BSDCan through the years

Monday, August 9, 2010

I’m Kirk Russell, a Google Site Reliability Engineer who moves files around the cloud at a massive scale. I use BSD software on a daily basis -- in my Android phone, my home NAS and my MacBook. My newest toy is a small ARM board that runs FreeBSD.

Earlier this year I attended BSDCan, a software conference for BSD based operating system projects. I attended this conference to learn about new BSD technology that will someday become part of my daily life and to meet people with similar interests -- there is time to chat in-between the scheduled talks and in the pub. BSDCan is a conference where I learn about new development that I can put to use both at work and at home. Learning these things from the original developers makes it that much more interesting.

Here is a quick reflection on some highlights of past conferences:
In 2004, I attended Ryan McBride's talk about PF, a BSD licensed packet filter.

In 2005, I learned about spamd at a talk from Bob Beck. After the conference, I deployed spamd at home -- my spam count dropped to almost zero. Spamd uses PF to block spam at the IP level. This saves resources on your server because you do not actually receive the mail. Adding packet filtering features to the base operating system has enabled new applicaitions, like spamd, to develop.

In 2006, I attended the Debugging Kernel Problems tutorial (PDF) given by Greg Lehey-- I continue to use these debugging tricks when debugging FreeBSD kernels today.

I attended Pawel Dawidek's ZFS talk in 2007. Today I use FreeBSD/ZFS on my home NAS -- I wouldn't think of running my NAS without the features of ZFS. I want my data to have data corruption detection. It is fantastic that a production filesystem can work in my tiny NAS! In 2007 I also saw the brilliant Poisonous People talk by Brian Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman. Part of this talk is about avoiding bikeshedding -- it was funny to watch when Fitz and Ben realized that Poul-Henning Kamp, the author of the original bikeshed email, was attending their talk.

2009 was a good year for NetBSD and filesystems. There was a talk about WAPBL a journaling filesystem in the NetBSD tree and RUMP -- a framework that allows NetBSD kernel filesystem code to execute in user space.

2010 showed BSD continuing to be used as a platform for OS research. Kirk McKusick's new Journaled Soft-Update improvements now allows fsck in a few seconds, instead of hours.
The BSD community continues to produce exciting software that can be used in small gadgets and production servers and BSDCan continues to be a fantastic venue to meet the people behind the scenes. Congrats to Dan and his team to volunteers -- I am looking forward to 2011.

By Kirk Russell, Site Reliability Team