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Request for Funding OpenBSD Project's Electricity (mail-archive.com)
94 points by adamnemecek on Dec 17, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 49 comments

There's a picture of the rack from 2009:


I think the big reason Theo doesn't want to ship this offsite is that it's a lot of old/esoteric equipment that often times needs physical TLC in order to make it run properly, or has weird boot requirements, interfaces, etc.

They still have m68k, VAX, and Alpha boxes that are at a minimum 10 years old, that they build the OS directly on all the time.

There's also the possibility of critical failure from transport. Old hardware can wind up as a sort of brittle "dead man walking", where even the slightest unpleasantries in a shipping container kill it for good.

Wow, that's a pretty sketchy looking "machine room". Wires dangling everywhere, and it looks like a tinderbox (cardboard lying around, wooden beams overhead....)

I've spent time in dozens ... maybe hundreds of server closets in academia/companies that have been around for a few decades, and this is easily on the very, very clean side. When there are no rewards for cleaning up and every reason not to mess with something that works, little tends to be done on the aesthetic side. Ask me sometime about the server closet for a group that aggregated hundreds of remote telemetry sensors... by per-sensor dedicated copper lines that had been around since the 70s.

It's a bit surprising considering OpenBSD's rigorous insistence on correctness.

It's also very typical for machine rooms in academia in my experience (the MIT AI Lab had one that looked far worse than this, and others in the same building were similar). [Well, minus the wooden beams, but aside from that...]

Business are typically a little better (IME), as they tend to have a bit more money, but sometimes barely. Once you get to giant Google-scale outfits, of course, the game changes completely...

Let's not forget, the value of meticulous organization and cable channels and generally creating cable pr0n is related to the number of racks being managed. In this photo... 2 racks.

That's nothing.

I went in a BIG well known UK hosting company DC (which we colo'ed in) back in 2003 and they had racks of machines sitting on top of books on the bottom of comms racks rather than proper racks. We had to get a DL380 out from underneath a pile of 5 others. Not as easy as it sounded.

Cables everywhere. Power cables taped to everything. Total mess.

OpenBSD one is bliss.

The worst I ever saw was at a govt site, where you could not see a single inch of floor space, for the tangled mass of cables that ran across it. They had laid scaffolding planks across the top of the sea of cables, to walk on.

It's Theo's basement.

You know that photo is from Theo's basement, right?

here is a more recent photograph: http://www.openbsd.org/images/newrack.jpg

On the RHS of the image, between the 2 sun boxes labelled "2" and "3" there are 2 clamshell devices.

Does anyone know what those are please?


netbooks, by the looks of it

Yes I was surprised how many platforms they still support http://www.openbsd.org/plat.html similar to NetBSD.

Since OpenBSD is a fork of NetBSD, this makes sense.

Well historically sure, but I didnt expect them to maintain them...

Some of those old boxes (particularly the SGI and Apple X-Serve) are so well designed!

> A number of logistical reasons prevents us from moving the machines to another location which might offer space/power for free,

Regardless of the scale, I suspect it would be easier for some companies to offer space and power than to pay bills

Which is likely why he specifically noted that he could/would not move the machines: he knows this and wants to preempt companies offering free power in a separate space.

and since the current space is Theo's basement...

If I were them I'd reach out to .edu organizations. Many of them have huge clusters that have a lot of idle time, or could at least accommodate a daily batch build.

Edit: err, never mind. Reading again I see he's looking for someone to pay their electric bill, not host their servers or provide compute resources.

Any clue as to scale? I suspect more businesses might be interested in funding a $5K/year project than a $50K project.

The machine room has an air conditioner that runs during the winter in Calgary.

That could mean anything from about 5 kW upwards, which I believe is around $3500/year of electricity in Calgary. Can you be a bit more specific?

Not really. It's not my department. dsr wanted a clue, that's the best one I've got...

Here's something from 2006 that quotes Theo saying the bill was around 100 USD/week.


and something else that says $600/mo:


This was the scale 4 years ago: http://www.openbsd.org/images/rack2009.jpg

My main clue so far is how tight-lipped the email is.

it's Theo's basement. How much power could there be?

What is the difference between asking a company to pay for the electric bill and asking for money to pay the bills?

>That way the various OpenBSD efforts can be supported, yet written off as an off-site operations cost by such a company.

Tax reasons it appears. Maybe they don't have non-profit status and so a donation can't be put in as a cost before tax but an electricity bill can.

There's OpenBSD Foundation, which is non-profit but not tax-deductible apparently: http://www.openbsdfoundation.org/donations.html

non-profit but not tax-deductible

FWIW, this is because Canada is far more restrictive than the USA in terms of what constitutes a "charitable purpose". The FreeBSD Foundation would not be able to give charitable-donation tax receipts if it were Canadian either.

I'm surprised that giving "free electricity" isn't seen as a donation.

I sense increasingly shrill sounds emanating from the OpenBSD camp.

Monday: Theo De Raadt, complaining about FreeBSD security, after giving commit access to NSA/FBI contractors to install backdoors in OpenBSD back in 2003.


Pull quote: — "Now we all discover that FreeBSD has been doing it wrong. It's not as if they operate in a closed source world, and couldn't have looked at what others did. They must have chosen a few years ago to do this wrong, intentionally.

"Perhaps that decision was made by their Californian developers, the ones who work fairly close to that NSA building. —

And his presentation from ruBSD 2013 last week (http://tech.yandex.ru/events/yagosti/ruBSD/)


In which our friend Theo de Raadt talks about measures in OpenBSD that make attackers life harder: memory allocation randomization, W^X pages and stack protectors.

