Contributed by jason on from the you-can-still-be-committed dept.
Undeadly editor and OpenBSD developer Janne Johansson (jj@) writes in with some creative ideas for helping the OpenBSD project. Janne clearly demonstrates that all it takes to make a difference is some resourceful thinking and the proper motivation.
Every now and then you read mail threads on misc@ that end with someone saying he or she would be glad to help out, if "I only could code some more". Well, I think there are more ways you can help the project even if you can't code at all.
The obvious way is of course buying the CDs, T-shirts and donating money or hardware in general, and those funds are definitely needed, but there are lots of other options, especially if you don't have much money to begin with.
A long time ago, I read a post on Undeadly (or deadly.org) about some person claiming he would donate a small sum but the currency conversion and money transfer would eat most of it. I wrote a reply about how he should get a bunch of friends to donate at the same time to reduce the losses and then it just hit me: I can do that too, even if my conversion rates weren't that evil.
This ended up becoming a yearly fund-raiser event called Slackathon which ran from 2006 to 2009 and even if I think many of the visitors would have donated to OpenBSD anyhow, it collected large amounts of money, while also allowing people to attend a free conference with BSD and development-related talks and meet up with other Swedish and international OpenBSD people. This was not a single-person effort from me, I had very good help from friends, colleagues and my workplace in order to make it work.
It also spawned another idea. The 2008 Slackathon got quite a few European developers interested in attending, even though they had to resort to sleeping on people's sofas, my floor and other uncomfortable places, they arrived in large numbers. The idea was to bring them in a few days before the actual event, and I (quite easily) got my workplace to dedicate an undisturbed room for them to hack in. This way we got some OpenBSD development time before the usual developer talks at the Slackathon. The result of those days was posted on the post-slack Undeadly article here.
If you just can get a bunch developers over, magic happens. Next hurdle is to get the "right" people over in order to reach the results you would like to happen. This takes some more effort, you need to match what you like with something the developers want to hack on, and then get them over. That was further helped in my case by the fact that the guys running the .SE top-level domain share any excess profit from domain registrations to projects and organisations working to further the internet usage in Sweden, so I applied for a grant and got it.
This meant I now had funding in order to allow the right developers from various far-away places to attend, and also money for hotel rooms, even if I happened to choose a very poor hotel, later referred to as "the prison". This event became the f2k9 filesystem/virtual memory mini-hackathon which aimed to further the use of bigmem and improve memory handling in OpenBSD, coupled with lots of related issues regarding mbuf usage and file system development.
All these Slackathons and mini-hackathons also gave something back to my workplace (su.se at the time). Some direct benefits like dlg@, henning@ and claudio@ having a session with all the network/firewall people to discuss how to set up redundant firewalls with CARP, dhcrelay, ospfd and vlans in a decent fashion, but also secondary stuff like raising interest in OpenBSD-based routers and the slackathons helping us find good system administrators to hire.
This interest also allowed for yet another way to help OpenBSD out, by hosting compile resources. Starting with a few single machines used for testing patches and compiles, the lab at my work slowly turned into a NFS torture chamber where lots of machines of various architectures are used by thib@ and blambert@ to test odd pieces of VFS diffs before allowing it into snapshots and -current. The list currently consists of a mix of x86, amd64, sparc64, macppc and sgi machines. Unfortunately the hppa died, and the vax and alpha johan@ moved there haven't been set up yet. Still, it gives testing a wider coverage so less surprises hit you when the code goes into cvs.
My current project involves a bunch of Itanium machines me and johan@ gathered from a cluster of IA-64s that was being decommissioned and we went there on a rainy night and collected as many as would fit in my car. Hopefully it will make it possible to add them as another supported platform to the list. Since shipping is rather costly for 2U machines, I've contacted Michael Dexter at BSDfund.org, since he helps out with just this kind of effort (and also a large donation at the 2008 Slackathon). I'm sure many developers could spend time on eBay or find odd stuff themselves, but taking the time to fix everything from collecting to shipping allows them to spend theirs developing instead of handling second-hand hardware.
All in all, over the years I've tried a lot of ways to help out with OpenBSD.
I'm sure you can find your own ways.
/Janne "jj@" Johansson.”
Editor's Note (jj@): During the time I wrote this, I have received news about the lab at su.se not being available in a 6-month time frame due to a move to a new location, so if anyone in Sweden (or nearby) has the possibility to host a bunch of machines, we would love to hear from you.
(Comments are closed)