Agrégateur de flux

Robert Douglass: Robert Douglass takes the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in Köln

Planet Drupal - lun, 25/08/2014 - 20:23

Baris Wanschers called me out, and here it is, my ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

Thank you to the Drupal Community for 10 years of prosperity: I hope you take this challenge too, and find it in your heart to give to ALSA.org or a charitable organizations of your choice.

This video is dedicated to Aaron Winborn. Aaron's family could also use your donations, as he is suffering from ALS.

Finally, I expect to see Dries Buytaert, Kieran Lal, and Jeffrey "jam" McGuire complete this challenge within 24 hours!

Tags: Drupal Planet
Catégories: Elsewhere

Drupal.org Featured Case Studies: Tech Coast Angels

Planet Drupal - lun, 25/08/2014 - 18:54
Completed Drupal site or project URL: http://www.techcoastangels.com/

Tech Coast Angels is the largest angel investment organization in the United States. With over 300 members throughout Southern California, Tech Coast Angels' members have invested over $120 million in over 200 startup companies since their inception in 1997.

Since 2013, Exaltation of Larks has been working with Tech Coast Angels with their online systems, including an extensive Drupal web application that their members use as a deal flow tracker and document management system. Services we’ve provided include support, maintenance, security improvements, performance optimization, and mobile integration.

The web application that Tech Coast Angels uses allows its members to view startup companies' applications for funding, discuss each company's application, and collaborate with one another in researching each company, which then helps them make individual decisions on funding.

Key modules/theme/distribution used: ServicesPHP Filter LockAPC - Alternative PHP CacheSecure Password HashesFeaturesACLOrganizations involved: Exaltation of LarksTeam members: focal55
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Code Karate: Multiple Views Part 3

Planet Drupal - lun, 25/08/2014 - 15:23
Episode Number: 164

In the last installment of multiple views you will learn how to change the look of the view using the two classes you set in the previous video. By using CSS, you will be able to display content in two ways depending on the choice of the viewer. This is a nice advantage to provide options for the visitor to your site.

Tags: DrupalViewsDrupal 7Theme DevelopmentDrupal PlanetUI/DesignCSS
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Acquia: How I learned Drupal 8

Planet Drupal - lun, 25/08/2014 - 15:13

In this post, I will share my experience on trying to learn Drupal 8 during its alpha stage, talk about some of the challenges of keeping up with the ongoing changes while trying to learn it, and end with some tips and resources which proved useful for me.

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Lullabot: Module Monday: Office Hours

Planet Drupal - lun, 25/08/2014 - 15:00

Lets say you are building a site for an institution with multiple locations, each of which have varying hours depending on time of year or other variables. What is the best way to manage this data? This is a pretty common type of content modeling problem. The easiest thing to do is to just give each location a text field for their hours, but that limits display options and is prone to data entry errors. You could also build out a whole fancy content type with multi-instance date fields, but that could get bloated and difficult to maintain pretty quickly.

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Steve Kemp: Updates on git-hosting and load-balancing

Planet Debian - lun, 25/08/2014 - 10:16

To round up the discussion of the Debian Administration site yesterday I flipped the switch on the load-balancing. Rather than this:

https -> pound \ \ http -------------> varnish --> apache

We now have the simpler route for all requests:

http -> haproxy -> apache https -> haproxy -> apache

This means we have one less HTTP-request for all incoming secure connections, and these days secure connections are preferred since a Strict-Transport-Security header is set.

In other news I've been juggling git repositories; I've setup an installation of GitBucket on my git-host. My personal git repository used to contain some private repositories and some mirrors.

Now it contains mirrors of most things on github, as well as many more private repositories.

The main reason for the switch was to get a prettier interface and bug-tracker support.

A side-benefit is that I can use "groups" to organize repositories, so for example:

Most of those are mirrors of the github repositories, but some are new. When signed in I see more sources, for example the source to http://steve.org.uk.

I've been pleased with the setup and performance, though I had to add some caching and some other magic at the nginx level to provide /robots.txt, etc, which are not otherwise present.

I'm not abandoning github, but I will no longer be using it for private repositories (I was gifted a free subscription a year or three ago), and nor will I post things there exclusively.

If a single canonical source location is required for a repository it will be one that I control, maintain, and host.

I don't expect I'll give people commit access on this mirror, but it is certainly possible. In the past I've certainly given people access to private repositories for collaboration, etc.

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Hideki Yamane: Could you try to consider speaking more slowly and clearly at sessions, please?

Planet Debian - lun, 25/08/2014 - 06:08

Some people (including me :) are not native English speaking person, and also not use English for usual conversation. So, it's a bit tough for them to hear what you said if you speak as usual speed. We want to listen your presentation to understand and discuss about it (of course!), but sometimes machine gun speaking would prevent it.

Calm down, take a deep breath and do your presentation - then it'll be a fantastic, my cat will be pleased with it as below (meow!).



Thank you for your reading. See you in cheese & wine party.

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Friendly Machine: Web Performance: A Guide to Building Fast Drupal Websites

Planet Drupal - lun, 25/08/2014 - 00:50

What follows is part one in a series of posts on web performance that I've wanted to write for quite some time. In this series of posts I'll not only be talking about optimizing web performance generally, but also providing specific guidance for speeding up Drupal sites.

Although I'm not a web performance specialist or expert, I have taken a keen interest in the topic in my work as a frontend developer building responsive websites. I love building fast sites and have gained some experience over the years getting Drupal to shed some its inherent sluggishness. 

As a way of systematically tackling what can be a complex subject, we'll use the results of a test from WebPageTest.org, a Google-sponsored tool that provides very in-depth information about the performance of a site in nice, easily digestible chunks.

How Fast Is Fast Enough?

Before we get into the details of web performance we should first stop to ask how fast a site should be in order to qualify as "fast". Here are some research results courtesy of Radware that might help bring things into focus:

  • 64% of smartphone users expect pages to load in less than 4 seconds.
  • The performance poverty line (i.e. the plateau at which your website’s load time ceases to matter because you’ve hit close to rock bottom in terms of business metrics) for most sites is around 8 seconds.

More guidance comes courtesy of Ilya Grigorek of Google. In his recent presentation at the Velocity conference, he cited research that indicates a target page render time should be 1000ms - or one second  - to avoid "context switching" among users.

Basically, if it takes a page longer than one second to render, you risk losing the attention of the user. If it takes longer than eight seconds for a page to render, it's similar in terms of business metrics (conversions, sales, etc) as if it took 30 seconds or a minute.

If one second sounds impossibly ambitious, there is further research showing that a load time of three seconds or less is probably OK

The bottom line: your pages should load in under three seconds on desktop, and under 4 seconds on a mobile.

Pretty harsh reality check, huh? Let's see what can be done to get our sites whipped into shape.

Test Results for this Analysis

In order for us to have a practical example for our discussion, I ran the Friendly Machine site through WebPageTest. Here are the results (click to enlarge image):

I recently completed a refresh of the design of this site with a lot of attention focused on keeping things fast. My target page load time was one second, so I was happy when the results consistently came in below that.

Let's start our analysis by looking at the first number in the above table - under the heading "Load Time". You'll see the value is 0.662 seconds. That's pretty darn good, but if you scan across the table you may see something on the far right that's a bit confusing - a Fully Loaded Time of 0.761 seconds.

So what's the difference between Load Time and Fully Loaded Time?

Load Time is calculated from the time when the user started navigating to the page until the Document Complete event is fired. The Document Complete event is fired by the browser once the page has completed loading.

The Fully Loaded time, on the other hand, also includes any metrics up until there is no network activity for two seconds. Most of the time this means watching for things being loaded by JavaScript in the background.

First Byte Time = Backend Performance

Whenever talk turns to web performance, it seems a lot of folks immediately start thinking of what's happening on the server. Although it's a very important piece of the puzzle, as we walk through this analysis, you'll see that most web performance issues actually reside on the frontend.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, let's return to the results from our test and look at the next metric in our table, First Byte Time (highlighted in blue below) which tells us about performance on the server.

This First Byte Time represents the time from when a user began navigating to the page until the first bit of the server response arrived at the browser. The target time for this on WebPageTest is a meager 87 ms!

