Caleb Connolly

Caleb makes FOSS and takes our Twitter mic from June 9 to 16. Thank you, Caleb!

Please tell us about yourself

I’m Caleb, I’m a 2nd year Computer Science student in the UK and an embedded kernel developer. I’ve been interested in computers and how I can bend them to my will for as long as I can remember. I’ll be working as an intern at Linaro from August until mid 2022 working on upstream Linux for Android devices!

What are you working on right now?

I’ve spent the last year or so working on porting the Linux kernel to the OnePlus 6 and 6T, more specifically with postmarketOS “a real linux distribution for phones”. You can learn more about it here.

The aim is to run a modern, close to mainline / upstream kernel on mobile phones. Right now it’s possible to install Linux 5.12.8 on the device, and on top of that it mostly even works ;P

Initial support for the device has landed upstream, I’m hoping to bring many more patches to improve upstream support even further.

What is most interesting about that?

Ever since I discovered the custom Android development scene and learnt that Android devices in fact run a modified Linux kernel, I’ve wanted to see real Linux on my phone, the first time I got to see the kernel logs scrolling by on the screen was a moment I’ll never forget.

The ability to run the same kernel as my PC, and not only that but the Linux distros, will never cease to amaze me. The mobile Linux community has come a long way in the last few years, I’m extremely excited to see what it turns into.

I want to make the OnePlus 6 a device that you can use long into the future, and long after “official” updates cease. It should not only offer a solution to people who are sick of giving away their data to big corporations, it should also be an option for people to be able to test their applications on a mobile device and otherwise have total freedom to use their device as they wish.

How did you first discover FOSS?

I first started using Linux when I was a young teenager, though it wasn’t until my late teens that I started to understand what FOSS actually meant for users. The ability to actually read, understand and modify the software that you’re running was (and still is) a mind blowing experience for me.

What prompted you to start contributing to FOSS?

I didn’t start properly contributing to FOSS until I started working on postmarketOS, I thought the goals of the project were fantastic, but I didn’t own any supported devices… Once I submitted initial support for my device I was hooked.

Why should others get involved with FOSS?

I think FOSS is a wonderful community of likeminded individuals sharing knowledge, support and empowering each other to create amazing software. The entry requirements are as small as finding a project that you want to improve, whether for your own benefit or someone else’s.

How should they get started?

Trying to use free and open source software where possible is the simplest way to start understanding how you can contribute and improve the experience. Whether that be the Linux kernel, a particular distro or even some simple niche tool that solves a problem.

What difficulties and limitations do you see with FOSS?

There are often conflicts when FOSS maintainers or users try to treat a project as a product. That might be through expecting a higher quality experience or having strict requirements for contributions. More often that not this is a detriment to the project, leading to stale patches or burnt out maintainers.

How can they be solved?

Focusing on the core goals of a project, being kind and showing your appreciation for anyone who wants to try and improve the project, as well as those who run it can make a big difference.

Where do you see difficulties in contributing?

The largest issue I’ve faced comes when maintainers struggle to deal with pull requests. It can be very easy to forget what it’s like to be a new contributor (in general, or to a particular project), contributing to a project can be a big scary step to take for someone without much experience and we should make sure they feel welcome.

What does a perfect day off look like?

A perfect day off would definitely involve a nice walk on the beach, and a late afternoon spent with friends (and perhaps a pint!).