Feb 10, 2015

Call to Action: Plan an #InstallFreeBSD Event


This is a call for individuals to organize #installFreeBSD events in their locales. The purpose of these events is to increase awareness of our favorite operating system because it's worth knowing about and using the best damn operating system in the world.

The events should be planned ahead of time and open to the public to maximize the impact of sharing FreeBSD with the wider world. It would be great to use a shared agenda that will allow each event to engage its participants in an intentional but leave room for flexibility.

These events should take place the week of Monday, March 30. It's several weeks away, which allows plenty of time to collaborate on putting these together.

Why #InstallFreeBSD?

The idea isn't new; we've all heard about the fun that goes on at Linux parties. But the same curiosity and fervor for learning and playing together is inherent to hackers of all stripes, and FreeBSD is no exception. So why not showcase another valuable tool and give the curious some firsthand experience?

My own investment in FreeBSD began with FreeBSD 4.5. It ran on a Toshiba Satellite 4015CDT, a Pentium II system with 64 MiB RAM, and served files across the network and allowed me to tinker. Later, I ran FreeBSD 5.1 through 7.2 on an IBM PC 365 with dual, overclocked 1 MiB Pentium Pro chips for the same reason. Needless to say, it wailed. (I wonder if how it would run FreeBSD 10.1, and it's still in storage—but I digress…

Thanks to my tinkering, I was later able to leverage my knowledge of the high-end, large-scale deployment demon to pay for college and work my way into a career that has spanned from system administration to technology journalism and commentary. And let me be clear: it was FreeBSD that enabled me to do that, not Windows or Linux or OpenBSD.

I won't go into the value of FreeBSD here—that, and the inevitable holy wars that follow, are for another time and place—but it's clearly the silent standard for *nix. Period. And therein lies the rub: hackers and sysadmins know FreeBSD, but do more casual users and developers?

It's time to stop being so silent and start a new conversation.

HOWTO #InstallFreeBSD

There are many ways to put events together; this is mine. It's certainly appropriate for someone who's never done this before, probably moreso than if you have event-planning experience or a group you're already working with. Below are some basic steps for logistics, promotion, and turnout.



TL;DR: Your venue should have capacity for your turnout, match your budget, and be easy to get at.

Capacity is one factor for venue. Pick a number that is slightly greater than the number of people you think you could get to come to your event. If you're pretty confident you could get a dozen people to turn out, plan for 20. If you think you can get 60 butts in seats, make sure there's room for 75.

The reason for this inflation is three-fold. First, you may get more people there than you thought you would. Second, you can't do this kind of event breathing on one another like smoked kipper. And third, this event will need some extra space to account for the necessary computers and gadgets.

Cost will also factor in. Can you piggyback on another group's space or event that will seat your guests comfortably? Are you someone with no budget with access to free space? You could be a college student with access to meeting rooms on campus, or an employee at a workplace that's free at night. Think creatively and ambitiously. This could circle back around and dictate your turnout goal.

Finally, location. Like I said above, piggybacking on someone else's event is a great thing. Doing so means people can get there. Are you better off using a library far away from the nearest exit ramp, or something with accessible stairs and parking near the highway? Don't torture your cadre of curious hackers with travel; make it easy for them to arrive, park if necessary, and get inside.


TL;DR: Keep a running list of what you need to bring or set up. Do a run-through of your agenda to identify those items.

What will you need at the event? A projector and place to shine light are good ideas. Does the space also have wifi and plenty of electrical outlets? Do you have power strips to bring along?

Since the goal is to increase awareness of FreeBSD by talking about and installing it, think about what you'll need to do so. It absolutely makes sense to go to there and pretend to run your agenda, or at least talk from the front of the room and start an install. That way, you'll run into all the little snags that surprise volunteers planning events and be able to avoid them.

Keep a list handy of whatever equipment you'll need.


We all know about email, Facebook, Twitter, and all the other electronic means of promoting an event. While you and I are communicating through one of those media right now, they're mostly not useful for getting people to actually show up somewhere. They're the easiest way to advertise an event, and also the easiest to ignore or miss entirely. Instead, think about putting yourself out there. Is FreeBSD worth the extra toil? (The answer is yes, yes it is.)

What kind of people or groups are likely to be interested? Can you share a few words at a Linux usergroup or at the beginning of your System Administration class, and offer a sign-up sheet so you can email them a reminder? (See, email does have its place.) This is the best way to get people to show up; show up and ask them at their thing.

Don't forget about traditional media either. Most papers will run notice for non-commercial events for free; radio—especially public radio—likewise. If you're polished and/or ambitious enough, you could actually invite journalists to the event, if you're after that kind of exposure. I would suggest doing so if you'll have a large enough or flashy enough event.


It would be great to use a shared agenda that will allow each event to engage its participants in a more-or-less shared, coherent fashion but leave room for flexibility.

Here is my suggested agenda:

  1. 5 min: Call to Order + Introductions
    1. name, where from, interest in FreeBSD, optional personal note (jobs/hobbies/etc)
  2. 5 min: Statement of Purpose
    1. why we're here
    2. quick overview of agenda
  3. 20 min: Brief History of Unix & FreeBSD
  4. 20 min: #InstallFreeBSD
  5. 30 min: Tutorial: #FreeBSD basics
  6. 15 min: Observations, Q&A, Next Steps?

You can see the agenda runs just under an hour and a half, which gives plenty of opportunity for socializing before or after and customizing the agenda to best engage your particular group.

My Plans to #InstallFreeBSD

Here are my plans so far:


  • local 2600 group (attend)
  • local Linux User Group (attend)
  • local TEDx mailing list (grab from them)
  • local hackerspace (attend/get list)
  • university comp sci dept/profs?
  • statwide cons?


  • promote event at above meetings, interested people sign up
  • send a few emails over the course of the next several weeks to my list
  • talk to presidents/profs/etc of other groups about same


  • local hackerspace will allow us to host 30 people comfortably
  • will bring its regular members, make our event its meeting night
  • some computers already available
  • booked for April 1 5-9pm

Who is on your invitation list and where will you host your guests? What do you want in the agenda, and who wants to work on it together? Reply here and share your plans!


P.S. Share your plans for your events! And, if you're on the Facebook or the Twitter, use #InstallFreeBSD.


  1. Why should I care to forget everything I know about the inner-workings of Linux, which does its job just fine, and install FreeBSD? Overly ambitious much. Posting to /r/Linux? Wow.

    1. You are a tool. Shut the fuck up.

  2. FreeBSD? You mean the same FreeBSD that hangs when doing an update?


    Also, where's the Haswell support? The DRM code is still a mess. OpenBSD got it right the first time and with KMS working out-of-the-box.

  3. Looks like the hanging issue was fixed.


    If you don't need anything specific from the Intel driver (such as 3D rendering), the vesa driver works pretty well at 1600x900 without having to make an xorg.conf file. The only problem you might run into is that it makes X use lot of CPU, so laptops will probably have reduced battery life. An Intel driver would be nice, but the Haswell processors are so fast that I don't notice that I'm using vesa half of the time. It's better than the crappy nv driver that barely worked on one of my old computers which had a Sempron processor.

  4. You stopped being a troll and started being a fanboy. Congrats. I hope you're still in KC and didn't get the fuck out of there like I did years ago when I met you.

  5. full blown case of aids.

  6. Moreover, the reward system which also allows for multi player options make the game difficult to put down. Adu Q