This metric is also represented as the first in the series of letter grades you see at the top of the test results. You'll notice Friendly Machine got an "A" and I really wish I could take credit for it, but the truth is my host Pantheon - and the awesome backend performance they provide - are responsible for this metric scoring well.

Backend Drupal Performance

Let's pause here and talk specifically about backend Drupal performance. How would we address this metric if it hadn't scored well? This topic can get pretty deep, so we'll only review the most popular options, but they'll still be able to do wonders for improving this key metric if your site is not performing well.

Let's start by discussing server resources (with a brief, tangential mini-rant about shared hosting).

If you want a fast Drupal website, you really shouldn't be on a shared host, period. Although many of them will claim to be Drupal specialists, very few of them actually are. One giveaway is the number for PHP memory limit.

Although this number doesn't directly impact performance, it can break your site if it's too low and is also useful for smoking out hosts that don't know Drupal. You can find this number at admin/reports/status and it will look something like the image below.

You can see on my site this number is at 256 megabytes and this is most likely where you want it, although if you have a simple site without Views or Panels, then 128M might work. If it's set at 64M, then it's too low and this is often what you'll find with shared hosting arrangements. 

Another issue with shared hosting - and one that does impact performance - is that your website is on a server with perhaps hundreds of other sites. If one of those sites gets hit with a large spike in traffic or some other issue, it can affect all the sites on that server as it gobbles up the available resources.

Perhaps the biggest issue with shared hosting, however, is that advanced caching using tools like Memcached and Varnish are rarely, if ever, available. And when it comes to Drupal backend performance, caching is critical. The best you'll probably be able to do with regard to caching on shared hosting is using the Boost module, which we'll talk about in the next section.

To ensure that server resources aren't an issue for your website, consider either a managed VPS or a Drupal host like Pantheon, both of which start at around $25 per month. Pantheon is what I recommend for small to medium sized sites because your site will scale better with them and they offer tremendous value, although they are a great fit for enterprise clients as well. If you have a bigger budget, Acquia or BlackMesh might fit the bill.

Sure, these options cost more than the $7 per month the cheap hosts offer, but they will provide a professional level of service that will more than pay for itself over time.

Caching for Drupal Websites

We said caching was critical, so here are five of the most important caching solutions for a Drupal website:

  1. Drupal's built-in caching
  2. Boost module
  3. Memcached
  4. Varnish
  5. Views caching

There are other options, of course, but these five cover most of the ground. Let's briefly go through them one at a time.

Drupal's Built-in Caching

Most of a Drupal site is stored in the database - nodes, information about blocks, etc. - and enabling the default caching will store the results of these database queries so that they aren't executed every time a page is requested. Enabling these settings alone can have a big impact on performance, particularly if your pages use a lot of views. This one is kind of a no-brainer.

Boost Module

The Boost module is pretty great. It works very well in tandem with Drupal caching, but it requires some additional configuration. What you end up with after you have the module installed and configured is a caching system that stores the output of your Drupal site as static HTML pages. This takes PHP processing out of the equation, leading to another nice bump in performance.

Memcached

Memcached can speed up dynamic applications (like Drupal) by storing objects in memory. With Boost and Drupal caching, the data being cached is stored on the server's hard drive. With memcached, it's being stored in memory, something that greatly speeds up the response time for a request. Memcached works great in conjunction with both Boost and Drupal caching.

Varnish

Varnish is an HTTP accelerator that, similar to memcached, stores data in memory. It's capable of serving pages much faster than Apache (the most common web server for Drupal sites). It can also be used in conjunction with memcached, although it's often the case that they are not used together and other advanced caching methods are instead implemented alongside Varnish.

Views Caching

Another type of database caching is Views caching. Views is a very popular, but rather resource intensive, Drupal module. Implementing Views caching can give your site a nice additional performance boost by possibly removing a few database queries from the build process.

To set views caching, go to your view. On the right hand side, under Advanced > Other, you'll see a link for Caching. Just go in and set a value - an hour is usually a good default - for each view on your site.

Wrapping Up Part One

Wow, long post and all we've really covered so far is backend performance and caching! This discussion hasn't been comprehensive by any means, but it does provide a great start.

Next time we'll start digging into frontend performance, the area where most of our performance issues reside. What should be obvious so far is that web performance is a subject that is both deep and wide, but also critically important to building successful websites.

If you have any comments about this post, you may politely leave them below.

Drupal Web Performance
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DebConf team: Full video coverage for DebConf14 talks (Posted by Tiago Bortoletto Vaz)

Planet Debian - dim, 24/08/2014 - 22:25

We are happy to announce that live video streams will be available for talks and discussion meetings in DebConf14. Recordings will be posted soon after the events. You can also interact with other local and remote attendees by joining the IRC channels which are listed at the streams page.

For people who want to view the streams outside a webbrowser, the page for each room lists direct links to the streams.

More information on the streams and the various possibilities offered is available at DebConf Videostreams.

The schedule of talks is available at DebConf 14 Schedule.

Thanks to our amazing video volunteers for making it possible. If you like the video coverage, please add a thank you note to VideoTeam Thanks

Catégories: Elsewhere

Noah Meyerhans: Debconf by train

Planet Debian - dim, 24/08/2014 - 22:19

Today is the first time I've taken an interstate train trip in something like 15 years. A few things about the trip were pleasantly surprising. Most of these will come as no surprise:

  1. Less time wasted in security theater at the station prior to departure.
  2. On-time departure
  3. More comfortable seats than a plane or bus.
  4. Quiet.
  5. Permissive free wifi

Wifi was the biggest surprise. Not that it existed, since we're living in the future and wifi is expected everywhere. It's IPv4 only and stuck behind a NAT, which isn't a big surprise, but it is reasonably open. There isn't any port filtering of non-web TCP ports, and even non-TCP protocols are allowed out. Even my aiccu IPv6 tunnel worked fine from the train, although I did experience some weird behavior with it.

I haven't used aiccu much in quite a while, since I have a native IPv6 connection at home, but it can be convenient while travelling. I'm still trying to figure out happened today, though. The first symptoms were that, although I could ping IPv6 hosts, I could not actually log in via IMAP or ssh. Tcpdump showed all the standard symptoms of a PMTU blackhole. Small packets flow fine, large ones are dropped. The interface MTU is set to 1280, which is the minimum MTU for IPv6 and any path on the internet is expected to handle packets of at least that size. Experimentation via ping6 reveals that the largest payload size I can successfully exchange with a peer is 820 bytes. Add 8 bytes for the ICMPv6 header for 828 bytes of payload, plus 40 bytes for the IPv6 header gives an 868 byte packet, which is well under what should be the MTU for this path.

I've worked around this problem with an ip6tables rule to rewrite the MSS on outgoing SYN packets to 760 bytes, which should leave 40 for the IPv6 header and 20 for any extension headers:

sudo ip6tables -t mangle -A OUTPUT -p tcp --tcp-flags SYN,RST SYN -j TCPMSS --set-mss 760

It is working well and will allow me to publish this from the train, which I'd otherwise have been unable to do. But... weird.

Catégories: Elsewhere

Vincent Sanders: Without craftsmanship, inspiration is a mere reed shaken in the wind.

Planet Debian - dim, 24/08/2014 - 21:47
While I imagine Johannes Brahms was referring to music I think the sentiment applies to other endeavours just as well. The trap of believing an idea is worth something without an implementation occurs all too often, however this is not such an unhappy tale.

Lars Wirzenius, Steve McIntyre and myself were chatting a few weeks ago about several of the ongoing Debian discussions. As is often the case these discussions had devolved into somewhat unproductive noise and yet amongst all this was a voice of reason in Russ Allbery.

Lars decided that would take the opportunity of the upcoming opportunity of Debconf 14 to say thank you to Russ for his work. It was decided that a plaque would be a nice gift and I volunteered to do the physical manufacture. Lars came up with the idea of a DEBCON scale similar to the DEFCON scale and got some text together with an initial design idea.

I took the initial design and as is often the case what is practically possible forced several changes. The prototype was a steep learning curve on using the Cambridge makespace laser cutter to create all the separate pieces.

The construction is pretty simple and consisted of three layers of transparent acrylic plastic. The base layer is a single piece of plastic with the correct outline. The next layer has the DEBCON title, the Debian swirl and level numbers. The top layer has the text engraved in its back surface giving the impression the text floats above the layer behind it.

