FreeBSD foundation newsletter – December 2008

FreeBSD foundation logoPlease find below the FreeBSD Foundation Newsletter for December 2008.

In this Edition:

  • Letter From the Vice President
  • End-of-Year Fundraising Drive
  • Safe Removal of Active Disk Devices
  • Improvements to the FreeBSD TCP Stack
  • Network Stack Virtualization Project
  • FreeBSD Advocacy in Ticino 2008
  • NYCBSDCon 2008
  • EuroBSDCan 2008
  • meetBSD 2008
  • Foundation at meetBSD and Developer Recognition
  • 2008 Grant and Travel Grant Recipients
  • Travel Grant Recipient Spotlight
  • FreeBSD Testimonial from Hobnob, Inc.
  • Financials

Full newsletter below.


Letter From the Vice President 

Tribal Politics

Since the dawn of human society “tribal knowledge” has been synonymous with power. The tribe with the knowledge of fire and how to make the best arrow heads dominated the others. Of course today’s society is somewhat more civilized. We fight our battles with marketing briefs and product specs, measure tribal power with stock prices instead of a body count, and call tribal knowledge proprietary information. The concepts are the same. Protecting tribal knowledge is seen as a corner stone to success.

This belief is so strong it’s almost instinctual. Even between groups working on the same product within the same company, tribal knowledge is protected and used for political gain. Job security and a growing head count are often justified by claiming unique knowledge of a domain critical to the success of a product or company. This kind of tribal behavior often leads to local success at the expense of global failure.

Given this backdrop of tribal politics it’s not surprising that many classically trained business managers still, decades into the phenomena, don’t understand the OpenSource model. Perhaps you’ve seen this as resistance to adopting an Open Source tool at work. “How do we get them to fix the bugs that we find?” “What’s their motivation/business model for doing this work?” “It must cost something!”

When facing such a situation realize that this resistance is natural, and the questions you’ll be asked are not unreasonable. OpenSouce can be explained in terms understandable even to those most heavily entrenched in tribal politics. Here are some strategies to help you be successful.

First of all, be honest. OpenSource technology is not free. It’s really a tragedy that so much of the publicity behind this “movement” has made “free software” a synonym for OpenSource. There are costs associated with adopting and deploying any solution, even if you don’t have to write a check to obtain the software. These costs are usually higher than for commercial software (the installation process for OpenSource programs is usually the last thing to be improved) and often require staff to develop new skills or knowledge. For this reason, relying on cost to make your argument is a losing proposition.

The control argument is much more compelling. OpenSource allows for local innovation so a solution can be customized to exactly meet current and evolving needs. Software vendors do their best to anticipate what will work for most, but they can’t react as quickly or precisely as an in house team or a contractor dedicated to satisfying your requirements. This level of control isn’t free, but control isn’t free in tribal politics either. It’s also rarely combined with the ability to leverage the work of others.

This still leaves the question of sustainability: “How do I know that this solution (and the project developing it) will be there in the future?” This is where measuring the health of the community that supports a project comes into play. When buying a home, you do the same. Are the roads in good condition? Is there enough re-investment to keep them that way? The analogy is almost ideal. Vibrant OpenSource projects have active communities with a constant flow of re-investment by its participants. This attribute is measurable: use the activity on message boards and the history of feature additions and source code changes to make your argument.

Reinvestment isn’t guaranteed. Opponents of BSD licensed software cite this as the biggest drawback of our liberal license of choice. But communities, even those made up of tribes with different priorities, can’t survive without it. So we don’t have to reduce the control proposition of our software with onerous licensing terms in order to get the new talent, feature submissions, and other resources we need to survive. Whether the foundation of an embedded product, or the server platform for an online service, FreeBSD is a stable infrastructure that supports innovation. Our users know that with FreeBSD they can collaborate while maintaining control. That is what makes it such a compelling solution.

If your tribe could use FreeBSD for tribal advantage, I hope framing its qualities in these terms helps you to promote your cause. For those already benefitting from FreeBSD, remember that reinvestment isn’t guaranteed, but is required for those benefits to continue. Tribal leaders can be intimidating, but if you talk to them in the language they understand, they can be won over. And most know that reinvestment is a cost of doing business.

Justin T. Gibbs

Vice President and Founder

The FreeBSD Foundation

Fundraising Update

We are pleased to report, we have raised just over $200,000 so far this year. We would like to thank everyone who has donated to the foundation! Last year this time we had already raised $359,000. 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.

