Closing doors: Codethink.

April 26th was my last day at Codethink Ltd. It has been over three years and a half working for this Manchester based company as consultant. I have got the opportunity to learn a lot working for a variety of customers and Open Source organizations together with bright professionals.

Codethink is an organization that cares about people: customers and employees. That is not as common as it might seem in software engineering service companies. Codethink does good software engineering too; sometimes under tough conditions. It is not always easy to work for customers with tight deadlines, solving complex problems with high impact in their businesses. I am proud of having worked for such organization.

Thanks Paul Sherwood and the rest of Codethings for the given opportunity and your respect during this time.

Since the day I decided to turn my little IT training company into an Open Source Software one, back in 2003, I have worked in/for organizations that understood and supported Open Source. I could even work full time in the open in several occasions, either contributing to or being upstream. Codethink was no exception in this regard.

After +15 years working in Open Source organizations, it has come the time for me to move away from the comfort zone and try something different for some time. But that will be a matter of the coming post, in a few weeks.

Codethink is sponsoring Akademy 2018 and I am attending.

Back in July 2017 I wrote a blog post, published by Codethink, explaining why is a good business to support community driven FOSS events. This post is related to that one.

akademyLogo4Dot

I will be attending to Akademy 2018. It will take place in Vienna, Austria, from August 11th to 17th. I will be there representing Codethink, which is a proud sponsor of this 2018 edition.

I attend regularly to Akademy since, as most of you know, I have been an active contributor, a user of the software, a supporter of some of their activities and/or a KDE e.V. member for some time now. I learn a lot during this event, and not just about KDE related topics.

This edition has several specific points of interest to me:

  • I am involved in a project called BuildStream, a FOSS integration tool for declarative systems and applications. Currently its main user are the GNOME integration team and the Freedesktop SDK project. We would like to expand our user base among communities like KDE.
  • Freedesktop SDK are a platform and a SDK runtimes for flatpak apps and runtimes based on freedesktop modules. Several colleagues of mine are behind this project that is about to release a new version.
  • A year ago, during an Akademy BoF, some KDE contributors decided we wanted to put some effort towards enabling KDE software on automotive. This year the first modest results will be presented to the wider KDE community. I have been preaching about this move for some time now so it is exciting for me to see others involved and making progress.
  • I will attend to the KDE e.V. Annual General Assembly. KDE e.V. is the orga34f05-logo_kdenization that supports the KDE community which is an important activity.
  • I will update my working laptop from openSUSE Leap 42.3 to Leap 15, taking advantage of the presence at the event of a couple of former colleagues from the extinct openSUSE Team at SUSE, and Slimbook, the guys I bought my laptop from. Make sense, right?
  • Codethink is always looking for talent willing to move to Manchester, UK, or exceptionally, work remotely. Come talk to me if you might be interested.

It will be, as usual, a great event. See you all there.

Why Codethink is a founding member of the Civil Infrastructure Platform, a Linux Foundation initiative

This blogpost was originally published on the Codethink website on Thursday March 9th.

On April 4th 2016 a new Linux Foundation initiative called the Civil Infrastructure Platform was announced. CIP aims to share efforts around building a Linux-based commodity platform for industrial grade products that need to be maintained for anything between 25 and 50 years – in some cases even longer. Codethink is one of the founding members.

Industrial grade use cases

In order to describe why this initiative is relevant let me go over the use cases that motivate companies like Siemens, Toshiba, Hitachi, and Renesas to share efforts.
During the Open Source Leadership Summit, Noriaki Fukuyasu (Linux Foundation) and myself, based on the experience of Siemens, Hitachi and Toshiba, described the development life cycle in industrial grade use cases. For example, a railway management system is as follows:
  • Analysis + design + development: 3 – 6 years
  • Customizations and extensions: 2 – 4 years
  • The certification process and other authorizations take a year.
  • Each new release or update has to go through further certifications and authorizations that take between 3 and 6 months.
  • The system is expected to work for between 25 and 50 years.
So on average, an industrial grade product might take 5 to 7 years from conception to deployment. This is coherent with our experience in other industries like automotive, where life cycles are also quite long despite the expected lifetime being shorter.
A key part of the life cycle is maintenance. Due to its length, the associated risks are high. The certification processes to introduce significant changes in any already deployed systems are painful and expensive. In addition, the capacity to simulate a production environment is, in general, limited. This is true in other cases like energy production plans, for instance.

