Google Summer of Code and Macs

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 at 12:10 PM

Posted by: Desmond Elliott, Student

What did you do on your summer vacation? Desmond Elliott, a computer science student at Edinburgh University, spent some of his time working on Camino, the Mac-only open source browser, as part of the Google Summer of Code (GSoC). Here's what Desmond had to say about the experience:

Working on Camino this summer was so much fun. I had never done much software development outside of the required coursework for University, and I decided that I really needed some experience. There is only so much you can learn from coursework!

My GSoC project was certainly a challenge for me. I had never written any Objective-C, and let me assure you, it showed! I wasn't part of the Mozilla/Camino community. I had never worked on a codebase as vast as Camino/Gecko. And I'd never had somebody review my code and scrutinise it as much as Google engineer Stuart Morgan did.

Working on this project made me a better developer because so many of the patches I submitted were negatively reviewed. Instead of taking this personally, I used it to improve my coding style and standard. For example, when I write code in Java for my research project, I think about whether I am wastefully creating objects.

Of course, I did learn a lot about Cocoa/Objective-C Programming on Mac OS X, but I learned a lot more as well. I learned about the importance of being able to communicate with people non-verbally. I think that being a great developer means you can work as a team and I certainly learned a lot about that this summer. Some of the people you work with might not even natively speak your language, so how you express yourself is important. I learned about managing my own time on a self-directed project. It was almost like it was a trial for my undergraduate research project.

Although my mentor Mike Pinkerton was always busy with those "work" things that Google forces him to do (and he cannot talk about them, which is even worse), he was an excellent mentor. He was always able to meet with me once a week. This was important for both of us because it made sure that neither of us were out of the loop. He was quick to respond to my emails, too.

There are so many great things that I took from GSoC that I could go on and on.

Even though GSoC is over, I'm still active within the Camino team. And I will definitely apply for a place in GSoC next summer, my last summer at University, and it will probably be writing Mac software once again.