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As the summer draws near, we’re getting ready to announce the students accepted into Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2015. With guidance from mentors, those students will spend their summer coding for one of the 137 open source projects that are participating this year.

This is the 11th summer we’ve run the program and many of the projects have been part of GSoC in the past, but we also have 30 projects which are making their GSoC debut this year. Welcome to GSoC, we’re looking forward to seeing the students’ contributions to your work!

  • Africa Soil Information Service
  • Bika Open Source LIMS Collective
  • Boston University / XIA
  • CentOS Project
  • CloudCV
  • Department of Biomedical Informatics, Stony Brook University
  • Foundation for Learning Equality
  • GitHub
  • Global Alliance for Genomics & Health
  • Google Kubernetes
  • HPCC Systems
  • Liquid Galaxy Project, Interactive Spaces
  • IP-over-P2P Project
  • JdeRobot - Universidad Rey Juan Carlos
  • jQuery Foundation
  • lowRISC
  • MBDyn, Department of Aerospace Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Milan
  • MEDES-IMPS
  • MinnowBoard Project
  • NumFOCUS
  • OncoBlocks
  • P2PSP.org
  • Pencil Code Foundation
  • Portable Native Client
  • Red Hen Lab
  • RIOT
  • Rspamd spam filtering system
  • Saros
  • Sustainable Computing Research Group ( SCoRe )
  • University of Nebraska - Helikar Lab

You can learn more about all of this year’s participating organizations at the program website. Students, check back on Monday, April 27th to see if your application has been accepted.

by Ashleigh Rentz, Open Source Programs Office

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A few months ago, we quietly released Jsonnet: a simple yet rich configuration language (i.e., a programming language for specifying data). Many systems can be configured with JSON, but writing it by hand is troublesome. Jsonnet is packed with useful data-specification features that expand into JSON for other systems to act upon. Below is a trivial example of such expansion:

// Jsonnet Example
{
   person1: {
       name: "Alice",
       welcome: "Hello " + self.name + "!",
   },
   person2: self.person1 { name: "Bob" },
}
{
  "person1": {
     "name": "Alice",
     "welcome": "Hello Alice!"
  },
  "person2": {
     "name": "Bob",
     "welcome": "Hello Bob!"
  }
}
Jsonnet doesn’t just generate JSON: Jsonnet is also an extension of JSON. By adding new constructs between the gaps of existing JSON syntax, Jsonnet adds useful features without breaking backwards compatibility. Any valid JSON is also a valid Jsonnet program that simply emits that JSON unchanged, and existing systems that consume JSON (or its cousin YAML) can be easily modified to accept data in the full Jsonnet language. As such, Jsonnet is an example of a templating language, but one specifically designed for JSON data and less error-prone than other techniques.
“Jsonnet” is a portmanteau of JSON and sonnet. We chose that name to convey that data expressed in Jsonnet is easier to write and maintain because it is more elegant and concise, like a poem. This is not just due to syntactic niceties like comments and permissive quotes/commas, but because Jsonnet has all the modern multi-paradigm programming language conveniences needed to manage complexity. One key benefit is the ability to use Jsonnet's mixin and import features to write modular configuration template libraries, allowing the creation of domain-specific configuration languages for particular applications.
Most configuration languages are created ad-hoc for the needs of a given application, accruing features over time and becoming unwieldy. From day one, Jsonnet was designed as a coherent programming language, benefitting from both academic techniques and our experience implementing production languages. Unlike most configuration languages, Jsonnet has a full operational semantics, ensuring matching behavior from third party implementations as well as mathematical analysis. It is a very small and carefully chosen extension to JSON that can express both object-oriented and declarative styles. More importantly, unlike regular programming languages, Jsonnet is hermetic:  Its evaluation is independent of any implicit environmental factors, ensuring that high level configuration will resolve to the same thing every time.
Jsonnet is open source. It’s currently available as a library with C and Python bindings, and also as a command line utility. A real-world example configuration can be found on the website, where 217 lines (9.7kB) of Jsonnet expand into 740 lines (25kB) of configuration for other tools. Learn more about Jsonnet by reading the tutorial and experimenting with our javascript demo!


by Dave Cunningham, New York Technical Infrastructure team

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Student applications for Google Summer of Code (GSoC) 2015 closed on March 27th and this year’s mentoring organizations are now busy reviewing student proposals. While we await the results of that process, we’ve been looking at some of the early statistics for this year’s program.