For the prototype I attempted to glue the pieces together. This was a complete disaster and required discarding the entire piece and starting again with new materials.

For the second version I used four small nylon bolts to hold the sandwich of layers together which worked very well.

Yesterday at the Debconf 14 opening Steve McIntyre presented it to Russ and I think he was pleased, certainly he was surprised (photo from Aigars Mahinovs).

The design files are available from my design git repo, though why anyone would want to reproduce it I have no idea ;-)
Catégories: Elsewhere

LookAlive: Saving a serialized data Array as a property on a custom Entity (D7)

Planet Drupal - dim, 24/08/2014 - 21:42

Doing some initial prototyping work on the Comstack module I hit this question without a clear answer. For clarity here's a chunk of the schema structure for a Message Type (exportable entity).

/**
* Implements hook_schema().
*/
function comstack_schema() {
  $schema = array();

  $schema['comstack_message_type'] = array(
    'description' => 'Stores information about all defined {comstack_message} types.',
    'fields' => array(
      'id' => array(
        'type' => 'serial',
        'not null' => TRUE,
        'description' => 'Primary Key: Unique {comstack_message} type ID.',
      ),
    ...
    'delivery_methods' => array(
        'type' => 'text',
        'not null' => FALSE,
        'size' => 'big',
        'serialize' => TRUE,
        'description' => 'A serialized array of allowed send methods for this type.',
      ),

Following the instructions on how to create an exportable Entity as over here on d.o https://www.drupal.org/node/1021526 and here https://www.drupal.org/node/1021576

The second link has the following code which is the submit process where the form values are wrapped up and a new entity put together for you before saving.

/**
* Form API submit callback for the type form.
*/
function profile2_type_form_submit(&$form, &$form_state) {
  $profile_type = entity_ui_form_submit_build_entity($form, $form_state);
  ...

So how do we construct a form which will allow for arbitrary array structures? Like this (in your form function)!

  $form['delivery_methods'] = array(
    '#title' => t('Delivery methods to allow'),
    '#type' => 'checkboxes',
    '#required' => TRUE,
    '#options' => $delivery_methods,
    '#default_value' => isset($comstack_message_type->delivery_methods) ? $comstack_message_type->delivery_methods : array(),
    '#tree' => TRUE,
  );

It's the #tree bit there that does it. Here's an explanation from the Form API documentation page which is marked as archived but still useful https://www.drupal.org/node/48643.

When we set fieldset value to TRUE we create the form:

<?php
$form['colors'] = array(
'#type' => 'fieldset',
'#title' => t('Choose a color'),
'#collapsible' => FALSE,
'#tree' => TRUE,
);
$form['colors']['green'] = array(
'#type' => 'checkbox',
'#title' => t('Green'),
'#default_value' => $node->green,
'#required' => FALSE,
);

and this is how they are inserted or updated in a db_query:

<?php
function example_insert($node){
  db_query("INSERT INTO {example} (nid, question, green, blue) VALUES (%d,'%s', %d, %d)", $node->nid, $node->title, $node->colors['green'], $node->colors['blue']);
}

Any questions? Leave them in the comments :]

Catégories: Elsewhere

Lucas Nussbaum: on the Dark Ages of Free Software: a “Free Service Definition”?

Planet Debian - dim, 24/08/2014 - 17:39

Stefano Zacchiroli opened DebConf’14 with an insightful talk titled Debian in the Dark Ages of Free Software (slides available, video available soon).

He makes the point (quoting slide 16) that the Free Software community is winning a war that is becoming increasingly pointless: yes, users have 100% Free Software thin client at their fingertips [or are really a few steps from there]. But all their relevant computations happen elsewhere, on remote systems they do not control, in the Cloud.

That give-up on control of computing is a huge and important problem, and probably the largest challenge for everybody caring about freedom, free speech, or privacy today. Stefano rightfully points out that we must do something about it. The big question is: how can we, as a community, address it?

Towards a Free Service Definition?

I believe that we all feel a bit lost with this issue because we are trying to attack it with our current tools & weapons. However, they are largely irrelevant here: the Free Software Definition is about software, and software is even to be understood strictly in it, as software programs. Applying it to services, or to computing in general, doesn’t lead anywhere. In order to increase the general awareness about this issue, we should define more precisely what levels of control can be provided, to understand what services are not providing to users, and to make an informed decision about waiving a particular level of control when choosing to use a particular service.

Benjamin Mako Hill pointed out yesterday during the post-talk chat that services are not black or white: there aren’t impure and pure services. Instead, there’s a graduation of possible levels of control for the computing we do. The Free Software Definition lists four freedoms — how many freedoms, or types of control, should there be in a Free Service Definition, or a Controlled-Computing Definition? Again, this is not only about software: the platform on which a particular piece of software is executed has a huge impact on the available level of control: running your own instance of WordPress, or using an instance on wordpress.com, provides very different control (even if as Asheesh Laroia pointed out yesterday, WordPress does a pretty good job at providing export and import features to limit data lock-in).

The creation of such a definition is an iterative process. I actually just realized today that (according to Wikipedia) the very first occurrence of an attempt at a Free Software Definition was published in 1986 (GNU’s bulletin Vol 1 No.1, page 8) — I thought it happened a couple of years earlier. Are there existing attempts at defining such freedoms or levels of controls, and at benchmarking such criteria against existing services? Such criteria would not only include control over software modifications and (re)distribution, but also likely include mentions of interoperability and open standards, both to enable the user to move to a compatible service, and to avoid forcing the user to use a particular implementation of a service. A better understanding of network effects is also needed: how much and what type of service lock-in is acceptable on social networks in exchange of functionality?

I think that we should inspire from what was achieved during the last 30 years on Free Software. The tools that were produced are probably irrelevant to address this issue, but there’s a lot to learn from the way they were designed. I really look forward to the day when we will have:

  • a Free Software Definition equivalent for services
  • Debian Free Software Guidelines-like tests/checklist to evaluate services
  • an equivalent of The Cathedral and the Bazaar, explaining how one can build successful business models on top of open services

Exciting times!

Catégories: Elsewhere

Gregor Herrmann: Debian Perl Group Micro-Sprint

Planet Debian - dim, 24/08/2014 - 02:25

DebConf 14 has started earlier today with the first two talks in sunny portland, oregon.

this year's edition of DebConf didn't feature a preceding DebCamp, & the attempts to organize a proper pkg-perl sprint were not very successful.

nevertheless, two other members of the Debian Perl Group & me met here in PDX on wednesday for our informal unofficial pkg-perl µ-sprint, & as intended, we've used the last days to work on some pkg-perl QA stuff:

  • upload packages which were waiting for Perl 5.20
  • upload packages which didn't have the Perl Group in Maintainer
  • update OpenTasks wiki page
  • update subscription to Perl packages in Ubuntu/Launchpad
  • start annual git repos cleanup
  • pkg-perl-tools: improve scripts to integrate upstream git repo
  • update alternative (build) dependencies after perl 5.20 upload
  • update Module::Build (build) dependencies

as usual, having someone to poke besides you, & the opportunity to get a second pair of eyes quickly was very beneficial. – & of course, spending time with my nice team mates is always a pleasure for me!

Catégories: Elsewhere

Doug Vann: 10 Useful Ways for Drupal Event Attendees To Be Engaged

Planet Drupal - sam, 23/08/2014 - 20:09

I am sitting here at DrupalCamp Asheville2014. I took a break and hung out in the BoF room and decided to compose this list of ideas on how Drupal Event attendees can engage the event.

I'd love to hear your comments below!

