Subject: NetBSD at the Chemnitz Linuxdays 2006
To: None <>
From: Hubert Feyrer <>
List: netbsd-advocacy
Date: 03/06/2006 19:49:31
The Chemnitz Linuxdays are the second biggest event for and by the Linux 
and Open Source community in Germany, and the past weekend (March 3rd to 
5th) there were booths by FreeBSD and NetBSD (surrounding a RockLinux 

Friday we arrived and built up the NetBSD booth, decorating with
posters, putting up our Sharks with a slideshow, discovering that
Stefan's Sun Ultra 5 had a broken harddisk, and arranging tables,
flyers, t-shirts, CDs, pins and CPU badges.

Saturday morning at 8:30am the first visitors showed up, and started
asking the usual questions: what's the difference between BSD and
Linux, and what's the differences between the various BSDs. Having
answered those questinos many times before, it was easy pleasing

More difficult questions involved getting a E-Plus UMTS card going,
support of 3rd party graphics cards for Sun SPARCs, if the NetBSD
kernel is monolithic (doh), there were several questions about
Windows(!) compatibility

As we also had some BSD Certification flyers, a few people asked about
the status of that effort, that I tried to answer.  In the context of
BSD ceritication, I also had a very interesting discussion with the
german LPI folks about how to perform the actual test. I was told that
they either offer traditional and cheap (50EUR) pen and paper exams
e.g. at computer events, but that they also had PearsonVUE
( as partners for doing the certifications
worldwide in a professional way, of course not so cheap (about
125EUR). The workflow they have is to define learning goals, task
lists and example questions, do psychometric analysis and then
translate the resulting examn questions those for various
countries. Providers of LPI educational material is certified by an
independent institute that's not attached to LPI to maintain
independence. Future goals of LPI are offering more certifications
(mysql, Ubuntu, ...) as well as offering associate programs so that
training institutes, schools and universities get training material
cheaply and are also allowed to do certification tests. I guess we'll
see how much of this will be available for (Net)BSD one day, too!

The only technical achievement on saturday was a patch for
src/distrib/sets/makesrctars to fix the problem that in the generated
src.tgz (which contains src/*, and thus, the script
is not set as executable. As a result, when extracting src.tgz, has to be set manually. A patch for this is currently under

The better part of sunday morning (besides the breakfast) was spent on
a discussion on how to proceed with public relation efforts for NetBSD
in Germany, and the NetBSD booth was confronted with the usual stream
of interested visitors that wanted to know all about NetBSD.

Funny enough, I happened to bump into Joerg Schilling (of cdrecord
fame) a few times, and we had a few interesting discussions: One was
about extending NetBSD's lseek(2) API to add two noew extensions for
the "whence" setting to handle sparse files, by adding two new
definitions: SEEK_HOLE would skip to the next "hole" in the file, and
SEEK_DATA would proceed to the next data block. Of course this would
only work on filesystems that actually support sparse files, and we
also had a brief discussion about alternative implementations like
bitmap blocks. Maybe someone in NetBSD can have a look at the Sun
whitepaper and implement this?  When do you care for sparse files?
Usually you don't, and they are just a nice way to save disk
space. But when performing backup and restore, it may be nice to also
handle sparse files, and there are few programs out there that do that
properly today. One notable exception is Joerg Schilling's "star".

Joerg also told me that he wrote his own find(1) implementation
"sfind" for directory traversal. Nothing special so far, but he also
married that find interface to his "star" to allow specifying files by
using find syntax. That way, only files belonging e.g. to specific
users or having a certain modification time etc. can be backed up and
restored. Not exactly the Unix way of "one tool for each job", but a
nice idea.

Sunday afternoon I also spent about an hour sitting with Joerg to
debug why his OpenSolaris distribution "SchilliX" works slow and
sluggish in qemu, and fails at the end. We couldn't determine where
the mediocre speed came from (problems may involve qemu on NetBSD
only, some qemu ACPI hickups or some lowlevel bogosities in Solaris;
we didn't find out), the final failures were traced back to Solaris
not recognizing the IDE (ATAPI?) cdrom properly, and thus failing to
mount it for further installation. Again, this may be a qemu or a
Solaris problem, and needs more investigation by someone with
lowlevel (Solaris) kernel clue.

One thing that actually got fixed was related to NetBSD's installer 
"sysinst" when upgrading a system that uses newbtconf(8): sysinst tries to 
determine if an upgrade is possible (instead of a fresh install) by 
checking if the file /etc/fstab is there (and then do the upgrade) or not 
(and then do a full install). Now on a system with newbtconf(8), 
/etc/fstab is not a file but a symlink, and thus the test fails and 
sysinst happily nukes away the /etc files of such a system. Nasty! A patch 
was very easy, and I handed it to Karl-Uwe Lockhoff for testing and 

The presentations on sunday afternoon had a mini-BSD-track with 
presentations on BSD in general (Karl-Uwe Lockhoff), NetBSD in particular 
(Matthias Pettermann), a presentation on backup and recovery strategies 
(Stefan Schumacher) as well as an example installation of NetBSD in qemu 
(Hubert Feyrer).

These people also ran the NetBSD booth, together with help from Hans
'woodstock' Rosenfels, Menuhim Seito, Joerg Sonnenberger, Jens
'camisolite' Horstmann as well as all the many other people that
dropped by at the booth.

During the whole weekend, Daniel Seuffert from FreeBSD and allBSD
helped us out with printed flyers and a machine to display NetBSD/xen
on, and we also coordinated availability of NetBSD at events in the
near future: Volunteers for booth duty, CD- and flyer-handout as well
as general NetBSD advocacy are wanted for that, and Daniel expects to
bring them to CeBit next week (where NetBSD will be present), the
Vienna Linuxdays as well as the "Linuxtag" in Wiesbaden.

Folks who are interested to help out manning a NetBSD (or other BSD)
booth at any of those events, please drop me a note and I'll get you
in contact.

After some hours of driving through snow and mud, I'm on a warm and
cozy couch now typing this (without internet access :), and I'll drop
to bed soon, looking forward for NetBSD at the Chemnitz Linuxdays

   - Hubert