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OSL staff members mentor students around the globe through Google Summer of Code

OSL staff members mentor students around the globe 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.

“This is definitely the greatest and most valuable experience I could get,” he says. “Not everyone is fortunate enough to get it at this age.”

Banaszkiewicz implemented a daemon to provide metrics in Ganeti that can be displayed as a graph of data about the virtual machines the program is running. According to OSL Senior Software Engineer Ken Lett, who supervised Banaszkiewicz’s work, this addition to Ganeti will contribute both to the software’s usability and to future development.

“This allows system administrators to view the state and history of the machines in their cluster in a very visual and intuitive way,” Lett says. “His work also created an infrastructure on which further visualization and analysis tools can be built. Writing flexible, extensible and pluggable code not only makes our work easier in Ganeti Web Manager, but will hopefully inform and improve his future work in any type of programming.”

Working with developers more than 5,500 miles away from his hometown near Cracow, Poland, Banaszkiewicz says, was only difficult because of the nine-hour time difference that meant staff members didn’t arrive for work at the OSL office until it was evening in Poland. But by connecting with OSL staff over Internet Relay Chat and sharing ideas through Google Docs, he says was able to learn from his mentors at the OSL and improve his knowledge about virtualization and working with Python and Vagrant.

“I can see the OSL as a very pro-student organization, which I was delighted to work for,” he says. “There are some very passionate programmers, who actually were like teachers for me during GSOC.”

Banaszkiewicz is unique among GSOC students the OSL has mentored in that he previously worked with the lab through Google Code-in, a program similar to GSOC but designed for high school students. He has been the only Google Code-in student to continue to be mentored by the OSL in GSOC. Performing tasks for the OSL as a high school student, Banaszkiewicz says, introduced him to the tools used in professional open source development.

“I was a little younger and did not know many technologies used by the OSL team,” he says. “Now these technologies are obligatory in any project, and I'm very happy I could learn them so early.”

Now, Banaszkiewicz is studying at the AGH University of Science in Cracow. He plans to apply to work as a GSOC student with the OSL again this summer and continue to expand his knowledge of open source development. The OSL’s continued participation in GSOC, Lett says, not only offers students a unique opportunity, but also presents a host of benefits both for the lab and the open source community.

“Mentoring young open source developers bolsters the community we rely on, and helps make sure the new generation of open source developers comes in with real skill and knowledge,” Lett says. “It also creates connections that bring benefits back to us in the form of contributions to our projects, collaborations with other projects and relationships with developers around the world.”

Media contact: Kayla Harr,

To learn more about the students who gain real-world experience through the Open Source Lab, visit our staff page. More information about Google Summer of Code and how to participate can be found here.

Students, community, professionals collaborate at Beaver BarCamp 10

Students, community, 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.

The OSL’s efforts to further the collaborative nature of Beaver BarCamp was evident with the variety of students present, who came not only from Oregon State but also from Portland State University and the University of Oregon.

“I was so happy to see folks from the community, PSU, UO and OSU come together in the spirit of learning and open source,” says Mozilla employee Mike Morgan. “Sharing and collaborating should expand beyond university walls, and this was a good example of how to make it happen. It made me feel a sense of community and goodwill.”

While students enjoyed the opportunity to learn from professionals, presenters from Mozilla said they valued the experience of interacting with students at Beaver BarCamp 10.

“Beaver BarCamp is a great way to engage directly with students on a variety of interesting topics,” says Mozilla’s Director of Security Assurance Michael Coates. “Over the past two BarCamps, I've been able to host a Web application security hacking lab. I've been impressed by the interest level and enthusiasm from attendees and am looking forward to future events.”

Morgan says that the caliber of student participation in the sessions he presented on writing for the Web and building open Web apps confirmed for him that Oregon State students, both inside and outside the OSL, are highly skilled.

