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Programming Software Education IBM Linux Technology

Competition Fosters Next Generation Of Linux Talent 209

Posted by michael
from the script-kiddies dept.
gollum123 writes "Yahoo reports that about 3,000 students from 75 countries registered for the 2004 IBM Linux Scholar Challenge before registration closed Oct. 31, the largest turnout in the competition's history. This year's winners will be revealed in January at LinuxWorld in Boston. Each entry consists of a 1,200-word essay that can describe the solution to one of 29 Linux-related challenges IBM poses as part of the competition. Entrants, who must be enrolled full time at an accredited university, aren't limited to these challenges and can suggest and solve their own problems. The IBM-provided challenges include asking entrants to identify deficiencies in Linux and propose solutions, describe how to build a high-availability application that would provide failover capability across multiple IBM servers, and improve boot time on a Linux-based IBM ThinkPad."
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Competition Fosters Next Generation Of Linux Talent

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  • by superpulpsicle (533373) on Monday November 08, 2004 @12:12AM (#10751652)
    "full time at an accredited university"

    That's just wrong. Some of the best programmers and computer folks I ever met, didn't even go to colleges.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 08, 2004 @12:14AM (#10751660)
      ... and that's just wrong for so many reasons. You learn so much more at college where you're taught and learn from others about alternatives, formal methodology, etc. The days of high school IT men/women making any significant money is rapidly disappearing.
      • Actually once you get in the door it is more about what you can do and less about what is on your resume.
        • That is true enough. However, a lot of really nice corporate doors are closed to those without a college degree. I see a lot of jobs in the paper and online where a college degree is required to apply. I don't know if that is fair or not. I imagine this policy keeps some good people out, but, in the long wrong, it seems to meet their needs.
          • by Anonymous Coward
            A lot of these doors aren't really closed to those without degrees. They're just closed to those without enough confidence in their skills and experience to apply anyway.

            I've been at a number of companies that, in an effort to cut down on the massive flood of resumes they receive, put their requirements fairly high. They usually listed a college degree in CS or something similar. However, when it came time to review the resumes, they didn't really care about the education listings -- just the experience, w
            • This is so true.

              I've gotten jobs that described a Comp Sci degree as mandatory, and yet my undergraduate is in Philosophy.

              If your resume is up to scratch, quite a lot of these places will accept you for an interview anyway.

              (some of my worst tech support staff have been Comp Sci graduates, and some of the best have been artists...)
            • No kidding they're wish lists, sometimes even fairtales. I once saw a job listing that 'required' at least 15 years experience in web design and development. this was in about 8 years ago. Not mention they were also looking for a new head of thier corporate internet division, they specifically mentioned an impossible number of years of experience in writing rfc's and getting them adopted as 'critical internet standards'. By impossible number of years I mean experience in writing them that went back so
      • by Frymaster (171343) on Monday November 08, 2004 @01:05AM (#10751960) Homepage Journal
        You learn so much more at college where you're taught and learn from others about alternatives, formal methodology, etc.

        you're both wrong.

        what the i.t. world really needs is an apprenticeship programme.

        an apprenticeship system would create a common, impartial body to set standards of skill and competence and provide a structured yet flexible on the job learning path to get i.t. people from basement geek to enterprise administrator.

        it's not like the industry doesn't already run on this type of system in an informal way already. you get your degree, and then spend a year working as a "night operator" changing tapes. only once you've proven diligent enough to not screw up the back ups do you move on deployment, then troubleshooting, then planning and, finally, administration.

        we should formalize the process so that real experience translates directly to accredation.

        • Judging from my experience with network admins, I think there would be a serious problem with mentors scaring off the entire next generation of talented IT candidates.
        • Already being done (Score:5, Interesting)

          by pkphilip (6861) on Monday November 08, 2004 @04:45AM (#10752790)
          I am already doing this in my company - it is at a very early stage of implmentation.

          The primary premise is that software development is similar to artisanship - where an "artisan" joins work in a fairly junior grade and then learns the ropes from seniors and mentors who actively train their juniors on actual projects - all work is closely supervised with the express aim of maturing the skills of the juniors.

          All programmers join as apprentices and have to work their way up by earning the respect of their peers. All code is to be reviewed by seniors/mentors and peers and based on their review, the programmers will advance in grade.

          Everyone needs to know programming as well as an additonal skill - be it housekeeping, administration, finance etc so they can take on other roles if needed. In addition to programming, everyone will be associated with one of the additional roles they choose - for instance, you might be a programmer, but you could also be incharge of housekeeping responsibilities.

