Subject: Summary of NetBSD at usenix
To: None <,>
From: David Brownlee <>
List: netbsd-users
Date: 06/18/1999 20:23:51
	This is a summary of the feedback received at usenix, both from
	the 'Birds Of a Feather' session, and the NetBSD exhibition booth.

	If anyone is interested in helping with any of these issues, please
	let us know.

	Please direct general replies to the 'netbsd-advocacy' list.


Issues raised by attendees

  * Reduction in core membership
    Concern about people leaving core featured quite highly in the BOF,
    and several people approached the exhibition booth with the same
    issue.  Jason explained that people tended to leave core to
    concentrate on writing code, and that he himself had managed to get
    much more code written since leaving core. There still seemed to be
    a general concern.

  * Anonymous CVS access
    People want it. One problem is that early versions of some files contained
    'tainted' code which under the USL agreement we are not permitted to make
    available. Rather than take the easy option of throwing away all history
    before a certain date we chose to painstakingly check every file and
    specifically remove any problem versions. Perry spent some significant
    time on this and we now have a clean tree. The next stage is to make this
    available via anoncvs. This is underway and we hope to make some
    announcements over the new few weeks.
  * Non profit status
    People would like to be able to make tax deductable donations back
    to the project, in particular some of those who have benefitted
    from using NetBSD based solutions. Some could be quite
    significant. It would also be good to have an 'online donations' page.

  * List of consultants for hire
    Some people would be more than willing to hire developers for
    specific driver support, but we do not currently provide any easy
    way for them to contact such developers. A web page listing
    'consultants for hire', and those looking for such would be a good
    start in this direction. This could include categories such as
    developers, sysadmins, and systems integrators.

  * NetBSD in embedded use
    A number of companies are already using NetBSD in embedded
    applications, and others are interested, primarily due to the
    emphasis on clean code design and wide platform portability. We
    should setup a 'tech-embed' mailing list, and try to put up
    information on the website. There is also interest in adding
    real-time support to the NetBSD kernel.
    One particular aspect that appeals to some companies is the BSD
    licence. This allows them to use NetBSD without being obliged to
    make their source changes available. We obviously prefer them to do
    so, but agree it should be their choice. One option is to
    contribute back fixes and enhancement to the general code, while
    keeping specific sections confidential.

  * Project goals, future direction and projects
    We have a large number of active projects, and even a set of goals
    for the 1.5 release, but we do not make this information easily
    available on the website. People are more interested in writing
    code than telling people about it.  There is also some confusion as
    to the project's long term goals (other than 'clean portable

  * Daemon news articles
    Daemon news ( receives few articles from
    NetBSD users - this is really just another symtom of the above. We
    probably want to concentrate on getting the project information
    current, though all netbsd developers and users are encouraged to
    contribute to Daemon news.

  * Supported devices list
    We have a list of drivers and the generic devices they support, but
    few named vendor products as found on the shelves of computer
    stores. We should try to expand the supported devices list to
    include more real product names.

  * SMP and threads
    There is work underway to make libc threadsafe, and we finally have
    an open 'tech-smp' list for those working on SMP support. We
    already spin up secondary CPUs on sparc, and have some code on
    alpha and i386, but do not have any scheduling machinery in place.

  * Release Testing
    All of the free unixes fall short on real regression testing and
    certification for releases. Independent certification costs
    significant money, and there are no freely available test suites
    that cover everything.  We have a 'regress' area of the tree - that
    tends to contain tests developers have written to assist them in
    determining when they have fixed problems, but it would probably
    make sense to see if any of the freely available test suites can
    provide some verification.

  * Improve 'new sysadmin' support and docs
    NetBSD is one of the harder unixes for a new administrator (though
    its lack of 'pretty' config tools makes it easier for users to
    understand what is really happening). We need to expand the
    documentation for new users. (Volunteers welcomed).

  * 802.4 wavelan support & vendor documentation
    This would be welcomed by many users, but it is very difficult to
    get documentation from some vendors. I believe a team in Japan has
    made significant progress on a driver.

  * Survey of userbase
    It would be good to determine which are the more popular ports, and
    for what people are using NetBSD. One suggestion was a
    'send-registration' option after install. If the user elected to
    fill in the form it could also collect the 'dmesg' output, and
    email to an address  Variations include optionally
    pasting the output into a web form, or emailing the message to a
    local address for later forwarding.

  * Integration and communication among BSDs
    This is a perennial problem - frequently raised and agreed upon,
    but noone ever seems to want to do the work. Some people are
    working on to synchonising some kernel interfaces between FreeBSD
    and NetBSD to make sharing drivers easier.

  * gnats - bug database
    We need to make the user of 'send-pr' more obvious to users
    (possibly in the INSTALL doc), and also need to work on more timely
    response to PRs.

  * HPPA port
    Interest expressed in an HPPA port.

The booth

  * Thanks to those helping with the booth
    In particular to Erik Berls, Roland Dowdeswell, Charles Hannum, and
    Alan Horn who manned (and in many cases provided machines for) the
    booth, and the others who provided machines, time, and effort to
    make it all work.

  * Merchandise
    The NetBSD beer glasses went well. We didn't sell any CDs, which
    was pretty much expected as every attendee received a free set of
    CDs courtesy of usenix. We sold 40 out of the 50 official t-shirts
    - really quite good given the very simple design.

  * Interest in specific platforms
    - imac (macppc)
	Virtually everyone found this cute. (Many thanks to Charles for
	working late into the night before fixing an install issue with
	the new model). Someone from Apple commented that we both booted
	and shipped unix (NetBSD) on the iMac before they did (Rhapsody). 
    - shark (arm32)
	The digital reference 'Network Computer' design. Possibly even
	cuter than the imac. Many people asked if they could buy one.
    - uVax3600 (vax)
	The size of a small fridge (and probably the result of my
	rental car falling apart on thethe 1 from La to Monterray),
	this induced many comments from people, generally about fond
	(and not so fond) memories, though the number of vaxes still
	in use in northern europe could be surprising (or not, given
	the average radiated heat from a VAX). Many thanks to Brian
	Chase for the loan of this monster.
    - others
	Questions on just about all ports, including alpha, mac68k,
	sun3, sparc64, pmax, and hppa (for which we do not currently
	have a port).

  * Telenet
    The exhibition booth next to ours was "Telenet Systems"
    (, who among other products produce a range
    of rack mount PC servers, from a 1U (1.75" high) celeron system for
    $1099. They expressed interest in having some of their products
    officially 'NetBSD certified', and also lending equipment to the
    project for future exhibitions. Charles is following up.


    -=-  "They're only red from all the thoughts unused inside my head"  -=-