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One student's experience with Google's Summer of Code

By Jacob Buckenmeyer

Alan Ritter, Western Washington University senior and computer science major, received recognition on Oct. 16 for his successful participation in Google's ``Summer of Code'' program from mid-June to Sept. 1.

Ritter spent the summer working on a code which makes Windows network drivers adaptable to the NetBSD operating system, he said.

NetBSD is an operating system like Mac or Windows, but is less widely used, said Doctor Phil Nelson, associate professor of computer science at Western.

Most manufacturers of network cards provide drivers for the more widely used Windows operating system and do not include information which would allow programmers to adapt those cards to fit other operating systems, Nelson said.

Ritter's driver allows network card owners to use the Windows driver, which comes with the network cards, on the completely different NetBSD operating system, Nelson said.

``To a degree, it's about getting around Windows,'' Nelson said. ``It's really more about getting around the manufacturer's resistance to giving you information. We say, `If you don't tell us how to program against it, we'll take your Windows driver and use it wherever we want because we've already purchased a license to use that Windows driver. It doesn't have to be used under Windows.' ''

Ritter said he worked approximately 40 hours a week during the summer, but was able to set his own schedule.

Ritter received $500 when Google approved his project in June, and another $4000 when the project was successfully completed, he said.

Ritter said he occasionally had slow periods of work where he did not know how to approach the problem, but persistent hard work paid off.

``There were a lot of points where I got stuck for a long time, but I just kept plugging away until I figured out the problem,'' he said.

Nelson said he served as Ritter's mentor for the project, answering any questions he had and keeping track of his progress.

Ritter based his work with the NetBSD driver on similar network driver adaptations made for FreeBSD, an operating system with the same base code as NetBSD, he said.

``They have a similar program for FreeBSD which uses a Windows device driver and basically turns it into a device that works for FreeBSD,'' Ritter said. ``So I basically took that and moved it to NetBSD and made the appropriate changes.''

Since the end of the ``Summer of Code'' program on Sept. 1, Ritter said he has continued work on the project.

``I've got it working for two [network] cards right now,'' Ritter said. ``When school started, I got totally swamped with school, so I haven't done much more since then.''

Approximately 40 organizations, like NetBSD, gathered project ideas from students across the nation, said Jan Schaumann, system administrator of the computer science department at Stevens Institute for Technology in New Jersey.

Ritter worked on one of eight projects approved by the NetBSD group, which received more than 100 applications, Schaumann said.

Even after the project is finished, Ritter and Nelson are working to include Ritter's code in an upcoming version of NetBSD, Schaumann said.


Discuss this article below.

well done - Pete
Great Work .... - ThanhVu Nguyen

well done
Pete - November 06, 2005 04:53:18
Interesting to not that it takes a talented student a lot of persistence to hack away at a Mega corps code just to do something simple.

Kepp at it and it will prevail !!

Great Work ....
ThanhVu Nguyen - November 12, 2005 01:47:57
Good work ... appreciate all the efforts on the project. Please keep working on it and make it generic enough so it is applicable with all available nics / wireless cards.

I am sure you can convince your professor (also your mentor?) to use this work as your Master thesis/project.

Best of luck





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