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What I learned during my internship with the FSF tech team

by Free Software Foundation Contributions Published on Feb 15, 2019 05:05 PM
Contributors: Hrishikesh Barman

Hello everyone, I am Hrishikesh, and this is my follow-up blog post concluding my experiences and the work I did during my 3.5 month remote internship with the FSF. During my internship, I worked with the tech team to research and propose replacements for their network monitoring infrastructure.

A few things did not go quite as planned, but a lot of good things that I did not plan happened along the way. For example, I planned to work on GNU LibreJS, but never could find enough time for it. On the other hand, I gained a lot of system administration experience by reading IRC conversations, and by working on my project. I even got to have a brief conversation with RMS!

My mentors, Ian, Andrew, and Ruben, were extremely helpful and understanding throughout my internship. As someone who previously had not worked with a team, I learned a lot about teamwork. Aside from IRC, we interacted weekly in a conference call via phone, and used the FSF's Etherpad instance for live collaborative editing, to take notes.

The first two months were mostly spent studying the FSF's existing Nagios- and Munin-based monitoring and alert system, to understand how it works. The tech team provided two VMs for experimenting with Prometheus and Nagios, which I used throughout the internship. During this time, I also spent a lot of time reading about licenses, and other posts about free software published by the FSF.

My primary tasks involved writing Ansible roles and small Python tools, as well as understanding how Prometheus and its ecosystem worked. I even picked up Golang and started contributing small PRs to the Prometheus project itself.

The final outcome was a documented repository along with all the Ansible roles that are capable of spinning up a fully functional Prometheus server with related tools and configurations specific to the FSF. It's not yet ready to be implemented, but is in a good position to be extended.

Even though this internship is unpaid, I would highly encourage anyone reading this blog post to apply for future internship positions with the FSF tech team because of the knowledge value it provides.

I would like to thank the FSF for providing me this internship, and hope that my work will extend their current network monitoring systems into the future.

Interested in interning for the Free Software Foundation? The application period for summer 2019 internships is open until March 31, 2019 -- see details here.

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