June 27, 2014

The People Who Support Linux: Hacking on Linux Since Age 16


Pretty much all of the projects in software developer Yitao Li's GitHub repository were developed on his Linux machine. None of them are necessarily Linux-specific, he says, but he uses Linux for “everything.”

For example: “coding / scripting, web browsing, web hosting, anything cloud-related, sending / receiving PGP signed emails, tweaking IP table rules, flashing OpenWrt image into routers, running one version of Linux kernel while compiling another version, doing research, doing homework (e.g., typing math equations in Tex), and many others...” Li said via email.

Of all the projects in his repository his favorite is a school project developed in C++ with libpthread and libfuse to understand and correctly implement PAXOS-based distributed locking, key-value service, and eventually a distributed filesystem. He tested it using a number of test scripts on both single-core and multi-core machines.

“One can learn something about distributed consensus protocol by implementing the PAXOS protocol correctly (or at least mostly correctly) such that the implementation will pass all the tests,” he said. “And of course once that is accomplished, one can also earn some bragging rights. Besides, a distributed filesystem can be useful in many other programming projects.”

Li first started using Linux at age 16, or about 7.47 years ago, he says, using the website linuxfromscratch.org, with numerous hints from the free, downloadable Linux From Scratch book. Why?

“1. Linux is very hacker-friendly and I do not see any reason for not using it,” he writes. “2. The prefrontal cortex of the brain becoming well-developed at age 16 (?).”

People who support Linux

He now works for eBay, mostly coding in Java but working sometimes with Hadoop, Pig, Zookeeper, Cassandra, MongoDB, and other software that requires a POSIX-compliant platform. He supports the Linux community by contributing to Wikipedia pages and forums on Linux-related subjects. And by becoming an individual supporter of The Linux Foundation.

He keeps up with the latest Linux developments and has recently been impressed by the new "-fstack-protector-strong" option for GCC 4.9 and later.

“It's not directly related to any of my projects, but it was important for both security and performance reasons,” he said. “It's much more efficient than "-fstack-protector-all" with little impact on security, while providing better stack-overflow protection coverage compared to that of the "-fstack-protector" option.”

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