Posts from November 2011

Bringing 64-bit data to R

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The R programming language has become one of the standard tools for statistical data analysis and visualization, and is widely used by Google and many others. The language includes extensive support for working with vectors of integers, numerics (doubles), and many other types, but has lacked support for 64-bit integers. Romain Francois has recently uploaded the int64 package to CRAN as well as updated versions of the Rcpp and RProtobuf packages to make use of this package. Inside Google, this is important when interacting with other engineering systems such as Dremel and Protocol Buffers, where our engineers and quantitative analysts often need to read in 64-bit quantities from a datastore and perform statistical analysis inside R.

Romain has taken the approach of storing int64 vectors as S4 objects with a pair of R’s default 32-bit integers to store the high and low-order bits. Almost all of the standard arithmetic operations built into the R language have been extended to work with this new class. The design is such that the necessary bit-artihmetic is done behind the scenes in high-performance C++ code, but the higher-level R functions work transparently. This means, for example, that you can:

• Perform arithmetic operations between 64-bit operands or between int64 objects and integer or numeric types in R.
• Read and write CSV files including 64-bit values by specifying int64 as a colClasses argument to read.csv and write.csv (with int64 version 1.1).
• Load and save 64-bit types with the built-in serialization methods of R.
• Compute summary statistics of int64 vectors, such as max, min, range, sum, and the other standard R functions in the Summary Group Generic.

For even higher levels of precision, there is also the venerable and powerful GNU Multiple Precision Arithmetic Library and the R GMP package on CRAN, although Romain’s new int64 package is a better fit for the 64-bit case.

We’ve had to work around the lack of 64-bit integers in R for several years at Google. And after several discussions with Romain, we were very happy to be able to fund his development of this package to solve the problem not just for us, but for the broader open-source community as well. Enjoy!

By Murray Stokely, Software Engineer, Infrastructure Quantitative Team

Gathering of the Mentor Minds

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The sixth annual Google Summer of Code Mentor Summit was held Saturday and Sunday, October 22rd and 23th, 2011 at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California.

Over 285 mentors and organization admins from over 145 Open Source organizations attended, again demonstrated how vibrant, creative, and productive Free and Open Source (FOSS) community members are.

Picture taken by Arthur Liu

This was one of our largest gatherings of mentors yet and it produced 62 diverse sessions over the course of a two day “unconference.” Topics included:
  • Community building and successful Google Summer of Code how to’s
  • Open Source gaming
  • Git and submodules for large projects
  • Humanitarian FOSS
  • Teaching with Open Source
  • Recruiting long term contributors
  • … and many more
Conference attendees actively participated in the event — organizing sessions, solving logistical issues, cleaning up rooms, and generally pitching in to keep things running smoothly.

Friday Night Meet and Greet
  • Mentors began arriving on Friday and in the early evening attended a meet-and-greet party by the hotel pool, where old friendships were renewed and new ones were formed.
  • Large quantities of Thai food and refreshing beverages were consumed by mentors amid sounds of laughter and some decidedly technical conversations.
  • Mentors turned in relatively early, as two very full days of excitement lay ahead, and considering the distances many had travelled to attend, sleep was very welcome

With the success of the chocolate session at last year’s Mentor Summit this year an entire room was reserved for participants to bring their favorite chocolates from their country and share with the group.

The response was staggering! Hundreds of pounds of chocolate from all over the world were brought for everyone to sample. From dark, milk, and white chocolate and lots of chocolate hazelnut goodness to unusual offerings such as fish chocolate (it must be an acquired taste), anything your heart desired resided somewhere in that glorious mound of chocolate.

