January 12, 2007

Portrait: A pair of Ph.D.s

Author: Joe Barr

Drs. Phil Carinhas and Dominique Heger are rank-and-file members of the Linux community who have made important contributions to the growth and popularity of Linux -- Carinhas through his contributions to the education of Linux users, and Heger through his work on the kernel at IBM's Linux Technology Center. While neither is a superstar whose name is immediately recognizable, they are both important in that they are typical of the thousands of individuals whose contributions, large and small, have turned the world of computing on its ear.

Carinhas is the founder and CEO of Fortuitous Technologies, an IT management and consulting firm, and Dominique is the director of performance. The two men spend a lot of time on the road giving presentations on grids, clusters, or performance, like the ones they presented at CMG 2006, the annual gathering of the Association of System Performance Professionals, or simply giving talks at LUG meetings. When he is away from the computer, he enjoys gardening, spending time with his wife and son, and Chinese food.

Carinhas and Heger met after Heger got married at a bed and breakfast inn in Luchenbach, Texas, that Carinhas's brother Matt owns. Today, the two of them work together providing a full range of performance management services, from design to implementation: load balancing, ha, clusters, grids, database, network, you name it. They publish free papers and primers on their company site, and publish technical papers relating to performance modeling, scalability, and stability on a regular basis with the IEEE, the CMG Journal, and Upgrade.

Several years ago, the Austin LUG got involved with two area high schools that were teaching Linux to new computer users in continuing education classes. Carinhas participated as a teacher, and seeing the need, also contributed his own proprietary teaching materials, releasing them under the GPL as he did so.

Why donate his time and the materials his own business depended upon? Carinhas says, "I wanted primarily to promote the use of Linux at the high school (and lower) levels. Many of us early birds knew that Linux was no more difficult that any of the other OSes on the market, except that Linux did have a different interface. Now that we see wonderful distros like Ubuntu, it's obvious that Linux is up to the challenge of ease of use and power. Of course I had other motivations as well: Promote my fledgling business, meet other Linux enthusiasts, and polish my teaching skills."

Dr. Phil Carinhas
Dr. Dominique Heger

Heger was born in raised near Zurich, Switzerland, and moved to the United States in 1994. Heger's first job was as a professional soccer player in Switzerland. "I played for FC. Zurich in Switzerland for four years, but had way too many injuries to ever really make it. Plus a lack of actual talent didn't really help much either."

Heger earned a BS in computer science from Bern University of Applied Science in Switzerland, an MBA in MIS from Maryville University in Missouri, and his Ph.D. in IS from Nova Southeastern University in Florida. He claims his affection for math, which he describes as "the science of the imaginable," does not make him a geek; he says, "There is not much geeky in math."

He first became interested in free/open source software while working on his BS thesis. He said "Some of my friends and I developed a phone application (similar to a soft-phone today) that we 'open sourced' (a.k.a. gave away) after graduation."

Heger worked at IBM Linux Technology Center from 2003 until 2005. "I worked on scalable I/O performance while being part of the LTC. Focused on algorithm and data structures in the Linux kernel. Designed the current read-ahead code for Linux 2.6 and some of the hash algorithms for the directory and inode 2.6 cache subsystems, respectively. Published lots of papers and authored three chapters of the Performance Tuning for Linux Servers book."

Heger has been using Linux too long to remember when he first started using it. He says he "went through all the growing pains with lack of scalability and not-so-optimized I/O stacks. I do believe though that Linux 2.6 reflects a major step in the right direction. Linux today is very competitive, as most of the subsystems are meticulously designed."

Heger says that while away from the computer, he and his wife enjoy raising and training their two horses. "The goal is to train these horses to become roping horses. As with everything else in life, no guarantee there. It is amazing though to watch a very young horse grow (and learn), and to be able to establish a partnership with them that is based on trust."

Our new Portraits series seeks to profile individuals who are doing interesting things with free and open source software. If you know of someone you'd like to read about, please let us know.

Click Here!