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Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work (Aristote)

My euroBSDCon 2017

Posted on 2017-10-16 09:43:00 from Vincent in Open Bsd

Let me just share my feedback on those 2 days spent in Paris for the EuroBSDCon. My 1st BSDCon.

I'm not a developer, contributor, ... Do not expect to improve your skills with OpenBSD with this text :-)

I know, we are on Octover 16th, and the EuroBSDCon of Paris was 3 weeks ago :(. I'm not quick !!! Sorry for that

Arrival at 10h, I'm too late for the start of the key note.
The few persons behind a desk welcome me by talking in Dutch, mainly because of my name. Indeed, Delft is a city in Netherlands, but also a well known university. I inform them that I'm from Belgium, and the discussion moves to the fact the Fosdem is located in Brussels. I receive my nice T-shirt white and blue, a bit like the marine T-shirts, but with the nice EuroBSDCon logo. I'm asking where are the different rooms reserved for the BSD event. We have 1 big on the 1st floor, 1 medium 1 level below, and 2 smalls 1 level above. All are really easy to access.
In this entrance we have 4 or 5 tables with some persons representing their company. Those are mainly the big sponsors of the event providing details about their activity and business. I discuss a little bit with StormShield and Gandi.
On other tables people are selling BSD t-shirts, and they will quickly be sold.

For the few 10 minutes left, I decide to go to the auditorium room, listening to the end of the key note. The room is already very crowded.

Then comes the 1st break. 300 persons in the small corridor is a bit complex. But it's a good way to follow and participate in the different discussions.

"Is it done yet ?" The never ending story of pkg tools

In the last Fosdem, I've already hear Antoine and Baptiste presenting the OpenBSD and FreeBSD battle, I decide to listen Marc Espie in the medium room called Karnak.
Marc explains that he has rewritten completely the pkg_add command. He explains that, at contrario with other elements of OpenBSD, the packages tools must be backward compatible and stable on a longer period than 12 months (the support period for OpenBSD).
On the funny side, he explains that he has his best idea inside his bath. Hackathons are also used to validate some ideas with other OpenBSD developers. All in all, he explains that the most time consuming part is to imagine a good solution. Coding it is quite straightforward. He adds that better an idea is, shorter the implementation will be.

Then this is the pause for the lunch. Every participant receive a bag with 2 small sandwiches, some pasta and a cake. As you can imagine all possible seats are already used. Eating in the conferences rooms is forbidden, so I decide to sit on the stairs to eat my meal. Close to me on the stairs Mr Kirk McKusick, "mister UFS" himself. Finally, after few minutes the stairs are full of persons eating their lunch pack.
This is a bit improvised, but the good think is that you can meet and discuss easily with various different persons.

A Tale of six motherboards, three BSDs and coreboot

After the lunch I decide to listen the talk about Coreboot. Indeed, 1 or 2 years ago I had listened the Libreboot project at Fosdem. Since they did several references to Coreboot, it's a perfect occasion to listen more carefully to this project. Piotr and Katazyba Kubaj explains us how to boot a machine without the native Bios. Indeed Coreboot can replace the bios, and defacto avoid several binaries imposed by the vendor. They explain that some motherboards are supporting their code. But they also show how difficult it is to flash a Bios and replace it by Coreboot. They even have destroyed a motherboard during the installation. Apparently because the power supply they were using was not stable enough with the 3v.
It's really amazing to see that opensource developers can go, by themselves, to such deep technical level.

State of the DragonFly's graphics stack

After this Coreboot talk, I decide to stay in the room to follow the presentation of Fran?ois Tigeot. Fran?ois is now one of the core developer of DrangonflyBSD, an amazing BSD system having his own filesystem called Hammer. Hammer offers several amazing features like snapshots, checksum data integrity, deduplication, ...
Fran?ois has spend his last years to integrate the video drivers developed for Linux inside DrangonflyBSD.
He explains that instead of adapting this code for the video card to the kernal API of DrangonflyBSD, he has "simply" build an intermediate layer between the kernel of DragonflyBSD and the video drivers. This is not said in the talk, but this effort is very impressive. Indeed, this is more or less a linux emulator inside DragonflyBSD.
Francois explains that he has started with Intel video driver (drm/i915), but now he is able to run drm/radeon quite well, but also drm/amdgpu and drm/nouveau.

