Monday, November 25, 2013

Faces of FreeBSD - Gabor Pali

Faces of FreeBSD

Each week we are going to share a story from someone involved in FreeBSD. This is our Faces of FreeBSD series. It may be a story from someone who’s received funding from us to work on development projects, run conferences, travel to conferences, or advocate for FreeBSD. Or, it may be from someone who contributes financially to the foundation.

Here’s a chance to get to know your fellow FreeBSD enthusiast. Sit back and enjoy another 2013 Faces of FreeBSD story.

Gábor’s Story

My name is Gábor Páli, I am 31 years old, from Hungary, and I teach (and study) functional programming at the Eötvös Loránd University, Faculty of Informatics (Budapest).  I have a master’s degree (Debrecen, Hungary) and a doctorate (Cluj-Napoca, Romania) in Computer Science.

Before this I was a game engine programmer at Invictus Games, working on Project Torque (known as Level-R outside North America), then a research intern at Chalmers University of Technology (Gothenburg, Sweden), and recently at the Computer Laboratory (Cambridge, UK), participating in research projects on functional programming and operating systems, such as Feldspar and Mirage.

When not working, I am an average geek who enjoys reading books on science, philosophy, and art, chatting with friends, playing good old computer games, watching art movies, drawing, listening to underground music, and consuming excessive amounts of fine Japanese or Chinese teas.

I discovered FreeBSD in 2000 while working on my master’s. I met János Háber, who admired the technical merits of FreeBSD and recommended it over the popular and widespread GNU/Linux distributions. I downloaded FreeBSD 4.3-RELEASE, found it reliable, consistent, easy to install, update and use. I especially liked the Ports Collection, as it helped me find further useful and valuable free software.

I’ve contributed to the FreeBSD Project since 2008: I translated the complete FreeBSD Handbook and other documentation into Hungarian and took over and revitalized the FreeBSD stack of the Haskell programming language, including making FreeBSD Tier-1 for the Glasgow Haskell Compiler and providing ports for hundreds of third party Haskell libraries. 

I volunteered to take over organization of the EuroBSDcon FreeBSD Developer Summits in 2010 and have organized in Karlsruhe (Germany), Maarssen (Netherlands), Warsaw (Poland) and most recently in St. Julian's (Malta).  I’ve run a mini version of EuroBSDcon, called BSD-Day, in Budapest (Hungary), Bratislava (Slovakia), Vienna (Austria), and Naples (Italy).

I’m secretary of the FreeBSD Core Team (since 2012), and maintain the agenda, organize meetings, publish internal, external reports and notices, handle commit bit requests for the source code repository, collaborate with the FreeBSD Foundation, and remind the Core Team members about their pending tasks. I also manage the quarterly status reports.

I like FreeBSD because of the community, and the ability to find and push my limits. I enjoy contributing to FreeBSD because it inspires me and gives me hands-on experience that can’t be bought. I enjoy learning from FreeBSD experts around the globe, and am impressed with what has been achieved over the years. I recognize the outstanding stability and reliability of FreeBSD, the ability to configure systems to maximize efficiency, and FreeBSD’s use as a research platform. I appreciate how the FreeBSD Project welcomes and utilizes innovative ideas.

The FreeBSD Foundation gave me a travel grant for EuroBSDcon 2012. They were a main sponsor of the BSD-Day events, and covered half the cost of the Developer Summit in Malta. I am very grateful for this support, as they would not be possible without the generous funds.

The Developer Summits allow developers the space to personally meet and to discuss issues they could not over the Internet. It’s important to be able to attach a face to an Internet personality; sometimes the harshest, stubborn members are the nicest people in real life.

The BSD-Day events that I organize allow cities and countries to have their own BSD conference at a much smaller cost. BSD-Days have less formalities and pressure, yet they retain most of the traditions and ambience of the large conferences of EuroBSDcon, on a smaller budget.

Donating to the FreeBSD Foundation is a great way to express your appreciation for the work of the FreeBSD Project.  Your donation makes it possible for developers to dedicate their time to complete long-awaited projects, or brings developers from overseas to technical conferences such as EuroBSDcon. This is something that would not happen without your support.

Gábor Páli

Donate today to help us continue and increase our support of the FreeBSD Project and community worldwide! Making a donation is quick and easy. To make a donation go to:

Friday, November 22, 2013

vBSDCon Trip Report: John-Mark Gurney

The first trip report from vBSDCon is from John-Mark Gurney:

Thank you for the opportunity to go to vBSDcon.  vBSDcon was a great conference, and I was immediately and warmly welcomed by the host, Verisign, when I arrived.  They ran an exceptional conference and I hope this becomes an annual event.

One of the main reasons I attended the conference was to be able to meet FreeBSD developers I haven't seen for years and to meet new FreeBSD developers.  For the first time, I met Luigi Rizzo who I worked with over 15 years ago on FreeBSD's sound system and ISA UPnP code.  It was good to meet him and talk about some of his netmap work.