One thing we’re very excited to see is that we received nearly four times as many student applications from Sub-Saharan Africa compared to last year! The gain primarily came from four countries: Cameroon, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda. These countries combined had just 45 students apply in 2014, but that number jumped up to 183 this year. Why was the increase concentrated in these locations? There’s a common thread that seems to be responsible: they are places where students active in the Google Student Ambassador (GSA) program organized local GSoC meet-up events.

Cameroon

After lending a hand to a fellow student organizing a meetup in December, GSA Tekang Check brought 77 students together in March at the University of Buea to learn about GSoC and help students apply. Participants from past years shared their experiences and encouraged attendees to submit proposals for projects they felt passionate about.


Kenya

GSA John Muchiri welcomed over 100 students from St Paul’s University to a GSoC meet-up. The speakers talked about the characteristics good programmers develop and encouraged students to challenge themselves by applying to the program.

At Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, GSAs Isaac Jumba and Dickson Marienga introduced students to GSoC as part of the local DevFest event which drew over 150 attendees. The session gave an overview of GSoC and encouraged students to sign up for a regional GSoC enthusiasts mailing list.


Nigeria

GSAs Ilo Calistus, Okwara Godswill, and Mgbemena Chike collaborated on a pair of events at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka. The first introduced students to the basics of programming for Android while the second taught students about using Git. Both events also introduced students to the world of open source and encouraged them to take part in GSoC.


At Ekiti State University, GSAs Sadiq Mary Oiza and Alabea Dare Micheal organized a GSoC meet-up for 35 students. After a discussion about current events at the university, the presenters gave an overview of the GSoC program and encouraged students to create profiles on the program website.


GSA James Uzoma organized a meet-up at the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta where 40 students from 6 colleges enjoyed a series of talks featuring stories from fellow Nigerians who had participated in past years, an explanation of the requirements for participating, and some details about the different open source organizations students could apply to work with.

Uganda

GSA Kagimu Brian brought together 72 students for a GSoC meet-up at Mbarara University of Science and Technology. Attendees learned about the benefits and experiences that can come from taking part in GSoC, along with an introduction to Git.



Only a limited number of students can be accepted in GSoC each year, but we hope to welcome several of the students who attended these events into this year’s program. Accepted students will be notified via email by 19:00 UTC on April 27th, so keep watching your inbox.


By Ashleigh Rentz, Open Source team

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Microsoft’s Event Tracing for Windows (ETW, aka xperf) is an amazing tool for understanding the performance of Windows computers. ETW offers an incredibly deep view into the entire system and allows investigations of complex problems that would otherwise be intractable. It can even be used to record traces on a customer’s machine for later analysis on a developer’s machine, to investigate performance problems that cannot be reproduced locally.


However, the process of recording ETW trace has always been challenging, so we’re pleased to share a new tool we’ve been developing:  UIforETW. This tool brings point-and-click simplicity to recording ETW traces, works around several trace recording bugs, and is a handy dashboard for managing and annotating traces. And since UIforETW is open source, you can add additional features for your own particular needs.




Tracing can be done to a file or to an in-memory circular buffer. Trace compression, high-speed sampling, heap tracing, and other options can be configured with the click of a button. UIforETW lists the recorded traces and lets users rename and annotate them. When you want to analyze a trace, you can launch Microsoft’s trace viewers from UIforETW, and UIforETW will configure improved viewer defaults for WPA.


UIforETW was written by a Chrome developer, so it has a few Chrome specific features. If the Chrome symbol server is enabled, then UIforETW downloads and strips the Chrome symbols in order to avoid a twenty five minute delay when WPA loads the symbols. UIforETW also preprocesses the traces in order to categorize the Chrome processes by type. These features can be turned off in the Settings dialog if you aren’t working on Chrome. While the Chrome specific features will not be needed by most developers, they demonstrate the potential value from custom processing of traces.


