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KernelTrap is excited to be able to offer live coverage of this year's BSDCan 2008 in Ottawa, Canada on May 16th and 17th. The two day conference takes place at the University of Ottawa, and was organized for the fifth consecutive year by Dan Langille who has also made it possible for me to attend and cover the event on KernelTrap. I spoke with Dan to get some background information on the conference, and learn about some of the upcoming highlights.
The event's webpage explains:
"BSDCan, a BSD conference held in Ottawa, Canada, has quickly established itself as the technical conference for people working on and with 4.4BSD based operating systems and related projects. The organizers have found a fantastic formula that appeals to a wide range of people from extreme novices to advanced developers."
Michael Meeuwisse started Project VGA in September of 2007. The project aims to develop a simple, low budget, open source, VGA compatible video card available this year. Michael is also a member of the Open Graphic's Project, but started Project VGA in order to get something affordable on the market as soon as possible.
In this interview, Michael explains his inspiration for the project and talks about the first development cards that will be functional by the end of the month. He details the costs involved in building the cards, as well as when the cards will be available for purchase and what they will be capable of doing.
Avi Kivity is the lead developer and maintainer of the Kernel-based Virtual Machine project, better known as kvm. The project was started in mid-2006, and has been part of the Linux kernel since the 2.6.20 release in February of 2007. kvm is a full virtualization system for x86-based Linux hosts, allowing users to run isolated x86 guest operating systems in virtual machines.
Jens Axboe has been involved with Linux since 1993. 30 years old, he lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, and works as a Linux Kernel developer for Oracle. His block layer rewrite launched the 2.5 kernel development branch, a layer he continues to maintain and improve. Interested in most anything dealing with IO, he has introduced several new IO schedulers to the kernel, including the default CFQ, or Complete Fair Queuing scheduler.
In this interview, Jens talks about how he got interested in Linux, how he became the maintainer of the block layer and other block devices, and what's involved in being a maintainer. He describes his work on IO schedulers, offering an indepth look at the design and current status of the CFQ scheduler, including a peek at what's in store for the future. He conveys his excitement about the new splice IO model, explaining how it came about and how it works. And he discusses the current 2.6 kernel development process, the impact of git, and why the GPL is important to him.
Tables are cluttered with laptops, servers, switches, cables and cords as the 2006 OpenBSD hackathon continues in Calgary, Canada. Small groups of developers talk and debate around LCD screens, while others work individually on their own projects. Behind the scenes, a donated 10 megabit wireless connection provides Internet access to all. IP addresses and DNS are provided by stock bind and dhcpd processes running on an OpenBSD server. Among other things, the infrastructure area hosts an HP DL385 with 24 GB of memory that was recently donated by HP, a G5, several Sun Blade 2000's, and an assortment of PowerPC, Alpha and Opteron-based servers. A console server provides serial connections to the servers along with logs of what went on on the serial console, useful for debugging. Power issues on the first day were resolved by evenly spreading the servers and many laptops across the available circuits in the hackathon room. Chris Kuethe explained, "the whole point of the infrastructure is that it's not supposed to be exciting, it's just supposed to be there, like a light switch."
I have spoken with another 28 OpenBSD developers from Turkey, Iceland, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Australia, Austria, Hungary, the US, and Canada. Efforts are being made on ACPI, the VFS subsystem, link-layer authentication, OpenBGPD, tcpdump, XFree86, pf, CARP, dvmrpd as a replacement for mrouted, OpenRCS, OpenCVS, the USB layer, prebinding, ipsecctl, 10 gig Ethernet support, link layer path mtu discovery, several new and improved drivers, amd64 large memory support, new CD and DVD recording features for cdio, improvements to mg, support for new architectures, numerous new and updated ports, and much more.
The 2006 OpenBSD Hackathon, c2k6, is well underway in a conference room at a hotel in downtown Calgary, Canada. The event started yesterday, May 27th, attended by nearly 50 OpenBSD developers from all over the globe. OpenBSD creator Theo de Raadt [interview] is thrilled by what is already proving to be another successful event, "I don't think anybody else does this, developers suspend their lives for a week to focus entirely on just development." Theo explains that he doesn't get much coding done himself at these hackathons, but instead focuses on ensuring beneficial communication between developers, an obvious advantage to assembling so much talent in a single room.
Walking among the cluttered tables, I've been talking with the high energy attendees of this year's hackathon, learning who's here and what they're working on. In this first installment I've talked to 18 developers from France, Switzerland, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Dominica, the US, and Canada. They each talk a little about how they discovered OpenBSD and what they're working on here at the hackathon, including introducing new ports, support for SD devices, local OpenCVS functionality, improvements to OpenNTPD, improved SCSI controller support, initial support for the UltraSparc III architecture, and much more. The hackathon continues around the clock through June 2nd.
OpenBSD creator Theo de Raadt began developing OpenBSD in October of 1995. KernelTrap first spoke with Theo back in November of 2001 [interview], around the time that OpenBSD 3.0 was released, discussing much of the early history of the project. The project has continued to offer regular releases of their "free, functional & secure" operating system every six months, with OpenBSD 3.9 made available yesterday, May 1, 2006.
In this latest interview, Theo examines the past five years of OpenBSD development. He also discusses the OpenBSD 3.9 theme song, "Blob!", detailing what blobs are, why OpenBSD avoids them, and how OpenBSD developers work to reverse engineer them. Looking to the development process, Theo talks about recent and future "mini-hackathons", small and focused OpenBSD development gatherings. Finally, Theo also discusses the OpenBSD project's funding issues, and the response to requests for funding from users of the project's OpenSSH software.