After this presentation, this is a good moment to have a break, take some coffee, water or orange juice.

Discovering OpenBSD on AWS

Then I move to the small room at the upper level to follow a presentation made by Laurent Bernaille on OpenBSD and AWS.

First Laurent explains that he is re-using the work done by Antoine Jacoutot concerning the integration of OpenBSD inside AWS. But on top of that he has integrated several other Opensource solutions allowing him to build OpenBSD machines very quickly with one command. Moreover those machines will have the network config, the required packages, ...

On top of the slides presented, he shows us, in a real demo, how this system works. Amazing presentation which shows that, by putting the correct tools together, a machine builds and configure other machines in one go.
This system is also using the autoinstall system of OpenBSD.

OpenBSD Testing Infrastructure Behind

Here Jan Klemkow explains us that he has setup a lab where he is able to run different OpenBSD architectures. The system has been designed to be able to install, on demand, a certain version of OpenBSD on the different available machines.
On top of that a regression test script can be triggered. This provides reports showing what is working and what is not more working on the different machines.
If I've well understood, Jan is willing to provide such lab to the core developers of OpenBSD in order to allow them to validate easily and quickly their code.
Some more effort is needed to reach this goal, but with what exists today, Jan and his colleague are quite close. Since his company is using OpenBSD business, to his eyes this system is a "tit for tat" to the OpenBSD community.

French story on cybercrime

Then comes the second keynote of the day in the big auditorium. This talk is performed by the colonel of french gendarmerie. Mr Freyssinet, who is head of the Ciber crimes unit inside the Gendarmerie.
Mr Feyssinet explains that the "bad guys" are more and more volatile across countries, and more and more organized. The small hacker in his room, alone, is no more the reality. As a consequence the different national police investigators are collaborating more inside an organization called Interpol.
What is amazing in his talk is that Mr Freyssinet talks about "Crime as a service". Indeed, more and more hackers are selling their services to some "bad and temporary organizations".
Without giving any names, he explains us that several complex criminal organisations are identified and all involved persons are now in jail.

Social event

It's now time for the famous social event on the river: la Seine.
The organizers ask us to go, by small groups, to a station. There is a walk of 15 minutes inside Paris. Hopefully the weather is perfect. To identify them clearly several organizers takes a "beastie fork" in their hands and walk on the sidewalk generating some amazing reactions from some citizens and toursits. Some of them recognize the Freebsd logo and ask us some details. Amazing :-)
We walk on small and big sidewalks until a small stair going under the street. There, we have a train station a bit like a metro station. 3 stations later they ask us to go out. We walk few minutes and come in front of a boat having a double deck: one inside, with nice tables and chairs and one on the roof. But the crew ask us to go up, on the second deck. There, we are welcome with a glass of wine. The tour Eiffel is just at few 100 meters from us. Every hour the Eiffel tower is blinking for 5 minutes with thousands of small lights. Brilliant :-)

The weather is still very good and most of the persons remains on this second deck offering us nice view on Paris, the Seine and the bridges under which we pass. Some bridges are not so high and we can easily touch their walls. We see also the "statue de la libertee" (the small one) which is on a small island in the middle of the river.
During the whole night the bar will be open with drinks and some appetizers, snacks, ...
Such walking diner is perfect to talk with many different persons.
I've discussed with several persons just using BSD, they are not, like me, deep and specialized developers. One was from Switzerland, another one from Austria, and another one from Netherlands. But I've also followed a discussion with Theo de Raadt, several persons of the FreeBSD foundation. Some are very technical guys, other just users, like me. But all with the same passion for one of the BSD system. Amazing evening.

Finally at 00h30 the boat comes back to his initial place.

