Like all things, Google Summer of Code, too, comes to an end.
Now let’s go over what had to be done, what is done, and what’s left.
What had to be done⌗
Well, this is rather easy for me to talk about, I’ll be on X.org’s Developers Conference soon, and full of motivations behind the work I’ve done.
Not just me, though! Me, Maíra and Magali (who might be familiar names to you already) will be there as well, and unfortunately Tales didn’t manage to get a visa due to bureaucracy layers no one dares to understand.
Looking retrospectively, the project’s motivation boils down to Siqueira wanting to resolve an internal tension between AMD engineers and the weird code they have to manage, unit tests being like a safety valve. As I’ve talked about previously, GPU code can be quite intense, the DML module being a particularly fun example.
No tests, just procedurally generated stuff, and there is so much to be done,
really. Initially we proposed lots of tests, some docs, some refactoring, in my
case specifically I wanted to make the
(breathes heavily) look pretty.
What was actually done⌗
On the Kernel⌗
Though we all had AMD code enhancement as a primary motivator, I actually did some unit tests, and at the end I was caught up in trying to understand what we were testing.
Wasn’t my smartest move (what external contributor actually knows what an RQ DLG is? Difficult answers to find, really) but I learnt so much, apart from the fact it was really satisfying to document something so convoluted and full of internal “slang” (I mean product (code)names or acronyms). But I soon found out I’d be a terrible detective, as most of the things we had to test were simply unattainable for someone who didn’t have internal docs or lots of experience with real GPUs: most things in the DML submodule refer back to themselves, to GPU internals, or even to AMD “internals”.
In the end there were some interesting results from the tests I was actually able to conclude, as follows:
This was a single patch I’ve done on the unit tests. Of course there are lots more functions to be tested, but that comes in the next section :)
We collectively discussed some alternatives to deal with the fact the functions being tested were all static, as will be discussed by Tales in his presentation at the Linux Plumbers Conference.
There was also some documentation produced regarding the functions and structs involved in these tests, but they were not sent yet as they’re smaller changes and could be grouped in a patchset addressing this specifically.
On other projects⌗
KW (for the intimate) is a much needed and very interesting project, whom I tried my best to contribute to: I spent about a month and a half at the beginning of GSoC pushing it, to the point where I simply had no will to make my commit messages pretty or to respond maintainers.
Lucky me the owner of the project is also my GSoC mentor, and he completely understood where I was at and that I’d not be able to accomplish the (optional) goals I had set for KW in my proposal.
I really think this situation helped me understand better what is it that we’re doing when we contribute to free software, and that was the lesson I took.
Anyhow, there were many contributions during this period, even though I didn’t finish many of them:
- #614: Small code cleanup
- #615: Small build fixes
- #616: Separate build config from base kw config
- #617: Speedup build
- #619: Update CI
- #620: Add rsync dependency
- #631: Update KW setup
IGT GPU Tools⌗
Some things took a lot of our attention apart from the basic motivations of the project. As I was previously already working on IGT GPU Tools, I figured it’d be interesting to finish related work in that project. What good is making tests people aren’t going to use (or maintain?).
IGT is widely used by the kernel graphics people. It mainly tests GPU stuff using userspace APIs, but also does some other interesting things, and we figured it’d be very cool to be able to run unit tests there: easy to integrate with the pre-existing CI, not too much headache to maintain as the KTAP specs get more stable, as well as not requiring so much effort from engineers that are already so used to it.
Whilst it was not so difficult from the purely technical point of view, this might be what helped me the most towards acquiring some intimacy with the C language. I felt it deep when I came back to the same code after a month or two and saw so much to improve on it, then stepped out again as I waited for v1 to be reviewed (which didn’t happen) and came back a while ago to write the v2 linked above.
There were several challenges involved, specially for me: I started coding C because of the kernel, all I knew were C-like languages, and they were all masking some deep truth about computers to me: pretty error handling, easy to use strings, etc.
