Since 2005, GSoC has congregated lot of students in distinct IT projects related to free software. So it’s a must to thank Google that great contribution. Ah Google… that angel that supports developments and important events related to FLOSS… and that evil that is so secret about its internal technologies or manages so much personal info about so many people in the planet.
This year, Ander Pijoan, a student from Deusto university resident in Sopelana, has taken part in it with a free software project that relations Marble and OpenStreetMap. Marble is inside KDE who, this summer, has been the biggest participating organization: fifty-nine out of mind-boggling sixty projects have been completed successfully.
Q. Could you explain shortly what are the key subjects of your project?
For people who don’t know Marble, it is an educational tool that creates a virtual globe or world atlas to know more about the earth and also gives the possibility to use its libraries in other applications.
The globe’s look can be changed between many different thematic maps such as a satellite map, a 1689 historical map, a classic topographic map or an OpenStreetMap data based map. All these maps are created by downloading some background images (called “tiles”) for different zoom levels and some little vector data for important placemarks like cities, country borderlines,…
Q. How was the process of being elected to participate in GSoC’2012?
The process was quite simple. Between March and April students can submit their proposals, describing what would they do in one of the participating open source organizations. Some organizations already have a list of interesting projects that would fit a GSoC from where students can choose from. In my case, I read about the need for vector rendering in one of KDE’s blog entry written by Torsten Rahn.
Once I sent my proposal, the organization and Google had to discuss in the background and approve all the projects. During that time period I was quite nervous about the result because I didn’t know if my proposal was what they were looking for or it might be too ambitious for just a two month coding and they might discard it. I got more relaxed when some people interested in my project sent me some comments about it and showed their support.
The 23rd of April I received the good news. I was chosen to work with KDE in 2012’s Google Summer of Code.
Q. Regarding your mentors, who are they, and how were you “drawing the working plans”?
My mentor was Dennis Nienhüser, also known as Earthwings in Marble community. He has worked a lot coding for Marble and knows almost everything about Marble’s inside structure and how things work in it.
Although each student only has one mentor, there were lots of people from the community I could ask things to and I think that’s the best part of working in an open source project. We had great meetings every two weeks through Marble’s IRC channel [ #marble ] where all Marble’s GSoC students and mentors got together. I met also Torsten Rahn (Tackat) who also has developed a lot in Marble, Idis, Shentey, Cezar and Javi who were always ready to help and answer our questions.
Every meeting, each of the students had our turn to tell what we had been working on, the problems we had to face and which where the plans for the next weeks. In the end we all helped each other because some of our projects had tasks in common.
Q. Do you participate in any local FLOSS group? tell us about it.
I still work with Marble’s community in order to keep my project updated with the latest changes and to tell people who want to know how my code works. There’s an OpenStreetMap data server with smaller size tiles that will be up and running in little time and we hope to use it in Marble as soon as it is available.
Also I am currently working a lot with the OpenStreetMap community developing a tool called Cat2Osm that extracts all the useful data from the Spanish Cadastre Database to OpenStreetMap in order to be used in several research projects and to improve OSM data.
And I’d really like to meet the people I worked with at the GSoC; if everything goes on well, maybe it will be possible by next year’s summer in the Akademy 2013 wherever it is.
Q. And to finish, what would you say to other students in relation to GSoC and FLOSS?
I would encourage them to see what the organizations need, choose the one they like most and send their proposals for GSoC. They will learn to work in a big project and side by side with people in other parts of the world. Initially it might seem a bit hard and of course sometimes they will get stuck but they have all the support and power a big user community gives. Don’t hesitate to ask the community for answers because in the end they are the ones that are going to use what you build. And of course, above all, to enjoy the experience.
Thanks a lot, and hope you’ll go on collaborating with amazing projects as Marble and OSM are.
Thanks to you too for giving me the opportunity to tell people what the GSoC experience has meant to me, what we are currently working on and for spreading the FLOSS knowledge.