My NYCBSDCon trip


Here I think out loud about NYCBSDCon, presented from my cleaned-up notes taken on my phone during the event.  Get ready, cause there’s a lot of words here.

The event was very popular, to the point of overflowing the venue, Suspenders.  The venue was excellent, though.  The entire bar/restaurant was turned over to the convention for the day, and it made it easy to eat and drink – especially with the drink tickets that came with admission.  The food was fantastic.

New York City is a huge city with lots to see, so I imagine anyone visiting from out of town could bring along family and have the family be entertained while the conference is going on.  I managed to sneak in a trip to The Compleat Strategist and Desert Island Comics on the day before the convention, for example.

There were enough “famous” BSD people here that having, say, the roof fall in would have been a serious community setback.  One good explosion would have taken out the people behind this digest, BSDTalk, PC-BSD, BSDNow, etc.

The NYCBUG people are very open about how the whole process works, to the point of posting how the finances worked out.  “Excess” money is getting split up between the various BSDs, too, to the tune of some hundreds of dollars.  This was increased by Michael W. Lucas auctioning a signed copy of his Absolute OpenBSD 2nd edition book, which ended up being bought for $500.  I expect the financial results will be posted on the NYCBUG website at some point soon.

I nabbed a printed copy of the brand-new FreeBSD Journal, which just launched.  George Neville-Neil said that this is the only printed version that will ever exist, because printing is awful – I completely agree.  I need to cover this more in a separate post.

I experimented with not bringing my laptop and typing everything through my phone. It reduced my typing speed, but I was able to take notes and pre-write large chunks of this post as things happened. I have been thinking more and more in terms of setting things up with a tablet or phone as my ‘client’ and keeping.all useful data on my server, rather than work on a laptop with BSD installed. I’d like to be working in a BSD environment, but that’s hard to accomplish natively in a handheld format. Running things remotely from a BSD system might provide the equivalent, though. Not sure how well that would work – probably good content for another post.

The first presentation was ZFS/PC-BSD/FreeNAS, from Dru Lavigne. The PC-BSD Life Preserver application is a really nice way to view filesystem snapshots.  ZFS is really feature-rich, though it has high resources requirements compared to Hammer.  (of course I would say that.)  Dru Lavigne’s ZFS presentation slides are already up.

Ray Percival came all the way from Dallas to present “Interconnections with BSD”. Ray pointed out at dinner the night before that he is effectively able to autodeploy a firewall or other network device by remotely installing a BSD.  From Ray’s presentation : “Network engineers are discovering automation and calling it software defined networking.” That is talking about the configuration side only though, not control plane, as an audience member pointed out.  I still like the idea.  Ray made this point about support: you can buy expensive support from commercial vendors and talk to hit or miss support. With open source, you can usually talk directly to the person who makes the software itself. That doesn’t happen with vendors.

Something I took away from that and from the conference in general: BSD helps you avoid vendor lock-in. I was worried about having UNIX-familiar workers as backup at work, but: it doesn’t get better with proprietary tools.

Andrew Wong’s presentation about ZFS+FreeBSD+PostGres is from a software engineer point of view, not a sysadmin view. He described himself as “the enemy”.

Scott Long gave some details about how much traffic NetFlix pushes out (about a third of the Internet) and how much of it is on FreeBSD (almost all of it, yeesh).  The NetFlix plan is to deploy multiple relatively low-end FreeBSD systems out to ISPs to act as local content caches.  No virtualization, a light set of management tools through AWS, and when a box goes bad, they just take it out; no RAID or ZFS or other fancy steps.  They have 5 people managing 1000 machines.  

Scott made the point that they are aggressively talking to hardware vendors about support, and getting good responses back.  If you’re involved in some commercial venture with FreeBSD, talk to George Neville-Neil about the BSD hardware consortium; they’re working on a coordinated conversation with vendors to make sure BSD (probably FreeBSD only, but that’s a start) gets treated as a first-class citizen.

Jeff Rizzo described the many ways that NetBSD can be build, on most any supported platform and even not on NetBSD.  It sounds like the up-front work of getting build.sh to work in every circumstance has saved a lot of labor, later.

Michael Lucas had a very entertaining talk about DragonFly where he managed to name-drop DragonFly.  One of the points he made: when you write out a detailed justification for using open source products at your workplace, share it with the world, please.

I bought the lower-priced-than-they-needed-to-be shirts and stickers they had available, and managed to not win one of the cool PCEngines PFSense systems, with a fancy etched case.

There was also a number of demos going on during the afternoon break, though the only one I took any notes on was the one that I need to replicate at work: a PF /CARP failover setup.  They look like this on the inside.

Like I said for the last NYCBSDCon in 2010, it’s totally worth going.  I now have a long, long list of things I want to do and ideas to try, all from meeting people face to face and talking about what we can do.  It’s energizing, far more than meeting over IRC.  A third of the people there had no prior BSD experience.  George Rosamond mentioned that he was thinking they could do this perhaps every 6 months.

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  1. […] Saturday (8 Feb) NYCBSDCon 2014 took place, which according to the “My NCYBSDCon Trip” write-up by Justin Sherill (DragonFlyBSD), was a successful […]

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