Something blogged (on pkgsrcCon 2019)

pkgsrcCon 2019 was held in Cambridge this year. The routine as usual was social on the Friday evening, day of talks on the Saturday, hacking on things on the Sunday.
Armed with a bag of bits to record the talks, I headed up to Cambridge on Friday evening to meet up with sborrill before heading to the Castle Inn. Not much to report from Friday night, drinks were drunk, food was ate, PowerPC hardware was passed on.

Saturday morning started off with a brief intro by sborrill and pr1w1, followed by the first talk of the day by nia about audio(9) in NetBSD and her work to improve support in 3rd party software. [slides]

bsiegert was next, speaking about spellcheckers and how without careful consideration when developing an API, one can prevent downstream consumers from moving forward with a project. [slides]

This was preceeded by agc who gave the first of two talks on the work and methodoligies the team working on the OpenConnect appliances at Netflix use – life consuming FreeBSD-CURRENT and their development model (regular releases from the bleeding edge). The release they produce caters for several generation of hardware which is continuosly evolving, ranging from appliances based on conventional hard disk drives to all flash SSD appliances, and now, nvme based appliances.

We breaked for lunch at this point and went for a wonder to find the canteen.
First talk after lunch was by Natasa Milic-Frayling on Software preservation and digital continuity and the challenges with keeping legacy software running. Having successfully virtualised Windows based systems running all the way back to Windows 95, there were other challenges such as archiving distributed systems where proprietory software to be archived ran on one workstation, but data was sourced from other systems such as via ODBC or Active Directory (LDAP), increasing the scope of systems required to be archived in order for an application to function. As we move forward in time, legacy hardware becomes more fragile and harder to source parts for, unmaintained software which is no longer supported becomes a growing security risk, so, system get decommissioned but the data that lived on such systems may still be useful for reference.

After Natasa’s talk it was my turn to speak, I gave an update on the state pkgsrc support on OS X Tiger, followed by various books I’d read over the last 8 months and what I’d been working on in $dayjob, linking things back to Cambridge one way or another, turns out I had been reading about folks in Cambridge doing incredible work, it just happened that they were in Cambridge, Massachusetts along with the Mac Mini I was working form 🙂 [slides]

wiz followed on after me and spoke about the various groups in The NetBSD Foundation and the role they play in the day to day running of the project. From the board to the pkg-bug-handler teams and many others. [slides]

schmonz was our remote speaker, he gave a status update on the qmail distribution in pkgsrc and a new project called notqmail which provides a home as the upstream of this initiative. [demo and further info]

khorben revisited the topic of package signing with the work that happened in the past such as in EdgeBSD, improvements in NetBSD which could ease it such as developments in ptrace(2), and then opened up to a discussion around what’s required to provide signed packages.

agc wrapped up the day with the final talk, “large scale packaging” about how the packages which are shipped to the OpenConnect appliances are put together, using a cut back version of FreeBSD ports containing just the packages required.

Saturday night I headed back to London as I had a club night to attend before heading back on the Sunday. Somewhat drained, I made it home with the kit I’d carried up, showered, changed, and was back in Farringdon before midnight.

Come 2:30am, there was a powercut and that was the end of the night. I was a bit miffed as I missed the same event the previous year due to a clash of events so I was really looking forward to this.

1/08/19 – The recording of the set is now available

I got some rest and made it back to Cambridge for lunch on Sunday. We then headed back to the Centre for Computing History for the last part of the con. I spent some time looking at the machines on display, played Sonic the Hedgehog and Street Fighter 2 both of which I hadn’t done in a long while and then helped debug an issue with booting NetBSD on QEMU as a guest when QEMU is invoked with --cpu=host. The host system in this case was flashed with libreboot which lacks microcode for the CPU and NetBSD crashes on probing the CPU. Explicitly specifying a CPU as a workaround in this case allowed the system to boot e.g --cpu=coreduo.

IBM ThinkPad X61s without microcode update

cpu0 at mainbus0 apid 0
cpu0: Genuine Intel(R) CPU 1400 @ 1.66GHz, id 0x6e8
cpu1 at mainbus0 apid 1
cpu1: Genuine Intel(R) CPU 1400 @ 1.66GHz, id 0x6e8

IBM ThinkPad X61s with microcode update

cpu0 at mainbus0 apid 0
cpu0: Genuine Intel(R) CPU L2400 @ 1.66GHz, id 0x6e8
cpu1 at mainbus0 apid 1
cpu1: Genuine Intel(R) CPU L2400 @ 1.66GHz, id 0x6e8

Post con, I spent a couple of days gallivanting around London with wiedi, weather was really hot but we managed to get a lot of milage down, from Brick Lane to Notting Hill Gate via the South Bank and Maida Vale, followed by a visit to Wembley for the London Hack Space. As always, it was a fun few days.

pkgsrcCon 2019 group photo

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