Jonathan Gray and Damien Bergamini recently worked together to develop the nfe driver to support NVIDIA Ethernet controllers. In this interview, they talk about OpenBSD's policy to not ship binary-blobs, explaining the problems associated with drivers that use these blobs and the affect these types of drivers have on the open source community. They also detail the efforts involved in writing the nfe driver, describing why they started the project, how they were able to support undocumented hardware, and the features supported by the new driver.
OpenBSD 3.9 will be officially released on May 1, 2006 and will include the new nfe driver. The theme song for the upcoming OpenBSD release is titled "Blob!", a cautionary tale about the growing prevalence of binary blobs among open source operating systems and where this might lead.
Andrey Savochkin leads the development of the kernel portion of OpenVZ, an operating system-level server virtualization solution. In this interview, Andrey offers a thorough explanation of what virtualization is and how it works. He also discusses the differences between hardware-level and operating system-level virtualization, going on to compare OpenVZ to VServer, Xen and User Mode Linux.
Andrey is now working to get OpenVZ merged into the mainline Linux kernel explaining, "virtualization makes the next step in the direction of better utilization of hardware and better management, the step that is comparable with the step between single-user and multi-user systems." The complete OpenVZ patchset weighs in at around 70,000 lines, approximately 2MB, but has been broken into smaller logical pieces to aid in discussion and to help with merging.
Hans Reiser formed Namesys and began the development of Reiserfs ten years ago. The first release of the filesystem, Reiser3, is part of the mainline 2.4 and 2.6 Linux kernels. The more recent Reiser4 is a complete redesign and reimplementation of Reiserfs, aiming to soon be merged into the mainline 2.6 Linux kernel.
In this interview, Hans discusses his background and how he came to create Namesys and Reiserfs. He looks back at Reiser3, describing the advantages it had over other filesystems when it was released and its current state. He then explores the many improvements currently in Reiser4, describing the plugin architecture and its exciting potential for future semantic enhancements.
One new attendee of this year's OpenBSD hackathon was Fernando Gont, a diverse individual from Argentina whose current job titles include teacher, technical writer, system administrator and network researcher. His presence at the hackathon was the result of an internet-draft he wrote about some flaws in the ICMP protocol, flaws he discovered while writing the "Security Considerations" of a different internet-draft titled "TCP's reaction to soft errors" for the IPv6 Operations working group. In researching that earlier draft, he considered various attacks against TCP using ICMP error messages, and proposed some extra validation that could be done as prevention. Following up, Fernando reviewed the IETF specifications for ICMP and TCP and was surprised to discover that they didn't propose similar validation checks, ultimately deciding to write his latest internet-draft highlighting the security impact.
Fernando was interested in discussing the ideas with his peers, but was concerned about vendors trying to patent his suggested fixes. He'd read some comments by OpenBSD creator Theo de Raadt [interview] which led him to believe that he could safely talk with Theo about his ICMP discoveries. Theo was impressed by the ideas, and as Fernando was already heading to BSDCan, Theo helped arrange for him to stay in Canada longer to attend CanSecWest and the OpenBSD hackathon. At the hackathon, Fernando worked around the clock to implement some of his suggested fixes into the OpenBSD networking stack, during which time I spoke with him.
The ICMP flaw is in the design of the protocol, not in any specific implementation. Theo explains, "here we have a 20 year old protocol, a part of the Internet infrastructure that hasn't been touched in 10 years and we were all sure was right, and now is cast in doubt." He went on to add, "these things have to be done carefully. We can't ignore the problem, which is what the IETF and the other vendors are telling us to do."
People have started trickling into the hackathon rooms as the morning wears on. The music is louder than yesterday, and discussions continue around the various tables. A CTV television crew arrives, circling the room taking footage that will be distributed throughout Canada. One day earlier, a photographer arrived getting photos for an upcoming four page spread in Forbes magazine. Discussions about tomorrow's tear down start, reflecting on how much effort and time is involved in packing everything up. But the primary focus remains on the many projects currently in progress that people still hope to get finished. At least, finished enough.
One of the projects that has multiple people involved is PF, OpenBSD's packet filter. The packet filter's original author, Daniel Hartmeier [interview], talked about his ongoing efforts and reflected on the evolution PF has seen in the past few years. Mike Frantzen talked about his work on improving the PF optimizer. Henning Brauer described his work to allow PF to filter on interface groups. And Ryan McBride [interview] spoke about his efforts to turn pfctl into more of a compiler offering a number of useful benefits.
I arrived in Calgary this afternoon, and headed straight downtown to the hotel in which the OpenBSD hackathon is taking place. Walking through the fancy hotel's front door, the concierge steered me upstairs to the hackathon rooms. A few minutes later, I entered into a dimly lit room crowded with tables, people, wires, switches, laptops and servers. Each table is covered with a white cloth, with ethernet cables dropping down from the ceiling, suspended by brown tape.
The hackathon is taking place in two rooms, attended by around 60 OpenBSD developers. Obtaining an accurate count of the attendees is difficult, as people have arrived from all over the world and are still working in different timezones, populating the room around the clock. I was warmly greeted, and given free access to wander around asking questions and taking notes. At first glance, it seemed there was very little order to the event, but speaking with OpenBSD creator Theo de Raadt [interview] he was able to point from table to table explaining what each person or group of people were doing.
Theo explained that he's personally not working on any specific hacking himself, but instead is involved in everything. "I'm involved with lots of ideas," he explained, "shooting them down, changing them, approving them, pointing them to someone they should talk to..." He described his primary role as, "accelerating communication." Indeed, the one week hackathon is designed for just that, accelerating communication between OpenBSD developers who have gathered from all over the world. Ideas are flowing, and code is being written.