OGB Elections: Biography of a Candidate

As you may have seen, I am a candidate for the OpenSolaris Governing Board, and as the other candidates are doing, I'm writing a bio to give background on myself. I've previously posted a more personal summary of my background, so I'll focus here on topics I believe are more relevant to being an OGB candidate. If you have no interest in the OGB elections, or in long rambling non-linear self-promoting stories, you can just move ahead to the next entry in your RSS feed reader now.

First the basics that all the candidates are stating: As you may have guessed from the URL this is posted at, Sun Microsystems, Inc. has been my employer for the past 8 years, but I have never built my own kernel. (I have designed, implemented, and integrated my own DTrace provider though.)

While attending the University of California, Berkeley I became involved in the running of Berkeley's Open Computing Facility, a somewhat unusual student group who provided access to Unix workstations and servers in a time when that was hard to come by for a non-engineering student. When I first started volunteering there in 1991, it was the only place most students on campus could get e-mail and Usenet access. Later it became the first place most students could host web pages, and continued to evolve over time. It was run by a completely volunteer student organization, in which I served first as a member of the system administration staff (their Apollo Domain/OS workstations were the first Unix machines I got root on, and the first time I got to have the account name alanc instead of just a class account name like cs60a-ej). I later joined the OCF's Board of Directors, who set the policies for the machines, and served a semester each as Site Manager (head sysadmin) and General Manager (head of the organization).

It was also at the OCF that I first started contributing to Open Source projects. My first major contributions were to the Gopher client/server software for Unix platforms from the University of Michigan, an early precursor to the world wide web. Of course, my most notable open source work has been through my job at Sun, contributing to the X Window System software that forms the foundation of all major Unix and Linux GUIs today. I participated in the old closed-membership industry consortium X.Org Group on behalf of Sun, and contributed to their irregular public code drops of the very closed development tree, and also contributed some of our code to the XFree86 Project, including the support I wrote for IPv6 in X11. When we were looking for ways to revitalize the stagnant X.Org Group at the same time that a group of current and former XFree86 developers were looking to create a more open development model to replace XFree86, I got to be one of the developers in at the very beginning of the transformation of both groups into the X.Org Foundation and it's Xorg software releases. I was elected to the short-lived X.Org Architecture Board, and was the release manager for the X11R6.9 release and one of the leads of the modularization project that resulted in X11R7.0. Through this I've experienced first hand how much more vibrant and productive a fully open development community can be than one in which a small core team holds the leash to all access, and all changes have to be funneled through them. (OpenSolaris isn't quite as bad, as there are several dozen “request sponsors” who can check in code from community members, but we still see requests that take much longer than they should because sponsors simply get too busy and become an unnecessary bottleneck. We've got several external contributors who have clearly proven they deserve commit access, but we haven't gotten the master repositories for anything besides JDS outside the Sun firewall yet so they can exercise that.)

When I took some time off from college, the Unix administration and end-user communication skills I got at the OCF, combined with the connections I had from that community, got me a position as a contractor in Sun's technical support center (then in Mountain View, California) answering Solaris system administration questions. Since I was more familiar then with other forms of Unix, and already had been addicted to Usenet for years, I looked for help in learning the Solaris specific methods to the comp.unix.solaris Usenet newsgroup, and returned the help I got by answering the questions that I could. (And even though I haven't posted as much lately, I just noticed Google still shows me in the top ten all-time posters to comp.unix.solaris, under my alum.calberkeley.org address.) It was through comp.unix.solaris that I first participated in the Solaris community, and first came in contact with current OGB members Rich Teer and Casper Dik, and of course, ksh93 for OpenSolaris project leader Roland Mainz.

After joining Sun I also started participating in the Solaris x86 YahooGroups mailing list, sticking with it even during the dark days in which Sun had declared Solaris 9 for x86 “indefinitely delayed.” After the “Secret Six” from that group convinced Sun to restore Solaris x86, one of the projects Sun started to restore relationship with the community was monthly meetings with a “Cabal” of community leaders. When we decided to ship the Xorg server in Solaris, I was asked to come to one of these meetings to talk about our plans, and given my involvement in the community already, was invited to become a permanent part of the group. That group didn't last long, as it ended when the participants, including me, became some of the original members of the OpenSolaris Pilot Program, so I've been part of the OpenSolaris community since the very beginning. Since the public launch of OpenSolaris I've served as a leader of the OpenSolaris X Window System Community and the representative of the X Consolidation to the OpenSolaris Program Team. (The OpenSolaris.org forum software says I've posted 1,190 times to OpenSolaris forums since the launch, but I don't know how many of those are duplicates from cross posts to multiple forums.)

At Sun, I've also served for about 6 years now on the Desktop C-Team, which oversees the various Desktop consolidations (X, GNOME, Mozilla, CDE, etc.) - approving integration of new projects, setting and enforcing various policies, and coordinating joint projects with other consolidations. For the past three years I've been part of the Layered Software Architecture Review Committee, first as an intern, and now as a full member. LSARC is the ARC which reviews software above the core platform - including the desktop environments, web browsers, compilers and developer tools, and various management tools. X itself is usually straddling the boundary between LSARC and the core platform ARC (PSARC) - cases interfacing with the hardware or kernel go to PSARC (including most updates to the X servers themselves), while client libraries that are mostly used by the desktop environments go to LSARC, so that they fit into the larger picture of those desktops. As such, even though I'm part of LSARC, from time to time I submit cases to PSARC and participate in relevant PSARC reviews.

So that's the long boring story of how I got to where am I today (if you've made it this far, thanks for sticking through it, and be glad that I didn't make it even longer and more boring with recounting my experience as editor of the high school newspaper or how bad I was at memorizing my lines in high school Drama Club productions). Now that we've covered the past, I'll save the topic of the future and my positions on various OGB issues for another post...


gopher was from Minnesota, not Michigan... obviously you are not up on your college mascots ;)

Posted by vince on March 12, 2007 at 04:01 AM PDT #

Right - that's the one I meant. How could I forget how many times I typed boombox.micro.uminn.edu ?

Posted by Alan Coopersmith on March 12, 2007 at 03:42 PM PDT #

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Engineer working on Oracle Solaris and with the X.Org open source community.


The views expressed on this blog are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle, the X.Org Foundation, or anyone else.

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