Picture taken by Robert Kaye

Saturday Highlights
  • Saturday morning breakfast and lunch at Charlie's Cafe at the Googleplex. Great fuel!
  • Saturday welcome and unconference session selection process - A surprisingly efficient way to schedule conference sessions, with good humor.
  • Sessions were interesting and well-attended. Notes from many sessions are on the Mentor Summit wiki.
  • We received our orange 2011 Mentor Summit t-shirts!
  • Saturday night back at the hotel, massive amounts of pizza (and quite a bit of beer) was consumed while equally impressive amounts of social and technical networking was going on in the lounge, in the pool and hot tub, and at tables all around the pool.
  • Live musical entertainment was provided by Bart Massey, David Percy, myself, and lots of people who sat in on guitar, bass, and keyboards. Thank you all!
Sunday Highlights
  • Many more great sessions!
  • The Google on-site store was open for business both days and many summit attendees loaded up with top quality swag!
  • The summit wrap-up session was built around the question "How can we make the Mentor Summit better?" Many interesting suggestions were discussed during this introspective, conversational talk, and will no doubt be incorporated into future Mentor Summits.
Some things we learned about ourselves:
  • We are part of an incredibly creative, energetic and self-motivated community.
  • Given minimal structure we are able to create a productive and enjoyable event.
  • Magic happens when so many passionate, productive FOSS community members meet in one place with the space, time, and infrastructure to network and create together.
  • We can squeeze a lot of practical work and good fun into just two days.
  • One attendee described the Mentor Summit as "a rare place where pretty much everybody understands what you're talking about when you discuss code and community."
Major Thanks:
  • To the Google Open Source Programs Office for providing the venue, meals, travel reimbursements, and local transportation for the weekend.
  • Special thanks to Carol Smith, Cat Allman, Stephanie Taylor, and Wolf Bergenheim, for all the time, energy and care they put into this event.
  • To the OSUOSL for ongoing hosting of the Google Summer of Code Wiki.
  • To all the organization Mentors and Admins who attended, for making this another productive and fun Mentor Summit!
  • To everyone who has supported Google Summer of Code through the years -- you have made a big difference in countless ways!
We’re already looking forward to next year!

By Marty Connor, Mentor, Etherboot Project

And we’re off! Google Code-in contest opens for students today

Monday, November 21, 2011

And we’re off! Starting today, 13-17 year old students enrolled in a pre-university program (high school, etc.) as of November 21, 2011 can begin working on tasks for Google Code-in. The contest introduces students to the world of open source software development by having students claim tasks involving things like translating documents, writing pieces of code, developing materials for outreach efforts, working on quality assurance issues and user interface projects among many other types of tasks. 18 open source organizations will provide mentors for the students as they work through tasks over the next two months.

Students will learn more about the many different activities involved in open source software development while also earning fun prizes during the contest. For successfully completing one task students will receive a certificate of participation and a tee shirt. For completing three tasks students will receive the tee shirt, certificate and 100 USD. Students can receive up to 500 USD when they complete 15 tasks. Each task is assigned a point value and students will receive the prize money, tee shirts and certificates based on the number of tasks they complete, regardless of the point values. Point values will be used to select the grand prize winners. The 10 students with the most points at the end of the contest period will win a grand prize trip to Google’s Mountain View, California campus for themselves and a parent or legal guardian late next spring.

For more information please visit our program site and read the contest rules and our Frequently Asked Questions. Join our discussion list to ask any additional questions. If you meet the eligibility requirements you can create your account and start claiming tasks today!

The contest will end on January 16, 2012 so get busy claiming those tasks and have fun!

By Stephanie Taylor, Open Source Programs

Doc Summit Wrap up: 4 Books written in 3 days!

Friday, November 18, 2011

In mid October a Document Summit was held at Google headquarters in Mountain View, California where documentation teams from 4 open source projects, KDE, OpenStreetMap, OpenMRS and Sahana Eden as well as a few documentation ‘free agents’ gathered to a write 4 books in the course of three days and take part in a two day unconference. Below, one of the dedicated documentation volunteers and the FLOSS Manuals founder/organizer recount their experiences over the course of the week.

This past month, Google took a big step toward giving documentation its due with a five-day Google Summer of Code Document Sprint. The event was inspired and driven by FLOSS Manuals, an organization of volunteers (of which I'm one) that has received increasing recognition for its documentation projects and the related community-building they stimulate.

It was predicated on the realization at Google (and at least among pockets of open source developers) that free software needed more than good coders to be successful. It needs communities of people caring for each other and guiding each other through the best use of the software, and part of this community effort is good documentation.

To understand the five-day conference itself (which I wrote about extensively on Radar), you have to know something about FLOSS Manuals and its intense "book sprint" process. FLOSS Manuals was started by artist Adam Hyde several years ago to fill the gap in free software's documentation. From the start it focused not on small articles or wikis but on full manuals. Adam developed the book sprint as a way to pull together a community and get something done quickly that everybody could point to as an achievement for their community.