Our successful 2007 fundraising allowed us to go to the community and ask for project proposals. We were able to commit just under $80,000 for projects to improve FreeBSD this year. Some of the projects are providing Java binaries, Network Stack Virtualization, Improving Hardware Performance Counter Support, making improvements to the TCP stack, and making FreeBSD tolerate the removal of active disk devices.

Some of the funding went to providing legal counsel to help the core team create a GPLv3 License Policy. We were also able to sponsor more conferences and travel grants this year. By meeting our goal this year we will be able to fund more projects in the future that will help improve FreeBSD. We would also like to continue our current support of FreeBSD related conferences, especially when some organizations are pulling out as sponsors.

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.

Safe Removal of Active Disk Devices

Earlier in the year we sent out a request for project proposals. We were excited to receive more proposals than we could fund. The board selected four projects to fund for 2008. We hope we will be able to fund more in the 2009.

The first project to get off the ground is to make FreeBSD tolerate the removal of active disk devices, such as when a USB flash device with a mounted filesystems is physically detached by a user. Currently the system may panic in this situation. The work involves adding proper reference counting to strategic portions of the kernel and modifying filesystems to properly handle “device lost” errors.

Edward Tomasz Napierala is the developer working on this project.

We are very excited to be able to fund this project, which we know is of great interest to our users, especially in the desktop space,

said Robert Watson, president of The FreeBSD Foundation.

Robert also said,

The removable USB disk causing a crash turns out to be our #1 reported bug.

I am very happy to have the opportunity to work on this exciting project,

said Edward Tomasz Napierala, FreeBSD developer.

It’s just wrong when the system panics because you removed the pendrive!

he added.

The project is on schedule to complete by February 2009.

Improvements to the FreeBSD TCP Stack

The second in the series of the selected proposals was awarded to Lawrence Stewart and Swinburne University of Technology’s Centre for Advanced Internet Architectures (CAIA, http://caia.swin.edu.au) for improvements to the FreeBSD TCP stack. This three-part project will include implementing Appropriate Byte Counting (ABC) RFC3465 support, adapting and merging CAIA’s Statistical Information for TCP Research (SIFTR) TCP analysis tool into FreeBSD, and making improvements to the TCP reassembly queue.

These changes target both improved performance and improved quality of the FreeBSD TCP stack through feature enhancements and integrated testing,

said Professor Grenville Armitage, CAIA’s Director. He also added,

We use FreeBSD daily in our IP networking research testbeds and for our centre’s various servers, so we’re looking forward to contributing these TCP improvements to the FreeBSD community.

Supporting the technology transfer of advanced systems research, such as CAIA’s work on the FreeBSD network stack, is a critically important role for The FreeBSD Foundation to play,

said Robert Watson, president of The FreeBSD Foundation.

The project will be completed by July 2009.

Network Stack Virtualization Project

We were very pleased to be able to continue the funding and work on the the network stack virtualization project, made possible by a grant from NLNet. The virtualized network stack will significantly enhance FreeBSD’s jail functionality, allowing jails to have their own complete and locally administered network stacks, including firewalls, routing, and IPsec configurations. We sponsored Bjoern Zeeb, a FreeBSD network developer, to enhance the existing prototype, now being merged into FreeBSD 8.x, as well as provide code review.

We are happy to announce the project has completed!

FreeBSD Advocacy in Ticino 2008

This year we gave a grant to Salvatore Albanese for FreeBSD advocacy in Ticino Switzerland. Salvatore works for OEMS Sagle and is a big FreeBSD advocate. Deb has had the pleasure of talking to him about his use and support of FreeBSD. He can talk to you for hours about his success stories using FreeBSD on the products he supports for his customers. We asked Salvatore to write up a short article on what was involved in FreeBSD Advocacy in Ticino.

The FreeBSD Foundation

In the past 14 months I have been working on a FreeBSD Advocacy push here in Ticino Switzerland, made direct mailing to companies and schools and universities here in Switzerland. I attended a TILUGS meeting and was able to give out some information about FreeBSD and about the Desktop solutions offered based on FreeBSD (PC-BSD and DesktopBSD). This year included a Booth at the OpenExpo in Winterthur Zurich, and a stand at the Ticino Informatica 2008 Lugano Switzerland. At these events we handed out over 750 CD/DVDs of FreeBSD, PC-BSD, and DesktopBSD. We handed out many flyers in German and English, and made a couple of flyers in Italian too. We will soon have more information and the flyers uploaded to the web site www.alpifoss.ch. I was given support from the following: O’Reilly books, No Starch Press, FreeBSD Mall, The FreeBSD Foundation, Steg Computers AG, Bamboo House SA, AGIP Dirinella, Kambly Switzerland AG, and OEMS Sagl (the company where I work supported 85% of the costs of the project). I was able to show the M0n0Wall Solution thanks to Manuel Kasper lending me one to have at the stand in Lugano for display.