“Oregon State Students are amazing,” Morgan says. “Our Mozilla interns and full-time hires from Oregon State who worked at the OSL work shoulder-to-shoulder with other engineers from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford. Their work at Oregon State has prepared them for the real-world problem solving that Mozilla and other companies need from them. Coming to Beaver BarCamp showed me there are many more excellent engineers at Oregon State — they had great questions, understood the technology and are already well ahead of the curve.”

Along with its characteristic variety of sessions — brewing beer, 3D printing and synthesizing sounds were just a few of the unique topics on the schedule — Beaver BarCamp 10 offered hands-on learning opportunities. While OSL Student Developer Corbin Simpson taught attendees to whistle with a little practice, workshops on virtualization and building applications encouraged those in attendance to break out their laptops and learn by doing.

“I learned a lot about virtualization and I like that I can actually play with it,” says Brenn Kucey, a senior studying electrical engineering and computer science at Oregon State. “That’s what I like the most about it, that I was able to come in and see new areas that I can explore.”

More interactive sessions, technical lessons and innovative ideas will come to Oregon State when Beaver BarCamp returns in the spring. Students and community members are welcome to share their own knowledge and learn from others this April at Beaver BarCamp 11.

Media contact: Kayla Harr,

To learn more about Beaver BarCamp and get updates about Beaver BarCamp 11, connect with the Open Source Lab on Facebook or visit the Beaver BarCamp website.

From support to success

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.

“Had the OSL not stepped up and offered hosting, we probably would have had to find hosting of our own and paid for it, which would have put too much financial burden on the project at the time and severely hampered the project,” says Jacob Redding, Drupal Association executive director.

Over the next two years, students headed up an overhaul of Drupal’s infrastructure, adjusting solutions to meet rising growth and making Drupal more easily available for download around the world. Newton worked to optimize the database infrastructure, while Searcy used load balancers and multiple Web nodes to create a formidable Web architecture. When Rudy Grigar arrived as a student system administrator at the lab in 2007, the crisis period had ended, but he was able to continue Newton and Searcy’s work, developing new features for Drupal and using automated tools to increase efficiency.

“It didn't sink in until a few months before graduating from OSU how big Drupal was,” Grigar says. “I had the opportunity to attend DrupalCon San Francisco and witnessed just how large and global the Drupal community had become.”

While they helped Drupal attain the stability needed to weather extreme growth successfully, Grigar says the experience of working on the project was equally valuable for the students involved.

“The industry experience is priceless,” he says. “It's an amazing thing to be responsible for successes and failures as a student with something as popular as Drupal.”


Drupal servers at the Open Source Lab.

Now, Drupal has achieved both success and stability, and is one of the largest open source projects hosted by the OSL. While server overload is no longer a concern for Drupal, Redding says the association’s relationship with the OSL has continued to yield unexpected benefits, largely because of the lab’s commitment to training students through hands-on experience.

“Over the years what the OSL has provided has been over and above just fair hosting,” Redding says. “It’s been a great environment where people can come in and learn about hosting and about open source projects. Had the OSL only provided hosting we would not have been able to get such great people to work on our team.”

After working on the Drupal project at the OSL, Newton went on to work as an administrator in the Drupal Association, while Grigar spent time after graduation working on Drupal infrastructure through Tag1 Consulting and Acquia.

“Without the OSL we wouldn't have had the opportunity to learn what we did,” Grigar says. “Not only were we able to help a project like Drupal grow as college students; we developed sought-after skill sets that we've used to spread Drupal and open source software to others.”

Current student employees at the OSL continue to learn by maintaining projects like Drupal and by providing the more comprehensive support still needed by other projects that are in earlier stages of development. This service to growing projects, Redding says, is especially important within the open source community.

“The OSL has always been an essential part of any project and has fostered the success and accelerated the growth of many open source projects,” Redding says. “It’s amazing that it exists. It’s almost necessary to have a service like the OSL; it’s a very rare, very respected resource.”