Five to ten developers, power users, and core supporters meet in a workplace for three to five days and write, sharing their work. Remote contributions are encouraged, and outsiders often weigh in with key points. It's a chaotic process that converges suddenly on the last day into a 80-page to 150-page book, and it leaves a high-endorphin sensation among the participants that propels them toward other community-related activities. Books are frequently translated into other languages, are available both on web sites running FLOSS Manuals software and in print, and are kept "live" so that people can contribute to them later.

My Radar articles contain my own lessons from the Google/FLOSS Manuals sprint. The four projects that participated took back not only a book but guidelines for keeping it alive and capitalizing on the educational and promotional activities that a book permits.

By Andy Oram, O’Reilly Editor


The Google Summer of Code Document Summit was the first of its kind - a special mix of formats with an unconference and book sprint tied together. This promised to be not only intensive and productive but exhausting!

We kicked off the first day of the summit with a one day unconference facilitated by Allen Gunn. It was a great way to get started, we covered many interesting topics related to free documentation. At the end of the day everyone was tired yet inspired. We also started to really come together as a group quite quickly under Allen’s guidance and there were many smiling faces and intensive discussions on the bus back to the hotel.

Day two - start sprinting! Well, the start of an ambitious process - 4 parallel book sprints. Zero to book in 3 days with 4 concurrent projects. I had a pretty good feeling it was going to work, having now done 30 or so sprints, but facilitating 4 sprints concurrently is extra tricky. Thankfully Anne Goldenberg (on the board of the French FLOSS Manuals) was there as I am training her to facilitate Book Sprints. I briefed Anne and she started working through the sprint with the OpenStreetMap team and I began facilitating Sahana and KDE while Allen helped here and there a lot for the first day especially with the generation of the table of contents and oiling the engine for OpenMRS. We also divided the "free agents" (people not affiliated to projects) to the groups.

Well, the rest is more or less the Book Sprint process. Writing, reviewing, discussing, workshopping and using the various tricks and methods developed over the last 3 or so years with this methodology. All went pretty smoothly. We finished 4 great books in 3 days. I think the final word counts were something like 25,000 words or so for each of OpenStreetMap, OpenMRS, and Sahana Eden; 10,000 or so words for KDE.

Laleh Torabi designed some wonderful covers for the books and Tuukka Hastrup was there working on a special new development for Booki (the platform we use for Book Sprints). Tuukka finished the beta and implemented it about 35 seconds before we were planning to use it and he didn’t even sweat!

After dinner on the 3rd sprint day we invited Sahana Eden up to the front of the group and they used the new Booki feature to export the book directly to (a print on demand service). Thats right, one push of the button and their book was IMMEDIATELY for sale as a paper book online - it was magic!

The last day was feedback and a debrief unconference facilitated by Allen and then... you thought it had ended? No! The Google Open Source Programs Office team had agreed to get paper books printed so we distributed 20 each of the four *beautiful* books to the mentor summit the next day. All bound and shiny...they looked amazing and set off quite a buzz.

Many thanks to everyone involved. Especially the fabulous Google Open Source Program team.

By Adam Hyde, FLOSS Manuals
With this Document Summit, Google had the opportunity to support 4 important projects and the overarching need for good documentation of free and open source software.

By Stephanie Taylor, Open Source Programs

Build great font tools and services with sfntly

Earlier this month we released the sfntly font programming library as open source. Created by the Google Internationalization Engineering team, the sfntly Java and C++ library makes it easy for programmers to build high performance font manipulation applications and services. sfntly is really, really fast: Raph Levien, Google Web Fonts Engineer, says, "Using sfntly we can subset a large font in a millisecond. It’s faster than gzip'ing the result."

Now, both Java and C++ programmers can use sfntly to quickly and easily develop code to read, edit, and subset OpenType and TrueType fonts. The Google Web Fonts team uses the Java version to dynamically subset fonts, and the Chrome/Chromium browser uses the C++ version to subset fonts for PDF printing.

sfntly (\s-’font-lē\) was built from the ground up to provide high performance, an easy to use API, and both high-level and low-level access to font data. Font objects are both thread safe and high performance while still providing access for editing. After about a year of internal development sfntly is stable enough to move it into open source and share with others.

