD. I had been talking to Pablo since the tutorial from Kirk. He is a heavy user of FreeBSD and uses it at work for DNS services. It’s always nice to see someone with passion presenting his path through offering a better DNS service for its clients using FreeBSD. That was the last official talk to attend besides the ending keynote of the conference.

I personally keep computer science close to my heart even though I graduated as a chemical engineer. I’m very grateful to the Foundation for bridging and sponsoring that gap for me to attend EuroBSDCon @ Lillehammer in 2019. It was awesome to meet all the people behind my favorite operating system face to face. They were all very welcoming to new members of the project, whether they are a contributor to docs, ports, src or even initiating good PR’s. Me and FreeBSD did not part ways in Lillehammer. In fact, I will be joining the DevSummit at FOSDEM @ Brussels hosted by @bcr to get even more involved within the project. For the time being I will continue doing what I love in my free time; contributing to the FreeBSD Project.

To Be Continued – Dries Michiels