I was very pleased to see so many students who seemed interested in FreeBSD; this could be our future developers. I found many faculty members who were interested in having me visit their classes to make a presentation and pass out CD/DVDs to the students so they can try FreeBSD. I feel this publicity is very important for the FreeBSD community and allows people to get to know what The FreeBSD Foundation is and how it helps The FreeBSD Project.

I am hoping to attend the OpenExpo 2009 in Bern, April 1-2, 2009 and Winterthur Zurich September 23-24, 2009 to continue with the advocacy. For more information see www.openexpo.ch.

Salvatore Albanese

NYCBSDCon 2008

NYCBSDCon 2008 was held at Manhattan’s Columbia University campus over the weekend of October 11th and 12th, 2008.

Links to audio recordings of the presentations are available on the conference web site, and the presentations are slowly making their way up also. It is possible that video recordings of the conference will also be posted.

Conference participants and organizers were honored to have the FreeBSD Foundation as a major sponsor.

Systems administrators, end-users and developers from all the BSD projects attended a variety of presentations covering topics from the portable C compiler to ZFS. A number of other systems administration and development-related talks covered the spectrum of topics of interest to *BSD Users.

iXsystems provided material and table-sitters for the FreeBSD table, selling and distributing various wares, including FreeBSD boxer shorts and t-shirts.

Other significant conference happenings include seven test-takers for the BSD Certification exam, a Saturday night social with an open bar sponsored by Sun Microsystems, lots of free t-shirts and BSD Magazines, but most importantly, a great opportunity for users and especially developers of the different projects to speak face-to-face.

Will Backman of BSD Talk provided some live, onsite streaming of participant interviews.

NYCBSDCon began in 2005, and except for 2007, has held a fall conference organized by members of the New York City *BSD User Group.

Contributed by the NYCBSDCon 2008 committee

EuroBSDCan 2008

This autumn EuroBSDCon 2008 took place in Strasbourg, France. The Foundation was one of the main sponsors of this event. This year about a hundred people attended four days of tutorials and conferences. Conferences covered topics like embedded BSD (with Cor Hilbrink, Paul Schenkeveld, Marten Vijn, Philip Paeps), package/ports testing/managing (with Dirk Meyer, Ion-Mihai Tetcu), performance optimization and methodology (Brooks Davis, George V. Neville-Neil, Paul Richards ), network stack ( Robert Watson, George V. Neville-Neil, Yvan Vanhullebus ), file system ( Nick Barkas ), and User/admin experience (Pedro F. Giffuni, Russell Sutherlandi, Michael Dexter ).

Slides and audio records of the talks are available on the EuroBSDCon website, and screencasts on the University of Strasbourg’s website (http://audiovideocours.u-strasbg.fr : In the field “Formation” select “eurobsdcon” and click on “Lancer la recherche”).

A FreeBSD Developer Summit, organized by Ollivier Robert, also took place before the conference.

The Foundation grant was spent on the speakers’ travel, accomodations, and meals.

Contributed by the EuroBSDCon 2008 committee

meetBSD 2008

The meetBSD California conference, held at the Googleplex in Mountain View this past November, was a huge success. More than 250 BSD enthusiasts, system administrators, developers, and advocates gathered together to listen to many technical talks, attend productive breakout sessions, and celebrate the 15th Anniversary for the FreeBSD Project.

The FreeBSD Foundation’s financial contribution allowed the meetBSD conference team to bring in several highly qualified FreeBSD speakers, put them up in the conference hotel, and provide several meals for them. Following the conference, there was an invite-only FreeBSD Developers Summit attended by most of the speakers from the meetBSD conference.

Conferences like meetBSD benefit the FreeBSD Project by facilitating face-to-face collaboration and brainstorming amongst community members. Many ideas are exchanged and debated while the community is updated on new projects and the status of ongoing efforts.

