[nycbug-talk] my Daemon News BSDCan writeup. . .

G.Rosamond george
Fri May 21 16:17:10 EDT 2004

Comments appreciated. . .it will be published online this weekend. . .

If I missed anything, let me know. . .


Off We Go
Four of us left Brooklyn at 7:30 am on Thursday morning to avoid the  
traffic on Canal Street in downtown Manhattan.  Well, there's no way to  
totally avoid it; but there's a better chance of getting through  
Manhattan at that hour to the Holland Tunnel than 30 minutes later.   
Remember, we're leaving from a city where you can be stuck in traffic  
at 2 am on the Brooklyn Bridge.
We know that there will be two additional NYCBUG members in Ottawa who  
arrive by plane.  But since we only started up the group in January, we  
are all basically strangers to each other, especially in the context of  
a long drive to the Great White North.
Our trip was hardly uneventful.  Some where on Interstate 81 in  
Pennsylvania, the other NYCBUG attendees, Ike, Michael and Bob had an  
internal network up and running.  Then by the time we hit Syracuse,  
they were using Michael's GPRS-capable cell phone to surf the web,  
create SSH sessions and download mail.
They even managed to post to the NYCBUG talk list.  The post is <a  
It was also interesting to scan the various wireless networks along the  
way.  As we had KisMAC running with an Airport Extreme card on OS X, we  
were unable to crack any WEP-encrypted networks, but that wasn't  
necessary in rural western New York state.  But oddly enough, the  
entire city of Syracuse accessible from Interstate 81 had less  
wireless-coverage than a single block in Manhattan.
Border Crossing
When we arrived at the Ontario, Canada and New York, US border, we  
thought no sweat.  We had no drugs, identifiable weapons and the  
Canadian government doesn't seem to be controlled by Redmond.
We handed our US passports to the young woman at Canadian customs and  
explained we were going to Ottawa for a UNIX conference.  She took my  
attempted innocent grin and half-flirtatious eyelash batting and gave  
me a disproportionate smile in response.  I said, "I know, we don't  
look like geeks."
We drove a few more feet to take tourist pictures of the "Welcome to  
Ontario" sign, when Bob revealed what he thinks she really thought I  
meant by "UNIX." "Oh, harmless boys, going off to a eunuch conference.   
How cute."
This joke continued through the weekend, with everyone quick to get it.
Dan Langille told us to arrive at 5:30 pm.  We arrived at exactly 5:30,  
with our throats thirsting for a malty beverage and our legs ready to  
get some activity, other than the earlier parking lot football game at  
"Thee Diner"(sic) outside of Syracuse.
We refreshed ourselves and began meeting BSDCan attendees from around  
the world.
Personally, I had my own mission.  For years, I've worked with BSDMall  
and Daemon News.  I needed to hook-up with Chris Coleman.  I knew him  
as a close collaborator in the digital world, but didn't know if he had  
a hunch back, Coke-bottle thick glasses, or an extra leg in person.
Dan told me he hadn't arrived yet, so I meandered around BSDCan the  
night of our arrival and the next morning like the little duck  
searching for his mother: "Are you Chris Coleman?"  "Have you seen  
Chris Coleman?"
The quest was fruitless until lunch time on the first full day of the  
conference.  This tall, lanky, Midwestern-type was attempting to  
balance a cart of boxes.  This must be him.  Our introductions were  
brief, and off to work we went.
Beside the registration table, BSD Mall/Daemon News had the only table  
at BSDCan.  We had a tone of software, shirts and books.
As the technical level of the conference was quite high, it was a  
pleasure not having to answer questions like "How many distros are  
there of BSD?" and "Why did BSD branch off from Linux?"  That's  
generally the type of queries we faced for years at LinuxWorld Expo and  
even MacWorld in New York City.
The sessions NYCBUG attendees went to were amazing.

I, for one, attended the sessions by Dan, Ryan McBride, Poul-Henning  
Kamp on GBDE, Robert Watson and Theo der Raadt.

