What would it take to be mentored here?

Pietro Cerutti gahr at FreeBSD.org
Tue Jun 17 10:47:57 UTC 2008

Hash: SHA512

Jonathan Curtis wrote:
| Hello,

Hi Jonathan,

great to see you interested in FreeBSD :)

While I have no recipe for you, I would like to share my experience,
since when I started using FreeBSD I was exactly in the same situation
your're finding yourself right now: I was very enthusiastic and willing
to lear, help and contribute but couldn't event understand most messages
being post on technical mailing lists (you mentioned hackers@, did you?
;P ).

I started using FreeBSD for my daily tasks and realized that the
infamous man pages (yep, TFM pages) was a great source of knowledge.
I started following questions@, hackers@, current@ and stable@ and tried
to get useful information out of those. Most messages were rather
cryptic at first, but as the time passed I was able to sometimes answer
to other users' questions (although most times wrongly...).

After a while, let's say 1 year or so, I began to read through the
source code when I couldn't find the information I was looking for in
the man pages or on the mailing lists. This lead me to produce the first
~ small patches (ranging from documentation clean-ups to feature
additions to nonsense).

I got the opportunity to begin contributing more on a regular basis when
the infamous transition GCC 3.4 -> GCC 4.2 began. I happened to be quite
familiar with the C standard and GCC and I found myself interested in
fixing port which didn't build anymore because of GCC problems. That's
the field where I actually submitted most of my PRs to date. After a few
dozens PRs I was caught by the eye of a committer (miwi@, tnx!) who just
began taking care of me and my PRs. I began a ports committer a few
months later. Now I mainly contribute in fixing (old, broken,
unmaintained, unwanted, nobody-cares, crap) ports and trying to
resuscitate some interest in sparc64.

As you can see, there is no "wanted skill" or "preferred goals". The
project is large enough that your interests can probably match some
FreeBSD need. The only advice I can give you is, don't give up. As time
passes you will realize how beautiful this OS is, well structured, well
documented, with nice people working at/with it.

As an end note, please keep an eye to the project ideas for volunteers,
at http://www.freebsd.org/projects/ideas/ , you'll likely find something
catching your attention and matching your interests there sooner or later!

Thanks, keep on!

| I was intrigued by this statement on the FreeBSD News Flash page: "The
| FreeBSD Project is always willing to help mentor students learn more
| about operating system development through our normal community
| mailing lists and development forums. Contributing to an open source
| software project is a valuable component of a computer science
| education and great preparation for a career in software development."
| Presently, I'm quite unqualified to contribute to an open-source
| project, but I definitely want to make this a goal.
| I'm currently in my first year of studies in Computer Science and
| Programming. After acquiring an Associate's Degree from a technical
| school, I intend to transfer to a traditional university. I
| self-learned C++ starting at about age 15 but left off for a little
| while until finally starting college (later than most). My knowledge
| of C++ programming is probably on the high end of intermediate (my
| high school programming class was a joke, and I was able to complete
| the final projects for college Introduction to Programming before even
| starting the course), although I have little experience doing
| practical programming work.
| I was attracted to free/open-source software because of its quality
| and the high technical competence of its users. I started learning
| Linux, but after some research I quickly realized that FreeBSD is
| probably a much technically superior operating system (although all
| OSes have their use). I have a basic knowledge of Unix-like operating
| systems in general. I've been learning about FreeBSD by lurking on a
| few of the mailing lists, but haven't yet had the courage to subscribe
| to the hackers list.
| Since I'm still such a beginner and experienced developers probably
| don't want to "mentor" the basic programming skills learned in school,
| I'm not looking to contribute to a project anytime soon. (For example,
| I saw Gabor Kovesdan's student project posted to the wip-status list.
| I'm familiar with regular expressions, but I can safely say that I
| have no idea how I would implement even a basic grep program.) But
| since I enjoy computers both as a hobby and an intended profession, my
| goal is to be eventually skilled enough to make valuable contributions
| to the free software community. I'm intelligent, a good learner, and I
| certainly won't limit my knowledge to what they teach in school.
| I would like to know what specific skill sets the developers here want
| to see in a student to be mentored, as well as some more specific
| examples of the kind of work performed by mentored students, in order
| to have more crystallized goals towards which to focus my effort and
| studies.
| Thanks a lot,
| Jonathan Curtis
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- --
Pietro Cerutti
gahr at FreeBSD.org

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