posted by Eugenia Loli on Sat 13th Mar 2004 09:07 UTC

"Interview with M.Dillon, Page 2/2"
6. Are you planning to import some of OpenBSD's "tricks" for extra security?

Matthew Dillon: We've been looking at both OpenBSD's security features, such as their system call filters, and FreeBSD's extended attribute and MAC security infrastructure. Security is important but it's no where near the top of the list. There is a huge amount of other infrastructure that really needs to be done first before we have the resources to address security beyond the standard UNIX security model. In fact, a good chunk of the infrastructure we intend to put in, such as syscall messaging and VFS environments will be needed to serve as a basis for future security work so it would be a bit premature to start on the security work at this early date.

7. What do you think of the bsd terrain today? Are the BSDs doing/achieving enough as a platform to keep up with other Unix/Linux/Windows competition? Do you think that BSDs should re-innovate themselves at all levels in order to "go with the times"?

Matthew Dillon: I believe that the BSD's are doing quite well as a platform, even though Linux obviously has the eye of the masses. All the BSD's have steadily increased their development resources over time and the Linux phenomenon hasn't really dampened it. Keep in mind that developers work on the BSDs for very different reasons then developers who work on Linux. The BSDs are all about advancing software technologies into new arenas, while Linux is all about leverage (which is why you see a very well integrated security subsystem in FreeBSD-5 and OpenBSD and ten different types of filesystems in Linux). Even better, nearly 100% of the user application base developed under Linux compiles and runs natively on the BSD's (and people often forget that major pieces of software such as the X windowing system existed long before Linux came on the scene, running on BSD and commercial UNIX systems). People often forget that Open-Source means precisely that... open source code, which means portability across platforms and operating systems.

In anycase, you have to keep in mind that programmers always have their own reasons for working on a project, and since programmers are not consumers the reasoning is always very different from the reasoning a typical consumer might have in choosing a system. This pretty much guarentees that the behind-the-scenes interest, economics, and even politics driving the people who actually work on a project like DragonFly or *BSD, or Linux, has nothing whatsoever to do with what you might read in the popular press (which is consumer-centric).

8. Currently the installation of DragonFly is very manual. What plans do you have for the installation procedure?

Matthew Dillon: At the moment the Live CD ISO is targeted towards developers rather then end-users. We have been discussing installer ideas for months. We probably will not have anything 'good' in the first release, but we will certainly have something reasonable in the second release.

This is both good and not so good. It's good in that it means we don't have the pressure of having to deal with bug reports from non-technical end users yet. It's not so good because, obviously, a good installer will greatly improve our user base and interest in the project.

9. Do you have any plans to port to PPC and maybe merge some code with Darwin?

Matthew Dillon: The PPC is a good target to port to and will probably wind up being second on my list. The first port is going to be to AMD64 (which also means Intel's latest 64 bit announcement, since it's compatible with the AMD64). There is no time frame for that but it will likely be started after the first release. A PPC port has a likely time frame of a year or two.

10. What feature on your OS has you very excited? How is Dragonfly going to differentiate from other similar solutions? Is innovation among your goals? If yes, what kind of innovations are you looking into doing?

Matthew Dillon: Well I strongly believe that any project needs to have an unattainable goal, and our unattainable goal (which I hope actually winds up being attainable) is to develop DragonFly into a transparently cluster-capable system implementing native SSI (Single System Image). It is something that no non-commercial system today can do (the type of clustering Linux supports isn't even close to the type of clustering that we have as our goal, and clustering has never been one of the other BSD's goals as far as I can tell).

In the short term, I have become very exciting about our light weight kernel threading technology, in particular the methodlogy we are adopting to serialize data access by partitioning major subsystems into threads instead of serializing data access with mutexes (FreeBSD-5 and Linux use a mutex-centric model, DragonFly uses a thread-centric model). The reason for this excitement is that it is becoming clear to us that we can develop very clean-looking, elegant, debuggable, SMP scaleable software using this model whereas using the mutex model generally results in much less elegant (even ugly), difficult-to-debug code. Code complexity and code quality is a very important issue in any large piece of software and we believe we have hit on a model that directly addresses the issue in an SMP environment without compromising performance.

11. What is the status of the Backplane DB's Apache PHP module? Do you still work on the db full time?

Matthew Dillon: The Backplane DB is virtually a whole project unto itself. Due to a number of business issues with the software we were unable to give it a completely open-source license, and because of that encumberance I felt uncomfortable making an OSS project out of it. Backplane is on the backburner for now, I have been working on DragonFly full time for most of the last year.

Backplane Inc is shopping the database around. It's a very technically competent multi-master database and replication technology but it really needs the resources of a larger company to advance further.

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