Monday, June 4, 2012

BSDCan Trip Report: Thomas Abthorpe

The next trip report is from Thomas Abthorpe:

Third time is the charm. That is what is said when you have failed two times before and finally got it right on the third try. To put a more postive spin on it, the third time is the best one yet! I have been fortunate and privileged to travel to Ottawa for BSDCan three times now, courtesy of the FreeBSD Foundation. My first trip was in 2009. I was the new kid on the block, and felt excited and overwhelmed being surrounded by FreeBSD people. My second trip was in 2011, by this time I had been established as portmgr-secretary@, and felt quite comfortable in these now familiar surroundings and had an established niche. Here in 2012, on my third trip, I feel I am now beyond my sophmore period in the FreeBSD Project, and most importanly, able to attend the event through it's entirety, something I had not been able to do in years gone by.

I had four full days to spend in Ottawa, and I was determined to make the most of it. I arrived on campus near midnight on Tuesday evening and was greated by some familiar and not so familiar faces outside of the residence. Baptiste Daroussin and Beat Gaetzi, my fellow Port Managers, were there among the crowd of well wishers. I met Baptiste last year, and was meeting Beat for the very first time, and lucky me, Beat is almost as big a hockey fan as I am! The three of us took the next hour to socialise and get (re)acquainted.

Wednesday was the start of the Developers Summit. After the introductory session was held, developers were sent off to their respective working groups. Three Ports working groups were scheduled commencing after 11:00, so the Ports Management Team opted to take advantage of having an unprecedented five members (Mark Linimon, Beat Gaetzi, Baptiste Daroussin, Erwin Lansing and myself) present to meet during the free time. We managed to link in Florent Thoumie via Skpe, and discussed matters relating to the future of the Ports infrastructure. For the remainder of the Ports sessions, Mark Linimon facilitated the discussions. Other members of the team took turns to talk about their specific areas of interest. That night for supper, I took a group of European ports committers (Baptiste Daroussin, Julien Lafayye, myself, and Florian Smeets) out to indulge in Canadian comfort food, commonly called poutine. They have heard me talk about it in IRC for a long time, and decided it was finally time to give it a try. They said they came to Canada for BSDCan, but decided to stay for the poutine.

Day two of the Developers Summit was a little more subdued, instead of being focused intently on working groups, this day was more informational updates from various presenters. I attended the Admins session to hear what our clusteradm@ folk were up to, plus get a situation report around “Project Evil”. Following that, I attended the Toolchain update, so I could get a sense of when Clang would get turned on by default, and the possible spin off repercussions on the Ports infrastructure. Following the lunch break, the Working groups reports were presented. In a perfect world, I would have attended all the sessions, but alas, I could not, so I got a summary of what everybody was up to. I was particularly encouraged and inspired by the presentation that Benedict Reuschling, bcr@, gave from the Documentation working group. They have identified a need for new documentation committers, and a desire to try new methods to encourage and mentor new committers into the Doc tree. For my third conference I was able to attend a dot zero planning session. In many of our professional lives, we have little or no control nor influence over what goes into a .0 release, and here I am listening in on what would be done. This is still an amazing experience for me, and I just sit there like a little child in the presence of his hero, taking in the whole experience.

Day one of the conference saw a whole new opening, a bagpiper leading a kilted Dan Langille into the the lecture theatre. This was just the energy injection the crowd needed to kick start
the day! Keeping with my ports theme, I attended Mark Linimon's s Progress in FreeBSD Ports session, followed by Steve Wills' Ports testing session. My third session of the day was something I can hope to bring back to my employer, FreeBSD on MS Hyper-v. This is one of the few times in which my day job co-incides. Following the lunch break, I took in Benedict Reushling's talk about on the Google Code-in. I find it extremely encouraging to hear about teenaged students participating in open source. I was especially pleased to see, as a result of the project, that we benefitted from getting a new documentation committer. The final session I attended was DNSSEC. I have been doing some light reading on this in the last year, and dabbling with the notion of trying to set it up. My biggest take away from this session was to be extra special careful, as you can really do harm to yourself if you do not know what you are doing.

Day two of the conference, it was already Saturday, and I was really finding that the wear and tear of the week was catching up to me! I attended Tom Judge's session on Building a FreeBSD based Virtual appliance. His format was tutorial like in it's approach, and I found the step by step instructions particularly useful! I hope to be able to use this approach to prototype some envrionments in the future. The final talk I attended was Baptiste Daroussin's presentation of pkgng, the Next Generation of ports management. His session last year during the Developer's Summit was the proof of concept, this year he had a working demonstration that (hopefully) won over a whole new group of converts!

The Developers Summit and the Conference is the tangibles that I can bring forward as part of my contribution to the FreeBSD project. The intangibles is; the time spent in the Hacker's Lounge and meeting somebody new; or going to breakfast with a group of people you have never met before; or introducing people to the joys of poutine. This was by far the best BSDCan I have ever attended, and I am very grateful to the FreeBSD Foundation for sponsoring me to attend.

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