Though Drupal has moved past the growing pains that brought it to the OSL, the relationship between the lab and the Drupal Association has deepened through mutual support. Dries Buytaert, the original creator and project lead for Drupal, serves on the OSL Advisory Council, and student employees gain experience by working on Drupal both at the OSL and as interns with Drupal and its partners.

And the support the OSL offered to help Drupal reach success has had positive effects for the university as well. When the lab offered Drupal as a stable option, OSU began utilizing it for university websites.

“The campus uses Drupal and benefits profoundly,” says OSL Director Curt Pederson.

By switching to Drupal content management system and using open source tools for other needs including spam filtering and security, the university was able to save thousands of dollars initially, and continues to benefit from free and low-cost maintenance.

The fact that Drupal no longer needs the intensive support services that were necessary when the project arrived at the OSL is part of the lab’s goal to foster the success of projects that will eventually be able to support themselves. According to Lance Albertson, OSL associate director of operations, the lab’s function to drive the growth of emerging projects is perfectly illustrated in the trajectory of Drupal.

“We’ve had similar successes in the past such as our experience with Mozilla,” Albertson says. “They were in a bad position infrastructure-wise and our students at the time kicked in and helped them fix their issues. Many of those students and staff still work at Mozilla today in leading roles. Drupal is another great example of how the OSL helped a growing community expand, allowing them to focus on improving their project. Seeing the success and impact of the community around the world is the reason many of us at the lab love what we do.”

As the lab works to promote the growth of the next generation of open source projects, Redding says he’s excited to see the collaboration between Drupal and the OSL continue to expand.

“We’d love more people to get involved with our project and we’d love for them to come from OSU,” Redding says. “I think there are some really great opportunities there that you’re not going to get anywhere else. I can’t think of a single place in the world where you can get that kind of experience other than the OSL.”

Media contact: Kayla Harr,

To learn more about how the Open Source Lab is working to drive the growth of open source software and support the lab’s efforts, visit our Donate page.

Open Source Lab in spotlight at summer conferences

Open Source Lab in 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.”

To kick off the summer, Albertson and other staff members attended Open Source Bridge, a volunteer-supported conference held June 26-29 at the Eliot Center in downtown Portland. Hundreds of community members, corporate representatives and people thinking about and contributing to open source gathered to share ideas and discuss technology. The annual conference focuses on the theme of open source citizenship, bringing individuals from a number of sectors, programming languages and backgrounds together to collaborate on what they all have in common: open source.

At Open Source Bridge, Albertson presented a talk on private cloud platforms, Project Manager Greg Lund-Chaix spoke about open source technologies in K-12 education and student developer Corbin Simpson presented to a crowded room of more than 50 people on translating lessons from esoteric programming languages into methods for improving common code bases. Lund-Chaix then teamed up with Senior System Administrator Rudy Grigar and Senior Software Engineer Ken Lett to deliver a multifaceted presentation on DevOps. The three spoke from different perspectives in open source development, management and hosting to communicate a unified message about how collaborative thinking between developers and operations managers can improve project success.


Simpson discusses programming languages in a room packed with Open Source Bridge attendees.

“Developers and system operations people need to understand both sides to perform their jobs more effectively and collaborate for better end results,” Grigar said during the talk.

Kenn Wilson, a contract developer based in Portland, said after attending the OSL’s DevOps talk that the concept of integrating systems and development work wasn’t new to him, but that Lund-Chaix, Grigar and Lett brought new ideas to his attention.

“One thing I did find really interesting is using something like cloud computing to test your system,” Wilson says. “That’s something I’ve never thought of before, to test your systems rather than your code.”

Talks presented by the OSL and others at Open Source Bridge, Wilson says, are significant contributions to communal and individual knowledge.

“You can learn about things you weren’t aware of,” Wilson says. “It helps everybody here in a very tangible way.”


Lund-Chaix, Lett and Grigar field questions after presenting on the benefits of collaboration between developers and system administrators.