Contributed by Matt Olander, meetBSD California

Foundation at meetBSD and Developer Recognition

The FreeBSD Foundation president, Robert Watson, recently presented a Foundation status update at the meetBSD 2008 conference, which took place at the Googleplex in Mountain View, California, and was sponsored by the FreeBSD Foundation. Among other topics, he discussed current Foundation activities, fund-raising, and the importance of our public support initiative.

Robert recognized the work of two critical FreeBSD developers on behalf of the Foundation board and FreeBSD Project core team: David Wolfskill, the FreeBSD Project’s postmaster, and Kris Kennaway, who has driven stability and performance work during the FreeBSD 7 development cycle. He gave them limited edition Foundation fleece vests.

You can listen to Robert’s talk, as well as other technical talks from meetBSD on the BSD Conferences page on YouTube.

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 http://www.freebsdfoundation.org/documents/TravelRequestForm.pdf. To get information on how to apply for a grant, please visit http://www.freebsdfoundation.org/documents/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
  • EuroBSDCon 2008 Conference
  • NYCBSDCon 2008 Conference
  • MeetBSD 2008
  • 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
  • Edward Tomasz Napierala – Safe Removal of Active Disk Devices
  • Lawrence Stewart and Swinburne University of Technology – Improvements to the FreeBSD TCP Stack
  • Bjoern Zeeb – Network Stack Virtualization Project

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.
  • Cambridge Developer Summit – Brooks Davis and Kristian Kennaway
  • MeetBSD – John Baldwin
  • Travel Grant Recipient Spotlight

Every year we provide travel grants to FreeBSD developers and community members to attend BSD related conferences worldwide. This year we sponsored Prakash Poudyal, an active community member from Kathmandu University, Nepal. Prakash graduated from Kathmandu in computer engineering and is currently enrolled as a System Administrator at the same university. Part of his job is to monitor the systems, make new IT policy and implementation of new technology, and do research work in Unix, specifically in FreeBSD.

Prakash was selected to be sponsored by the foundation to attend BSDCan 2007, but wasn’t able to get his travel visa on time. He was pretty determined to attend a FreeBSD conference. He made sure he got his application in early for AsiaBSDCon. We made sure we notified him early enough so he could get the paperwork needed to travel to Japan.

Prakash is so enthusiastic about FreeBSD and wants to encourage promoting FreeBSD and PCBSD in developing countries. His goal for attending AsiaBSDCon was to gain and share knowledge with other participants. It gave him a chance to discuss his research work that he did at his university. He received a lot of encouragement from other developers to contribute to the project.

Since the conference Prakash has spent time reading articles and listening to talks on the various BSD operating systems. He has participated in the PCBSD project, translating PCBS7 into the Nepali language. He is currently preparing to train more than 150 users in FreeBSD and PCBSD. He is working on promoting FreeBSD at his university as well as others in Nepal. He has also started writing an article about FreeBSD and PCBSD to help promote BSD in developing countries.

Prakash has ambitious plans to organize the NepaliBSD conference at his university. He is currently looking for sponsors. Ultimately, he dreams of being a core team member.

We are proud to sponsor people like Prakash. We can only do this because of the donations we receive from people like you. We hope to continue to sponsor FreeBSD developers and community members who will then go on to help improve, use, and promote FreeBSD.

FreeBSD Testimonial from Hobnob, Inc.

Hobnob provides large-scale mobile WiFi network solutions to corporations and public transportation agencies. Hobnob Diversified Networks ™ are the only mobile WiFi networks that deliver enterprise-class speed and reliability to mobile and non-LOS locations such as buses, rail cars, remote offices and building sites.

Hobnob chose FreeBSD because it is the only operating system that truly supports our mission: Delivering fast and reliable network service to our customers.

When Hobnob solves a technical problem that is not specific to our core business we are free to sponsor that work and contribute it back to the community. However, when we have a major technological breakthrough that’s critical to the future of the company, we’re not forced to give away that core IP and help put ourselves out of business.

Sponsoring and contributing non-Hobnob-core code not only strengthens the foundation for everyone including Hobnob, but also saves Hobnob time and money on maintenance and sustaining engineering. This relationship with FreeBSD creates the ideal conditions for rapid innovation and problem solving that are two critical requirements for any company planning to survive in the current business environment.

-Aron Hall, CEO Hobnob, Inc., www.hobnob.com

Financials

Our 2008 Q1-Q3 Profit/Loss and 2008 Q1-Q3 Balance Sheet are posted on our website.

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