  1. Know The Session
    • What is this session about? Is it a show-n-tell of a module? Is it a case study of a website? If you are consciously aware of what to expect, then you are prepared to take what you hear and frame it within the context of the session topic. This is important for the attendee because not every element of the presentation will relate directly to the session topic. If the speaker needs to lay down some groundwork for a few minutes, it is important for you to remember what the overall topic is so that you don’t get lost in the weeds.
  2. Know The Session Speaker
    • Check out their Drupal.org Profile or their profile on the Event website. Get a sense of their background and perspective. This is also helpful if you ask questions at their session. You can ask questions that you know relate to elements of their background.
  3. Ask Questions At The Sessions
    • The number of questions at any given session will vary. But when there are none it can be a tad awkward. Then after the session, you might still see ppl walk up and ask questions.
    • I encourage you to fill in that silence with some immediate questions that come to mind. The speakers really really appreciate the questions.
  4. Engage Social Media
    • Tweet about the event. Maybe tweet about each session you attend and provide a link to the session description and invoke the speaker’s twitter name as well. 
    • Take pictures and post them wherever you post your pics.
    • Use the Hashtag if the event has one.
    • Do you blog? Blog about the event and what you liked.
    • The event organizers and spekers REALLY appreciate the media exposure.
    • Don’t forget that many Drupal events publish their videos online so you can catch the ones you missed or revisit the one you liked.
  5. Hang Out
    • Don’t feel like you have to attend a session in every timeslot. Feel free to hang out near the coffee tables or registration tables or in Birds of a Feather rooms. Wherever you see people hanging out, join them!
  6. Join A Stranger For Lunch
    • In general, the Drupal Community is a VERY social bunch. When it’s time to sit down and eat, it is also a good time to make some new friends. To the extent that you are comfortable with it, you can learn a lot by asking ppl how the event is going and what they do with Drupal.
  7. Get Swag
    • Walk around the sponsor’s booths and look for swag. These sponsors often DO NOT want to take that stuff back to the office. Sometimes you find some pretty useful things like shirts, pens, thumb drives, fold-up cloth flying disks, hackysacks, yo-yos, puzzles, keychains, etc.
  8. Talk To The Sponsors
    • I’ve never seen a sponsor bite or hard-sell a passerby at their booth! :-)
    • You may be amazed at what you will learn by reading the signs, looking at any literature on their table, and actually talking to the representative. 
  9. Fill Out Any Feedback Forms
    • Not ever event has feedback forms, but more and more are using them.
    • Forms may be available per-class, and for the event in general.
    • The organizers REALLY appreciate ALL comments.
    • As you might expect, the negative ones get more attention, so don’t hold back about the audio/video comments, or the need for more beginner topics, or how difficult it was to get to the venue from the airport, etc.
    • They really want to hear this!
  10. THANK The Organizers!
    • If you know their faces, be sure to thank them personally for their hard work organizing the speakers, the facilities, the meals, the WiFi, etc.
    • Be sure to tweet and post about it as well when you leave.
Drupal Planet

View the discussion thread.

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Antti-Juhani Kaijanaho: A milestone toward a doctorate

Planet Debian - sam, 23/08/2014 - 19:44

Yesterday I received my official diploma for the degree of Licentiate of Philosophy. The degree lies between a Master’s degree and a doctorate, and is not required; it consists of the coursework required for a doctorate, and a Licentiate Thesis, “in which the student demonstrates good conversance with the field of research and the capability of independently and critically applying scientific research methods” (official translation of the Government decree on university decrees 794/2004, Section 23 Paragraph 2).

The title and abstract of my Licentiate Thesis follow:

Kaijanaho, Antti-Juhani
The extent of empirical evidence that could inform evidence-based design of programming languages. A systematic mapping study.
Jyväskylä: University of Jyväskylä, 2014, 243 p.
(Jyväskylä Licentiate Theses in Computing,
ISSN 1795-9713; 18)
ISBN 978-951-39-5790-2 (nid.)
ISBN 978-951-39-5791-9 (PDF)
Finnish summary

Background: Programming language design is not usually informed by empirical studies. In other fields similar problems have inspired an evidence-based paradigm of practice. Central to it are secondary studies summarizing and consolidating the research literature. Aims: This systematic mapping study looks for empirical research that could inform evidence-based design of programming languages. Method: Manual and keyword-based searches were performed, as was a single round of snowballing. There were 2056 potentially relevant publications, of which 180 were selected for inclusion, because they reported empirical evidence on the efficacy of potential design decisions and were published on or before 2012. A thematic synthesis was created. Results: Included studies span four decades, but activity has been sparse until the last five years or so. The form of conditional statements and loops, as well as the choice between static and dynamic typing have all been studied empirically for efficacy in at least five studies each. Error proneness, programming comprehension, and human effort are the most common forms of efficacy studied. Experimenting with programmer participants is the most popular method. Conclusions: There clearly are language design decisions for which empirical evidence regarding efficacy exists; they may be of some use to language designers, and several of them may be ripe for systematic reviewing. There is concern that the lack of interest generated by studies in this topic area until the recent surge of activity may indicate serious issues in their research approach.

Keywords: programming languages, programming language design, evidence-based paradigm, efficacy, research methods, systematic mapping study, thematic synthesis

A Licentiate Thesis is assessed by two examiners, usually drawn from outside of the home university; they write (either jointly or separately) a substantiated statement about the thesis, in which they suggest a grade. The final grade is almost always the one suggested by the examiners. I was very fortunate to have such prominent scientists as Dr. Stefan Hanenberg and Prof. Stein Krogdahl as the examiners of my thesis. They recommended, and I received, the grade “very good” (4 on a scale of 1–5).

The thesis has been accepted for publication in our faculty’s licentiate thesis series and will in due course appear in our university’s electronic database (along with a very small number of printed copies). In the mean time, if anyone wants an electronic preprint, send me email at antti-juhani.kaijanaho@jyu.fi.

Figure 1 of the thesis: an overview of the mapping process

As you can imagine, the last couple of months in the spring were very stressful for me, as I pressed on to submit this thesis. After submission, it took me nearly two months to recover (which certain people who emailed me on Planet Haskell business during that period certainly noticed). It represents the fruit of almost four years of work (way more than normally is taken to complete a Licentiate Thesis, but never mind that), as I designed this study in Fall 2010.

Figure 8 of the thesis: Core studies per publication year

Recently, I have been writing in my blog a series of posts in which I have been trying to clear my head about certain foundational issues that irritated me during the writing of the thesis. The thesis contains some of that, but that part of it is not very strong, as my examiners put it, for various reasons. The posts have been a deliberately non-academic attempt to shape the thoughts into words, to see what they look like fixed into a tangible form. (If you go read them, be warned: many of them are deliberately provocative, and many of them are intended as tentative in fact if not in phrasing; the series also is very incomplete at this time.)

I closed my previous post, the latest post in that series, as follows:

In fact, the whole of 20th Century philosophy of science is a big pile of failed attempts to explain science; not one explanation is fully satisfactory. [...] Most scientists enjoy not pondering it, for it’s a bit like being a cartoon character: so long as you don’t look down, you can walk on air.

I wrote my Master’s Thesis (PDF) in 2002. It was about the formal method called “B”; but I took a lot of time and pages to examine the history and content of formal logic. My supervisor was, understandably, exasperated, but I did receive the highest possible grade for it (which I never have fully accepted I deserved). The main reason for that digression: I looked down, and I just had to go poke the bridge I was standing on to make sure I was not, in fact, walking on air. In the many years since, I’ve taken a lot of time to study foundations, first of mathematics, and more recently of science. It is one reason it took me about eight years to come up with a doable doctoral project (and I am still amazed that my department kept employing me; but I suppose they like my teaching, as do I). The other reason was, it took me that long to realize how to study the design of programming languages without going where everyone has gone before.

Debian people, if any are still reading, may find it interesting that I found significant use for the dctrl-tools toolset I have been writing for Debian for about fifteen years: I stored my data collection as a big pile of dctrl-format files. I ended up making some changes to the existing tools (I should upload the new version soon, I suppose), and I wrote another toolset (unfortunately one that is not general purpose, like the dctrl-tools are) in the process.

For the Haskell people, I mainly have an apology for not attending to Planet Haskell duties in the summer; but I am back in business now. I also note, somewhat to my regret, that I found very few studies dealing with Haskell. I just checked; I mention Haskell several times in the background chapter, but it is not mentioned in the results chapter (because there were not studies worthy of special notice).

I am already working on extending this work into a doctoral thesis. I expect, and hope, to complete that one faster.

Catégories: Elsewhere

Joachim Breitner: This blog goes static

Planet Debian - sam, 23/08/2014 - 17:54

After a bit more than 9 years, I am replacing Serendipity, which as been hosting my blog, by a self-made static solution. This means that when you are reading this, my server no longer has to execute some rather large body of untyped code to produce the bytes sent to you. Instead, that happens once in a while on my laptop, and they are stored as static files on the server.