          Everyone is given an opportunity to choose the role in which they would like to work - for instance, people showing interest in marketing will be given the option of joining the marketing team as long as the marketing team is convinced that the person fits that role.

          Programmers are taken only based on references from others already in the organization - ofcourse, all this means that the company grows very slowly, but the advantages are that the skill levels are kept very high and people can move to a different division/department at short notice.

          Also, everyone in the organization interacts much more with each other and this helps team dynamics.

          I guess the work ethic and the general work philosophy is a bit like in a kibutz.

          Would like to hear what you guys think of this.
        • what the i.t. world really needs is an apprenticeship programme......you get your degree, and then spend a year working as a "night operator" changing tapes. only once you've proven diligent enough to not screw up the back ups.....

          You're a nutcase of the worst kind. Why the hell should any kid motivated enough to pursue a college-education want to start out doing a job we already pay Indians and the Uneducated to do?

        • If I knew what the last generation knew that would be useful?

          Apprenticeship offers hands on experience but that isn't useful in computers, if I know /bash and you know /bash then we know /bash.

          Furthermore technology is changing so fast that almost no one can keep up with it, let alone people already in the workforce, and saddled with a pimply apprentice?

          Not until there are standards which will stand for more than a week.
      • And it's impossible to be taught and learn away from school?

        I tried college twice. Miserable failure both times. I got sick of the glacially slow classes and the other students (and teachers!) that knew less than I did.

        So I found smart people to chat with and got a job where I could be around people who knew what they were doing. That's how I learned, and I make very significant money.

        (Which I'm going to give up to start my own company in a few years, but I never said I was smart, just intelligent.)
    • You are probably correct, I can see no harm in IBM accepting people who have little or no college experience but are damn good at Linux hacking and proposing some good new ideas. IBM is just limiting itself there.
    • Guess what - if you're not at an accredited university, you don't count as a scholar! Maybe you learnt stuff in your spare time, but if you are hands-on rather than making a habit of it, it doesn't count. :-)

      (OK, so people at high school get excluded, too, but I suspect if they managed to produce an adequate answer I suspect they'd let it slide, and probably sponsor him/her through univerersity as well)
      • by kfg (145172)
        . . .if you're not at an accredited university, you don't count as a scholar!

        scholar n.

        1.
        a. A learned person.

        KFG
        • . . .
          2. One who attends school or studies with a teacher; a student.

          IBM is using this definition. Which seems obvious when you regard how the competition is targeted - the article even mentions "to drum up enthusiasm among students"
          • The definition I posted was suffcient to rebut the claim that one must be matriculated at an accredited university to be a scholar.

            Some scholars are college students, some are not (one would hope, for instance, that college instructors were scholars).

            Any other claims or definitions are irrelevant to the point addressed.

            Furthermore, there is nothing in your profered definition that mentions accredited universities.

            However, the fact that this is a contest restricted to college students is selfevident, hen
            • Not in IBM's eyes. I kinda thought that this context was obvious given the fact that the whole post was about IBM's competition. You're technically right that a scholar in general doesn't have to be, but so what? :-)

              IBM would be unlikely to accept such a person into their competition, and that was my point - in their view, your definition of scholarship does not apply.

              As for the accreditedness stuff, I would assume that's because they don't want people in your category saying "Oh, I'm from the University
              • You're technically right that a scholar in general doesn't have to be, but so what? :-)

                . . .if you're not at an accredited university, you don't count as a scholar!

                So it was the claim. You have now retracted the claim and I can go do something interesting.

                KFG
                • Well, you missed/ignored the bit about assumed context (add "to IBM" to the end of that sentance). Now, if you assume that all posts exist in isolation, that's right, but given that we were talking about . . .

                  . . . but what the heck, it's not worth arguing it, is it? You go do interesting stuff, and I can go to bed! (5am != good_time_to_sleep)
    • Sorry, pal (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      This is a contest that involves writing. Absolutely none of the one-dimensional, high-school-dipolma-only computer geeks I know can write for shit. It's appalling. A college education doesn't necessarily improve writing skills (just look at the people who post to Slashdot) because not everyone chooses to take advantage of the broad spectrum of educational options available at college, but for those who do, they are head and shoulders above people whose sole talent in life is programming.

      Furthermore, I don

      • Well, unfortunately it seems that the skill of being able to write in a clear manner is a lost art even among college graduates. One would think that atleast for something as simple as a CV a college graduate would succeed in actually expressing him/herself in a manner that is atleast somewhat gramatically correct and read through.

        To quote one CV we got towards the end after the education and personal detail bulletpoints the person had actually managed to get quite well:
        "Other intrests and activities:

    • by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday November 08, 2004 @12:20AM (#10751698) Homepage
      It's a scollarship challenge.