I admit I wasn’t as ready for C as I thought, now that I understand it better, I can see that clearly. In the end this “quasi-traumatic” experience (and I mean the IGT patchset specifically) taught me a lot, and I’m very thankful for that opportunity (thanks, André!).
Apart from the language itself, we also had to decide what would be supported in a KTAP parser, and that wasn’t easy.
Well, for me personally this was the best part of this project, I really enjoy writing these things, I also enjoy receiving feedback – specially if it’s unasked :).
If you know my blog you know I like to go the difficult route: to talk about the objective engineering experience might teach you a lot, but where’s the fun in that? Even now I’m trying to bring some subjective matters to this.
Anyhow, I published two blog posts which you can check out here:
And I actually made lots of contributions to the Flusp site as well, whose repository was used to review these posts, which I hope will be hosted there as long as they’re hosted on my own website.
- #95: add reports to site bar
- #100: config: add english feed button
- #101: clean and update Jekyll dependencies in Gemfile
- #102 (blog post review): Add graphics stack blog post
- #103 (blog post review): add Isabella’s GSoC blog post
- #107: _pages/tutorials: add ‘kernel’ category for posts
- #117: Add last updated date and fix feed
What still needs to be done⌗
As I pointed out previously, GPU code can be very interesting! So much so, that I purposefully didn’t attempt to rush what was left of my proposal at the end of GSoC. It might have been really satisfactory to end GSoC with everything accomplished, but if I learnt anything from undergrad it is that you should NOT rush what’s important to you.
From what I’ve talked with my peers, there are two ways of seeing this project:
GSoC is like a deal I made with Google and X.org to accomplish something until a due date and get money for it.
This PoV is okay, but does it teach you anything new? I might as well have done some freelancing in that time period, would have got the money, and then I’d be very comfortable.
But I believe there’s so much more to this experience, and that’s something Siqueira told us time and again, which brings me to a second, more wholesome way of seeing things:
GSoC is a sort of first commitment to a community.
I know this doesn’t sound so clear as the first way of looking at things, but follow me on this:
For the community, timing might be important, but it’s definitely not as important as doing solid, good work, and keep pushing it even if it’s not as quickly as you’d like.
I got really burnt out from the first two years at Uni, started working, went to live by myself, all that young adult jazz. Trying to always keep up with everything was a real challenge, and though I didn’t always give my best, well I really tried.
At first, I was really sad, almost spiraling out of everything software-related, but now I see things more clearly, and I’m trying to find a rhythm that I can work with, in which I can deliver what I want, and, most importantly, what I committed to.
Going back to Siqueira, what he told us is that (translating loosely):
You got to make a dent in the community so that someone notices you.
And now I see it more clearly.
I’ve heard so many stories of people who engage on things like GSoC or Outreachy just to put it on their CV, then quit, but this is so much more important to me.
I’ve already started making a career in free software, but the project I work on at the moment doesn’t allow me to interact so directly with some upstream or a community. I definitely want to improve in doing I enjoy and believe in, and if it takes some learning that’s only part of the journey to becoming a reliable member of some free software community.
So, in concrete terms, what is there to finish?
First and foremost, the ongoing patchset for IGT needs lots of attention, as pointed by Michał Winiarski in this thread for example:
Secondly, of course, finish the original proposal of testing the
Might not sound like a lot, but those are really important things, and I’m sure they’ll keep me busy for some time.
I was also pinged by some people to review their patches, and I want to get back to them soon.
I’ve really been thinking a lot about giving back to the people that helped me get here, they were all awesome and I hope I can sow these same seeds and help fellow students become contributors as well. Just last week me and Maíra decided to try to get some people for a project on (fixing) coverage reports for the tests we wrote, but I might as well find another project for myself – probably related to XR, if you’re wondering, but I should write about that in the future :)
That’s it, dear reader, thank you a lot for reading this through, see you on the next one!