I hope to get a little performance boost from this, so that my site can more easily hold up to being mentioned on hackernews. I also do not want to worry about security issues in Serendipity – static files are not hacked.

Of course there are down-sides to having a static blog. The editing is a bit more annoying: I need to use my laptop (previously I could post from anywhere) and I edit text files instead of using a JavaScript-based WYSIWYG editor (but I was slightly annoyed by that as well). But most importantly your readers cannot comment on static pages. There are cloud-based solutions that integrate commenting via JavaScript on your static pages, but I decided to go for something even more low-level: You can comment by writing an e-mail to me, and I’ll put your comment on the page. This has the nice benefit of solving the blog comment spam problem.

The actual implementation of the blog is rather masochistic, as my web page runs on one of these weird obfuscated languages (XSLT). Previously, it contained of XSLT stylesheets producing makefiles calling XSLT sheets. Now it is a bit more-self-contained, with one XSLT stylesheet writing out all the various html and rss files.

I managed to import all my old posts and comments thanks to this script by Michael Hamann (I had played around with this some months ago and just spend what seemed to be an hour to me to find this script again) and a small Haskell script. Old URLs are rewritten (using mod_rewrite) to the new paths, but feed readers might still be confused by this.

This opens the door to a long due re-design of my webpage. But not today...

Catégories: Elsewhere

Daniel Pocock: Want to be selected for Google Summer of Code 2015?

Planet Drupal - sam, 23/08/2014 - 13:37

I've mentored a number of students in 2013 and 2014 for Debian and Ganglia and most of the companies I've worked with have run internships and graduate programs from time to time. GSoC 2014 has just finished and with all the excitement, many students are already asking what they can do to prepare and become selected in 2015.

My own observation is that the more time the organization has to get to know the student, the more confident they can be selecting that student. Furthermore, the more time that the student has spent getting to know the free software community, the more easily they can complete GSoC.

Here I present a list of things that students can do to maximize their chance of selection and career opportunities at the same time. These tips are useful for people applying for GSoC itself and related programs such as GNOME's Outreach Program for Women or graduate placements in companies.

Disclaimers

There is no guarantee that Google will run the program again in 2015 or any future year.

There is no guarantee that any organization or mentor (including myself) will be involved until the official list of organizations is published by Google.

Do not follow the advice of web sites that invite you to send pizza or anything else of value to prospective mentors.

Following the steps in this page doesn't guarantee selection. That said, people who do follow these steps are much more likely to be considered and interviewed than somebody who hasn't done any of the things in this list.

Understand what free software really is

You may hear terms like free software and open source software used interchangeably.

They don't mean exactly the same thing and many people use the term free software for the wrong things. Not all open source projects meet the definition of free software. Those that don't, usually as a result of deficiencies in their licenses, are fundamentally incompatible with the majority of software that does use approved licenses.

Google Summer of Code is about both writing and publishing your code and it is also about community. It is fundamental that you know the basics of licensing and how to choose a free license that empowers the community to collaborate on your code.

Please read up on this topic early on and come back and review this from time to time. The The GNU Project / Free Software Foundation have excellent resources to help you understand what a free software license is and how it works to maximize community collaboration.

Don't look for shortcuts

There is no shortcut to GSoC selection and there is no shortcut to GSoC completion.

The student stipend (USD $5,500 in 2014) is not paid to students unless they complete a minimum amount of valid code. This means that even if a student did find some shortcut to selection, it is unlikely they would be paid without completing meaningful work.

If you are the right candidate for GSoC, you will not need a shortcut anyway. Are you the sort of person who can't leave a coding problem until you really feel it is fixed, even if you keep going all night? Have you ever woken up in the night with a dream about writing code still in your head? Do you become irritated by tedious or repetitive tasks and often think of ways to write code to eliminate such tasks? Does your family get cross with you because you take your laptop to Christmas dinner or some other significant occasion and start coding? If some of these statements summarize the way you think or feel you are probably a natural fit for GSoC.

An opportunity money can't buy

The GSoC stipend will not make you rich. It is intended to make sure you have enough money to survive through the summer and focus on your project. Professional developers make this much money in a week in leading business centers like New York, London and Singapore. When you get to that stage in 3-5 years, you will not even remember exactly how much you made during internships.

GSoC gives you an edge over other internships because it involves publicly promoting your work. Many companies still try to hide the potential of their best recruits for fear they will be poached or that they will be able to demand higher salaries. Everything you complete in GSoC is intended to be published and you get full credit for it. Imagine an amateur musician getting the opportunity to perform on the main stage at a rock festival. This is how the free software community works.

Having a portfolio of free software that you have created or collaborated on and a wide network of professional contacts that you develop before, during and after GSoC will continue to pay you back for years. While other graduates are being screened through group interviews and testing days run by employers, people with a track record in a free software project often find they go straight to the final interview round.

Register your domain name and make a permanent email address

Free software is all about community and collaboration. Register your own domain name as this will become a focal point for your work and for people to get to know you as you become part of the community.

This is sound advice for anybody working in IT, not just programmers. It gives the impression that you are confident and have a long term interest in a technology career.

Choosing the provider: as a minimum, you want a provider that offers DNS management, static web site hosting, email forwarding and XMPP services all linked to your domain. You do not need to choose the provider that is linked to your internet connection at home and that is often not the best choice anyway. The XMPP foundation maintains a list of providers known to support XMPP.

Create an email address within your domain name. The most basic domain hosting providers will let you forward the email address to a webmail or university email account of your choice. Configure your webmail to send replies using your personalized email address in the From header.

Update your ~/.gitconfig file to use your personalized email address in your Git commits.

Create a web site and blog

Start writing a blog. Host it using your domain name.

Some people blog every day, other people just blog once every two or three months.

Create links from your web site to your other profiles, such as a Github profile page. This helps re-inforce the pages/profiles that are genuinely related to you and avoid confusion with the pages of other developers.

Many mentors are keen to see their students writing a weekly report on a blog during GSoC so starting a blog now gives you a head start. Mentors look at blogs during the selection process to try and gain insight into which topics a student is most suitable for.

Create a profile on Github

Github is one of the most widely used software development web sites. Github makes it quick and easy for you to publish your work and collaborate on the work of other people. Create an account today and get in the habbit of forking other projects, improving them, committing your changes and pushing the work back into your Github account.

Github will quickly build a profile of your commits and this allows mentors to see and understand your interests and your strengths.

In your Github profile, add a link to your web site/blog and make sure the email address you are using for Git commits (in the ~/.gitconfig file) is based on your personal domain.

Start using PGP

Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is the industry standard in protecting your identity online. All serious free software projects use PGP to sign tags in Git, to sign official emails and to sign official release files.

The most common way to start using PGP is with the GnuPG (GNU Privacy Guard) utility. It is installed by the package manager on most Linux systems.

When you create your own PGP key, use the email address involving your domain name. This is the most permanent and stable solution.

Print your key fingerprint using the gpg-key2ps command, it is in the signing-party package on most Linux systems. Keep copies of the fingerprint slips with you.

This is what my own PGP fingerprint slip looks like. You can also print the key fingerprint on a business card for a more professional look.

Using PGP, it is recommend that you sign any important messages you send but you do not have to encrypt the messages you send, especially if some of the people you send messages to (like family and friends) do not yet have the PGP software to decrypt them.

If using the Thunderbird (Icedove) email client from Mozilla, you can easily send signed messages and validate the messages you receive using the Enigmail plugin.

Get your PGP key signed

Once you have a PGP key, you will need to find other developers to sign it. For people I mentor personally in GSoC, I'm keen to see that you try and find another Debian Developer in your area to sign your key as early as possible.

Free software events

Try and find all the free software events in your area in the months between now and the end of the next Google Summer of Code season. Aim to attend at least two of them before GSoC.

Look closely at the schedules and find out about the individual speakers, the companies and the free software projects that are participating. For events that span more than one day, find out about the dinners, pub nights and other social parts of the event.

Try and identify people who will attend the event who have been GSoC mentors or who intend to be. Contact them before the event, if you are keen to work on something in their domain they may be able to make time to discuss it with you in person.