Open Source principles in the Civil Infrastructure industry

It’s obvious that Open Source could have a dramatic impact in this industry. By sharing efforts, corporations can commoditise a significant portion of the base system focusing on differentiation factors, increasing control through transparency and the quality of that starting point over time. Collaboration with upstream will bring even higher impact benefits.
Two immediate challenges come to mind when thinking about Open Source in this industry:
  • Development of processes and practices to produce software for safety critical environments.
  • Bridging the gap between the Open Source approach for software maintenance and the approach currently taken when building large-scale platform projects. For instance, how can approaches oriented to update any specific Open Source software component to the latest upstream stable version be compatible with any typical industry SDLC?

Can you reduce the gap?

We have for years been working on transformation projects for which one of the goals has been to reduce the gap between the software our customers ship and what upstream is continuously releasing. One of the key steps is to adapt an organisation’s processes using FOSS tools. Over the years we have been a strong advocate that the closer to upstream you are, the more benefits you reap from the Open Source development model, maintenance cost reductions being one of the main advantages.

So why did we get involved in an initiative that aims to maintain a kernel for 25 years then?

The short answer would be… because we love a challenge!
Safety critical with Linux-based systems is a challenge currently being faced in the automotive industry for instance, where Codethink is a strong player. When we analysed some of the industrial-grade use cases, it called our attention not just to the magnitude of the second challenge enumerated above, related with super long term maintenance, but also the apparent conflict between the industry requirements and the referred well known Open Source practices.
Hence the main driver for an Open Source consultancy like Codethink in participating in an initiative like CIP is to learn by doing, that is, putting the Open Source development, delivery and maintenance best practices under stress in one of the toughest environments. We bring our experience in producing embedded Linux based systems and our Open Source culture, to work together with industry leaders in finding solutions to these challenges, by looking at them with FOSS eyes.

Current activities

Codethink is participating in CIP in several capacities, the most relevant being:

Kernel maintenance
The first CIP approved kernel is 4.4, an LTS kernel supported until Feb 2018. Ben Hutchings is the initial CIP kernel maintainer. Besides providing support for the reference platforms, Ben is working on several activities like backporting the security patches, such as those from the KSPP and consolidating the maintenance policies, taking those from the kernel community as reference.
Testing tooling

kernelci.org is the most successful testing project in Open Source. Its impact in the kernel community is growing, as is the number of people and companies involved. It was designed and developed as a service where the testing activities can take place in distributed board farms (labs).
Codethink has been working on making the tools easy to deploy on developer machines through a VM, so they can test kernels on directly connected boards. This first milestone of the CIP testing project is called Board At Desk – Single Developer. This activity was described at the Open Source Leadership Summit 2017 and the first beta released during ELC 2017.

Conclusion

The challenges for Open Source that Industrial-grade product development and maintenance introduce are great, especially in two aspects: safety-critical and maintenance. Codethink is working on CIP to help the industry to overcome these challenges by adding our Open Source perspective.
Learn more about the CIP project by checking the following slides and videos from the conferences in which CIP members have participated.

Codethink is hiring engineers.

Codethink is steadily growing for some time now. I have been working for 18 months in the company and it is about time for me to tell you that this is an outstanding place to work if you:

  • Love Open Source and work upstream.
  • Prefer to work in a startup kind of environment than in a corporate one.
  • Love to solve complex problem for first class customers instead of living peacefully in your comfort zone.
  • Like to travel to customers and conferences once in a while.
  • Understand that being challenged every day is the best way to improve.
  • Like international and multicultural environments with a British touch.
  • Think that Manchester, UK, is not a bad place to live or to visit once in a while. Hey, I am from the Canaries and too old to party night and day when I am not working, ut that might not be your case 😉
  • Like IRC, git, vim/emacs, RSS and some other technologies that newcomers to Open Source consider… old school.
  • Are not scared of sending patches by mail.

