OSL Staff Mentors International Students Through Google Summer of Code

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.

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Students, Community and Professionals Collaborate at Beaver BarCamp 10

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.

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From Support to Success

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.

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OSL in the Spotlight at Summer Conferences

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.”

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OSL Advances With New Staff Members; Renewed Focus

The Oregon State University Open Source Lab recently hired three new full-time staff members as part of a movement toward expansion as a self-supported campus entity. The additional staff members will provide comprehensive support in lab operations, allowing the OSL to increase student opportunities within the lab and improve the resources it can offer open source projects.

The OSL is home to some of the most well-known open source projects in the world and facilitates more than 600,000 unique downloads each day. In addition to hosting external projects, the OSL also contributes to and develops open source software in-house and provides hosting for projects and Web infrastructure within the university. To support its efforts, the lab employs several qualified OSU students who gain professional experience managing open source projects, maintaining servers and providing customer and user support.

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Building a Bright Future With DevOps

Sometimes finding the best solution means starting over. That was Mike Cooper’s dilemma as he tackled his first solo project at the Oregon State University Open Source Lab. An OSU sophomore studying computer science who had just been hired in March 2010 to work as a system administrator for the lab, he was tasked with securing a network connection that could be extended to laptops, allowing lab staff and hosted projects to connect to the lab's private network from anywhere. Cooper decided to scrap the previous method that others had planned to use to link the network servers and instead opted for a virtual private network, a transient link between servers that he felt was a better fit for the lab's needs.

“When I started the project it was kind of hard for me to look at this and say ‘No, we should be doing something else’ and throw away all that work,” Cooper says.“But I decided that the approach they were taking wouldn't work very well for what we wanted.”

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