      If you don't go to school, you don't need a scollarship.

      If you want to complain that it shouldn't be a scollarship challenge, that's one thing. But don't complain about a scollarship challenge requiring people to be students.

      • Scholarship, my lad... scholarship. My new Fantasy site [fantasyfeed.info]
      • by zurab (188064) on Monday November 08, 2004 @12:41AM (#10751836)
        If you don't go to school, you don't need a scollarship.

        Unless you can't go to college because you cannot afford it, or you were forced to drop out for financial reasons - then scholarship would be a lot of help.

        • Unless you can't go to college because you cannot afford it, or you were forced to drop out for financial reasons - then scholarship would be a lot of help.


          No kidding. I dropped out 7 years ago because I couldn't afford it. Now that I'm married and kids are a very real prospect, I can't afford to finish my degree even though I'm making much more money now.

          I'd like to finish my degree someday, but I can't justify the expense. (That and since I've already reached senior programmer at my work, the lack
        • Exactly true. I'd probably be going to school right now if I didn't have to work full time.

          But, it is IBM's game and they can play it by their rules. I'm not going to hold my breath for any college assistance (can't qualify).
    • It's not wrong because you don't like it. You may wish they had done it differently but it is their game and their money. Besides, it seems to be an academically oriented competition.
      • It's not wrong because you don't like it. You may wish they had done it differently but it is their game and their money. Besides, it seems to be an academically oriented competition.

        Yep, especially since it's an essay competition. How often does the self-trained student write essays?

        Besides which, considering how many CS graduates are almost illiterate in English even after college, I shudder to think of what violations of the language programmers without any college would come up with.
    • And remember, kids:

      The plural of "anecdote" is still not "data".
    • some of the "best" programmers and folks you know. maybe they are "best" to you, cuz they are better than you.

      i dropped out of college to work full time, in my circles of friends and coworkers, i was the computer guru in pretty much anything, unix, coding, hardware, whatever. but i decided to go back to school, and when i started taking high level classes, i began to realize how clueless i was. sure enough, you can find a lot of non college educated programmers who understand generic data structures an
  • Misread... (Score:4, Funny)

    by HitByASquirrel (710289) on Monday November 08, 2004 @12:16AM (#10751666)
    Hah, at first glance all I picked up was "Fosters Linux" and I thought "huh, what will the Aussies do next?"
  • Sample Problems (Score:5, Informative)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Monday November 08, 2004 @12:24AM (#10751732) Homepage
    After a little searching, I found a list of 29 possible challenges for the students to solve. It's a PDF: Linux Challenge Options [ibm.com].

    Second, I can't wait to see the results of this. Should be interesting to see how some of these are solved, and what other interesting challenges people come up with to try to solve.

    • Re:Sample Problems (Score:5, Interesting)

      by stoborrobots (577882) on Monday November 08, 2004 @12:50AM (#10751877)
      Another interesting point - IBM actually runs Lotus WordPro internally. (The source file name for that PDF is LinuxChallenge-final 07.21.04.lwp)... While in an of itself that may not seem surprising, as IBM owns Lotus, it is interesting to not that this is a giant organisation which needs interoperability with thousands of other organisations, and they can still run an alternate office-suite...
      • Re:Sample Problems (Score:5, Informative)

        by LordNimon (85072) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:00AM (#10752184)
        Don't get too excited about that. I've worked at IBM for a number of years. First, everyone who uses WordPro hates it. Second, the only people who use it don't depend on interoperability with outside groups. Third, WordPro is being phased out for MS Word across the entire company, it's just taking a lot longer than it should.
        • "WordPro is being phased out for MS Word across the entire company, it's just taking a lot longer than it should."

          So... what you're saying is that there is a value for infinity plus one?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Im a full time jr in high school and I know more then most about Linux. I probably could of solved at least the thinkpad problem(im writing this on a T40). I will soon be going into college and I could use some extra help from big blue.
    • by Stevyn (691306) on Monday November 08, 2004 @01:08AM (#10751977)
      When I was in high school, I also felt I knew a lot about computers. Now I realize I knew shit. I still believe I still know shit, just a lot more shit than I used to.

      One of the main reasons for college is to teach you how to learn. High school won't do that, so they make college a requirement because you'll keep building on that.

