First post, Gentoo development, FreeBSD, etc.

Here it is! The first post to my Gentoo blog. Yay!

I’m a very new Gentoo Developer (almost 1.5 months!), and I guess the reason I became a dev is that my career has slowly taken me away from development over time. Also, I love open source, and I’ve been a Unix geek for many years. Gentoo is something that grew on me. When I first tried it, the selling point I remember most was that you could maximize the performance of the OS on your machine by tweaking and compiling everything, and I really didn’t know if all of that compile time was worth it. I left a bit puzzled, like I was missing something, but I came back to it later (I forget why), and that was it – I was hooked. It doesn’t matter that much to me that it’s all compiled optimally, and as for the “learning factor” in the manual install process, I’ve been with Linux too long for that to be of personal benefit (although I can see its value for newcomers). What I really like is the way Gentoo is put together and the thought that has gone into it. Portage is very cool – it’s a great package managing system. Emerging packages is somehow very satisfying. I love the text colors – really – very aesthetic. Little details like this are important to me.

OK, so what do I work on in Gentoo? Two main things:

  • Packages of interest (currently only one: app-emulation/xtrs)
  • Gentoo/FreeBSD

I joined Gentoo as part of the Gentoo/FreeBSD project (informally called “g/fbsd”). Portage was inspired by FreeBSD’s “ports” system, but it’s pretty cool to be able to actually emerge Gentoo packages in FreeBSD. Why do I like BSD? Well, I’ve been a Linux guy for a long time, and there a lot of reasons BSD is enticing, one of which is its Unix heritage. Don’t get me wrong: I still love and use Linux, but why not explore new (or is it old?) things?

I got my start with ebuilds helping to bump the version on “xtrs”, which is very near and dear to me (you see, I was a TRS-80 geek when I was 13 or so), and I now co-maintain it with the dev who helped me initially. In fact, that initially peaked my interested in becoming a dev. I expect I’ll pick up other packages of interest in the future, too.

OK, time to admit something: I can be quite the perfectionist, and my latest challenge (some might say obsession) is tracking down some strange behavior in the bash shell that happens in FreeBSD but not Linux (I say “FreeBSD”, because I have confirmed that it is not g/fbsd-specific). I’ve gotten the interest of a couple of FreeBSD devs, and I hope this will get fixed soon. What is the issue, you might ask? It’s pretty cosmetic, really: cursor movement is kind of wacked at the very end of a command line if you have the UTF-8 locale set. Unless you move back and forth in the command line to edit it (bash’s readline functionality), you won’t see it. But to me, it just feels “flaky”, and that’s where my perfectionism comes in. I’ll solve this, damn it! Operating systems should feel solid, reliable, consistent, etc., right? 🙂

Before I sign off, I want to thank all of the cool Gentoo developers I’ve worked with. Thanks for putting up with my “newdev” questions so far, and I hope I get to make some useful contributions, which would be a lot easier if I didn’t have a paying job too!