OpenBSD Journal

Developer Bio - Bret Lambert

Contributed by jason on from the absurdly-awesomely-blambert dept.

After a lengthy absence, the OpenBSD Journal is happy to bring forth another Developer Bio. These interviews offer a more casual dialogue than our usual technical discussions. This week we're pleased to chat with Bret Lambert (blambert@).

OpenBSD Journal: How long have you been with the OpenBSD project?

blambert@: Just about two years; I think I got my account after c2k7.

OJ: What was your original role or contribution, and how has it evolved since then?

blambert@: Originally I started working on the now-kinda-stalled LDAP client code that's made its way into snmpd (some BER bits) and ypldap (LDAP search filter parser FTW), and continuing my habit of randomly poking into kernel and library bits. Artur Grabowski (art@) had a list of things that needed to get done, and one of them was "get rid of large macros and inlines", which is what the NFS code basically was (and, to a soul-crushing extent, still is), so that's how I suckered myself into what's probably the darkest, nastiest corner of the source tree outside of ports.

OJ: Are there any plans to support NFSv4 in the not-too-distant future?

blambert@: Ultimately, that's something that needs to go in; however, I think that, once the cleanup is done and a sensible RPC framework is in place, I'll leave that to others who need it, and will start working on things that interest me more than just replacing crufty code.

OJ: Are you suggesting that RPC is irrational? Can you expand on this framework?

blambert@: Not at all; the ONCRPC framework is relatively lightweight and straightforward; it's that the NFS code doesn't implement it in anything resembling a modular manner. Just like everything else it does, it intertwines what should be orthogonal operations which require sifting those into separate pieces before improvements can be made.

OJ: Are there other projects or code you'd like to focus on if you had more time, resources, etc?

blambert@: I'd love to have a sensible LDAP daemon that doesn't involve a configuration syntax that looks like it's written in martian. I'm also beginning to try to do some things that will lay the groundwork for removing the kernel lock.

OJ: Do you think that removing the kernel lock is a reasonable goal given the size of the OpenBSD development team? If so, how much of this work can be borrowed from other BSDs?

blambert@: NetBSD has a list of steps they needed to complete on the road towards removing biglock, and much of that applies to OpenBSD as well. However, FreeBSD is divergent enough, and NetBSD has synchronization primitives that aren't likely to be implemented in OpenBSD, so there's a rather short limit to what can be cribbed, although I'm not against a cut'n'paste of something we can crib straight from either.

And, while it's a massive goal, there are still a series of choke points (e.g., file ops, VFS calls, device driver function table calls, etc.) we can use to determine when to grab the kernel lock for those chunks not yet moved over to managing locks on their own. So, yes, given some concerted effort on our part, it's possible; but it's one of those things that needs to have an implementation agreed upon, with people all working towards the same end.

OJ: How do you see OpenBSD's goals changing over the next few years?

blambert@: I'm pretty sure that "free, functional and secure" is pretty timeless ;)

OJ: Where did you go to school?

blambert@: I am a proud graduate of the almost 3 years and oh god I'm broke and hey I can get a job without a degree program of George Mason University.

OJ: What got you interested in computer science in general, and C hacking specifically?

blambert@: I had been doing a series of admin and programming jobs, and was never really satisfied with not knowing what was going on underneath, so I started to peer under the hood and see what made OpenBSD run, which meant taking an interest in the hows and whys of operating systems; and, of course, that also meant learning to use C.

OJ: Were you already attracted to OpenBSD at this point, or was there something about it that drew you to it?

blambert@: I initially was attracted to it because I was dealing with a few Linux firewalls at work, and the introductory material floating around the office was "Building Firewalls with Linux and OpenBSD", and I was pulled into the mantra of software correctness as a primary goal.

OJ: What interests do you have outside of OpenBSD?

blambert@: Live music, especially if it's something I've never heard before; tabletop roleplaying (NERD!!!); exploring new cities; injecting absurdity into any and all conversations in which I'm involved.

OJ: Is there a particular genre or musical artist that you prefer to listen to while programming?

blambert@: That really depends on what I'm doing; if I'm reading something and trying to understand what it does, I prefer no music, or something unobtrusive, along the lines of light jazz and ambient stuff. If I'm actually needing to get the madnesss in my head out into some semi-working form, I'll tend to go to something hard and uptempo; Drum'n'Bass is getting into the rotation more and more, although I'm still a rocker at heart, so I tend to go for loud and fast (e.g., Snot, Kill the Man Who Questions, The Pist; and a personal recommendation to those who like loud'n'noisy is Bleach/Bleach03, a group of 3 Japanese girls who rock harder than anyone has a right to).

OJ: Do you read often? Who is your favorite author?

blambert@: Not as often as I'd like, but that's slowly getting back to normal now that I'm settling in in Oslo. I'm very partial to Kurt Vonnegut; he captured the essential absurdities of our times in a way that simultaneously makes you laugh and breaks your heart.

OJ: What is your favorite travel destination?

blambert@: Anything with natural beauty, such as the American southwest or Pacific northwest, or with architecturally/historically interesting things, like Copenhagen/Rome; or just someplace with entertaining weirdos and a couch to sleep on (hi, Henning!).

OJ: Favorite beer?

blambert@: As one of Colorado's native sons, I'm going to have to say 'go tribe' and claim that the beer I seek out when back home is New Belgium's Fat Tire. Which, of course, is not to say that you shouldn't try the entire line of fine beers from the New Belgium Brewery! (and I'll be expecting that endorsement check to come in the mail, thank you).

OJ: No love for the Great Divide Brewery?

blambert@: I'm sort of set in my ways; hell, I've consistently rooted for the Denver Broncos for almost 30 years!

(Comments are closed)


  1. By Venture37 (venture37) venture37<A>hotmail.com on http://www.geeklan.co.uk

    check out the following for downtempo / chillout music
    http://www.discogs.com/artist/Nor+Elle
    http://www.discogs.com/artist/Jean+F.+Cochois?anv=JFC
    http://www.discogs.com/Sasha-Airdrawndagger/release/40106

  2. By Darrin Chandler (dwc) dwchandler@stilyagin.com on http://www.stilyagin.com/darrin/

    Nice interview! But damn you, tbert! Now I'm stuck on Bleach03. Awesomeness.

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