Bernard Spil runs FreeBSD

I’ve used FreeBSD since version 5.x and have been active on irc for a long time and never thought that I could actually contribute much to the project. Initially I submitted PRs for things that were broken for me (one maybe two every year). Later on I started submitting PRs including patches to fix the problem (as a non-committer that’s very much appreciated) but again very few per year.

As I got more sophisticated in fixing things in ports, the number of PRs and patches increased.

At some point I decided that the MariaDB 10.0 port was due. So I started copying the 5.5 port, and failing time and again to get it to work but ultimately hacked it to build with 10.0! Along the way I interacted with the MariaDB community to solve some of the issues and after a while it was added to Ports. Suddenly I was a port maintainer (scary!).

In this time-frame Kubilay (koobs) Kocak enlisted me in his wiki-army.

The LibreSSL thing

I was using LibreSSL about as soon as the Portable version was released and added to ports. This required me to patch some ports (Apache, Python,..) so they would build and run with LibreSSL. That got noted and some guys on IRC were nagging and motivating (and helping!) me to do more patches. At some point Ken Moore (PC-BSD, reached out to me because he wanted to do an EDGE (cutting edge PC-BSD) build with LibreSSL for ports. This was something I was looking for as it would surface all, well… most I was later to find out, problems with using LibreSSL as libssl/crypto provider. That was a very intense couple of weeks where a poudriere run would uncover problems with LibreSSL, after patching these problems more problems would surface, etc. Most issues could be binned into categories (EGD removal, deprecated des_ methods, SSLv2 removal). All this resulted in LibreSSL/Ports#PC-BSD_10.1.2_ports_build and a large load of patches for ports as PRs in BugZilla.

When the initial fixing and patch creation was done, Kubilay spurred me on to upstream the patches which resulted in quite some changes, usually small, to all kinds of Open Source projects. And boy am I proud of the trivial changes that made it into these upstream projects! I can now truthfully say that changes I supplied to Python are part of software running on many millions of systems. It’s only me that knows that that’s factually untrue right?

At some point interviewed me on the LibreSSL story. Yup, that’s scary but a confidence builder as well!

After summer I was contacted by the LibreSSL devs from OpenBSD if I’d be willing to come to their LibreSSL Hackathon in Croatia 3 weeks later. That was an intense and fruitful week out there with some great guys! Exchanging information on how LibreSSL is used “in the wild”, what challenges that that poses and learning on the development of LibreSSL.

Around that time I learned that I was proposed to become a committer (or cursed with a commit bit?). This then takes some very confusing weeks to get through the process and get mentors assigned.

Know what’s awesome about spending all the effort? It’s so immensely appreciated even though you don’t often hear that directly. Sitting chatting in the hotel lounge during EuroBSDcon you suddenly hear the guy behind you shout out “What?!? YOU are that LibreSSL guy!?!”.

Moral to this story

The FreeBSD community is awesome and full of helpful people! (and some trolls that you must not let put you down!)

If anything I started this way too late. Imagine the damage I could’ve done when I had dug in earlier!

Find me on Mastodon or Barnerd@Freenode/FENet
(or on Twitter if you’re old-school).

P.S. Haven’t managed to mention the awesome Johannes Meixner in this story, yet his support was invaluable!

20 Aug 2018

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