Currently, sfntly has editing support for most core TrueType and OpenType tables, with support for more tables being added. Using sfntly’s basic sfnt table read and write capability, programmers can do basic manipulation of any of the many font formats that use the sfnt container, including TrueType, OpenType, AAT/GX, and Graphite. Tables that aren’t specifically supported can still be handled and round-tripped by the library without risk of corruption.

sfntly is already capable of allowing many really exciting things to be done with fonts, but there is much more planned: expanding support for the rest of the OpenType spec and other sfnt-container font formats, other serialization forms, better higher level abstractions, and more.

I encourage you to you join us on our journey as a user or a contributor.

By Stuart Gill, sfntly Architect

- Cross posted from the official Google Code blog

Explore open source with the Google Code-in contest

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Correction: Students will not be able to start registering for accounts until the contest opens on November 21st at 12:00 am (midnight) PST. The blog below has been corrected. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.

Every time you send a text, check a webpage or post a status update, you are using open source software. The Internet is made of open source. But have you ever created any yourself? If you’re a pre-university student between 13 and 17 years old, now you can—and win prizes along the way. Our Google Code-in contest starts this coming Monday, November 21. During the contest, which lasts for 57 days, participants can work on cool online tasks for 18 different open source organizations. Possible challenges include document translations, marketing outreach, software coding, user experience research and a variety of other tasks related to open source software development.

Participants earn points for each task they successfully complete and can earn prizes like t-shirts, cash and certificates of completion. The ten participants with the highest points earned by the end of the competition receive a grand prize trip to Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. next spring for themselves and a parent or legal guardian. They’ll spend the day getting a tour of campus, meeting Google engineers and enjoying other fun surprises.

Last year’s Google Code-in had 361 students from 48 countries completing 2,167 tasks over the course of the the eight week contest. We hope to have even more students participate this year. Help us spread the word by telling your friends, classmates, children, colleagues, teachers—everyone!

If you’d like to sign up, please review our Frequently Asked Questions and the contest rules on our program site. You can also join our discussion list for any other questions. For details on important dates for the contest, see the timeline. You can register for your account on the program site when the contest opens on Monday, November 21st at 12:00am (midnight) PST.

We hope you’ll spend your winter (or summer, for our friends in the southern hemisphere) learning about the ins and outs of open source development through hands-on experience. On your marks...

By Stephanie Taylor, Open Source Programs

- Cross posted from the Official Google Blog

Humbled by our students

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We were very excited about participating in the Google Summer of Code this year for the first time. We, the Theoretical Biophysics Groups at the Humboldt University Berlin, pursue scientific research in the field of Systems Biology by the means of computational models. Our focus is on developing techniques and tools incorporating both new and well established knowledge in order to get a better understanding of the fundamentals of life. In particular, we focus on biological processes in Yeast, Bacillus subtilis, and mammalian cells. Our goal has been to develop a web tool that produces an optimized layout for biological reaction networks.

We were overwhelmed by a large number of extraordinary applications from all over the world and had a difficult time in choosing only three students to mentor for the summer, but we were very excited with our choices. Ben Ripkins created a javascript component which can visualize biological networks dynamically in the browser, Matthias Bock created a server component which retrieves biological networks from public databases, and Wei Jing dealt with the graph layout that determines where the network nodes should be located in the final visualization. We were really surprised how far our students were able to carry their projects given the complexity of the tasks. The results of the student’s work went into the biographer project. We have set up two showcases which demonstrate the interplay of the different student projects. At a large network compiled from the public databases Reactome and PID can be walked through and by simply clicking on the next node, the view will refocus thereby uncovering further parts of the network. At networks edited from scratch or loaded from several resources are visualized.

To sum it all up, this year's Google Summer of Code was a great success for all of us and we hope to be involved in future editions of the program.

By Thomas Handorf, Falko Krause, Marvin Schulz & Max Flottmann on behalf of the Theoretical Biophysics @ Humboldt University Organization

Desktop Summit 2011 visits Berlin

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Desktop Summit 2011 was held in Berlin, Germany, from 6-12 August 2011 and was the second joint conference of the GNOME and KDE communities. Almost 800 attendees gathered in Berlin to review progress, share ideas and work together on various free software projects relating to desktop and mobile user interfaces. While many participants were from Europe as expected, other contingents came from Brazil, India, the United States and beyond. The GNOME Foundation and KDE e.V. sponsored travel and accommodation costs for more than 80 attendees.

