Sunday, August 3, 2014

Retrospect - continued...

If you missed the first part of this post you can find it here.

Last week I concluded the blog post telling you how my FOSS life began with phpMyAdmin. It was just after the GSoC and the team was preparing to release the version 3.4 of phpMyAdmin. There was a lot of testing going on, bringing a continuous stream of bugs. This was a good opportunity for me to get a good hang of the code. I fixed quite a number of bugs. None of the alpha, beta or a release candidate version went without a fix from me. Version 3.4 was released soon and it was quite fascinating to see people using what you have contributed.

I was still an undergrad and wanted to take part in the 2011 version of GSoC. Initially I wasn’t sure whether I could apply under phpMyAdmin since I was already a team member. However Marc Delisle, one of the project admins helped me clear my doubts and I chose to apply for project idea that was due for some time. The project was about supporting geographical data types in phpMyAdmin. My knowledge on the area was very limited, so I started doing my own little research. I tried out other database engines that had GIS support such as PostgreSQL and SQLServer and their clients. This helped me write a better proposal.

To my delight, the project got accepted. I was going to spend my entire summer with phpMyAdmin!!! Michal Čihař, the other project admin was my mentor. My project covered quite a lot of areas related to geographical data types in phpMyAdmin. It included providing an interface to enter geographic data, visualizing them, exporting them, importing from ESRI format for GIS data as well as searching with geographical data specific functions. This covered most of the areas of the phpMyAdmin code and by the end of the summer I was more confident with the code. GSoC was a great experience for me, getting to know my mentor, the team and community well.

2011 was quite an eventful year in my life. I graduated in December and started working. Of course this limited the hours I could put for phpMyAdmin, but I managed to contribute much during the weekends. Another very much looked forward to event was closing by. The team decided to meet in real life at FOSDEM 2012 in Brussels. All expenses covered visit to the best FOSS conference in Europe plus meeting the phpMyAdmin team!!! How cool is that!!! This was the first time I visited the Europe and this was an amazing experience to me. Subzero temperatures and snow was all new to me who is coming from a tropical country where the sun shines the whole year along. The conference was very rich with what it had to offer and it was a great opportunity for developing a closer friendship with my fellow team members. I did not forget to spend some time doing sightseeing in this beautiful country.

GSoC 2013 edition was another milestone in my Open Source life. I was asked by the phpMyAdmin team whether I would like to mentor a GSoC project. The proposal submission period was a one big rush with a lot of discussions going on in the developer’s mailing list and receiving a large number of patches. Students were digging into the code as phpMyAdmin required the potential candidates to display their familiarity with code by submitting patches for bugs or new features. Reviewing proposals was very interesting with proposals varying from students who did not even know what phpMyAdmin is written in to student who knew very well the product as well the their proposed projects.

I chose to co-mentor a project that was aimed at improving the testing mechanism and testing coverage of phpMyAdmin with Michal Čihař. It was indeed a very interesting project. It’s only when you are trying to write unit tests, you find the problems in the architecture. The student was willing to even improve the code by refactoring. He was enthusiastic about the project and quickly grabbed techniques like mocking for testing. It was a pleasure to co-mentor a student who’s enthusiastic and willing to learn. Even I learnt a lot on the technology front and from my co-mentor about mentoring a student.

So this is how my FOSS life started and evolved, thanks to GSoC. I’m contributing to the project to date and I never seem to get bored doing that. Since FOSDEM 2012 I have met the team members twice, once in picture perfect Switzerland and more recently in Germany. I have developed stronger friendships with my fellow team members and even visited them in their home countries and looking forward to receive them back in Sri Lanka. I am mentoring a GSoC project this year as well. All in all I find it very satisfying to being able to contribute to this great work.