I just came back from Austria last saturday from a university course called Developing Open Source Systems Expertise in Europe 2012 and I thought I'd post a couple of quick thoughts about it. The point of the course was to work in an international team over the course of two weeks to create some sort of an open source system. The team I was a part of, the one you can see above, was trying to transform a small ARM-based linux computer called the Dreamplug into a powerful, easily configurable open source -based network router.

There were people participating from seven different universities from seven different countries:

  • Finland: Helsinki Metropolia University of Applied Sciences (my university)
  • Austria: FH Johanneum (The host university this year)
  • France: IUT1 Grenoble
  • Spain: Universidad de Alcalá
  • Slovakia: Technical University of Košice
  • Latvia: Transport and Telecommunication Institute
  • Denmark: DTU - Technical University of Denmark

It was very exciting and quite hectic two weeks. As I said, we were in there to transform a small Linux machine into an open source router. We ended up doing all kinds of stuff during our time there, including:

  • Patching and crosscompiling the linux kernel for ARM (and getting it to actually boot)
  • Setting up test networks with Dreamplugs, Cisco routers and linux machines to test various features and compatibility (dynamic routing, QoS ...)
  • Getting to know how the Linux kernel handles packet routing and QoS in more detail than I ever believed I would have to know
  • much more

While I use Linux as my main operating system, and therefore messing with Linux isn't new to me, I've never been a big fan of computer networks. I've avoided touching them with Linux in the past and I had enough of Cisco CCNA courses after the first two mandatory ones, so this was very a much learning experience for me.

But even though all of that was very exciting, it wasn't the most precious experience I got from course. That prize goes to the chance to be part of a diverse group of motivated people coming together from all over the Europe to work towards a single goal. Even though I participated in another Intensive Project in Coventry during the summer of last year and worked for 6 months on a research project for my University in a very diverse group of people, this course still had a lot to offer as a learning experience about diverse working environments.

Also, I have to say a kind work about our host university, the FH Johanneum. They went to great deals of trouble to make all of us welcome. They made sure we always had something to do, provided us with very good lab spaces and made sure we had a steadly supply of coffee-based drinks available. Also, they provided us with a very nice welcoming gift:
I believe the technical term for this kind of stuff is "Swag."

As I said, this was just a very quick post about the trip. I might post some details about it later.