Take your PGP fingerprint slips. Even if you don't participate in a formal key-signing party at the event, you will still find some developers to sign your PGP key individually. You must take a photo ID document (such as your passport) for the other developer to check the name on your fingerprint but you do not give them a copy of the ID document.

Events come in all shapes and sizes. FOSDEM is an example of one of the bigger events in Europe, linux.conf.au is a similarly large event in Australia. There are many, many more local events such as the Debian France mini-DebConf in Lyon, 2015. Many events are either free or free for students but please check carefully if there is a requirement to register before attending.

On your blog, discuss which events you are attending and which sessions interest you. Write a blog during or after the event too, including photos.

Quantcast generously hosted the Ganglia community meeting in San Francisco, October 2013. We had a wild time in their offices with mini-scooters, burgers, beers and the Ganglia book. That's me on the pink mini-scooter and Bernard Li, one of the other Ganglia GSoC 2014 admins is on the right.

Install Linux

GSoC is fundamentally about free software. Linux is to free software what a tree is to the forest. Using Linux every day on your personal computer dramatically increases your ability to interact with the free software community and increases the number of potential GSoC projects that you can participate in.

This is not to say that people using Mac OS or Windows are unwelcome. I have worked with some great developers who were not Linux users. Linux gives you an edge though and the best time to gain that edge is now, while you are a student and well before you apply for GSoC.

If you must run Windows for some applications used in your course, it will run just fine in a virtual machine using Virtual Box, a free software solution for desktop virtualization. Use Linux as the primary operating system.

Here are links to download ISO DVD (and CD) images for some of the main Linux distributions:

If you are nervous about getting started with Linux, install it on a spare PC or in a virtual machine before you install it on your main PC or laptop. Linux is much less demanding on the hardware than Windows so you can easily run it on a machine that is 5-10 years old. Having just 4GB of RAM and 20GB of hard disk is usually more than enough for a basic graphical desktop environment although having better hardware makes it faster.

Your experiences installing and running Linux, especially if it requires some special effort to make it work with some of your hardware, make interesting topics for your blog.

Decide which technologies you know best

Personally, I have mentored students working with C, C++, Java, Python and JavaScript/HTML5.

In a GSoC program, you will typically do most of your work in just one of these languages.

From the outset, decide which language you will focus on and do everything you can to improve your competence with that language. For example, if you have already used Java in most of your course, plan on using Java in GSoC and make sure you read Effective Java (2nd Edition) by Joshua Bloch.

Decide which themes appeal to you

Find a topic that has long-term appeal for you. Maybe the topic relates to your course or maybe you already know what type of company you would like to work in.

Here is a list of some topics and some of the relevant software projects:

  • System administration, servers and networking: consider projects involving monitoring, automation, packaging. Ganglia is a great community to get involved with and you will encounter the Ganglia software in many large companies and academic/research networks. Contributing to a Linux distribution like Debian or Fedora packaging is another great way to get into system administration.
  • Desktop and user interface: consider projects involving window managers and desktop tools or adding to the user interface of just about any other software.
  • Big data and data science: this can apply to just about any other theme. For example, data science techniques are frequently used now to improve system administration.
  • Business and accounting: consider accounting, CRM and ERP software.
  • Finance and trading: consider projects like R, market data software like OpenMAMA and connectivity software (Apache Camel)
  • Real-time communication (RTC), VoIP, webcam and chat: look at the JSCommunicator or the Jitsi project
  • Web (JavaScript, HTML5): look at the JSCommunicator

Before the GSoC application process begins, you should aim to learn as much as possible about the theme you prefer and also gain practical experience using the software relating to that theme. For example, if you are attracted to the business and accounting theme, install the PostBooks suite and get to know it. Maybe you know somebody who runs a small business: help them to upgrade to PostBooks and use it to prepare some reports.

Make something

Make some small project, less than two week's work, to demonstrate your skills. It is important to make something that somebody will use for a practical purpose, this will help you gain experience communicating with other users through Github.

For an example, see the servlet Juliana Louback created for fixing phone numbers in December 2013. It has since been used as part of the Lumicall web site and Juliana was selected for a GSoC 2014 project with Debian.

There is no better way to demonstrate to a prospective mentor that you are ready for GSoC than by completing and publishing some small project like this yourself. If you don't have any immediate project ideas, many developers will also be able to give you tips on small projects like this that you can attempt, just come and ask us on one of the mailing lists.

Ideally, the project will be something that you would use anyway even if you do not end up participating in GSoC. Such projects are the most motivating and rewarding and usually end up becoming an example of your best work. To continue the example of somebody with a preference for business and accounting software, a small project you might create is a plugin or extension for PostBooks.

Getting to know prospective mentors

Many web sites provide useful information about the developers who contribute to free software projects. Some of these developers may be willing to be a GSoC mentor.

For example, look through some of the following:

Getting on the mentor's shortlist

Once you have identified projects that are interesting to you and developers who work on those projects, it is important to get yourself on the developer's shortlist.

Basically, the shortlist is a list of all students who the developer believes can complete the project. If I feel that a student is unlikely to complete a project or if I don't have enough information to judge a student's probability of success, that student will not be on my shortlist.

If I don't have any student on my shortlist, then a project will not go ahead at all. If there are multiple students on the shortlist, then I will be looking more closely at each of them to try and work out who is the best match.

One way to get a developer's attention is to look at bug reports they have created. Github makes it easy to see complaints or bug reports they have made about their own projects or other projects they depend on. Another way to do this is to search through their code for strings like FIXME and TODO. Projects with standalone bug trackers like the Debian bug tracker also provide an easy way to search for bug reports that a specific person has created or commented on.

Once you find some relevant bug reports, email the developer. Ask if anybody else is working on those issues. Try and start with an issue that is particularly easy and where the solution is interesting for you. This will help you learn to compile and test the program before you try to fix any more complicated bugs. It may even be something you can work on as part of your academic program.

Find successful projects from the previous year

Contact organizations and ask them which GSoC projects were most successful. In many organizations, you can find the past students' project plans and their final reports published on the web. Read through the plans submitted by the students who were chosen. Then read through the final reports by the same students and see how they compare to the original plans.

Start building your project proposal now

Don't wait for the application period to begin. Start writing a project proposal now.

When writing a proposal, it is important to include several things:

  • Think big: what is the goal at the end of the project? Does your work help the greater good in some way, such as increasing the market share of Linux on the desktop?
  • Details: what are specific challenges? What tools will you use?
  • Time management: what will you do each week? Are there weeks where you will not work on GSoC due to vacation or other events? These things are permitted but they must be in your plan if you know them in advance. If an accident or death in the family cut a week out of your GSoC project, which work would you skip and would your project still be useful without that? Having two weeks of flexible time in your plan makes it more resilient against interruptions.
  • Communication: are you on mailing lists, IRC and XMPP chat? Will you make a weekly report on your blog?
  • Users: who will benefit from your work?
  • Testing: who will test and validate your work throughout the project? Ideally, this should involve more than just the mentor.

If your project plan is good enough, could you put it on Kickstarter or another crowdfunding site? This is a good test of whether or not a project is going to be supported by a GSoC mentor.

Learn about packaging and distributing software

Packaging is a vital part of the free software lifecycle. It is very easy to upload a project to Github but it takes more effort to have it become an official package in systems like Debian, Fedora and Ubuntu.

Packaging and the communities around Linux distributions help you reach out to users of your software and get valuable feedback and new contributors. This boosts the impact of your work.

To start with, you may want to help the maintainer of an existing package. Debian packaging teams are existing communities that work in a team and welcome new contributors. The Debian Mentors initiative is another great starting place. In the Fedora world, the place to start may be in one of the Special Interest Groups (SIGs).

Think from the mentor's perspective

After the application deadline, mentors have just 2 or 3 weeks to choose the students. This is actually not a lot of time to be certain if a particular student is capable of completing a project. If the student has a published history of free software activity, the mentor feels a lot more confident about choosing the student.

Some mentors have more than one good student while other mentors receive no applications from capable students. In this situation, it is very common for mentors to send each other details of students who may be suitable. Once again, if a student has a good Github profile and a blog, it is much easier for mentors to try and match that student with another project.

