OpenBSD Journal

Reflections on Hackathons

Contributed by Bob Beck on from the hacks from the wild dept.

Bob Beck (beck@) writes:

So, I am sitting in my kitchen with a car packed full of food, packing up my last things and getting ready to drive south for a Hackathon. This one is a little different, since it is in a wilderness hut I have to hike/ski into.. If the hike doesn't kill me, living for 5 days inside a structure heated by wood where Germans are present to stoke the fire might. So here's a bit of a ramble about hackathons.

It's also a love letter to our intrepid ports people, and install script/sysmerge people. You know who you are.

In the bad old days of helping Theo pull one of these off I would fret over dragging a ton of gear down to work on (a truck full of servers), and even then fretting over net access, how to build and check out - and how much infrastructure would be required to make a useful place where people can hack. I would go down a day before and spend a day setting up servers and copies of repositories and all manner of craziness. The fact that we can now do this with minimal gear and a satellite net connection is pretty cool.

Notwithstanding that, it still amazes me in the last few years how stressless my laptop before a hackathon has been.. In the bad old days there was much pre-building and gnashing of teeth and ensuring everything was right so I wouldn't end up with a screwed up system at a hackathon and wasting tons of time on it. I'd spend tons of last minute fretting time worrying about the state of my machines before I left the house.

Nowadays it's pretty easy.. I make sure I have the latest snap and run an upgrade. sysmerge takes care of the rest.. I reboot, make sure I have a locally synced cvsrepo, and run pkg_add -ui. I know I'll be able to run builds and more than likely nothing will be screwed up. I can take one laptop and not worry about things - I'll be running current and it'll just work, and I'll be able to work and I don't worry about having a laptop that's so boned I can't work.

Considering I am running the latest development head of an operating system - I think that's pretty damn cool.

(Comments are closed)

  1. By Marc Espie (espie) on

    Well, the recent ports hackathon in Berlin was a throwback to the old days.

    Quite a few porters spent most of the hackathon trying to fix a very damaged tree after the base system symbols/binutils break that led to a broken samba, giving us a fairly badly broken ports tree, as samba is a dependency to more or less everything.

  2. By Will Backman ( on

    As an end user and percipient of all this hard work, I can say that things seem to be getting much easier, as you describe. Thank you to all the people who volunteer their time to the OpenBSD project!

    1. By Will Backman ( on


  3. By Billy Larlad ( on

    I fully agree with Will and beck@. Simplicity is one of OpenBSD's strongest points. The sane defaults, thoughtful addition (and removal!) of options, simple configuration files, and good documentation -- all of these make OpenBSD a joy.

    Thanks for everyone's work on the project! Hope all involved have fun with the hackathon.

  4. By Blake (2a01:e34:ec06:8f90:cabc:c8ff:fedb:4d83) on

    Thanks for pulling this one together Bob!


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