July 18, 2008

In this Edition:

Letter From the Vice President


A recent article on law.com discussing the implications of GPLv3 software for businesses, caused quite a stir on Slashdot and other technology forums. The most distressing aspect of the commentary on the article is that it focused largely on nit picking factual errors in the story, or on guessing the author’s motives, instead of the basic, core issue the article was trying to address: Corporations and individuals are still largely ignorant about OpenSource, how it’s licensed, and how that licensing affects who can legally use it.

This should not be a shocking revelation to members of the OpenSource community. I see Edmund J. Walsh’s article as an indication that more corporate lawyers are reading the licenses and trying to understand them. Isn’t this a good thing? Absolutely. OpenSource licenses will continue to be violated unless the end users (and many times the authors too) understand their meaning.

But how we react to this “educational process” could negate the positives. A corporate executive casually reading this type of article could easily be scared away from OpenSource without fully understanding OpenSource licensing. Lawyers have an obligation to explain legal risks to their clients (no ulterior motive there) and will always err on the side of caution. The OpenSource community must do all it can to allay these fears, and work constructively to correct misunderstandings where they exist. After all, these same corporations employ the volunteers that keep our community alive.

So the next time you finish writing a biting and oh so satisfactory comment on Slashdot about the GPL or general OpenSource licensing issues, take a step back and ask yourself, “Am I 100% sure I understand this?”, and “Have I helped the person in error to understand their error?” If you answer “no” to either, consider directing your efforts to learning more, or contacting the author politely to resolve the misunderstanding. The OpenSource community as a whole will benefit if you do.

Communicating in Complete Sentences

Summer is a time for vacations and this year I once again spent mine traveling the American East coast catching up with relatives. During these types of trips, I try hard to go retro – no laptop, cell phone turned off, etc. The only active pieces of technology being a film camera and an automobile. But you can’t fully escape, and this time it was a photo “mini-lab” that would be my undoing.

After shooting a few rolls of the kids, cousins, and grandparents, it was off to the drug store for some 1-hour film processing. I also had my brother in tow, with almost 200 images on his digital camera ready for printing. While I dropped off my film, my brother headed to a digital photo kiosk. These kiosks advertise simple photo processing for the masses – SD card in, photos and a CD out, right? Not so in this case. The order entry was simple enough, but when we returned to the store a few hours later, the chagrined photo-tech sadly reported that the kiosk my brother used was unable to create CDs. “I usually catch folks before they use that machine to warn them…,” she said looking down at her shoes. There was nothing she could do about it. She could print more copies from the order, but had no way to transfer the data somewhere else. Lamentably, the original copies of the photos had been erased during our afternoon trip to the zoo to make room for more photos. Damn those cute kids… you just can’t stop taking pictures of them.

What to do? Refreshed by a full week without having touched a single computer I thought, “It’s just a Windows PC, and it still has the image files on it, how hard can this be?” Five minutes later, with my brother still calming the photo tech with phrases like, “He does this kind of thing for a living.” and, “Really, he won’t break the machine,” I’d hacked into native windows. But no matter what avenue I tried (SD card, USB stick, the CD burner), the system refused to copy data onto any kind of removable media.

Boy are those kiosk software guys clever. Photo files are irreplaceable. Safeguarding the media introduced into the kiosk is a paramount design requirement and they achieved it, in this system, by setting a system policy that makes all removable media read-only. Too bad they mistakenly applied this same attribute to the CDROM burner too, which would have allowed the kiosk to generate CDs as intended.

I thought, “I’m no Windows expert, and don’t have Internet access to use a search engine as a substitute… if only I’d brought my FreeBSD laptop this trip…” And then I remembered. Hidden behind its glossy good looks and elegant UI, all the “unixy” tools I needed were inside my brother’s Macbook. A trip to the car for the notebook, and to aisle ten to pick up an Ethernet cable, and we were happily transferring files over a point-to-point network to a hastily configured FTP server on the Macbook. Whew!

There are several things to take away from my experience: posting a sign on things that don’t work can save a lot of heartache, be sure you have a backup before deleting things you care about, and always verify that the district manager is not in the store when you decide to hack a kiosk (he entered the store moments after I restored the machine). But my success in this situation came from very different lessons, learned long ago, by using FreeBSD.