Of course it’s served with a side dish of invective at FreeBSD, as the project does not use all his cool stuff, and how could it then claim to be called a secure system, hmm?

Dear Theo,

Playing the game called 'guess my memory address' with attackers might be fun, but better to actually isolate them via cap_enter(2), and guarantee success rather than attempting to make a successful attack less probable. Security isn't a game.

Your friend,


After Theo came Henning Brauer speaking about OpenBSD’s variant of pf.

Seems they have made yet another syntax change recently, and that pf performance is up, (but no numbers were reported).

Since Gleb (who re-engineered pf to be multi-threaded for FreeBSD 10) had presented earlier in the day, with actual results: http://image.slidesharecdn.com/rubsdsmirnov-131214051554-php...

Henning was, of course, queried. Gleb reports that Henning responded, "'in FreeBSD pf is faster than in OpenBSD' is actually a lie, and that if you pick a proper uniprocessor hardware you will see, that in OpenBSD pf can forward 3 times more than in FreeBSD."

Unfortunately, he didn't give any hint on the model of hardware he used to generate this result, so reproducing his results becomes… difficult.

Then yesterday we get the tight-lipped email from asking for someone to pay the power bill for OpenBSD.

I hope he doesn’t get someone in trouble for the obvious tax dodge.

Someone else pointed out the rack pic from 2009. Note Theo standing in-front of the same rack in the itwire piece above, and the same photo is used in his speaker page for ruBSD (http://tech.yandex.ru/events/yagosti/ruBSD/talks/1487/).

So I doubt it's changed much in the past 5 years.

"OpenBSD’s variant of pf"

The OpenBSD devs wrote pf from scratch. Mac OS X, FreeBSD and NetBSD took it and now use it and have variants of it. OpenBSD has the original, standard pf that they wrote from scratch and gave to the world as free software. OpenBSD's pf is not a variant of pf. It is the original. And it's insulting and incorrect of you to suggest otherwise.

var·i·ant ˈve(ə)rēənt/ noun 1. a form or version of something that differs in some respect from other forms of the same thing or from a standard

See also: netBSD, or even 386BSD

I wonder if they can just approach to Google and ask if they could just donate a couple Compute Engines...

but at the same point, why do we need freebds and openbsd? In terms of resource, can't we get merge the two team together?

FreeBSD and OpenBSD are different projects, despite having 'BSD' in their names. They share a lot of concepts, and some code, but they do not share some of the same philosophies and goals.

It is not like the Debian world, where there are dozens of maintained forks and flavors of Debian.

They are fundamentally very different projects and communities.

> but at the same point, why do we need freebds and openbsd? In terms of resource, can't we get merge the two team together?

Are you a project manager?

Wow, the tone is very harsh here. What's wrong with my suggestion? i honestly don't get all the downvotes here. smh. Even they are two distinct projects by now, there is no need to be harsh and ask if I were a project manager. The Internet is open to people to question.

I don't know about the others. I downvoted because I don't like suggestions phrased as questions (and yeah, that tends to be what project managers do when they have no useful contribution to offer, can't be bothered to learn anything about the project they're managing, but want to feel like they're not useless).

First of all, there are project managers who are also devs. So you are in fact insulting thousands of hard working devs who have to take the role of a project manager.

Secondly, don't assume that kind of question is coming from project manager's voice. That's rather stupid and narrow minded. Any one can ask that question.

Whether the project is so distinct in terms of code or philosophy, it is a genuine question. Anyone should be allowed to ask question. All the downvotes are either because (1) some bigot mind can't appreciate question, or (2) people who can't get along with the other development team so any thought on merging two project must be a crime, or (3) people just hate my idea of asking Google to donate a couple machines.

You are just making the *BSD world bad because no one shall ever asked such stupid question why two teams should never think about merging into a single team.

> Whether the project is so distinct in terms of code or philosophy, it is a genuine question. Anyone should be allowed to ask question. All the downvotes are either because (1) some bigot mind can't appreciate question, or (2) people who can't get along with the other development team so any thought on merging two project must be a crime, or (3) people just hate my idea of asking Google to donate a couple machines.

Or (4), people are strongly adversarial to the "why do we need" question in the context of open source projects. Do we also really need iOS and Android? Windows and OS X and Linux and the many flavours of BSD? Chocolate and vanilla ice cream?

> Whether the project is so distinct in terms of code or philosophy, it is a genuine question.

No it isn't.

Yes, people who dislike your ideas will downvote you. It's pretty much how the interwebs work. If there are more people who dislike them than people who like them, the downvotes will outweight the upvotes. There also tends to be no correlation between how bad an idea is and how many downvotes or upvotes it receives. Because the Internet is full of mean, misbehaving people like me.

it's always good to ask questions.

If you're not familiar with the BSD World, what you asked was tantamount to Why can't we merge Gentoo and Ubuntu?'

The BSD clans have very different goals and philosophies.

I am scared to be a *BSD user by now, though I had used it for a while back when I was a high school student. I probably have stepped on the forbidden land of all OS: "duh, if I want to get merged, I wouldn't be forking or stemming off from some root project a long time ago -- I like what I am doing and I am doing well." Something like that. Anyhow, I think that antagonistic response is unnecessary.

It is different in other projects where people see that if they can merge effort they may get better. My example is Pylons and Pyramid.

There is a long history involved. You could have looked it up.

OpenBSD split from NetBSD in the 90s. FreeBSD is separate from either one. IIRC FreeBSD and NetBSD both have some roots in a project called 386BSD, and before that, some releases from UC Berkeley.

In practice, though, even today they tend to share a lot of new code. When one of them gets a good idea it's often ported to the others.

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