EuroBSDCon 2013 is done. If you have been following my daily posts over the last 4 days (day 1, day 2, day 3 and day 4) as well as #EuroBSDCon updates in Twitter, you may already have a pretty good idea of what went on here. However, with the conference over, it is now a good time to recap the whole event and present the takeaways of these four days which, overall, were quite interesting and productive.

FreeBSD Developer Summit

FreeBSD holds developer summits along all major conferences. These invite-only events gather together FreeBSD committers and guests from various backgrounds, including other BSDs, major contributors and commercial vendors. It is the first time I was invited to such event so it was quite an experience. Here are a few highlights:

The first is that top contributors of the project make an effort to attend. By having influential people in the room, it is possible to discuss possibly-controversial topics and it is possible to reach consensus on them... something that could take months over mailing lists and could surely burn out the people involved.

The second is that the FreeBSD Foundation aids interested people with their travel expenses. As a result of this, contributors that might otherwise not show up — e.g. GSoC students — are in the room and can both present their work and get to know the community: a critical thing to do if you seek long-term involvement from these people.

The third is that everybody attending the summit gets first-hand visibility into all the major development projects within FreeBSD. They also get to interact with their developers. All of this is good for motivational purposes and also to expose that the project is not dead.

I especially liked the vendors session of the summit in which delegates from companies that use FreeBSD got to explain why FreeBSD works for them and what they'd need the system to do to make their lives easier.

NetBSD Developer Summit

NetBSD does not often host developer summits and, fortunately, this time there was a push for one. I am told about ~10 developers attended which, even if it seems like a small amount, is a huge success compared to the last effort in BSDCan 2011 that only gathered... three people.

The main outcome of the summit, I believe, is that Masanobu SAITOH presented a list of four Japanese contributors that would make good additions to the project. Their memberships are now being discussed.

Talks quality and structure

After having attended various BSD-related conferences, I can say that the quality of the presentations here was above average. The reason for this is very likely behind the fact that the number of talk applications was more than twice the available slots. Because of this abundance, the program committee was forced to choose among the proposed talks and thus be able to discard weak proposals.

The only downside of this is that the large amount of talks had to be compressed in only two days, which resulted in 4 tracks on Saturday and 3 tracks on Sunday. That's a lot of concurrency that "forces" the attendee to choose only one talk for every time slot... and sometimes two very interesting topics conflict. I am pretty sure the speakers that had to compete for audience with figures such as Kirk McKusick were not pleased. Oh well; luckily, the talks have all been recorded and will be available within the next three weeks.

Kyua

Attending a conference full of motivated, influential and active project contributors is a sure boost to your own motivation. I got a chance to talk to various people, including a couple of FreeBSD board members, and realized that the FreeBSD project is extremely interested in automated testing.

Having the largest BSD interested in Kyua is neat and makes me want to continue the work that I left behind months ago. "Huh, what? Did you leave the Kyua work behind?" I hear. Yes, kind of. Various work-related and personal issues did not leave me much time to work on this, and the few time I had left was spent on other stuff that motivated me more during the summer.

We will see how all this translates to increased activity in Kyua over the next few months. At the very least, you can expect a new release soon to consolidate various fixes required by FreeBSD and a tutorial proposal plus presentation in AsiaBSDCon 2014.

NetBSD's future

This is an interesting point to discuss but, first of all, let me digress a bit and talk about FreeBSD. The board of the FreeBSD foundation has realized —not sure how long ago— that their most important things to do are:

  • Take care of the community, make sure it is healthy and try to grow it. Without a constant influx of people, the developer base just shrinks: it's a fact that there is attrition and replacements need to be found. The developer pool is not yet large enough to sustain itself without some kind of marketing.
  • Provide long-term direction for the project as a motivational aspect for the various developers. In particular, there are plenty of people out there that would like to contribute and don't know how: by showing them specific smallish pieces that they can do and how such pieces tie to the more grandiose plans, people can become excited to contribute and do more easily. I know I would.
  • Act as facilitators for the developers. Developers are extremely good at what they do, which is contribute cool new working code, but (in general!) they are notoriously bad at tasks such as marketing, product management and community engagement. Granted: there are a few exceptions, but the truth is that most developers just don't care about all these other aspects of running a projects, and this is very understandable. The FreeBSD board is therefore pushing to fill these gaps by employing people to work full-time on these less-loved areas.

Alright. So how does all of this apply to NetBSD? Easy, because the same story is true for NetBSD. The NetBSD board could take advice from FreeBSD's discoveries. And, in fact, after talking with Julian Coleman (a current board member) during the conference, it seems like they are also reaching the same conclusions: there are some ideas on what to do to make the community a bit better and I hope these start happening soon!

Enough politics. On the technical side, the conference hosted various presentations related to NetBSD. A GPL-free toolchain is pretty much a reality; support for new platforms is being added; work on the testing framework is ongoing; NPF works and will be highly-performant as soon as the giant lock in the network stack is removed; and many other things that I cannot give justice to here because I did not attend to the presentations or I missed the talks among the various developers.

Potpourri

Other than FreeBSD and NetBSD, the conference covered many more topics including various talks on OpenBSD and PF, virtualization and bhyve, hardware architectures, Netflix, etc. I encourage you to review the list of talks and get back to their videos when they are published.

Additionally, the organization was stellar. The various dinners happened in cool locations and the venue and its hosts were perfectly fine. Only the WiFi was weak at times... which is not surprising.

And, again, for more details don't forget to read the detailed daily reports which include much more information on these various topics:

Time to leave for the airport.

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