FreeBSD Committer


I became a FreeBSD committer. I've been using BSD Unix systems since 1986 starting with 4.3 BSD on a pair of VAX 780 machines. In 1992, as a bored PhD student, I reimplemented sed(1) and contributed it the unencumbered BSD version that was then being put together; it is now part of the *BSD family. I crossed again paths with BSD software when the prize of the 2000 Usenix technical conference ``win a pet Shark contest'', Digital's Network Appliance Reference Design-DNARD, came with a NetBSD boot image. I used that code for drawing about 500 examples for my book Code Reading: The Open Source Perspective (Addison-Wesley 2003), detailing how to read software code others have written . Since 2001 I 've been using FreeBSD to control my home's security, communications, and entertainment systems as described in a SANE conference paper and a recent article in Personal and Ubiquitous Computing (as an academic I have to live by the "publish or perish" motto).

Why did I become a committer? My feeling is that FreeBSD, although less visible than other systems, exemplifies the state of the art in software engineering, both as a product and as a process. Its scale (6 MLOC), quality, level of integration, legacy, and development practices could well be unmatched both in the proprietary and open-source software. I therefore want to be close to this effort and will be proud to further contribute to it.

My (longish term) plans as a FreeBSD committer:


Continue work on the consistency of the man pages:
  • Correct .Xr references (docs/51480)
  • Experiment with expanding the idea to check:
    • command-line arguments (section 1 and 8)
    • system call errors (section 2) (see e.g. docs/43891)
  • Integrate the manual checking script I wrote in the tools collection


Userland commands
  • Modify ash (src/bin/sh) to support network pipes
  • Add SIGINFO support to commands that could benefit (e.g. sed, make (silent make option))
  • Ensure commands detect and report write(2) errors on standard output
  • Correct command bugs (see e.g. bin/48424)


  • Optimize libc/regex to build the finite automaton with native code instead of intepreting it (I am currently experimenting with a similar approach based on the JVM).
  • Locate candidate code for moving into a library
  • Investigate how kevent(2) can be used to aggressively cache file contents in library lookup operations (get*). (Do an strace(1) on apache's logresolve(8) to see what I mean).


  • Integrate and enhance my PCL-724 driver (i386/46238)
  • Fix the occasional bug (e.g. kern/46116)


The CScout refactoring browser I have implemented can parse arbitrary collections of C programs and allow its user to browse and safely rename identifiers, even in the presence of the most complex C preprocessor constructs. As a test case, I have already successfully processed bwk's awk source code and the complete apache distribution. I have calculated that the current implementation of CScout could process the complete FreeBSD distribution on a 1GHz processor in 12 hours using 5GB of physical and 12GB of virtual memory. It would therefore be interesting to initiate an effort to:
  • locate unused identifiers and dead code
  • improve identifier naming consistency
across the complete FreeBSD source tree. As an example, a quick run on just the source code of bin/cp reveals that the macro definition RETAINBITS in src/bin/cp/utils.c is not being used.

Given the memory requirements of this task, it would also be an interesting test case for the 64-bit FreeBSD version. This will be a massive effort, so volunteers with time and access to appropriate hardware are more than welcome.

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Last modified: Friday, October 3, 2003 7:34 pm

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