Desktop Summit organizers, mostly volunteers, worked for nearly a year to coordinate all the details that made the event successful. More than 50 volunteers pitched in to help the event run smoothly for the week. The collaborative spirit of Free and Open Source technology was an essential factor in how the group worked together.

There was a pre-registration event and two evening parties providing opportunities for people to spend time together without the stress of project deadlines. Other social activities included the traditional soccer and volleyball matches and as participants mostly concerned themselves with having fun (as well as a bit of beer drinking), it was not clear which of the KDE or GNOME teams won. There was an ice cream dessert gathering and unofficial curry cook-outs with food, drinks and conversation--both work and fun.

At the Summit, the City of Berlin announced the winners of its open source competition “Berlin – Made to Create”, a program promoting open source and open standards ideas and solutions. At the same session, the GNOME and KDE communities also announced their outstanding contributors.

From Tuesday to Friday, 85 Birds of a Feather (BoFs) sessions and countless informal hacking sessions took place. Two hacking rooms and the hallways were full of people working on projects. BoFs ranged from small working groups to popular and multi-faceted projects to the introduction of new projects. The GObject Introspection Room shows the kinds of work undertaken at the Summit: a dedicated space with 12 to 20 people at any time, it ran the duration of the Summit, and was primarily focused on bug fixing GNOME API bindings. The KDE community also participated by working on bindings between GObject libraries and Qt/C++ and smoothing out other cross-desktop issues.

The KDE Release Team got together to talk about their strategy for Git versioning migration and the move to Frameworks 5. The BoF session was well attended, and included release team members and downstream packagers. In a short time, the team gathered feedback and came up with a plan for adding predictability to the release team's work and output, and for making the work within the team more effective and sustainable. Working remotely, this would have taken considerably longer and would not have achieved such good results.

The fifth Text Layout Summit was held concurrently with Desktop Summit 2011. At present, there are several font and text shaping technologies and no unified system library. As a result, complex text layout scripts such as Arabic or Myanmar are not well supported, and Western/European fonts often lack advanced text formatting capabilities. As FOSS applications are intended for use by all nationalities and languages, this is a serious shortcoming. Text Layout Summit 2011 made substantial progress toward a common approach, especially with Graphite, which is focused on the minority languages of the world.

The Desktop Summit is an important enabling event, making it possible for teams to learn, share and make substantial progress in their Free and Open Source projects. During the GNOME and KDE Annual General Meetings (AGMs), the respective projects recognized the achievements of members, made important announcements and reflected on the lessons learned over the past year. New Executive Director Karen Sandler led the GNOME AGM, with the recent release of GNOME 3 being a central topic. Many perspectives were contributed, including design, marketing, bug fixes and quality. The location of the 2012 GNOME Users And Developers European Conference (GUADEC) was revealed. With three impressive bids to host GUADEC, La Coruña, Spain, was chosen! The GNOME community looks forward to seeing its members next summer.

At the KDE e.V. AGM, President Cornelius Schumacher presented the work of the Board and KDE e.V. activities of the past 12 months. KDE e.V. organized or helped to organize several successful international conferences such as Akademy 2010 in Tampere, in India, Camp KDE in San Francisco, and financially supported 21 contributor sprints. Cornelius Schumacher also explained the e.V.'s role in supporting and representing the KDE community in legal issues like domain handling, trademarks and similar areas.

Speaking for both organizations, Lydia Pintscher said, "We consider Desktop Summit 2011 in Berlin to have been a huge success for the collaboration among free software desktop communities. We learned a lot during the first Desktop Summit in Gran Canaria and were able to improve on many big and small things that made a real difference for the conference. We are looking forward to seeing the results of this work and to increased future collaboration."

By Carl Symons, William Carlson, and Stuart Jarvis

Introducing Closure Stylesheets

Friday, November 11, 2011

(CSS is for programming, not for pasting)

When the Closure Tools were first released a little over two years ago, they gave web developers the ability to organize and optimize their JavaScript and HTML in a new way. But there was something missing, namely, a tool to help manage CSS.