The travel back was not so well organized. In fact several persons have taken train, metro, ? to go back directly to their own hotel. Groups where much smaller and less organized. I was in a group of 3 persons willing to go back near the conference building. Finally we have found the correct train and train station and were back around 01h00.

All in all, the night was good but short.

OpenBSD's small steps towards DTrace (a tale about DDB and CTF)

On the second day, I decide to sleep enough in order to have enough resources to drive back to my home (3 hours by car). So I miss the 1st presentations, and arrive at the event around 10h30. Lot of persons are already present. Some faces are less "fresh" than others.

I decide to listen to Dtrace in OpenBSD. After 10 minutes I am so lost into those too technical explainations, that I decide to open and look at my PC. My OpenBSD laptop is rarely leaving my home, so I've never had the need to have a screen locking system. In a crowded environment, this is better. So I was looking for a simple solution. I've looked at how to use xlock. I've combined it with the /ets/apm/suspend script, ... Always very easy to use OpenBSD :-)

Then comes the lunch. Some model of sandwishes as yesterday, but with other tastes.

The OpenBSD web stack

Then I decide to follow the presentation of Michael W Lucas. Well know person for his different books about "Absolute OpenBSD", Relayd", ...
Micheal talks about the httpd daemon inside OpenBSD. But he also present his integration with Carp, Relayd, PF, FastCGI, the rules based on LUA regexp (opposed to perl regexp), ...
For sure he emphasis on the security aspect of those tools: privilege separation, chroot, ...

OpenSMTPD, current state of affairs

Then I follow the presentation of Gilles Chehade about the OpenSMTPD project.
Amazing presentation that, on top of the technical challenges, shows how to manage such project across the years. Gilles is working on OpenSMTPD since 2007, thus 10 years !!!.
He explains the different decisions they took to make the software as simple as possible to use, but as secure as possible too: privilege separation, chroot, pledge, random malloc, ? . The development starts on BSD systems, but once quite well known they received lot of contributions from Linux developers.
He explains that they are testing the stability of the system by setting up a sandbox and asking persons to try to overload it. He explains that they have also performed a "code audit" to assure that the code is the best possible they could have.

Hoisting: lessons learned integrating pledge into 500 programs

After a small break, I decide to listen to Theo de Raadt, the founder of OpenBSD. In his own style, with trekking boots, shorts, backpack.
Theo starts by saying that Pledge is the outcome of nightmares. Theo explains that the book called "Hacking blind" presenting the BROP has worried him since few years.
That's why he developed Pledge as a tool killing a process as soon as possible when there is an unforeseen behavior of this program. For example, with Pledge a program which can only write to disk will be immediately killed if he tries to reach network.
By implementing Pledge in the +-500 programs present in the "base", OpenBSD is becoming more secured and more robust.

Shame on me, It is 16h30 and I leave without following the closure keynote. I have to ride during 3 hours and with the previous night it is better for me, and my car, to ride before the dark night.


My first EuroBSDCon was a great, interesting and cool event. I've discussed with several BSD enthusiasts. I'm using OpenBSD since 2010, but I'm not a developer, so I was worried to be "lost" in the middle of experts. In fact it was not the case. At EuroBSDCon you have many different type of enthousiasts BSD's users.

What is nice with the EuroBSDCon is that the organizers foresee everything for you. You just have to site and listen. They foresee even how to spend, in a funny and very cool attitude, the evening of Saturday.

The small draw back is that all of this has a cost. In my case the whole weekend cost my a bit more than 500euro. Based on what I've learned, what I've saw this is very acceptable price. Nearly all presentations I saw give me a valuable input for my daily job.
For sure, the total price is also linked to my personal choice: hotel, parking.
And I'm surely biased because I'm used to go to the Fosdem in Brussles which cost nothing (entrance) and is approximatively 45 minutes of my home. But Fosdem is not the same atmosphere and presentations are less linked to my daily job.

I do not regret my trip to EuroBSDCon and will surely plan other ones.

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