By Nirmay26-Oracle on Dec 12, 2007
The OpenSolaris hacking session conducted by Bangalore OpenSolaris User Group received overwhelming response at FOSS.IN 2007. This was a unique event where a whole bunch of opensolaris enthusiasts got together and worked on fixing some byte size bugs. This is probably the first opensolaris hacking session conducted as part of a conference, hence it will be worth sharing the experience here for future reference.
The target audience for this session was opensolaris enthusiasts with very limited exposure on contributing to opensolaris. Given the kind of developers FOSS.IN attracts every year, we were certain that the attendees may not even be opensolaris users but they would be familiar with other unix operating systems. Driving contribution from such target audience was very challenging, especially considering that people will not even have opensolaris installed on their machines.
LiveMedia was the answer. Moinak put together a LiveDVD based on the latest (build 78) SXDE and also included opensolaris source and build tools required for compiling user land components. We put together a list of simple byte-size bugs. The idea was to fix simple bugs and understand the complete process of working with the opensolaris codebase.
A handout on contributing to solaris prepared by Ganga was a great help. We just printed more copies to give away. Apart from the detailed building instructions, the handout also describes the setup process which was actually not needed for this particular activity as all the build tools were already available on the LiveDVD. However, those steps are very important for people who would do such activity beyond the scope of this hacking session, hence we decided to give away the document as is. During the event, we found that this document saved a lot of time. Many thanks to ganga for a great contribution in helping people get their way through opensolaris codebase.
The hack-session was planned on Dec 6th, the first day of the main conference and after the project days. We decided to do registrations for this hack-session for two main reasons. One is that we would know in advance about their exposure towards opensolaris so that we could work on the setup and the list of bugs accordingly and the second is that we would get to know if everyone will get their laptops. The facilities for the Hack-center did not have many desktops and hence this was important. The OpenSolaris project days took place on Dec 4th and a lot of people who attended project days registered for the hack-center. We had total 35 registrations, which was way beyond our expectations and we had to get our act together on the last day to manage that number.
Network was really crucial for the participants to be able to look up the detailed bug information. Wifi access point was setup at the facilities, but many laptops had Broadcom wireless devices for which opensolaris does not have a driver yet. There was ethernet setup for the desktops though and we managed to put some switches to cater to the laptops with wifi driver problems. But in general, LiveDVD worked like a charm and everyone was up and running on SXDE without any issues.
Some people who did not have laptops and did not get to work on the limited number of desktops joined others and we had about about 12 groups of 2 or 3 people. Some groups had some sessions to attend and hence did not stay there for long, so we had about 8 groups focussed on hacking up some bug. I must mention the help that was there for all these participants. We had Glynn Foster, Jim Grisanzio, Ananth Srinivas, Surya Prakki, Jayakara Kini, Vijay Hn, Anil Gulecha, Ganga, Saurabh Vyas, Mayuresh Nirhali at this party. You can just imagine how much they like to share their opensolaris experience.
The obvious problem of having the liveDVD that will boot you into your build environment is that you will not have much scratch space for building the specific components. People solved the space problem by mounting the local unix filesystems or for windows only installed machines, they created zfs off a large file. Most of them used their usb keys for the scratch space. We had anticipated this problem and had a machine with 200GB of space to use just for this purpose, but the paricipants managed without that.
After about 2 hours in that room, we had 5 patches ready, which is absolutely incredible! Even though some of the bugs were simple to fix, they all learnt how to compile the specific components. Many of them also got into some build problems and we were happy to fix them, these were just the initial hurdles that everyone would see during their initial times. "Hacking opensolaris bugs is much much easier than I had thought", one of the participant said with a big smile!
More OpenSolaris hackers at work
The hack-session was a great success, great fun for all the participants and a really satisfying experience for all of us. We also learnt more with these opensolaris enthusiasts. I would highly encourage people to conduct more of such events.