That commitment to supporting the open source community won Albertson the conference’s highest honor at its official party June 27. Albertson was presented with the Truly Outstanding Open Source Citizen award for his efforts to introduce students to open source technology and the OSL’s continued support of numerous open source projects.

“I think it's awesome,” Albertson says of his award. “I was completely caught off guard but I think it's a great honor to be able to have that award.”

Albertson says he is passionate about bringing students into the lab and exposing them to open source technology because he appreciates how strong of a resource the OSL can be for students.

“When I went through school I wished I had an OSL, and now I get to provide the resource I so wished I had to all these amazing students,” Albertson says. “It’s a great feeling.”

Former OSL student employee Brandon Phillips, who attended Open Source Bridge and delivered two of his own presentations, says Albertson was an apt choice for the Truly Outstanding Open Source Citizen award given his integral role within the lab.

“Lance has been a solid and steady hand inside of the OSL for years now, and it is an important role given the huge scope of projects that the OSL helps keep up and on the Internet,” Phillips says. “It is a well-deserved award.”

After wrapping up Open Source Bridge, OSL staff had only a few short weeks to prepare for OSCON. Hosted by O’Reilly Media at the Oregon Convention Center June 16-20, OSCON continued the conversation about open source software that began at Open Source Bridge, but — with more than 3,000 attendees — on a much larger scale.

The OSL was among nearly 100 exhibitors at the conference expo, which featured top open source industry partners as well as many open source projects hosted by the OSL. Students and full-time staff interacted with visitors to the OSL’s booth throughout the conference, sharing information about the lab’s current projects, explaining the OSL’s innovative integration of student employees and enjoying the opportunity to connect with other open source enthusiasts.

OSCON welcome

OSCON attendees at the Oregon Convention Center.

“It was good to interact with the corporate world and meet people professionally,” says Dean Johnson, a sophomore who began working at the lab in June. “People were really grateful for our mirrors and what we do, and it was nice to feel like what I’m doing here is making a difference and helping the community.”

Many stopped by the OSL booth simply to meet the students and staff members who have helped support their projects, facilitated their downloads or provided technical support in person. Todd Richmond, who works in information technology with Lincoln County, Ore., already knew about the OSL’s services, but visited the booth to say thank you.

“I use the OSL’s FTP mirrors daily,” Richmond says. “I think it’s a tremendous service, not just for other universities and governments, but for everyone. Having a regional site like that where we can grab security updates and things like that is fantastic.”


OSL staff and students greet OSL supporters, users and alumni at the lab's OSCON booth.

While at OSCON, Albertson delivered a talk on private cloud computing, and all of the OSL members in attendance hosted a Birds of a Feather session to introduce interested conference attendees to the lab and to offer those who already follow the lab insight on how OSL infrastructure continues to develop and improve.

As part of OSCON week, the lab also held its first alumni gathering in appreciation of the students and staff who helped the OSL become the resource that it is today. More than 40 of the people who have been part of the OSL story gathered to reconnect with old friends, celebrate the lab’s achievements and honor the first director of the OSL, Shay Dakan, who passed away just over a week before the conference began.

At the alumni event, OSL Director Curt Pederson, who has been part of the lab’s work since its beginnings, offered his thoughts on the group of people who have fueled the OSL’s progress over the years and his hopes for the future. Pederson emphasized the lab’s pristine track record for turning out students who go on to great success in the technical industry, as evinced by the caliber of people, many of whom represented top companies including Google, Rackspace and Mozilla, who were in the room.

“The alumni event reminded me of why we started the OSL nine years ago, and that the true value of our work comes from providing our students with real industry experience,” Pederson says. “Having 55 of our former students now in key roles across the open source community confirms that the most important thing we do for the community is mentor the next generation of open source leaders.”

Media contact: Kayla Harr,

To learn more about the OSL mission and find out how to support the lab's efforts, visit our About and Donate page. pages.