I also met some long time developers, Scott Long and George Neville-Neil, but I also met some that I haven't met before such as Adrian Chadd, David Chisnall (theraven), Ed Maste, Randall Stewart (rrs) and Baptiste Daroussin (bapt).  There are many more that I am forgetting, but that's simply because the conference was well attended.

I participated in the embedded BOF.  It was well attended and Adrian Chadd was the leader.  One of the issues that came up was the issue of how to make ARM and/or MIPS platforms Tier 1.  It was discussed how relevant the requirement that a new Tier 1 platform must be able to cross-build packages from an existing Tier 1 platform.  There was also discussions on which ARM board should be chosen was a reference platform.  The ones that were discussed as most viable were the BeagleBone Black, Raspberry Pi, a ChromeBook or a PandaBoard.

I attended the talk that Verisign gave on how they use FreeBSD to host the .net and .com domains.  It was impressive what they are able to do with netmap for UDP traffic, but they are also running issues w/ TCP connection performance on FreeBSD due to some lock scaling issues.

The hallway track is always interesting, and I was able to talk with David Chisnall about ways to possibly support changing functions at kernel load time to choose the best implementation.  One use of this would be to choose which AES implementation is best for the machine. If the machine has support for native AES instructions (AES-NI for example) it would use that, otherwise it could fall back to a software implementation.

Though unfortunately the hallway track made me miss Brad Davis's Speed Geeking talk on GELI, but it did allow me to spend time talking with Matt Olander, co-founder of iXsystems, Inc.  It was interesting to learn about the history of iX and find out about where they are interested in going with FreeBSD.  I may be able to help them with some work on FreeBSD in the future.

I attended the talk that Henning Brauer and Reyk Floeter gave on pf in OpenBSD.  The new features that pf has are very interesting and exciting. The features make possible reverse HTTP proxies and other packet steering techniques very easy to do.  I do wonder if using DXR for the table lookups that pf/ipfw do could be helpful, though the rule scanning overhead is still probably the largest overhead.

In summary, the conference was great and I was able to meet a large number of people and get some great ideas on how to help move FreeBSD forward.

Thank you again FreeBSD Foundation for providing me with the travel grant.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Faces of FreeBSD - Colin Percival

Faces of FreeBSD

We are pleased to be running our Faces of FreeBSD series again! Every week we’ll be sharing a story from someone involved in FreeBSD. It may be someone who’s received funding from us to work on development projects, run conferences, travel to conferences, or advocate for FreeBSD. Or, it may be from someone who contributes financially to the foundation. This story comes from Colin Percival whose company is a 2013 Silver Donor.

This is a chance to get to know your fellow FreeBSD enthusiast. Sit back and enjoy our first 2013 Faces of FreeBSD story.

Colin’s Story

It was 1999 when my parents signed up for the height of luxury in home internet access: an “always on” 2Mbps cable modem.  We had four computers, networked with thinwire coax. We needed to share this connection, so my older brother and I set up a NAT box, running OpenBSD, which he heard was the best operating system for the purpose.

The hard drive we had scavenged for the NAT box died a few months later. I had to reinstall the system onto a new hard drive and spent hours trying to reinstall OpenBSD without success. Then I heard that FreeBSD had a much easier installer. Yes, I started using FreeBSD because of *sysinstall*.

Thus FreeBSD became my default UNIX of choice—and why not?  It was free, stable, had good performance, was well documented, and it avoided the political and religious discussions so pervasive in the world of Linux and GNU.

I headed to Oxford University for my doctorate a few years later, to work on "distributed computing" and extend my undergraduate work—calculating the quadrillionth bit of Pi using spare CPU cycles on a thousand plus Windows machines from around the Internet. Naturally, I turned to FreeBSD for the server to manage all these systems.

But I became distracted, concerned about the security of my server, and understanding my limitations as a system administrator (and that "fools rush in where angels fear to tread"). I solved the problem of my system administration inadequacies by building a tool to help me—and thus FreeBSD Update was born.  I presented this at the BSDCon'03 conference, which is where I first met FreeBSD developers, including Jacques Vidrine (the FreeBSD Security Officer) and Robert Watson.

I was offered a FreeBSD commit bit in 2004 with Robert as mentor; and Jacques invited me to join the FreeBSD Security Team. When Jacques stepped down from his role in order to work for a fruit company based in Cupertino, I took the reigns as Security Officer, and between security advisories, I imported into the FreeBSD base system what remain my two largest contributions to FreeBSD thus far: FreeBSD Update and Portsnap.

I stepped down as FreeBSD Security Officer in 2012 to devote more time to my growing startup company. My only significant code contributions in the past two years have been from ongoing efforts to improve support for FreeBSD on the Amazon EC2 cloud computing platform.

