On October 18th 20 years ago the first commits to the OpenBSD project landed in the CVS repository. Today on the anniversary the beastie.pl team invites all readers to a series of interviews that our staff conducted with the project developers.
We continue with our tenth interview - Antoine Jacoutot.
1. For the readers who don't know you, can you shortly introduce yourself?
Hi. My name is Antoine Jacoutot (ajacoutot@, aka aja@). I am from and live in Paris, France. I work as a consultant and have been an OpenBSD developer since 2006.
2. Why did you choose to run OpenBSD? How long have you been using it?
I always loved "playing" with different operating systems so it was just a matter of time that I run into OpenBSD...
I first came to it because of its security reputation. "Security" is a very challenging aspect of modern IT and I was glad to find an operating system that made it its priority. I trust these guys much more than I trust myself in that regard ;-)
What made me stick though was totally different. I really fell in love with the system design and simplicity. There's a huge effort to provide applications that just work out-of-the-box (as much as possible), bundling safe and sane defaults without the need to fiddle with dozains of knobs. Everything is made to be idiot-proof and simple. Just have a look at the recent work with the auto-installer/upgrader. It's so simple that it's just beautiful.
I've been enjoying this system for a little more than 12 years now.
3. For those readers that still haven't joined the OpenBSD community, why should they try OpenBSD?
Well, for the reasons I just specified above :-) I'm not very good at advertising, so I'd just advise people to download and try it for a while. Installation takes 5 minutes. I also like the community around it. People often see it as elitist or not obviously friendly. That could not be further away from the truth. The community is very mature and as long as you are ready to do your share (i.e. RTFM), then you will find people to be very nice and ready to help. OpenBSD developers will usually help you fix things by yourself.
Also, like other BSDs, it is a complete operating system. That is, it already comes with a whole set of daemons (ntpd, httpd, bgpd, dhcpd, nsd...), a full development stack, X.org... These are being developed as part of the operating system and are not external add-on packages. So everything is consistent.
Not a lot of people are familiar with OpenBSD or they have a biased image of it. Try it, really and see for yourself...
4. Is OpenBSD your daily driver at home & at work?
At home, yes, definitely.
In my former job, it used to be. We have developed a complete IT infrastructure solution for some niche markets, solely based on OpenBSD. It was a fantastic experience stretching OpenBSD to fit into very big companies eco-system -- including Desktops!
In my current job, not really... or not yet... I don't know, I hope I'll be able to find a way to bring it in!
5. How did you become an OpenBSD developer? What do you think is required in order to join the OpenBSD project as a developer?
I initially became a developer because people got annoyed at me sending diffs for them to commit... It's still a very good way to get offered an account :-) IIRC one of my first contributions was porting the Cyrus IMAP server over to OpenBSD. At the time, I was migrating an infrastructure from Linux to OpenBSD and the original Linux IMAP server was running Cyrus... so it was a good excuse to contribute.
6. Can you tell us about some OpenBSD-related areas you work on?
I have written a few programs related to infrastructure management because that's what I do the most at my $dayjob. The first one would be sysmerge(8) which allows to automatically update configuration files after an upgrade. Then I was part of the rc.d(8) and rc.subr(8) development team, modifying our rc(1) init system to ease daemons interaction. I also wrote rcctl(8) which is feature-wise kind of the chkconfig+service tools in Red Hat. Working with automation tools, it became a requirement to be able to add/remove/modify/... services. I also did some work here and there in userland, also adding some missing library functions that ports required. The other big part of my work is in ports. I maintain a few hundreds of them, work a bit on the build infrastructure and am responsible for the GNOME Desktop with jasper@
7. Do you have an idea of the time you spend working on the OpenBSD project?
It's hard to come up with a precise number because sometimes work and OpenBSD hacking are entangled. So, a little bit out of the blue, I'd say at the very least, 15 hours per week. And I am not taking the regular hackathons into consideration. I usually do at least 2 official 1-week hackathons per year but we also meet regularly amongst French developers for a 3-days extended week-end of hacking (about 4 times per year). So yeah... not much time for other hobbies...
8. OpenBSD tends to lead in development best practices does it work the other way around? Is there a process improvement the project started or aims to adapt from the oustide world?
Not sure that it fits into "best practices" but for sure ports is very good at pushing missing pieces into OpenBSD, like KMS, updated toolchain etc. In general I think we benefit from others as others benefit from us.
9. It's been a long 20 years of amazing releases. What are you most proud of and what would you like to revisit/redo?
There's nothing obvious on my side that I would revisit nor redo. I am sure other developers may have a different answer though...
I am just proud of where we are now, especially considering the size of our development team. I am a great fan of my team-mates and I still cannot believe the chance I have to be an active member of that team :-)
10. As a conclusion, can you tell us how you forecast OpenBSD's future? What's the next big challenge?
Personally, there are a few related challenges that I would welcome: a more "modern" filesystem, some containerisation/virtualization system and SMP improvements.
It would be really sad if OpenBSD would end-up being only relevant in the embedded and/or network markets. It is a general-purpose operating system and I hope it'll be able to stay that way.