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A Talk with Trevor

Ed. Note: You may recall our recent interviews with student developer Corbin Simpson and student systems administrator Mike Cooper. This week, we're bringing you an interview with Trevor Bramwell, another of the Lab's student developers. Trevor was kind enough to share his thoughts with us through an interview with Anthony Casson, the Lab's student writer. Stay tuned for more interviews with our students in the coming weeks.

The Open Source Lab’s Trevor Bramwell has found a niche in the open source world. After spending a year studying Web Architecture at a school in Arizona, he decided to transfer to Oregon State University for the OSL, its Computer Science program, and to be closer to home – Gresham, Oregon. Trevor, a sophomore, is currently a part-time developer working on the Ganeti Web Manager project. He recently sat down with the OSL to talk about his experience with the lab and his work on Ganeti Web Manager.

What about OSU attracted you?

The Open Source Lab was really the main reason I came to Oregon State. OSU seemed to have the best Computer Science program, and their large involvement with open source development was very important to me. I got interested in open source development from using Linux; if you don’t have Linux skills it’s really hard to do a lot of cool, interesting web stuff. So much of the web is run on Linux machines. So I got involved right away with the Open Source Lab.

In what ways have you grown during your time with the OSL?

The OSL has really helped improve my skills as a programmer, because every single day I’m programming something, and also being involved with the development process. You don’t get that at a university unless you have an internship, which are only like a month or so and then you’re back to school. It has really helped me understand what it takes to be involved in open source software and communities; it’s been really good.

You’ve worked on multiple projects, but your biggest one is Ganeti Web Manager. What is it?

The Ganeti Web Manager (GWM) project was started in September of 2010 as a combination of the projects Ganeti Web and Ganeti Manager. It is a python project that uses the Django Framwork to create a web interface to Ganeti.

What aspect of the project are you working on primarily?

From each release to the next we have a different set of features we focus on. Currently I am focusing on implementing Xen support for GWM as we currently only support KVM. Xen and KVM are two different kinds of hypervisors. A hypervisor is a piece of software that handles the management of virtual machines. Xen support has recently become an issue as several people have contacted us on IRC mentioning they would like to deploy Ganeti Web Manager with their Ganeti cluster running Xen. But since we currently don't support Xen they have run into a lot of issues. A few other features we are working on implementing are: The ability to add multiple disks to a virtual machine, OAuth or other types of authentication, and the ability to create and modify templates for virtual machines. A list of all other tasks can be found on the project's Redmine site. Each of these features presents its own challenge – whether it is dynamic-form generation, implementing good abstraction, or busting out a debugger to track down a show-stopping typo.

Is the project getting attention?

GWM has been getting a lot of attention lately since our 0.6 release. People are noticing how quickly the project is maturing and are excited to be involved. This project is mainly important to system administrators as it helps allow them to easily distribute the work of managing hundreds of virtual machines at one time. By providing a web interface for Ganeti, Ganeti Web Manager allows for non-system administration aware users the ability to start, stop, reboot, shutdown, create, edit, migrate, and delete virtual machines without having to learn the Ganeti console commands. The important point of Ganeti Web Manager is that it an easy to use and Open Source project that is allowing a wide range of users the ability to easily manage virtual machines; a feat which has historically been preformed only by system administrators.

GWM is one of many projects at the OSL getting attention from prospective members. What advice would you give someone new to the OSL?

With the Open Source Lab, they would very much like to have people with Python skills because, primarily, the work on Django-based projects. But even with other skill sets there are other projects going on that you can be involved with. When it comes to open source development in general, there are just so many aspects; you don’t have to be a coder to do open source, to be involved with it. There’s documentation; there’s networking; there’s public relations; there’s event-coordinating. Open source really needs management and people making sure the social interactions are going well – communication is a really big deal.

Along with the work you do for the OSL, you’re also an avid dancer. What role does that play in your life?

My friends would ask me, ‘Because you’re doing so much dancing, do you see that as something you could do as a career,’ but that’s really not where I want to go at all. I still very much want to be in computer science and open source. It’s really just a hobby; it helps me get rid of stress, and meet a bunch of people – that’s really been the most helpful social aspect of being at Oregon State.

Many thanks to Trevor and Anthony for this interview!

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