While my "day job" of running the Tarsnap online backup service has kept me too busy to contribute much code, I contribute to FreeBSD by supporting the FreeBSD Foundation.  Every year Tarsnap sponsors open source software by an amount equal to its December operating profits, and I'm proud to say that in 2013 Tarsnap is a Silver Sponsor of both the FreeBSD Foundation and the BSDCan conference.

The FreeBSD Foundation continues to benefit all of us. I run FreeBSD on my laptop, and it works well there—mainly due to Foundation-funded work, adding support for recent Intel GPU hardware.  While maintaining systems for Tarsnap, I make use of the new packaging system (pkg), which the Foundation contributes hardware towards.

To improve support for FreeBSD on EC2, I've been working closely with the FreeBSD Release Engineering team, where Glen Barber (now a FreeBSD Foundation employee) has kept the release process moving very smoothly.  The FreeBSD Developer Summits at BSDCan and EuroBSDCon—opportunities to meet other FreeBSD developers and discuss development plans face to face—have also been supported by the FreeBSD Foundation.

FreeBSD is an amazing operating system, and the FreeBSD Foundation does great work supporting it.  Like so many other busy FreeBSD users, I cannot contribute as much code as I would like, but via the FreeBSD Foundation I can help other developers write the code I don't have time for.

Colin Percival 

Donate today to help us continue and increase our support of the FreeBSD Project and community worldwide! Making a donation is quick and easy. To make a donation go to:

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

FreeBSD Foundation's Year-End Fundraising Campaign!

Dear FreeBSD Community,
Your donations have helped make FreeBSD the best open source operating system available! By investing in The FreeBSD Foundation you have helped us keep FreeBSD a high-performance, secure, and stable operating system.
Thanks to people like you, the FreeBSD Foundation has been proudly supporting the FreeBSD Project and community for over 13 years now. We are incredibly grateful for all the support we receive from you and so many individuals and organizations that value FreeBSD. As of this writing we have raised $427,000 towards our goal of raising $1,000,000. Would you consider making a gift to support our work in 2014?
Donations can easily be made here:
This year your donations helped FreeBSD by:
  • Funding development projects to improve FreeBSD, including: Native iSCSI kernel stack, Updated Intel graphics chipset support, Integration of Newcons, UTF-8 console support, Superpages for ARM architecture, and Layer 2 networking modernization and performance improvements.
  • Hiring two more staff members to help with FreeBSD development projects, security, and release engineering.
  • Educating the public and promoting FreeBSD. We are preparing the debut our new online magazine, the FreeBSD Journal. We created high-quality brochures to teach people about FreeBSD. We also visited companies to help facilitate collaboration efforts with the Project.
  • Sponsoring BSD conferences and summits in Europe, Japan, Canada, and the US.
  • Protecting FreeBSD IP and providing legal support to the Project.
  • Purchasing hardware to build and improve FreeBSD project infrastructure.
But are you aware of the tangible benefits derived from our support of the FreeBSD community? Providing travel grants to FreeBSD volunteers is a great way to invest in the future of FreeBSD. One person we sponsored was Google Summer of Code student Mike Ma, who had the chance to present his work at EuroBSDCon. During his presentation he received valuable input that will help improve and verify his GSoC work. By attending the conference, he had the opportunity to meet passionate FreeBSD developers who inspired him to learn as much as he could about their different projects. This encouraged him to continue working with his mentor and get involved in his mentor’s work as well as some lldb work.
Now that Mike’s back at his university, he's been busy promoting and advocating for FreeBSD. In fact he's so passionate about the Project now that he convinced a friend who is working on programming languages to work on the clang project, because it's relevant to his own work.
This one investment helped FreeBSD by providing an environment for a student to get more involved in the Project, and bring that enthusiasm back to his university to promote FreeBSD and encourage more students to get involved. This is an investment in the next generation of FreeBSD developers.
Donate today to help us continue and increase our support of the FreeBSD Project and community worldwide! Making a donation is quick and easy. Click here to make a donation.
Thank you for your support!
Deb Goodkin
The FreeBSD Foundation

Friday, November 1, 2013

Newcons system console project update

Aleksandr Rybalko continues to make good progress on the FreeBSD-Foundation sponsored Newcons project.  This project will provide a replacement for the legacy syscons system console.  Newcons provides a number of improvements, including better integration with graphics modes, and broader character set support.

FreeBSD's introduction of Kernel Mode Setting (KMS)-enabled graphics drivers for X11 produced a regression when combined with syscons: it was no longer possible to switch back to a console after starting X.  Newcons integrates with KMS and restores this ability.

Newcons adds UTF-8 support and currently includes Latin and Cyrillic characters; additional ones will be added over time.  Aleksandr has an example of Cyrillic display and keyboard input in his blog posting at

I have switched my laptop, a Thinkpad X220, to a Newcons kernel.  In addition to the improved X11 integration mentioned above, a happy side effect is that suspend and resume again works.

Newcons has a small number of outstanding issues which are currently being fixed, with integration into FreeBSD HEAD to follow shortly.  More details on the project can be found on the FreeBSD wiki, at