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Letter from the Director
After working for nearly six years as the Oregon State University Open Source Lab’s lead systems engineer and the associate director, I became the lab’s new director in January. My involvement in the open source community began in 2003 with the Gentoo Linux distribution, and I am excited for the opportunity I will have to continue promoting and supporting FOSS in my new role. The OSL is unique for its heavy reliance on a student workforce to power the lab, and I plan to find new ways to further develop and expand our students’ abilities.
Students, community members and professionals gather before the first session at Beaver BarCamp 11.
More than 150 Oregon State students, community members and students from other Oregon universities gathered in the Kelley Engineering building April 20 to attend the Open Source Lab’s Beaver BarCamp 11. Attendees presented nearly 50 sessions on a wide range of topics ranging from the technical to the recreational, including successful system administration, mead brewing and how to turn a T-shirt into a tie.
The open, supportive atmosphere found at Beaver BarCamp encourages students and community members to come together, share what they know and learn from each other. After OSL Director Lance Albertson’s welcome speech, Beaver BarCamp participants created the schedule together, adding session titles to the board on large Post-it notes.
This year will be the lab's seventh straight as a GSoC mentor.
Posted by Kayla Harr on April 11, 2013
Open Source Lab staff are excited to announce that the lab has been accepted as a Google Summer of Code mentoring organization for the seventh year running. GSoC is a valuable opportunity for collaboration between the lab and young programmers around the world. In the past, the lab has worked with students from China, Portugal, Venezuela and Poland, offering them mentorship and guidance as they complete tasks to advance projects at the OSL.
This year, the lab has several development projects available for GSoC students to apply their skills to. As mentors, lab staff members strive to support student learning and offer an experience that will improve their future work in a number of contexts.
“GSoC exposes young programmers to real-world development and introduces them into the open source community,” says Ken Lett, an OSL developer who mentored the lab’s 2012 GSoC student. “Being able to contribute real and useful code to real projects can be a very inspiring experience, and working on projects with professional standards and development processes will be useful for their own careers.”
Real-world work experience is one of the most valuable things an employer can provide to students preparing to enter the job market.
At the Oregon State University Open Source Lab, that experience is readily available to 19 part-time student employees who balance their coursework at Oregon State with a job that offers them professional training. But the lab’s influence on ambitious students reaches beyond Oregon State, and even the United States, through Google’s Summer of Code program.
The summer program connects students 18 years and older around the world with mentors in the open source field and sponsors their work for the summer. As a GSoC mentoring organization since 2006, the OSL has had students from countries around the world, including China, Portugal and Venezuela, contribute to in-house development projects. Last summer, 19-year-old Polish student Piotr Banaszkiewicz collaborated with developers and students at the lab to refine tools for Ganeti Web Manager, a virtual server management program developed at the OSL.
On Oct. 13, more than 150 people gathered in Kelley Engineering Center to attend the Oregon State University Open Source Lab’s Beaver BarCamp 10. Beaver BarCamp is a semiannual unconference that brings together students as well as community members to discuss technology, recreation and ideas in an interactive setting.
Beaver BarCamp 10 featured attendee-led sessions on a variety of topics and was sponsored by Mozilla, RackSpace and the Oregon State University School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. In addition to sessions held by students on topics ranging from whistling to virtualization to playing poker, Mozilla employees presented three sponsored sessions on Web security, writing for the Web and building open Web apps.
“All of the talks by Mozilla were really cool,” says Chance Zibolski, an Oregon State computer science student. “I really enjoyed getting to learn a lot just by seeing what other people are working on.”
Beaver BarCamp 10 attendees share lunch and conversation in the KEC. Photo courtesy of Mike Morgan.
When staff members at the Oregon State University Open Source Lab were working with creators of the Drupal content management system to provide free hosting services to the overloaded project in 2005, crisis hit. A server meltdown left all Drupal websites down for two days, emphasizing the project’s need for further support and motivating the community behind the open source project to donate double the amount needed to purchase a new server to be hosted at the OSL.
As soon as the lab began hosting Drupal, two student system administrators, Narayan Newton and Eric Searcy, attacked the task of expanding the project’s overloaded infrastructure, building a cluster for Drupal’s websites that could be scaled with the company’s growth. And its popularity continued to grow. While Newton and Searcy handled the infrastructure needs, Drupal contributors were able to focus on the project, resulting in its size tripling following the move to the OSL.
The open source community is driven by the people who use, change and support open source software. This summer, members of the Open Source Lab staff enjoyed opportunities to connect with those people face-to-face at annual open source events. Lab staff and students attended the Portland conferences Open Source Bridge and O’Reilly Open Source Convention, where they presented talks, hosted a booth to represent the OSL and talked shop with everyone from recreational users to industry developers.
“Conferences are a way to interface with our community; not only our users, but people who know of us and like what we do, we can hear from them things that they want,” says OSL Associate Director of Operations Lance Albertson. “It's just great to be able to interact with people.”