You see, the nature of CSS runs contrary to the DRY principle that is exhibited in good software engineering. For example, if there is a color that should be used for multiple classes in a stylesheet, a developer has no choice but to copy-and-paste it everywhere because CSS has no concept of variables. Similarly, if there is a value in a stylesheet that is derived from other values, there is no way to express that because CSS also lacks functions. Common patterns of style blocks are duplicated over and over because CSS has no macros. All of these properties of CSS conspire to make stylesheets extremely difficult to maintain.

To this end, we are excited to introduce the missing piece in the Closure Tools suite: Closure Stylesheets. Closure Stylesheets is an an extension to CSS that adds variables, functions, conditionals, and mixins to standard CSS. The tool also supports minification, linting, RTL flipping, and CSS class renaming. As the existing Closure Tools have done for JavaScript and HTML, Closure Stylesheets will help you write CSS in a maintainable way, while also empowering you to deliver optimized code to your users. We hope you enjoy it! Please let us know what you think in the discussion forum.

By Michael Bolin, Open Source Engineer

Google Code-in 2011 participating organizations announced

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

We are excited to announce the 18 open source organizations we have chosen to participate in this year's Google Code-in contest for 13-17 year old students. Please click on the link to the organization to see their preliminary task list. The organizations will be adding more tasks up until the start of the contest on November 21st.

You can check out our Google Code-in program site for more details about this year's contest. If you meet the eligibility requirements, you can go ahead and register for an account now, so once the contest starts on November 21st you can start claiming and completing tasks right away.

For more important contest dates please see our timeline and join our announcement and discussion lists for more information.

By Stephanie Taylor, Open Source Programs

LinuxDay 2011 Italy celebrates 20 years of Linux

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Every October in Italy we hold an event dedicated to GNU/Linux and open source software development called LinuxDay 2011 Italy. The event is organized by the Italian Linux Society (ILS) and local Linux User Groups (LUG's). LUG’s hold conferences in many cities spreading the philosophy of "Freedom, as in free speech,” with the goal of popularizing the use and development of open source software.

This year the event was held on October 22nd, and was special because 20 years ago a man named Linus Torvalds made the very first announcement in a mailing list about a new "(free) operating system (just a hobby, won't be big and professional like gnu) for 386(486) AT clones" that was the Linux OS.

My LUG and I have been involved in the organization of LinuxDay in Matera, a beautiful city that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This year I decided to talk about my experience as a Google Summer of Code student because it has been an awesome experience that has allowed me to both improve my programming skills and to increase my involvement in the open source community. The concept of community is very important for open source development and this is the message I tried to spread through my talk. Many students were present during my speech and asked me for more information about the Google Summer of Code program. I hope my talk will encourage more Italian students to participate in the program in the coming years.

I would like to thank Google for offering us this opportunity and my colleagues who helped organize this wonderful event. Time spent together is always worthy of some sacrifice, we are maybe the last dreamers in the world, believing that changing the world is possible starting from changing ourselves. "Dreaming together a world of Freedom, and working to build it".

By Margherita Di Leo, Google Summer of Code Student

Scilab reaches for the sky

Monday, November 7, 2011

In France we say “Jamais deux sans trois” (everything comes in threes, if it's happened twice, it'll happen a third time). Scilab (free and open source software for numerical computation) was happy to keep this saying alive this year as we participated in our third year as a Google Summer of Code mentoring organization. Each year we have been impressed by the growing quality and diversity of projects submitted to us, the involvement of the selected students and the pleasure they have in working in the open source community. Our experience as a mentoring organization in Google Summer of Code shows us that even professional software raises interest amongst students yearning to contribute to its development both on a technical and professional level. For us, this is an acknowledgment of success in our daily work.

We consider our experience this year to be a very positive one as of the 9 selected Scilab projects, 7 have been successfully completed. We chose to focus here on the experience and work of two of our students that seem to be very representative of our Google Summer of Code experience.

CGLAB Module (a CGAL-based extension) by Edyta Przymus
Edyta’s work consisted in providing a binding of CGAL available from Scilab to offer to users of advanced computational geometry functions. Edyta got involved in the Google Summer of Code following the advice of a friend of hers who was one of our students in the 2010 edition of the program. She chose to work on Scilab because she considers it to be essential software in her domain of study: control theory and robotics. Edyta told us that participating in Google Summer of Code was a unique and wonderful experience that gave her a lot of satisfaction. She considers herself a more confident programmer (she wrote her first lines of code only 2 years ago) and has learned to organize her work process and correct her own bugs. She is continuing to work on her project in response to users’ demand and improving her code along the way.

