OpenBSD and the little Mauritian contributor
OpenBSD! I recall it as the blowfish photo someone stuck on the whiteboard during the times I was working at Linkbynet. I had no BSD hands-on-experience before that although I knew about it. My first OpenBSD proper introduction was given by Ronny at Linkbynet when I questioned him about the Blowfish photo.
That's where the story began. He told me about Logan (Loganaden Velvindron) and while I still wasn't a member of the Linux User Group of Mauritius at that moment, I recalled Logan from a previous Linux event at the University of Mauritius where he did a presentation on SQL Injection. Logan has been a contributor to the OpenBSD project since 2010. I was today wondering to write an article on Mauritians contributing to the global open source community, Logan, our BSD fellow, fits in well.
Logan started sending patches for the mg editor to the OpenBSD developers back in 2010. He also wrote a patch for a USB keyboard to work with OpenBSD. Coincidentally, he also was in search for a firewall and load balancer for work purposes. OpenBSD has PF (Packet Filter) and this made very much sense to Logan.
As a meticulous developer Logan was picky about projects. In 2012, he needed a topic for the university final year project. Topics provided by the university didn't really suit his taste and he decided to adventure on his own. He started working on a secure file transfer protocol modeled after SFTP. He spent some time studying the the SSH code and design documents. He then came up with the idea to implement SFTP resume support for download and upload. Now, his project had it but OpenSSH didn't. That's another turn in the adventure.
Logan strongly advocates the development cycle as followed by OpenBSD developers and in his own words he describes the experience as follows:
OpenBSD has a developer tree, where developers work on the next version of OpenBSD. OpenBSD insists that code committed to the developer tree should always be able to compile. Broken code isn't accepted. In turn this enforces strong discipline, and peer review of patches, something that other open source projects lack (sadly). Working with developers around the world is a fantastic experience. I get to learn about their country's culture, cuisine, sports, and language. We have IRC-like meetings, and we use mails heavily. My inbox generally has around 40-50 mails daily, that I need to go through. From time to time, we organise developer focused events known as hackathons, where we put groups of developers in a room, and we basically hack intensively on parts of OpenBSD. The face-to-face meeting allows us to move faster for improving patches.
Logan advocates the adoption of IPv6, since we're everyday running out of IPv4 addresses. He shows concerns that the slow adoption of IPv6 is severely hampering the global growth of the internet.
LibreSSL is a fork of OpenSSL that aims to provide a secure & reliable SSL toolkit. The fork was triggered by the advent of the Heartbleed bug which drew much criticism. At the moment a lot of effort is being made by OpenBSD developers to re-engineer the code-base. Logan has fixed a few memory allocation issues but he argues more needs to be done.
Lastly, I asked Logan if he'd agree to mentor the young fellows wishing to contribute in open source projects, to which he agreed certainly. He encourages Mauritians to try fixing bugs that affect them, get in touch with developers of the various projects and discuss the issue with them, follow their instructions and help them in making the software better.
Loganaden Velvindron is a young fellow who works as a junior systems engineer at AFRINIC. AFRINIC is the organization that manages the allocation of IPv4 and IPv6 in the African region, and also, ASN allocation. AFRINIC sponsors some of Loganden's open source work, and they have a long term vision of the internet for the african region, which aligns with some of his ideas.
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OpenBSD, OpenSSH, LibreSSL, among other cool software that come from the hacker-labs of the OpenBSD Foundation are products of creative ingenuity & hard work. Developers with some real passion for coding spend hours, days, months and years fine-tuning the code that assures you a reliable & secure usage. Should you wish to thank these fellows for their good work, please donate to the foundation for the good code to keep coming (^^,) ...