      I'm not saying college is required or you won't do well if you don't go to college. Certainly not, but there are benefits to college besides what your teacher tests you on.
      • "When you finish college, you think you know everything.
        When you finish your MS, you realize you don't know anything.
        When you finish your PhD, you realize you don't know anything, but neither does your advisor."
        -- popular wisdom
      • ditto!

        in short, when i meet young people who are so cocky. i throw a few challenges their way.

        show them some algorithms and ask them to calculate their complexity.

        show them a simple function/loop and ask them to prove the correctness.

        ask them to write a parser, small compiler or interpreter.

        ask them to write a simple device driver.

        ask them to port their code to run parallel on machines.

        ask them to have their code embed another language as a scripting engine.

        ask them to implement a server/client acc
    • Study a bit more grammar, tell your principal to fuck off in front of several hundred witnesses, and enter college rather than waste a fourth year in high school.

      It worked for me. I ended up with a PowerBook and a free ride while my high school friends were being taught history by Bill and Ted.
    • Well, since you _can't_ enter anyway, how would you do it? Yeah, it sounds like a simple problem (and IBM themselves already released a spec for "parallelizing" your start up sequence), BUT I highly doubt that without a solid background in at least some upper level C.S. theory (e.g. algorithms, data structures, something) that you could do any better than the college applicants (granted, I've met some college students that were, um, lacking).

      I've implemented this before on my Dell laptop while maintaining
  • by nomadic (141991)
    Each entry consists of a 1,200-word essay that can describe the solution to one of 29 Linux-related challenges IBM poses as part of the competition...d to these challenges and can suggest and solve their own problems. The IBM-provided challenges include asking entrants to identify deficiencies in Linux and propose solutions

    Uninstall Linux and install FreeBSD.

    Oops, wait, that's only 5 words. Need another 1,195 to pad it out. Any suggestions?
  • Free Labor (Score:3, Interesting)

    by slinky259 (827395) on Monday November 08, 2004 @12:31AM (#10751783)
    Improving boot time on a ThinkPad...

    Does IBM own the essays, though? This was mentioned with Google's CodeJam thing too - Google stated that they pretty much owned whatever code was submitted and used to solve the problems. ~stephen
  • Cheap labor? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by discontinuity (792010) on Monday November 08, 2004 @12:37AM (#10751813)

    Funny thought: isn't this a great way for IBM to get students to do work for free?

    Seriously though, the project list reads very much like a wish list of the things they'd like to have but don't want to spend the money on doing themselves.

    This isn't necessarily a bad thing (espectially if it leads to some students landing jobs with them). Just struck me as humorus in that "everything's a conspiracy / everyone has a hidden agenda" sort of way.

    • While it is cheap labor, it does give a student a step up in the real world. Suppose one student proposes an idea that changes the face of Linux so that it can take the Redmond Beast to the cleaners? If IBM wanted to grab ideas for free, there are certainly less philanthropic ways of doing so. Regardless, the person who wins will get a lot more than just a scholarship from other universities and respect. His career could be pole vaulted into the history books. And to boot, this isn't the first time they ha
      • How should/do we come to grips with the fact that XYZ entity has $$$ to give, to encourage this kind of student activity? In a perfectly open-sourced society, people will have to work due to internal incentive (e.g., make the world a better place); so what do we do with people who are lazy or unmotivated to contribute (e.g., parasites)? Or are people only selectively parasitic? Would a total tech n00b be an expert surgeon or cook?
    • Things like this are actually already commonplace in many internships, especially those in technology fields such as Engineering.

      I know specifically, that many of my classmates in Engineering college worked for IBM on projects. It is actually beneficial to both sides in my opinion. IBM gets a task accomplished, and the individual learns and gets to pad their resume.

      IBM is going with a trade-off in the internship case. They are getting relatively cheap labor, but at the potential cost of having the fina
      • I worked a couple of summers at BT's Group Engineering Services division and they use summer internships primarily for two things:
        1) Pie-in-the-sky projects that may or may not pay off. It's cheaper to have a few students investigate something that fails to be useful than it is for fully paid staff
        2) A means of recruiting. If you perform well, it's likely they'll offer you a job when you graduate.
    • Re:Cheap labor? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by spisska (796395)
      They already have a system to get students to work for free -- its called internship, and there's plenty of students willing not only to work for free, but to pay their respective institutions for the privilege (and the course credit).

      On the other hand, this is an excellent way for IBM to do some university recruiting without having to pore over thousands of resumes.
      • When I was an intern for IBM/Lotus Development between 1998 and 2000, I made $20 an hour. If I wanted credit for the work I did have to turn around and give my school $900 a quarter for it, but I'd still have come out signifigabtly in the positive if I had chosen to do that.
    • Re:Cheap labor? (Score:1, Insightful)

      by sh1ftay (822471)
      Erm.. isn't most linux development essentially done for free anyway?
    • Re:Cheap labor? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by automatix (664568)
      Hmm, Students don't tend to end up doing "work for free" - there are more mistakes, less documentation, less understanding and experience of security, portability, and less foresight for future possibilities/developments [in general!]. All this requires other people to review it, document it, approve it, modify it. While maybe not costing as much as for a professional to do it, it certainly isn't free.