To paraphrase Van Jacobson in his 1996 Usenix keynote, the philosophy behind unix-like systems is akin to a language. The system provides verbs (jot, cut, sed, diff, grep) and nouns (files, devices) with a shell that allows you to easily craft complete sentences from the two. Need to solve a complex problem? You may have to “write a complex sentence,” but from day one, you are encouraged to be an author and a problem solver. What types of thinking skills are engendered by most “modern” operating systems that use a GUI as their primary interface? These systems provide numerous “complete sentences” for you, trying to anticipate all of the problems you might want to solve. Frankly I doubt that I’d be half the problem solver I am today if, instead of through essay questions, I was taught how to problem solve by multiple choice. Thank you Apple for not falling into this trap.

My experience only reaffirms the tremendous value of FreeBSD, and the FreeBSD community. Both continue to forge talented developers, computer administrators, technical writers, and QA engineers that are highly prized in the job market. If you have benefited from our community, or its output, please consider donating to the FreeBSD Foundation. Only through your support, can we continue to improve FreeBSD, safeguard the health of our community, and fund efforts such as generating FreeBSD curriculum and encouraging its use in university programs.

Justin T. Gibbs

Vice President and Founder

The FreeBSD Foundation

Fundraising Update

We are pleased to report, we have raised $38,738 so far this year. We would like to thank everyone who has donated to the foundation! Last year this time we had already raised $140,955. Our 2008 goal is $300,000. With the 2007 donations we were able to fund the Java project, sponsor conferences and developer travel to these conferences in 2008. Some of the funding went to providing legal counsel to help the core team create a GPLv3 License Policy. Our successful 2007 fundraising has allowed us to go to the community and ask for project proposals. We hope to fund more projects in the future that will help improve FreeBSD. We would also like to get the funding to help sponsor other FreeBSD related conferences that we don’t currently support financially.

We can’t do this without your help. Please spread the word to your peers and employers. Forward this newsletter so others can read about what we are doing to help the FreeBSD Project and community. Click here to donate and thank you for your continued support of The FreeBSD Foundation.

Java 1.6 Available for FreeBSD 7.0 and 6.3

We are pleased to announce the availability of Java binaries for FreeBSD 6.3 and 7.0! This was only made possible by your donations. Moving forward we hope to keep the binaries up-to-date with Sun updates by using a volunteer from the FreeBSD Java Project. Here is a short note from Greg Lewis of the FreeBSD Java Project.

On behalf of the BSD Java porting team and the FreeBSD Java Community I’d like to express gratitude to the FreeBSD Foundation for their continued support of Java on FreeBSD with the new binary release of Diablo. Just as with previous releases, this release of Diablo provides the community with access not only to a modern, full featured version of Java, but importantly to one that is easy to install. As always, a binary release must pass Sun’s extensive and rigorous Java compatibility test suite, providing an important assurance that all pure Java applications will be able to be used on FreeBSD while also ensuring the high quality of the release itself.

With the release of FreeBSD 7.0, the longstanding work of FreeBSD developers on multi-processor scaling is finally bearing the promised fruit. Performance testing on large multi-processor systems shows FreeBSD outperforming Linux on certain benchmarks. With its focus on concurrent programming, Java provides an excellent opportunity to highlight this advantage, and the new Diablo release will empower developers to showcase this.

Finally, having announced the OpenJDK initiative, Sun has committed itself to an open source future for Java. Without the FreeBSD Foundation’s support in this and previous binary releases, the porting team would be faced with extensive testing and bug fixing to be able to merge our port into the OpenJDK code base, rather than the solid foundation for that work that the binary releases and compatibility testing has provided. Importantly we also have the Foundation’s blessing to contribute fixes that were created under contract during this and previous binary release processes.

-Greg Lewis, FreeBSD Java Project

NetApp Filer Donation

NetApp donated one of their NetApp FAS2020 Filer storage systems with 12 300GB SAS and 14 1TB SATA disks to The FreeBSD Foundation. The Filer will be used primarily for storing off-site backups from the many servers the FreeBSD Project operates for project infrastructure all over the world. The new off-site backup setup is part of the FreeBSD Project’s contingency plan to better handle all the situations which hopefully will never happen!

The Filer is hosted by Sentex Data Communications located in Ontario, Canada. Sentex donates the hosting, including bandwidth and on-site assistance, for the day-to-day issues.