Open Source Lab advances with new staff members, renewed focus

Open Source Lab 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.

Broadening the lab's staff, says Associate Director of Operations Lance Albertson, will allow the OSL to enhance its contributions in all of the above capacities, particularly by providing the professional staff to supervise more student workers, increasing productivity in the lab.

“The goal is basically doing more, giving more students the experience and the exposure in our environment,” Albertson says. “Full-time staff is really there to help students along the way and augment them, and the new restructuring allows us to hire more students.”

In addition to serving as mentors to student employees, the new staff members will fulfill integral roles developing programming code for the lab and maintaining the OSL's hosting and support services. Hiring new staff has filled some of the gaps left by the departure of several full-time OSL staff members within the last year, Albertson says, and also allows the lab to begin the process of integrating its development and hosting teams.

“The idea is to have our students doing both the operations side of things and the development side of things to give them more experience,” Albertson says. “The development team supporting the hosting side of the OSL will also improve our hosting services because they will develop tools that will allow more automation, which means we can do more with less.”

With this plan for collaboration in mind, Albertson says the new staff members were selected in part based on ability to adapt and diverse skill in both software development and systems administration.

New Senior Software Engineer Ken Lett exemplifies the multifaceted experience Albertson described, coming to the OSL after spending over a decade in various positions on the OSU campus. Lett has worked as a systems administrator in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, completed an undergraduate degree in physics as a student and worked with Central Web Services as a software developer.


Lett joins the OSL as senior software developer.

Rudy Grigar and Justin Dugger, who joined the lab as senior systems architects, bring varied experiences of their own to the OSL, both in the private sector and in educational settings. Grigar, who graduated from OSU in 2010, worked at the OSL as a student and went on to hold private-sector positions in systems engineering as well as operations management. Dugger has a background in educational technology services, having worked as an applications system administrator at Kansas State University and in source control management at Kansas' Johnson County Community College.

In addition to adding Lett, Grigar and Dugger to the ranks, the OSL is also undergoing internal staff reorganization to better address priorities within the lab. These changes include Albertson's promotion from senior systems architect to Associate Director of Operations – a move that allows him to use the knowledge he's developed while managing the OSL's hosting over the past five years to evaluate the lab's approach to hosting and development tasks and implement new methods to promote efficiency.


Grigar, who worked in the OSL as a student, returns to the lab as senior systems architect.

Project Manager Greg Lund-Chaix, who has spent the last several years working heavily on the Oregon Virtual School District, is also refocusing his efforts within the lab. Lund-Chaix will still be involved in the virtual school district project, but will pass some of those responsibilities to others, allowing him to participate more fully in lab infrastructure planning, customer relations and student mentoring.

These staff changes accompany efforts to secure the lab as a sustainable entity and to refine outreach to private sector partners. To enhance OSL communications, Albertson has begun adding students to the lab with the establishment of a team of media and marketing students. These students will manage responsibilities that were assigned to one full-time outreach manager in the past but have been unattached since the staff member's departure.

“I saw that it was really an important role to have in our organization, but we can certainly do it with students,” says Albertson, who doesn't shy away from giving students the opportunity to fulfill varied roles in the lab.


Dugger is serving as a senior systems architect in the lab after working at Kansas State University.

As OSL staff work to optimize the lab's resources and place more emphasis on the value of the student experience, close mentoring and expanded student responsibilities will be essential to success. All of the new staff members will contribute to student development as students and staff collaborate to strengthen the lab. Lett says he is particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity to support student growth and the benefits capable students can bring to the OSL.

“When I worked with students in the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, I saw that we had some really brilliant students,” Lett says. “That made me appreciate what a resource we have in our students. I'm excited to be part of the process of teaching and fostering that talent.”

Media contact: Kayla Harr,

To learn more about the OSL mission and view profiles of the lab's staff and student employees, visit our About page.