A release of Edyta’s project (tagged as 2.0) has been published in ATOMS (the Scilab module packaging system).

Introduce a Scilab backend to Cantor by Filipe Saraiva
The goal of Filipe’s project was to provide the power of Scilab to Cantor software, a Qt/KDE front end for numerical computing software. Filipe Saraiva worked on the introduction of Scilab and its capabilities as a backend computing engine. Filipe was fond of Scilab since he began using it as an undergraduate. He considers it to be the best free tool available for numerical programming and is proud to have been able to help further its development. He summarizes his experience in the program by saying he learned how important communication is in development work, and that Google Summer of Code was an unique program to learn programming and management in free software communities that he could not find at university.

To achieve his project with success, Filipe worked very progressively. He began by studying the other back ends implemented in Cantor to see how they worked and how he could do the same for Scilab in enabling communication between the two software environments. In the midst of developing all the new needed features, he encountered some difficulties, which pushed him to consider and learn the specifics of the whole ecosystem of his application like kcfg and the processing of XML files in Q.

Since Filipe needed to modify some piece of code in Scilab itself, the Cantor/Scilab connector will not be released until Scilab 5.4.0.

The complete descriptions of all Scilab projects including the five other projects, Binary patching by Stefan Mihaila, Dakota module by Yann Chapalain, Mexlib from Scilab by Luri de Silvio, Accurate and Portable Elementary Functions by Shashank Sahni and .net called from Scilab by Igor Gridchyn are available on the Scilab website.

One of our students told us that working with technology and software used by thousands of people was rewarding. On the same note, having the opportunity to work with such passionate students each year thanks to the Google Summer of Code program is rewarding for us too, and we are thankful to Google for this opportunity.

By Julie Paul & Sylvestre Ledru, Scilab Mentors

Simian Update Released

Friday, November 4, 2011

Simian, the enterprise-class Mac OS X package management solution, released an updated version this week at MacTech. Originally open sourced at Macworld in January by Google, the latest version adds some significant new features. The new version of Simian is available through Google Code with source also available here.

Since the initial release a little over 10 months ago, we've added:
  • Apple software update catalog management
  • Apple software update iCal feed/integration
  • Dynamic targeting of clients
  • Dynamic Manifest Mod API: no more manual tech personnel fulfillment
  • Better troubleshooting of broken clients
  • Many reporting enhancements
For more details, please join the discussion list. The Simian team will also be hosting Google Hangout office hours on a regular basis; for details please check the Simian Google Code page.

By Jeff Bates, Open Source IT Program Manager with John Randolph and Justin McWilliams, Google Corporate Platforms Engineering Team

GNOME roams to Montreal

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Montreal Summit 2011 turned out to be a very fun and productive gathering earlier this month of GNOME hackers and developers. With the 3.2 release behind us, there was a lot of discussion about the state of GNOME and its path going forward, reflected both in the technical and non-technical sessions that were held.

The group present went through all of the features for GNOME 3.3/3.4 and discussed kicking off the 3.3 cycle which tied in nicely with discussions currently underway on the mailing lists. There were presentations on Baserock by Lars Wirzenius, jhbuild by Colin Walters, and one on the application menu with canonical contributing a good chunk of code toward an improved application menu. A number of sessions talked about GNOME strategy, posing questions such as what are we building, who is it for and how do we get there. There were talks about building an OS, and the various complications that inevitably come up when you put together a system out of many evolving pieces. And Marina Zhurakhinskaya led a talk on how to improve and maximize GNOME’s participation in the Google Summer of Code program.

So much was going on that even though the event wasn’t huge there were many people there that I never even got the chance to talk to and I’m sure there was a lot accomplished that I don’t even know about (for example, Olivier Crete tells me that he made a fix to again allow the use of the free Theora codec for VoIP calls in Empathy). There were also some discussions around how quite a few of this year’s participants were involved in the GNOME Women's Outreach Program.

Many thanks to the sponsors who made this event possible!

By Karen Sandler, GNOME Foundation’s Executive Director