FreeBSD and Google Summer of Code
Google Summer of Code or GSoC is an annual event sponsored by Google, Inc. It enables contributors to spend from 12 to 22 weeks over the summer "interning" with open source software projects. The work is done under the guidance of one or more mentors and the effort is rewarded with a stipend. FreeBSD has been a participating organization every year since 2005 and was again awarded a spot as mentoring organization in 2023.
If you are interested in operating system development, "interning" with a longstanding and successful open source operating system like FreeBSD is an excellent opportunity. Founded in 1993, FreeBSD is an advanced operating system for server, desktop, and embedded computer platforms. It offers advanced networking, impressive security features, and high performance. It is the foundation for many commercial products, including Sony’s Playstation, Nintendo’s Switch, NetApp’s OnTap/GX, Juniper’s Junos operating system, and was the starting point for the core of Apple’s OS X. The project consists of hundreds of "committers" and many more contributors who have experience in different parts of the operating system. Many of our past GSoC students have gone on to become FreeBSD developers. After the summer ends, contributors may be sponsored by Google or the FreeBSD Foundation to present on their work at conferences. This can be a great job networking opportunity!
Finding a Project and a Mentor
A crucial step is to choose an appropriate project and mentor. If you want to be successful, start your search early. The list of project ideas is a helpful starting point, but don’t feel limited by those projects. You can try mailing one of the technical contacts listed on a project and/or mailing the hackers@FreeBSD.org list. Introduce yourself and describe your interests and experience. This may pique the interest of one or more developers who could suggest a project and mentor.
We also maintain a more generic Ideas Page. These projects are less suitable as Summer of Code projects as they may be scoped larger or smaller than a summer, or might not have such a clear mentor. We suggest e-mailing our hackers@FreeBSD.org for help if you do decide to propose one of them. These pages exist to help provide inspiration. Another place to look for project ideas about upcoming development projects in FreeBSD is the FreeBSD Status Reports. Contributors are also welcome, and are indeed encouraged, to propose your own ideas, and if the proposal is strong, we’ll try to match you with a mentor!
For inspiration, you can have look at the contributor projects from previous years.
Contributors are responsible for writing a proposal and submitting it to Google before the application deadline. The following outline was adapted from the Perl Foundation. The objective of the proposal is to identify what is to be done, explain why this needs to be done, and convince us that:
You are qualified to do this project. This means both having the necessary background and demonstrating a general understanding of the problem.
You have the resources (especially time!) needed to complete the project within the working period of the Summer of Code.
A strong proposal will include (at least):
How many hours per week will you spend working on this? How many on other things? What other obligations (work, school, vacation, weddings, etc.) do you have this summer? Be as specific as possible: when will the project begin and end? You should be ready to produce a day by day schedule before the program starts.)
Please note: participating in Google Summer of Code is a significant time commitment, and you should not apply if you already have another full-time job planned for the summer.
Who are you? What skills do you bring to this project? What is your past involvement with The FreeBSD Project? (Past involvement is not required, but ideally you will have at least installed FreeBSD and perhaps fixed a bug or two) If your project includes programming in a particular language, such as C, or in a specific environment, such as the kernel or an embedded platform, what experience do you have working in that area? Are you familiar with or a user of revision control systems? Have you completed courses that will be relevant to your project idea? What do you think you will need to learn to complete this project?
Optional, but highly recommended. Do not put a name here if you have not contacted them.
In forty characters or less, what you propose to do.
A few paragraphs describing your project. Direct copies from the ideas page will be rejected - proposals should reveal that you have done some research into the problem and its solutions. Include both what you will be doing and why it is a good thing for The FreeBSD Project.
A list quantifiable results and related code milestones. We suggest at least two milestones before the mid-term evaluations and two after. Where appropriate, this schedule should include multiple committable or releasable points so people can benefit from and/or test your work as early as possible.
What parts of your code need testing and how do you plan to test them? This might include both functionality and performance tests.
How long will the project take? When can you begin work?
Communication and Openness
We expect project work to be completed in git and require that work to be regularly pushed to a public repository. Providing public access facilitates collaboration, allows project archiving, and helps mentors and the community support and monitor ongoing work. Contributors will also be asked to maintain and update wiki pages of their work. E-mail (including mailing lists), IRC, instant messaging (Matrix, Slack, etc.), and video conferencing have been some of ways contributors and mentors have communicated in the past. Contributors are also encouraged to use these and other methods to engage with the wider FreeBSD community.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where can I find the list of deadlines?
The GSoC Timeline is the authoritative source of detailed schedule information.
Where do I register?
All contributors must register with, and submit applications via, the Google Summer of Code Home Page.
What advice do you have for a contributor who might want to submit a proposal?
Experience suggests that the strongest proposals come from contributors who contact FreeBSD developers and potential mentors well in advance of submitting their proposal, seek feedback on their proposal ideas, and write proposals that reflect time spent exploring and understanding the problem area to be addressed. Even if the FreeBSD developer(s) you contact aren’t the eventual mentor of the project, their feedback can be invaluable.
Can I submit multiple project proposals to the FreeBSD Project?
Yes, but do make sure you invest adequate time in each proposal. We are not able to accept more than one project per contributor, so you may do better spending more time on one or two detailed proposals than by submitting lots of less-detailed ones.
Will the FreeBSD Project accept more than one contributor for the same idea?
In general, we will accept only one contributor for any given proposal idea, as most proposal ideas in our ideas list are sized with a single contributor summer project in mind. This is a good reason to consider coming up with your own idea, or at least, making sure that your proposal for one of our project ideas reflects your unique contribution and viewpoint. If you plan to submit multiple proposals, you might consider doing one with an idea from the list, and another with an original idea.
What if my proposal is not selected in the application process? Can I still participate?
We always have more good applications than contributor places, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do the project anyway. The FreeBSD Project always welcomes new volunteers to work on projects, and is generally happy to provide mentoring and support for contributors whose proposals could not be selected in order to allow them to work on their project anyway. You will need to work with the FreeBSD Project GSoC administrators to identify a possible mentor. However, Google will not fund that participation.
How can I learn more about FreeBSD?
The FreeBSD Project Home Page is the best way to learn more about the project - from there you can reach the FreeBSD Handbook, FreeBSD Developer’s Handbook, project mailing list archives, regular project status reports, and more. If you have questions about specific project ideas, e-mail the technical contacts for those ideas. If you have general GSoC questions relating to FreeBSD, such as if you are unable to reach a project technical contact, need help finding documentation, or want to know who might be a good person to talk to about your idea, send them to soc-admins@FreeBSD.org.
Where can I contact people to discuss proposal ideas or other topics related to FreeBSD and GSoc?
Where can I find more information from Google?
Last modified on: July 19, 2023 by Joseph Mingrone