2016 MeetBSD Trip Report: JT Pennington12/08/2016
The FreeBSD Foundation was generous enough to sponsor my trip to MeetBSD 2016 this year, and I am extremely appreciative for the ability to attend. MeetBSD 2016 was the first BSD conference I have attended, and it will certainly not be my last. As an ex-Linux Developer who’s attended and spoken at many Linux conferences over the years, I’ve always been curious as to how BSD conferences compare. I’ve been moving away from the Linux community for a couple years now, and am happy to make BSD my new home. Attending MeetBSD this year helped cement in my mind that the FreeBSD community is where I belong.
I arrived in Berkeley a day early and was able to spend the day with Allan Jude casually wandering around Berkeley and discussing various BSD topics in anticipation of the FreeBSD DevSummit. The DevSummit itself was quite intriguing coming from the Linux side of things. In contrast to companies talking about themselves, I found it a breath of fresh air that the focus was on the design and implementation of code, and not how whatever software fit into their marketing strategy. Out of all the interesting things talked about during the DevSummit, the Have/Need/Want session stands out to me as the thing I will remember most, and I’m already looking forward to hearing how the ‘needs’ will become ‘haves’ at the next MeetBSD.
The following day marked the official start of MeetBSD. The Opening session of introductions and attendees making personal statements about what they liked most about BSD was very enlightening. It’s somewhat cliche these days to hear ‘Community is important.’ Hearing person after person articulate this in their own words along with personal anecdotes emphasizing this was awesome. As an ex-Linux dev, I’ve heard claims about community countless times, Unlike the countless times I’ve heard people talking about community in Linux circles with the apatheia of corporate buzzwords, the earnestness of the statements made by everyone was palpable. The talks were all very interesting, and the small gaps between them allowed me to be able to have short side conversations with different people all day long. It was great to be able to talk with Bernard Spil about his work on LibreSSL for HardenedBSD and TrueOS. Right before Matt Ahrens’ fantastic talk about ZFS, I was able to briefly start a discussion with Ed Maste about ARM device support, which I look forward to continuing through email. Rounding out the day, it was a pleasure once again to hear Michael Dexter’s talking about Bhyve, and I am excited for continued Bhyve development. All in all, I found the day extremely productive, if not a little mentally exhausting. As a result, I did not stay late at the evening Social event because I wanted to be well rested for another full day on Saturday.
Saturday wasted no time getting into gear, starting off with a great talk by Rod Grimes. Being a new convert to FreeBSD, hearing Rod Grimes speak of the history of FreeBSD was very interesting. I found the preview of FreeNAS 10 by Jordan Hubbard to be very intriguing, and I look forward to seeing the final product upon its release. As a user of TrueOS since before its announcement (is there a term for dogfooding an alpha release?), I was greatly looking forward to Kris Moore’s public unveiling of TrueOS. Having just started some subcontracting work with iXsystems, I’ve talked with Kris about the TrueOS Pico project before, and it was impressive to see how much has been accomplished in such a short period of time. While I’m not a fan of the Raspberry Pi devices in general, I’m hopeful that Ed Maste may be able to point me in the right direction to bring support for several other ARM boards down the road. I’ve been a proponent of the thin-client model for a while, and building that upon the legendary stability of FreeBSD is a no-brainer. I had another chance to speak with Bernard Spil today about secure password management on FreeBSD and discuss the possibility of yubikey support.
In summary I’m very thankful that the FreeBSD Foundation was willing to cover my travel expenses to MeetBSD 2016. Not only was this a great learning experience, but also allowed me to discuss several issues with other members of the community in person. As helpful as IRC and email can be, it does not compare to the quality of communication you can have with someone in person. Having around 20 years of the tribal nature of the Linux community, it was great to be openly welcomed and be able to immediately ‘hit the ground running’ so to speak regarding projects and development. I look forward to being able to attend future BSD DevSummits and Conferences in the future.