Thursday, May 24, 2007

Summer of Coders at BSDCan

BSDCan just wrapped up last week, and three Summer of Code students attended. We heard that Mathieu Prevot had a great time meeting other FreeBSD developers, and Adam Martin gave a talk about his 2006 SoC project on AutoFS. Ivan Voras, now participating in his third SoC and still going strong with the FreeBSD project, gave several talks. He was also kind enough to send us a report from the conference:

I gave two talks at the devsummit and one short talk at the conference. The first devsummit talk was about my Summer of Code project for last year, named "gvirstor". It's a storage virtualization layer ("GEOM class" in FreeBSD terminology) that allows users to create large virtual storage devices backed by limited amounts of physical storage. In concept, it it similar to virtual memory, only applied to storage devices. The practical use of gvirstor is to create a large device (for example, several TB in size) backed by a small number of hard drives (for example, 300 GB total size) then create a file system on it and mount it – adding more hard drives on demand as the physical space gets allocated. I talked mostly about the implementation of gvirstor and its interaction with the UFS file system. This triggered a discussion about the details of GEOM and the file system which was very instructive and I learned a lot from it.

My next talk was about my current Summer of Code project – the new FreeBSD installer. The project is still very much work in progress and I got to present its general architecture. It's a very important project for the FreeBSD community since the current installer (a console UI application) is a decade old and doesn't support many modern features present in FreeBSD. It's also full of little quirks that put people off of trying FreeBSD. The new installer will be an advanced utility with a graphical front-end and a configurable, reusable backend which is scriptable from remote hosts. I gave a shorter version of this talk at the BSDCan "Works in Progress" session in front of a much larger audience. Many people were interested in finstall's progress and gave useful suggestions.


I'd like to thank the FreeBSD Foundation and Google for sponsoring my trip and making much of the progress possible!

We'd love to hear from any other students who have been presenting their work at technical conferences. What was the experience like? Did you get useful feedback from the audience? Let us know!

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