UIforETW is a new project but is already being used for production work. More technical details and information about UIforETW and ETW in general can be found in the author's blog post and discussions can be had at our discussion group. Information about contributing to UIforETW can be found in the CONTRIBUTING file in the GitHub repo.

by Bruce Dawson, Chrome team

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Drupal, one of the Google Code-in 2014 mentoring organizations, has been working toward the release of a new major version. Grand prize winner Getulio Valentin Sanchez contributed to the upcoming release during the contest and shared his story with us.


I was 13 years old the first time I got access to a computer. I had no idea how to connect it to the internet, but that didn’t stop me from experimenting. When I was 14, I saw a documentary about Google and discovered that “programming” and “coding” were completely different things than I’d thought. In that same documentary, I saw Google’s offices and I resolved to myself that I would try to visit them in person by the time I turned 18.

After participating in an OMAPA Computer Olympics event here in Paraguay, a Google Code-in (GCI) mentor from Sugar Labs contacted me to ask if I could help spread the word about GCI in my local community. During that conversation, the mentor encouraged me to enter GCI myself. He pointed out that Drupal was one of the mentoring organizations and they use a lot of PHP, the language I’m most familiar with.

Before GCI, I had never worked with an open source project, nor did I know how to create a patch or anything like that. But since it was a possible opportunity to achieve the dream I’d set for myself, I thought “why not learn something new?”

When the contest began, I got to work on my first task: porting the simple but useful Scroll To Top module to Drupal 8. It was astonishing to me when my patch was approved and committed. With that astonishment came an amazing sensation in knowing that somewhere in the world, someone will be using something that I made. Tasks like these were a little challenging, but I quickly fell in love with this type of work and created a series of blog posts and a video about the process.

I continued porting modules to Drupal 8 throughout the GCI contest. I think the most difficult task I faced was porting the Administer Users by Role module. This wasn’t because it’s a large module, but rather because I had to learn about access checking which I’d never heard about before. Although this wasn’t impossible, it took me about a week to get an initial version ready for the community’s consideration.

The seven weeks I spent participating in GCI taught me a lot. I learned about following coding standards, programming concepts like dependency injection and the Hollywood principle, some of the more powerful features of Git, and features of PHP that I hadn’t even known existed!

People say every end is a new beginning, and that’s been true for me. The end of GCI 2014 was also the beginning of my experience as a regular contributor to Drupal. I now spend my weekends working with this amazing platform and collaborating with the Drupal community. And soon, I’ll be beginning my journey to see Google’s offices in person like I’d dreamed of before -- I began with a humble “Hello World” and eventually became one of the GCI 2014 Grand Prize Winners.


by Getulio Valentin Sanchez, GCI grand prize winner

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(Cross-posted with the Google Developers Blog)

Fun Propulsion Labs at Google* is back today with some new releases for game developers. We’ve updated Pie Noon (our open source Android TV game) with networked multi-screen action, and we’ve also added some delicious new libraries we’ve been baking since the original release: the Pindrop audio library and the Motive animation system.

Pie Noon multi-screen action

Got an Android TV and up to 4 friends with Android phones or tablets? You’re ready for some strategic multi-player mayhem in this updated game mode. Plan your next move in secret on your Android phone: will you throw at an opponent, block an incoming attack, or take the risky approach and wait for a larger pie? Choose your target and action, then watch the Android TV to see what happens!

We used the NearbyConnections API from the most recent version of Google Play Games services to easily connect smartphones to your Android TV and turn our original Pie Noon party game into a game of turn-based strategy. You can grab the latest version of Pie Noon from Google Play to try it out, or crack open the source code and take a look at how we used FlatBuffers to encode data across the network in a fast, portable, bandwidth-efficient way.

Pindrop: an open source game audio library

Pindrop is a cross-platform C++ library for managing your in-game audio. It supports cross compilation to Android, Linux, iOS and OSX. An early version of this code was part of the first Pie Noon release, but it’s now available as a separate library that you can use in your own games. Pindrop handles loading and unloading sound banks, tracking sound locations and listeners, prioritization of your audio channels, and more.