Conclusion

Getting into the world of software engineering is much like joining any other profession or even joining a new hobby or sporting activity. If you run, you probably have various types of shoe and a running watch and you may even spend a couple of nights at the track each week. If you enjoy playing a musical instrument, you probably have a collection of sheet music, accessories for your instrument and you may even aspire to build a recording studio in your garage (or you probably know somebody else who already did that).

The things listed on this page will not just help you walk the walk and talk the talk of a software developer, they will put you on a track to being one of the leaders. If you look over the profiles of other software developers on the Internet, you will find they are doing most of the things on this page already. Even if you are not selected for GSoC at all or decide not to apply, working through the steps on this page will help you clarify your own ideas about your career and help you make new friends in the software engineering community.

Catégories: Elsewhere

Daniel Pocock: Want to be selected for Google Summer of Code 2015?

Planet Debian - sam, 23/08/2014 - 13:37

I've mentored a number of students in 2013 and 2014 for Debian and Ganglia and most of the companies I've worked with have run internships and graduate programs from time to time. GSoC 2014 has just finished and with all the excitement, many students are already asking what they can do to prepare and become selected in 2015.

My own observation is that the more time the organization has to get to know the student, the more confident they can be selecting that student. Furthermore, the more time that the student has spent getting to know the free software community, the more easily they can complete GSoC.

Here I present a list of things that students can do to maximize their chance of selection and career opportunities at the same time. These tips are useful for people applying for GSoC itself and related programs such as GNOME's Outreach Program for Women or graduate placements in companies.

Disclaimers

There is no guarantee that Google will run the program again in 2015 or any future year.

There is no guarantee that any organization or mentor (including myself) will be involved until the official list of organizations is published by Google.

Do not follow the advice of web sites that invite you to send pizza or anything else of value to prospective mentors.

Following the steps in this page doesn't guarantee selection. That said, people who do follow these steps are much more likely to be considered and interviewed than somebody who hasn't done any of the things in this list.

Understand what free software really is

You may hear terms like free software and open source software used interchangeably.

They don't mean exactly the same thing and many people use the term free software for the wrong things. Not all open source projects meet the definition of free software. Those that don't, usually as a result of deficiencies in their licenses, are fundamentally incompatible with the majority of software that does use approved licenses.

Google Summer of Code is about both writing and publishing your code and it is also about community. It is fundamental that you know the basics of licensing and how to choose a free license that empowers the community to collaborate on your code.

Please read up on this topic early on and come back and review this from time to time. The The GNU Project / Free Software Foundation have excellent resources to help you understand what a free software license is and how it works to maximize community collaboration.

Don't look for shortcuts

There is no shortcut to GSoC selection and there is no shortcut to GSoC completion.

The student stipend (USD $5,500 in 2014) is not paid to students unless they complete a minimum amount of valid code. This means that even if a student did find some shortcut to selection, it is unlikely they would be paid without completing meaningful work.

If you are the right candidate for GSoC, you will not need a shortcut anyway. Are you the sort of person who can't leave a coding problem until you really feel it is fixed, even if you keep going all night? Have you ever woken up in the night with a dream about writing code still in your head? Do you become irritated by tedious or repetitive tasks and often think of ways to write code to eliminate such tasks? Does your family get cross with you because you take your laptop to Christmas dinner or some other significant occasion and start coding? If some of these statements summarize the way you think or feel you are probably a natural fit for GSoC.

An opportunity money can't buy

The GSoC stipend will not make you rich. It is intended to make sure you have enough money to survive through the summer and focus on your project. Professional developers make this much money in a week in leading business centers like New York, London and Singapore. When you get to that stage in 3-5 years, you will not even remember exactly how much you made during internships.

GSoC gives you an edge over other internships because it involves publicly promoting your work. Many companies still try to hide the potential of their best recruits for fear they will be poached or that they will be able to demand higher salaries. Everything you complete in GSoC is intended to be published and you get full credit for it. Imagine an amateur musician getting the opportunity to perform on the main stage at a rock festival. This is how the free software community works.

Having a portfolio of free software that you have created or collaborated on and a wide network of professional contacts that you develop before, during and after GSoC will continue to pay you back for years. While other graduates are being screened through group interviews and testing days run by employers, people with a track record in a free software project often find they go straight to the final interview round.

Register your domain name and make a permanent email address

Free software is all about community and collaboration. Register your own domain name as this will become a focal point for your work and for people to get to know you as you become part of the community.

This is sound advice for anybody working in IT, not just programmers. It gives the impression that you are confident and have a long term interest in a technology career.

Choosing the provider: as a minimum, you want a provider that offers DNS management, static web site hosting, email forwarding and XMPP services all linked to your domain. You do not need to choose the provider that is linked to your internet connection at home and that is often not the best choice anyway. The XMPP foundation maintains a list of providers known to support XMPP.

Create an email address within your domain name. The most basic domain hosting providers will let you forward the email address to a webmail or university email account of your choice. Configure your webmail to send replies using your personalized email address in the From header.

Update your ~/.gitconfig file to use your personalized email address in your Git commits.

Create a web site and blog

Start writing a blog. Host it using your domain name.

Some people blog every day, other people just blog once every two or three months.

Create links from your web site to your other profiles, such as a Github profile page. This helps re-inforce the pages/profiles that are genuinely related to you and avoid confusion with the pages of other developers.

Many mentors are keen to see their students writing a weekly report on a blog during GSoC so starting a blog now gives you a head start. Mentors look at blogs during the selection process to try and gain insight into which topics a student is most suitable for.

Create a profile on Github

Github is one of the most widely used software development web sites. Github makes it quick and easy for you to publish your work and collaborate on the work of other people. Create an account today and get in the habbit of forking other projects, improving them, committing your changes and pushing the work back into your Github account.

Github will quickly build a profile of your commits and this allows mentors to see and understand your interests and your strengths.

In your Github profile, add a link to your web site/blog and make sure the email address you are using for Git commits (in the ~/.gitconfig file) is based on your personal domain.

Start using PGP

Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) is the industry standard in protecting your identity online. All serious free software projects use PGP to sign tags in Git, to sign official emails and to sign official release files.

The most common way to start using PGP is with the GnuPG (GNU Privacy Guard) utility. It is installed by the package manager on most Linux systems.

When you create your own PGP key, use the email address involving your domain name. This is the most permanent and stable solution.

Print your key fingerprint using the gpg-key2ps command, it is in the signing-party package on most Linux systems. Keep copies of the fingerprint slips with you.

This is what my own PGP fingerprint slip looks like. You can also print the key fingerprint on a business card for a more professional look.

Using PGP, it is recommend that you sign any important messages you send but you do not have to encrypt the messages you send, especially if some of the people you send messages to (like family and friends) do not yet have the PGP software to decrypt them.

If using the Thunderbird (Icedove) email client from Mozilla, you can easily send signed messages and validate the messages you receive using the Enigmail plugin.

Get your PGP key signed

Once you have a PGP key, you will need to find other developers to sign it. For people I mentor personally in GSoC, I'm keen to see that you try and find another Debian Developer in your area to sign your key as early as possible.

Free software events

Try and find all the free software events in your area in the months between now and the end of the next Google Summer of Code season. Aim to attend at least two of them before GSoC.

Look closely at the schedules and find out about the individual speakers, the companies and the free software projects that are participating. For events that span more than one day, find out about the dinners, pub nights and other social parts of the event.

Try and identify people who will attend the event who have been GSoC mentors or who intend to be. Contact them before the event, if you are keen to work on something in their domain they may be able to make time to discuss it with you in person.

Take your PGP fingerprint slips. Even if you don't participate in a formal key-signing party at the event, you will still find some developers to sign your PGP key individually. You must take a photo ID document (such as your passport) for the other developer to check the name on your fingerprint but you do not give them a copy of the ID document.

Events come in all shapes and sizes. FOSDEM is an example of one of the bigger events in Europe, linux.conf.au is a similarly large event in Australia. There are many, many more local events such as the Debian France mini-DebConf in Lyon, 2015. Many events are either free or free for students but please check carefully if there is a requirement to register before attending.

On your blog, discuss which events you are attending and which sessions interest you. Write a blog during or after the event too, including photos.

