November 3, 2005

Google gives back to Oregon universities

Author: Jay Lyman

Google, having gotten where it is thanks in large part to open source software and development, is giving back to the community with a $350,000 grant to Oregon State and Portland State universities for their collaboration on the development, systems administration, and learning of open source software.

Google was impressed with the efforts at the two Oregon schools, which are home to one of the premier open source education facilities and some of the industry's most advanced curricula, according to Google Open Source Program Manager Chris DiBona. He said that Google figured if the colleges' efforts were fruitful on their existing, limited budgets, a cash infusion would likely spur even more progress faster.

"We want to make sure open source software is created out in the world, and we want to make sure open source developers get created, because they make pretty good hires," DiBona said. "We see open source software as our best way to maintain our competitiveness in the industry as a whole."

Oregon State University's Open Source Lab associate director Scott Kveton said the money will fuel the synergy already propelling the schools and the open source software community. At OSL, students do real-world work as systems administrators and software developers for Debian, Mozilla, Gentoo, Drupal, and other prominent open source projects.

About two and a half hours to the north, in Portland, PSU is deeply involved in open source at the collegiate level. It offers courses at its Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science; sponsors programs such as the Portland State Aerospace Society's open hardware/software amateur sounding rocket; and puts open source to use for its Web, computer help, email systems and more. PSU is also home to the Portland Business Accelerator, which counts successful open source companies, including business applications provider Compiere, among its members.

"What we're doing at PSU and OSU dovetails so well," said PSU open source professor Bart Massey. "There are big research and curriculum things going on, and we're working on business development. Between the two of them, we realized to compete in a global sense, we've got to collaborate."

Google and the schools indicated the contribution will back a joint open source technology initiative beginning next year. The two universities will work to encourage open source software and hardware development, come up with academic coursework, and provide computing infrastructure to open source projects worldwide. The initiative will also help bridge the university work and the regional open source and open technology industry, capital, and business incubation.


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