But above all, you are willing to learn no matter how senior you are!

Codethink is an independent consultancy company based in Manchester, UK, although it has some people like myself working remotely. Our customers are also spread around the world. We are around 75-80 people now, most of them, engineers.

Most of our work is related with Linux kernel, low level system activities, compilers, delivery of linux systems, distro and SoC work.

Let me know if you could be interested in working at Codethink or send directly your CV to jobs@codethink.co.uk

Say Hi! to the new GENIVI Development Platform

On Wednesday February 17th, the GENIVI Alliance released a QEMU image of the GENIVI Demo Platform ivi9 Beta version, together with everything needed (instructions, source code, recepies, etc.) to build GDP-ivi9 with Yocto. A few weeks later, on March 8th, the first release candidate was published.
Finally, last April 19th GDP-ivi9 was published targeting QEMU, Renesas Porter and RPi2. Check the release announcement and download the different images and source code from the GDP download page.
I joined the GDP project in November 2015, leading a small team of developers from Codethink with the idea of moving GDP from a demo platform towards a collaboration platform. In summary, going from +r– to +rwx. 

What was GDP?

GENIVI Demo Platform was the compilation of middleware components developed by GENIVI integrated with Yocto or Baserock, based on poky, designed to showcase and test the work done by GENIVI’s Expert Groups.

What is GENIVI Development Platform?

At GENIVI’s 14th All Members Meeting (AMM) is was announced that GDP would change his name, from Demo Platform to Development Platform, reflecting the new spirit that has arisen during the delivery of the  GDP-ivi9 version.
The general idea will be to mature those GENIVI’s modules that were developed as proof of concepts (PoC) and provide up to date software together with a SDK, to attract developers to participate as contributors, having GDP as their number one Open Source platform for automotive.
Find further information about GENIVI Development Platform at GENIVI’s public wiki, in the GDP project pages. The name change, recently announced will be reflected in the wiki in the coming weeks. 

Coming actions

During the coming weeks, the GDP delivery team will focus on the following topics:
  • Migration from the current infrastructure to Github.
    • Confluence will remain as the project wiki and JIRA as the ticketing system. The same applies for the rest of GENIVI.
  • Add to our current targets another board: Intel Minnowboard
  • Define together with the GDP community the roadmap for the next GDP version.
  • Create a first alpha of the new version including the latest GENIVI software.
Feel free to propose enhancements or new features to GDP. The only thing you have to do is create a subtask under the ticket GDP-154, describe it and explain the benefits and potential risks/challenges. We will discuss them through the mailing list. I am looking forward of seeing Plasma 5 as part of GDP.

GENIVI 14th AMM and other events to promote GDP.

After te release of the new version, GDP maintainers and myself have been concentrated in making sure GDP was ready for  GENIVI’s 14th All Members Meeting (AMM), that took place in Paris from April 25th to 29th.
I participated as speaker in 3 sessions and my colleagues at Codethink delivered a couple of Hands on Sessions about GDE-ivi9. It has been a lot of work but a good finish line for this release cycle. We will publish the slides the coming days.
A few weeks earlier I presented the GDP project at the Embedded Linux Conference (ELC), that took place in San Diego from April 4th to 6th. It was my first time at this conference and I enjoyed it. I also participated at the Collaboration Summit, invited by AGL and the Linux Foundation. I will provide some more details about these events in a later post.
I plan to attend to QtCon to promote GDP among Qt/KDE developers and to the Automotive Linux Summit, that will take place in Japan, to spread the word about this open project for automotive. I have also confirmed my presence in June 2nd at the OpenExpo, in Madrid. It will be my first event in Spain in quite some time.

Summary

It has been a very busy 6 months but very productive. Leading a small but promising Open Source project, that might have a big influence within automotive in the future, working together with my colleagues at Codethink and GDP community members, has been very interesting. I am learning a lot about this industry…by doing.