It was great to meet a variety of BSDer's from around Canada, the US  
and a small but good section of the rest of the world.  It's even  
better when the sessions cause ideas to flow and plans to brew, and to  
have so many others to discuss it with at the bar afterwards.
The bar.  Oh yeah, I mean the bars.
Our NYCBUG meetings are monthly the first Wednesday of the month,  
usually at 6 pm or so, we are in the habit of the meetings ending in  
the wee hours of the morning.  I know the last "meeting" ended for me  
at 3:30 am or so, in some bar on Houston Street.
So when you're out with BSD Hackers from all over, who attended the  
same brilliant meetings with you, what do you think will happen then?
A hot topic among some of us was Dan's Bacula meeting.  Great, and  
there are some interesting implementations to do with a consulting  
business, regardless of the clients' server and desktop operating  
More pressingly, we also proposed to some of our newly acquired  
Canadian friends a unique idea for spreading their way of life south.   
We asked a series of questions leading to our main point: "What is your  
healthcare system like?" "How big is your military?" and finally, "Have  
you considered invading the US, or at least New York state, to spread  
this universal healthcare thing?"
We Make Some Friends
Of course some of the NYCBUG attendees made some better "friends" than  
others.  Those pictures will remain within the NYCBUG-BSDCan attendees  
to protect the innocent, and the guilty.
For me individually, I met a number of people who I enjoyed discussions  
with.  Wayne from London explained the draconian laws in Britain which  
allow any police officer above the rank of sergeant to ask for your  
password, electronic keys, etc., for access to the data your serving.   
Not immediately fulfilling this request means an automatic two years in  
jail.  But <i>how</i> you perform logging isn't detailed, as long as  
you have consistent logging policies throughout your organization.   
Well, there's no more resourceful response to this than having your  
/etc/newsyslog.conf file roll-over your logs every ten minutes.
I also spoke to Dru Lavigne for the first time face-to-face.  Dru's  
contribution to BSD documentation and advocacy, particularly on  
O'Reilly's OnLamp.com is equalled by few.  We've discussed a number of  
things, most importantly in my humble opinion, is the near release of  
her <a href="http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/bsdhks/">BSD Hacks  
book</a>.  There's no question to me that the increase in BSD  
popularity is significant, and this book could move beyond the  
expectations of the author, the publisher and distributors.
There are many, many other discussions I could mention, but I would  
just have to say I enjoyed each one.  We were up for around 19 hours a  
day, talked non-stop, so this article could continue for days.
Of honorable mention is Chris Coleman.  Susanna, his wife and Chris  
trucked out the entire contents of the BSDMall/DN table in their  
minivan, along with their three young, and remarkably well-behaved  
children.  Chris' contribution to the BSD family doesn't get a fraction  
of the recognition it deserves.  He is tirelessly thinking up new ways  
of building the BSD family while subsisting on a meager salary.   
Without Chris taking the two day drive, each way to Ottowa, the  
conference wouldn't have been quite the same.
And then there's Dan Langille of course.  Dan, who crashed at my  
apartment during LinuxWorld Expo this past January, has contributed  
enormous amounts to the BSD community for years.  How many FreeBSD  
users didn't dwell on FreeBSDDiary.org in their early days?  How many  
people don't quickly query FreshPorts.org when they are looking for a  
particular port?
The effort Dan expended to get BSDCan is amazing.  He has taken a  
pretty atomized BSD community in the east wing of Canada and the US and  
provided it a tremendous outlet for its of energy and focus.
Montreal for Sunday Night
To make the trip more vacation-like, we stopped in Montreal for Sunday  
evening.  The bars, sights and restaurants were great.  It was a big  
step up from Ottawa, which seemed as if it was administered a strong  
tranquilizer some years back.
But of course, as techs,  our main quest in Montreal was for bandwidth.  
  It was Monday now, and the work week had begun.  The pictures  
following this article provide some insight into our fun.
It was amazing how sparse wireless networks were in Montreal.  We  
didn't expect the concentrations of Manhattan, but we did expect to get  
decent connectivity here and there.
We wandered down the cafe-lined street of Saint Denis, to the old port  
district of Montreal, through the office buildings of downtown  
Montreal, up through Chinatown.  No strong signals, according to our  
wireless detection devices.  Finally, we found a very strong signal  
next to a sidestreet bed and breakfast, just north of Chinatown.
Ike and Bob investigated a nearby window to find a DLink router and  
cable modem sitting there clear in the window.  As I took a picture of  
Bob next to the sign, the proprietor opened the door and asked if we  
need any assistance.  Now in New York City this might have been a  
not-so-veiled threat, but we just responded with smiles, and "non,  
We spent the good part of an hour sitting on the sidewalk next to our  
brilliant access point, while passer-bys gawked at us.
We got our bandwidth, and some of us even managed to get some work done.
The End
We arrived back in Brooklyn at 11 pm Monday evening.  We had spent the  
last few hours in the car arguing fervently about technology, from  
broad issues to the details of testing network protocols.
For days after, we are still all exhausted physically, and our brains  
were clearly on overload for the trip.
We are clear on one thing: even though our NYCBUG talk list was down  
for most of BSDCan, our excitment will mean that you will have more  
NYCBUG attendees next year, my dear friend Dan, and that means more  
people demanding decent pizza, bagels, and a vodka other than Smirnov.   
But we know they won't be demanding a better conference.

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