      Rob :)

    • It is not the case that IBM is lacking in funds to do it. It is the case that students who tend to think out of the box might hold the key to better solutions than industry vets.

    • It's not like 1200-word essays will actually solve the major problems. What entrants do for free is demonstrate that they have ideas about how to solve the problems. The major effort is actually putting those ideas into practice, which is likely to be done either by IBM employees or by the students who get scholarships; in either case, with funding from IBM.
  • Patent question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by debrain (29228) on Monday November 08, 2004 @01:00AM (#10751939) Journal
    Not all the hard questions in Linux's future are technical.

    To IBM challengees/anyone:

    How would you reconcile the need for innovation in Linux and the growing number of patents owned by a smaller and smaller group of large corporations, where these patents undermine the capacity to innovate?

    IBM, being the largest patent filer in the United States, probably has a unique perspective on this. Though I am grateful for their support of, and happy for their benefit from, Linux, I must concede that I wonder what will happen when their patent interests conflict with their Linux interests.
    • Re:Patent question (Score:4, Informative)

      by Nailer (69468) on Monday November 08, 2004 @01:43AM (#10752127)
      I read recently, I think on LWN, that IBM now earn more revenue from Linux than they do from their IP licensing (and yes, they make huge revenue from IP licensing).

      I can't be bothered looking it up. You do it.
      • by Peyna (14792)
        I can't be bothered looking it up. You do it.

        If only they would have passed for my footnotes on my research paper. [FN1]

        [1] - I can't be bothered looking it up. You do it.
  • by DogDude (805747) on Monday November 08, 2004 @01:05AM (#10751964) Homepage
    I'm starting a new competition. I'm "challenging" 3000 college students to see who can clean my floors the best! The winner gets $20!! Competition my ass.
  • hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Zinoc (814847)
    What a great way of getting someone to solve your business programming problems on the cheap. :)
  • Bummer ... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 08, 2004 @01:21AM (#10752038)
    As one who met all the eligibility requirements for this competition, I think it would have been nice to have found out about it before the deadline... Maybe next year /. can run an article on it before the fact.
  • by onestickybit (595521) on Monday November 08, 2004 @01:29AM (#10752076) Journal
    I was one of the winners in 2001. I actually like the idea. For those who are ranting about how IBM is getting work done for free and so on, i got to intern at the Linux Technology Center and had a blast there, it was worth it(and yea, the thinkpad was useful too).
  • Put the kernel in the bios. It's quite doable, so why aren't they doing it? http://www.linuxbios.org/
  • Students (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hkht (828161) on Monday November 08, 2004 @02:07AM (#10752203)
    The best way to get young people really intrested in linux is to have games which work hands down better on the linux platform.
    • Re:Students (Score:3, Insightful)

      by segmond (34052)
      rubbish.

      when i discovered linux in 94 at 10th grade, it had nothing to do with games. It was sheer curiosity. A lot of windows game geeks do nothing but play games, period. they are not interesting in exploring and learning, all they are interested is simply playing games.

      a young person discovering linux today, most likely will have to do so by theirself of through friends because their parents are definitely not going to be the source of introduction...

    • Linux game.

      Linux already has a game, it's called Dependencie Rundown.

      In the game you have to find countless dependencies which are scattered around the internet. Time runs out when you get to irritated to continue and switch back to Windows.

      It's in the tradition of Myst with crytic problems which the game refers to as "error messages".

      Unlike other games the rewards come out step by step, after a while you can do all new moves, like play mp3's or Xvid's run LICQ or any of the heap of other tasks Linu
  • by pioSko (829135)

    Each entry consists of a 1,200-word essay that can describe the solution to one of 29 Linux-related challenges IBM poses as part of the competition.

    like... "How to install ATi drivers" ??
  • I'd improve Linux on Thinkpads by releasing bloody drivers for all the obscure subsystems in them!
  • The best way to do that, something that Windows has had for a while:

    Working suspend-to-disk.

    The best way to minimize boot time is to never have to do it.
  • " IBM created its program in 2001 to drum up enthusiasm among students worldwide in Linux and open-source software."

    It sounds like some of these "theoretical" challenges may be issues that they have in-house, and are looking for some free help to solve.

    In 2001, post-bubble, I went on a job interview with a large, not-to-be-named corporate entity and was asked how I would approach / solve a few issues that they were having at the time. Wanting the job, I foolishly gave a couple insightful replies.

    Did I

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