Subject: Summary of NetBSD at usenix
To: None <firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com>
From: David Brownlee <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 (http://www.daemonnews.org/) 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 @netbsd.org. 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.
* 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.
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.
Questions on just about all ports, including alpha, mac68k,
sun3, sparc64, pmax, and hppa (for which we do not currently
have a port).
The exhibition booth next to ours was "Telenet Systems"
(http://www.tesys.com/), 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" -=-