Other than off-site backups, some of the storage in the Filer will be used for the FreeBSD Netperf Cluster, also hosted by Sentex. The Netperf Cluster is used for many projects mainly related to improving performance of the FreeBSD Operating System.

-Simon L. Nielsen, FreeBSD.org admin team

BSD Certification Project

Every year we allocate a portion of our funds to help improve FreeBSD and support the project and community. One project we helped was the BSD Certification Group. We asked one of the volunteers on the project to write a short article on how the FreeBSD project and community benefited by having the foundation provide some of their funding. Here is the article contributed by Jim Brown.

The BSD Associate (BSDA) certification exam is now a reality, thanks in part to the generous support of the FreeBSD Foundation. Support from the Foundation helped offset the costs for psychometric analysis, training and educational materials, and Subject Matter Expert reviews. The exam was finally launched in February 2008, and to date the exam has been held eight times in various cities in North America and Europe.

One of the benefits of sponsors such as the FreeBSD Foundation is that the BSDCG can provide the exam at relatively low cost, currently just $75USD. While the exam is of modest cost, the exam content is rock solid. People come to the exam expecting it to be a breeze, but they find out it’s not. The exam tracks very closely to the published objectives.

The result? It’s not easy. Comments from those who have taken it, said it was “harder than I thought it would be” and it “made you think.”

There are many other projects that the BSDCG already has underway or would like to get started, such as the BSD Professional certification. Another project involves setting up regional partnerships with universities, schools, or other large organizations to hold regular examinations on-site. Still another project is setting up an advanced on-line test delivery system. These will become a reality with continued support from the FreeBSD Foundation and the worldwide BSD community.

To find out more about how you can help visit the website at www.bsdcertification.org, or contact the BSDCG at info@bsdcertification.org.

Accepting Project Proposals

The foundation is soliciting the submission of proposals for work relating to any of the major subsystems or infrastructure within the FreeBSD operating system. A budget of $80,000 was allocated for 2008 to fund multiple development projects. Proposals will be evaluated based on desirability, technical merit and cost-effectiveness.

Click here to find out about the proposal process. The deadline for submitting proposals is August 15, 2008. please send the proposals to board at freebsdfoundation dot org.

AsiaBSDCon 2008

The foundation was one of the primary sponsors of AsiaBSDCon 2008, which was held in Tokyo, Japan, March 2008. This was the third international conference on BSD operating systems in Asian countries. These conferences are essential for our community and we continue to support them and provide places for face-to-face discussion among FreeBSD users and developers to promote their promising activities.

We had around 160 attendees this year at the conference. The 4-day conference covered various topics including tutorials by FreeBSD developers Dr. Marshall Kirk McKusick, Brooks Davis and Philip Paeps, and papers which reported up-to-date information about their development by M. Warner Losh, Pawel Jakub Dawidek, and Randall Stewart. Also, George V. Neville-Neil organized the FreeBSD Developer Summit during the conference. A lot of Asian developers attended as well and interacted with each other. Click here to find papers and photos from the conference.

-Hiroki Sato, General Chair AsiaBSDCan 2008

BSDCan 2008

The foundation was pleased to be a sponsor of BSDCan again. This is the one conference where most of our board members are able to attend. This was a great opportunity for us to meet with FreeBSD developers and talk one-on-one. Not only did we discuss different projects with developers, it also gave us the chance to meet with various representatives from groups like marketing and documentation.

We had a table in the lobby where we “sold” books that were generously donated from No Starch Press. Also for the first time, we sold foundation baseball caps that became very popular. It was fun talking to FreeBSD supporters who bought a bunch of caps to bring back to their teams at work. We brought in a total of $1715 in donations, which included around $290 from iXsystems.

The foundation sponsored the FreeBSD Developer Summit again this year. Justin Gibbs, VP and founder, gave a short talk on the foundation. You can read more about the summit in the next article.

Below, Dan Langille gave us a short summary on how the conference benefited the FreeBSD project and community.

May 2008 saw the fifth annual BSDCan. This year we had 225 people. Over the past 5 years, we’ve grown from a brand new gathering, to an internationally recognized conference and the biggest annual event on the BSD calendar. The contributions by sponsors helped achieve this.

In 2008, the sponsorship by The FreeBSD Foundation went towards to main areas:

  • fly in speakers from outside North America
  • provide free lunches to attendees

Without these funds, the above would not have been possible.