Quantcast generously hosted the Ganglia community meeting in San Francisco, October 2013. We had a wild time in their offices with mini-scooters, burgers, beers and the Ganglia book. That's me on the pink mini-scooter and Bernard Li, one of the other Ganglia GSoC 2014 admins is on the right.

Install Linux

GSoC is fundamentally about free software. Linux is to free software what a tree is to the forest. Using Linux every day on your personal computer dramatically increases your ability to interact with the free software community and increases the number of potential GSoC projects that you can participate in.

This is not to say that people using Mac OS or Windows are unwelcome. I have worked with some great developers who were not Linux users. Linux gives you an edge though and the best time to gain that edge is now, while you are a student and well before you apply for GSoC.

If you must run Windows for some applications used in your course, it will run just fine in a virtual machine using Virtual Box, a free software solution for desktop virtualization. Use Linux as the primary operating system.

Here are links to download ISO DVD (and CD) images for some of the main Linux distributions:

If you are nervous about getting started with Linux, install it on a spare PC or in a virtual machine before you install it on your main PC or laptop. Linux is much less demanding on the hardware than Windows so you can easily run it on a machine that is 5-10 years old. Having just 4GB of RAM and 20GB of hard disk is usually more than enough for a basic graphical desktop environment although having better hardware makes it faster.

Your experiences installing and running Linux, especially if it requires some special effort to make it work with some of your hardware, make interesting topics for your blog.

Decide which technologies you know best

Personally, I have mentored students working with C, C++, Java, Python and JavaScript/HTML5.

In a GSoC program, you will typically do most of your work in just one of these languages.

From the outset, decide which language you will focus on and do everything you can to improve your competence with that language. For example, if you have already used Java in most of your course, plan on using Java in GSoC and make sure you read Effective Java (2nd Edition) by Joshua Bloch.

Decide which themes appeal to you

Find a topic that has long-term appeal for you. Maybe the topic relates to your course or maybe you already know what type of company you would like to work in.

Here is a list of some topics and some of the relevant software projects:

  • System administration, servers and networking: consider projects involving monitoring, automation, packaging. Ganglia is a great community to get involved with and you will encounter the Ganglia software in many large companies and academic/research networks. Contributing to a Linux distribution like Debian or Fedora packaging is another great way to get into system administration.
  • Desktop and user interface: consider projects involving window managers and desktop tools or adding to the user interface of just about any other software.
  • Big data and data science: this can apply to just about any other theme. For example, data science techniques are frequently used now to improve system administration.
  • Business and accounting: consider accounting, CRM and ERP software.
  • Finance and trading: consider projects like R, market data software like OpenMAMA and connectivity software (Apache Camel)
  • Real-time communication (RTC), VoIP, webcam and chat: look at the JSCommunicator or the Jitsi project
  • Web (JavaScript, HTML5): look at the JSCommunicator

Before the GSoC application process begins, you should aim to learn as much as possible about the theme you prefer and also gain practical experience using the software relating to that theme. For example, if you are attracted to the business and accounting theme, install the PostBooks suite and get to know it. Maybe you know somebody who runs a small business: help them to upgrade to PostBooks and use it to prepare some reports.

Make something

Make some small project, less than two week's work, to demonstrate your skills. It is important to make something that somebody will use for a practical purpose, this will help you gain experience communicating with other users through Github.

For an example, see the servlet Juliana Louback created for fixing phone numbers in December 2013. It has since been used as part of the Lumicall web site and Juliana was selected for a GSoC 2014 project with Debian.

There is no better way to demonstrate to a prospective mentor that you are ready for GSoC than by completing and publishing some small project like this yourself. If you don't have any immediate project ideas, many developers will also be able to give you tips on small projects like this that you can attempt, just come and ask us on one of the mailing lists.

Ideally, the project will be something that you would use anyway even if you do not end up participating in GSoC. Such projects are the most motivating and rewarding and usually end up becoming an example of your best work. To continue the example of somebody with a preference for business and accounting software, a small project you might create is a plugin or extension for PostBooks.

Getting to know prospective mentors

Many web sites provide useful information about the developers who contribute to free software projects. Some of these developers may be willing to be a GSoC mentor.

For example, look through some of the following:

Getting on the mentor's shortlist

Once you have identified projects that are interesting to you and developers who work on those projects, it is important to get yourself on the developer's shortlist.

Basically, the shortlist is a list of all students who the developer believes can complete the project. If I feel that a student is unlikely to complete a project or if I don't have enough information to judge a student's probability of success, that student will not be on my shortlist.

If I don't have any student on my shortlist, then a project will not go ahead at all. If there are multiple students on the shortlist, then I will be looking more closely at each of them to try and work out who is the best match.

One way to get a developer's attention is to look at bug reports they have created. Github makes it easy to see complaints or bug reports they have made about their own projects or other projects they depend on. Another way to do this is to search through their code for strings like FIXME and TODO. Projects with standalone bug trackers like the Debian bug tracker also provide an easy way to search for bug reports that a specific person has created or commented on.

Once you find some relevant bug reports, email the developer. Ask if anybody else is working on those issues. Try and start with an issue that is particularly easy and where the solution is interesting for you. This will help you learn to compile and test the program before you try to fix any more complicated bugs. It may even be something you can work on as part of your academic program.

Find successful projects from the previous year

Contact organizations and ask them which GSoC projects were most successful. In many organizations, you can find the past students' project plans and their final reports published on the web. Read through the plans submitted by the students who were chosen. Then read through the final reports by the same students and see how they compare to the original plans.

Start building your project proposal now

Don't wait for the application period to begin. Start writing a project proposal now.

When writing a proposal, it is important to include several things:

  • Think big: what is the goal at the end of the project? Does your work help the greater good in some way, such as increasing the market share of Linux on the desktop?
  • Details: what are specific challenges? What tools will you use?
  • Time management: what will you do each week? Are there weeks where you will not work on GSoC due to vacation or other events? These things are permitted but they must be in your plan if you know them in advance. If an accident or death in the family cut a week out of your GSoC project, which work would you skip and would your project still be useful without that? Having two weeks of flexible time in your plan makes it more resilient against interruptions.
  • Communication: are you on mailing lists, IRC and XMPP chat? Will you make a weekly report on your blog?
  • Users: who will benefit from your work?
  • Testing: who will test and validate your work throughout the project? Ideally, this should involve more than just the mentor.

If your project plan is good enough, could you put it on Kickstarter or another crowdfunding site? This is a good test of whether or not a project is going to be supported by a GSoC mentor.

Learn about packaging and distributing software

Packaging is a vital part of the free software lifecycle. It is very easy to upload a project to Github but it takes more effort to have it become an official package in systems like Debian, Fedora and Ubuntu.

Packaging and the communities around Linux distributions help you reach out to users of your software and get valuable feedback and new contributors. This boosts the impact of your work.

To start with, you may want to help the maintainer of an existing package. Debian packaging teams are existing communities that work in a team and welcome new contributors. The Debian Mentors initiative is another great starting place. In the Fedora world, the place to start may be in one of the Special Interest Groups (SIGs).

Think from the mentor's perspective

After the application deadline, mentors have just 2 or 3 weeks to choose the students. This is actually not a lot of time to be certain if a particular student is capable of completing a project. If the student has a published history of free software activity, the mentor feels a lot more confident about choosing the student.

Some mentors have more than one good student while other mentors receive no applications from capable students. In this situation, it is very common for mentors to send each other details of students who may be suitable. Once again, if a student has a good Github profile and a blog, it is much easier for mentors to try and match that student with another project.

Conclusion

Getting into the world of software engineering is much like joining any other profession or even joining a new hobby or sporting activity. If you run, you probably have various types of shoe and a running watch and you may even spend a couple of nights at the track each week. If you enjoy playing a musical instrument, you probably have a collection of sheet music, accessories for your instrument and you may even aspire to build a recording studio in your garage (or you probably know somebody else who already did that).

The things listed on this page will not just help you walk the walk and talk the talk of a software developer, they will put you on a track to being one of the leaders. If you look over the profiles of other software developers on the Internet, you will find they are doing most of the things on this page already. Even if you are not selected for GSoC at all or decide not to apply, working through the steps on this page will help you clarify your own ideas about your career and help you make new friends in the software engineering community.

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