Wednesday, June 8, 2011

BSDCan Trip Report: Sergio Ligregni

The Foundation recently sponsored Sergio Ligregni to attend BSDCan 2011. Here is his trip report:

The travel started at Mexico City's International Airport, flying to Montreal and then to Ottawa.

The first day of BSD activity was Wednesday, May 11th, when the FreeBSD DevSummit took place at the University of Ottawa. We arrived, got our badges and started discussing development stuff. I was invited by Robert Watson to the Capsicum DevSummit. Unfortunately he was not there in person, instead of that, we talked to the Watson Box (Robert via Skype); I think this will remain famous through the years.

The DevSummit was interesting. It was my first Summit and I thought it would be like other conferences but with more participation from the audience. I was happily surprised when I found that there were opinions and really technical discussions on how to follow the development of the Capsicum framework. Pawel Dawidek explained how he performs some process "jailing" and how Capsicum is helping to achieve his goal, but also what he does not like too much and some ideas how to improve it. I felt surrounded by really serious security people, like my mentor in GSoC 2010, Stacey Son, who I finally was able to meet in person.

After that Summit I had the opportunity to talk to Dru Lavigne and ask her some final questions before taking my BSDA Certification Exam, like if it is needed to know all about the four BSDs regarding the certification goals (the answer: yes!).

In the second day of the Summit, Justin Gibbs gave a FreeBSD Foundation Report. I learned how the Foundation helps to spread the word on FreeBSD by sponsoring events and attendees. I analyzed that there's a gap in the Latin America area (north and central). I asked Justin how can the Foundation help to get a BSDCon in Latin American north area (since there a couple of events in South America). I think that Justin's answer changed the purpose of my trip to Ottawa: "the FreeBSD Foundation would help to get a BSDCon there, but we need a local contact to organize it". I started thinking on a next BSDCon in Mexico that covers the Mexico & Central America area.

The seed is set, it's just a matter of getting the elements to bring BSD to Mexico. I decided to give my mobile phone a better use than texting friends and I started interviewing people, important *BSD people, like:

* Michael Lucas - BSD books author
* Pawel Dawidek - FreeBSD commiter
* Stacey Son - FreeBSD/TrustedBSD developer
* Matt Olander
* Dan Langille - BSDCan organizer
* Brett Davis - iXsystems sales manager (I am trying to get more FreeBSD users by letting they know they will have strong support services)
* Dru Lavigne
* Josh Paetzel - FreeBSD developer (iXsystems)
* Julio Merino - NetBSD developer
* George Neville-Neil

The goal is to let the Universities know that *BSD is serious, in order to get some sponsorship and a venue. Also to let the company managers know that the OS is not only a learning OS or a hobby. BSD can be used in a really serious way and it is not just saving money, it's about investing in improving the product and giving back to the community.

After the FreeBSD Foundation report, I saw how FreeBSD is "cooked". I was in the "kitchen" looking at how the new ideas and features are discussed, and the greatest part: once the board is full of items, it is time to assign them to the developers. I'd like to say "me" next time I am there. I want to be more prepared as I know there is a release in 4 months.

The first day of the BSDCan conference was on Friday. I was a little nervous since I was taking my BSDA Certification Exam in a couple of hours. We started with a talk about UNICS in an architectural view. It was more than the non-technical view of UNIX development and it was fun and interesting to hear that from someone that actually lived it.

Then I took my certification exam. I asked Dru how many BSDA certified professionals are out there and it was great to hear that more than 150 professionals are certified. I think, however, we need to keep pushing to get more people certified. I can speak from my experience that the test is not impossible, but it really tests you. I found it really interesting, actually. I am still waiting for my result and hope to pass the exam.

I attended some other conference sessions at BSDCan, both ones where I know about the topic and others where I didn't know it actually existed. It was great to meet such professionals and to learn about new features.

Some of the talks I remember were the Kris Moore talk about the new PBI format for PC-BSD/FreeBSD. I think that will help newcomers to get involved using the system by its simplicity but at the same time its robustness. Also, Josh Paetzel's talk about a project I am currently working on, the new installer pc-sysinstall. It felt great to know that my code will impact a lot of systems.

There were these talks of previously unknown but interesting things: like the new SQL for monitoring systems and the Superpages for memory management. I found those really interesting and will read and digest their papers.

About the conference: I can say that I met great and interesting people and became curious about a lot of stuff. I am willing to get a project finished and present it to the community at a future BSD conference.

I also have a lot of materials to start moving things in Latin America, such as the videos I recorded. There is already a guy in Mexico that started the FreeBSD community and its website. BSD is getting stronger here: in the last Latin American Open Source Install Festival, PC-BSD was the second most asked for OS. I am sure that with a lot of effort, the help from the community and Foundation, and a little bit of luck, we will plan the next Mexico BSDCon. I talked with a guy in the hostel about the conference I was attending and the plan to get one in Mexico, and he proposed SalsaBSDCon. I think that name is great and will help attract people here in Latin America. I think I can help to bring BSD to Mexico even though we are "so close Berkeley, so far BSD".

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