BSDCan Developer Summit

The Foundation was proud to sponsor the BSDCan FreeBSD Developer Summit again this year. The Developer Summit proved to be, as always, a great success, bringing together the FreeBSD developer community to discuss on-going projects, plans for the future, and more. With over eighty attendees, around half current committers, and the other half guests from companies using FreeBSD, summer of code students, or third-party contributors, it was also our best attended developer summit to date.

Presentations included power management (GreenBSD), a new system installer, TCP/http support for pxeboot, an update on embedded FreeBSD, the new tty layer, the new NFS lock manager, an update on the Foundation, the FreeBSD ports collection, SMP scalability for TCP, and the transition to Subversion. Afternoon BoFs and hacking sessions included the network stack, profiling and debugging tools, network stack virtualization, bug management, release packaging, lower power operation, the system console, a hands-on Coverity Extend tutorial, TrustedBSD, file system and buffer cache, embedded, and an 802.11 tutorial. Work continued into the evening with FreeBSD hacking lounges.

2008 Grant and Travel Grant Recipients

Every year we sponsor FreeBSD related conferences, projects, and developer travel. We believe that BSD-centered and FreeBSD-specific conferences play critical roles in expanding the FreeBSD user community and supporting collaborative development. Our grants may be for something as little as performance software to large projects like Java 1.6 on FreeBSD 7.0.

To find out how to apply for a travel grant, please visit https://freebsdfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/12/TravelRequestForm.pdf. To get information on how to apply for a grant, please visithttps://freebsdfoundation.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/08/GrantRequestForm.pdf.

Here is a list of projects, developers, and conferences we have sponsored for 2008.

2008 Grant Recipients:

  • AsiaBSDCon 2008 Conference
  • BSDCan 2008 Conference
  • FreeBSD Developer Summit at BSDCan
  • FreeBSD Advocacy in Ticino 2008
  • Kurt Miller – Java 1.6 on FreeBSD 6.3 and 7.0
  • FreeBSD Java Project – Java Server Benchmark software

Travel Grant recipients for this year were:

  • AsiaBSDCon – Prakash Poudyal, Zhouvi Zhou, and Dongmei Liu
  • BSDCan – Erwin Lansing, Alexey Tarasoy, Lawrence Stewart, Philip Paeps, Bjoern A. Zeeb, Adrian Chadd, Andrew Turner, Murray Stokley, Attilio Rao, and Ed Schouten
  • Mark Linimon to ISC to fix project machines.

FreeBSD Testimonial from Juniper

Juniper offers high-performance network infrastructure powered by JUNOS (TM) software, one network operating system that integrates routing, switching, security and network services. FreeBSD serves as the basis of JUNOS software, providing many of the essential operating system services of the UNIX-based system. Today, JUNOS software runs on a broad portfolio of Juniper products designed for the diverse and demanding needs of converged networks, from small offices to the largest TeraPop sites in the world.

Juniper benefits from the powerful collaboration between leading universities, individuals, and commercial organizations developing FreeBSD to advance the operating system functionality. The FreeBSD release system provides Juniper with a roadmap for features and a stable base for our code, while its practical licensing enables Juniper to develop intellectual property for advancing high-performance networking. Juniper employs many active FreeBSD developers that continually contribute to the FreeBSD project to further its development as a leading operating system.

-Naren Prabhu, Vice President Foundation Technologies, Juniper Networks www.juniper.net

Board of Directors Update

The board of directors held its annual meeting May 16 in Ottawa, Canada. The main purpose of the meeting was to elect directors and officers. All the current directors were re-elected. This includes Jonathan Bresler, Justin Gibbs, Deb Goodkin, Sam Leffler, Paul Saab, and Robert Watson. The current officers were also re-elected at this meeting. The officers are Robert Watson, President, Justin Gibbs, Vice President, and Deb Goodkin, Secretary/Treasurer.

In the last year the directors have discussed adding another director in an area that wasn’t already represented. We decided that we needed representation in Asia. After talking to a few FreeBSD developers we decided to ask Hiroki Sato to join our board. We are very pleased to report that he accepted and we added him to the board of directors at our annual board meeting.


Our 2008 Q1-Q2 Profit Loss and 2008 Q1-Q2 Balance Sheet are now posted on our website.