Conference Recap: FOSDEM 2017

03/02/2017

FOSDEM 2017 was held on the first weekend of February. After last year’s success of having a one day FreeBSD devsummit during the first conference day, we decided that this year, we’d do an extra day (Friday) right before FOSDEM. This ensured that there was no overlap with talks that attendees wanted to see (or give) and gave everyone an opportunity to catch up with development efforts in the new year. The FreeBSD Foundation generously sponsored the lunch and hotel conference room where we could sit and discuss issues.

On Friday, a total of 11 developers met in the conference room and after some announcements, we went right into collecting topics that people were interested in. These were the topics we came up with:

  • libifconfig (librarification of ifconfig)
  • Wayland (for which a port is now available in FreeBSD)
  • GSOC participation and topics (brainstorming ideas)
  • FreeBSD support for the Olimex Laptop, see this blog post for details
  • pkg flavors and subpackages (further advances to pkg(8))
  • OpenSSL in base private (ports will always have to use OpenSSL from ports), or replace OpenSSL with embedTLS
  • JuniorJobs and Ideas pages (updating and refreshing)

Here are some of the results that were done either during the devsummit
itself or over the following days.

  • Removal of translation project download pages that had outdated releases. In some cases, this resulted in ridiculous releases like FreeBSD 11 for alpha, ia64, and pc98. All these are not supported architectures anymore, but translation work has not caught up with reality yet and so we decided it was better to remove these pages. In one case, translators were quick to respond and fix these issues and pages in their language were activated again.
  • Removal of the mirror selection drop-down menu on FreeBSD.org. In the past, this was used to select a mirror that was closer to ones own location to increase page load times. Nowadays, the FreeBSD server infrastructure automatically selects the closest server, so there is no need for manual selecting these mirrors (which were outdated more often than not, anyways).
  • Removal of bdes(1): https://svnweb.freebsd.org/changeset/base/313329

Breaks in the morning and afternoon allowed devsummit attendees to continue discussions in front of coffee and local pastries. After caffeine reserves were replenished, we returned to our individual work or proceeded with refining GSoC ideas.

The devsummit dinner we had that evening allowed for more people that attended FOSDEM the next day to join us and talk various things BSD over food and belgian beer varieties. Special guest of the evening was Groff, the BSD Goat, accompanied by Peter Hessler, who told us about where the two had been since these last few months (you can follow it on twitter.

FOSDEM began on Saturday morning. Our table neighbors were people from the Illumos project and it wasn’t long until we got into exchanges about things we mutually care about, like OpenZFS and DTrace. It was nice to see the FreeBSD bootloader running on their laptops as a result of a past collaboration between our two projects in this area. Over the course of the weekend, we would often tell people about the good relationship that our two projects have and what technologies and philosophies we share.

The halls where the project tables were located soon started to fill with people. Before we knew it, we had visitors asking us all kinds of questions about FreeBSD. FOSDEM was in full swing around lunchtime and a huge crowd was gathered in the hall where the open source projects tables were. It was a good thing that we had a bunch of FreeBSD people available to help, so we could take turns answering questions when someone wanted to see a particular talk they were interested in. Overall, visitors were interested and open minded about what we had to offer as a project.

There were other people telling us how well FreeBSD was running on their machines and that they rarely have to touch them for any kind of maintenance. We took the chance to tell them about the newest features in FreeBSD and most of them were intrigued. Some people have never heard about FreeBSD, but had heard of FreeNAS or were even running it already. ZFS was a major point where we could show people that FreeBSD is a viable storage solution for home and enterprise use.

We also got a lot of questions from people who wanted to switch from Linux distributions and asked how difficult it was. Hardware support with drivers was a big issue in the past, but we ensured them that the project supports a lot of hardware and things are better now than a few years ago. We handed out FreeBSD 11 flyers to those people so that they could learn about what FreeBSD has to offer in terms of latest features. Other people were interested in FreeBSD as an embedded platform and we told people about what other vendors like Netflix or IXsystems are capable of doing by choosing the BSD license for their products.

Other BSD activities at FOSDEM included the following talks: Brooks Davis on Saturday about “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About “Hello, World”, Ed Schouten about CloudABI, and Arun Thomas about RISC-V on Sunday in the architectures track.

Having a table at a conference where other BSD people are giving talks was a good central point of meeting and coordination when traffic around the table had died down a bit. A lot of surprise visitors came to our table and there was a big meet and greet going on when people reconnected with each other since the last time they saw each other. In the afternoon of the first day, there was a BSD devroom at FOSDEM. This is a separate room provided for projects to give presentations about a specific topic. Rodrigo Osorio organized the devroom and a video crew provided by FOSDEM recorded the talks. They are available here for people who could not make it to FOSDEM. The room was well attended and provided another good opportunity to show people what the BSD systems can do and what new features were developed since last year.

The Sunday conference day felt a little bit quieter than Saturday, but still well enough attended to keep us busy handing out flyers to people and answering their questions.

In the evening of the last day of FOSDEM, we packed up, distributed the remaining flyers, cleaned up the table area, thanked the FOSDEM staff, and we went back to the hotel.

Thanks to the organizers, staff, and volunteers at FOSDEM for making it such a great event. Thanks to Rodrigo Osorio for organizing and managing the BSD devroom. Thanks to everyone who helped out at the FreeBSD table, to all those who attended talks, spoke to us, and gave us feedback. Special thanks to Kristof Provost for organizing the FreeBSD devsummit and the FreeBSD Foundation for sponsoring it.

— Contributed by Benedict Reuschling

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