Pindrop is built on top of several other pieces of open source technology:

  • SDL Mixer is used as a backend for actually playing the audio.
  • The loading of data and configuration files is handled by our serialization library, FlatBuffers.
  • Our own math library, MathFu, is used for a number of under-the-hood calculations.

You can download the latest open source release from our GitHub page. Documentation is available here and a sample project is included in the source tree. Please feel free to post any questions in our discussion list.

Motive: an open source animation system

The Motive animation system can breathe life into your static scenes. It does this by applying motion to simple variables. For example, if you’d like a flashlight to shine on a constantly-moving target, Motive can animate the flashlight so that it moves smoothly yet responsively.

Motive animates both spline-based motion and procedural motion. These types of motion are not technically difficult, but they are artistically subtle. It's easy to get the math wrong. It's easy to end up with something that moves as required but doesn't quite feel right. Motive does the math and lets you focus on the feeling.

Motive is scalable. It's designed to be extremely fast. It also has a tight memory footprint -- smaller than traditional animation compression -- that's based on Dual Cubic Splines. Our hope is that you might consider using Motive as a high-performance back-end to your existing full-featured animation systems.

This initial release of Motive is feature-light since we focused our early efforts on doing something simple very quickly. We support procedural and spline-based animation, but we don't yet support data export from animation packages like Blender or Maya. Motive 1.0 is suitable for props -- trees, cameras, extremities -- but not fully rigged character models.  Like all FPL technologies, Motive is open source and cross-platform. Please check out the discussion list, too.

What’s Fun Propulsion Labs at Google?

You might remember us from such Android games as Pie Noon, LiquidFun Paint, and VoltAir, and such cross-platform libraries as MathFu, LiquidFun, and FlatBuffers.

Want to learn more about our team? Check out this recent episode of Game On! with Todd Kerpelman for the scoop!

by Jon Simantov, Fun Propulsion Labs at Google

* Fun Propulsion Labs is a team within Google that's dedicated to advancing gaming on Android and other platforms.

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Although best known for their namesake conference, FOSSASIA also acts as an umbrella organization which supports development of open source software linked to Asia or Asian developers. They participated in Google Code-in 2014 and shared this report with us.


2014 marked FOSSASIA’s first year participating in Google Code-in (GCI) as a mentoring organization, and what a splash we made! Students completed 587 tasks with us, the most of any organization in this year’s program. These bite-sized tasks gave young students ages 13 to 17 an opportunity to participate in open source development with the help of mentors. A total of 174 students completed at least one task with us -- they wrote code, designed artwork, tested software, and had a lot of fun.

GCI is a contest and each mentoring organization chooses two Grand Prize winners. Ours were Namanyay Goel and Samarjeet Singh. They’ll travel all-expenses-paid with a parent or guardian to Google headquarters in Mountain View, California. We also had three finalists who deserve a hearty congratulations: Alvis Wong, Amr Ramadan, and Tymon Radzik. We are thankful for your contributions.

Students contributed to the FOSSASIA website along with open source projects like the ExpEYES tool for at-home science experiments, the sup console-based email client, the TiddlySpace idea-organizer, and the p5.js drawing library. This wide variety of opportunities was possible thanks to the efforts of our 24 mentors who found time between their other obligations to help students. Thank you, mentors!

Usually, novice contributors to a project face a significant barrier to entry. There are coding conventions to follow, guidelines for combining or breaking up multiple commits, and more that can be specific to a project. Such requirements help keep the codebase healthy and consistent, but their value isn’t apparent to beginners who have already struggled to produce a contribution and just want to see it integrated. To reduce the discouragement GCI students would face, we decided to merge students’ first pull requests if they get the job done, even if they don’t follow our usual practices. Later, students could accept a task which teaches them about our standards for contributions, giving them a chance to clone and rebase a sample repo so that it follows the rules. Students who completed this task and continued working with us understood the terminology and were able to apply our feedback to their later commits without the usual frustration.

We had a fantastic time participating in GCI and would like to thank all the students who took part in the contest. We’re thrilled to see some of them still hanging around in our community and wish them all an exciting and fruitful future.

By Aruna Herath, FOSSASIA mentor