The Capstone Hackweekend

28 January, 2019 § Leave a comment

This past weekend Mike Conley and I visited the Capstone team to work one-on-one with the students, teach topics, and share the history of Mozilla.

The current capstone project is a continuation from last semesters project. The students are working on converting Firefox’s localization implementation from DTD/properties files to Fluent. Fluent brings with it many new capabilities, such as platform-dependent strings, custom formatters, asynchronous applying of translation, and more.

Last semester’s capstone group migrating parts of Firefox and wrote migration scripts. They also attempted to migrate startup strings and profile the performance implications.

This semester the students are continuing to migrate more parts of Firefox, while also working on our Fluent tools and researching using a faster parser.

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Topics for the weekend

We met the students bright and early Saturday morning at 9am. The first topics that we covered were the page lifecycle as it applies to Fluent translation and comparisons to how DTD and .properties files have their strings applied. We also covered Fluent best practices (limiting formatValues where possible, for example).

Through a long day of hacking and learning about how code is written, tested, and shipped at Mozilla, the students wrote patches for the following bugs:

On Saturday night, we hosted our first-ever “Mozilla movie-night” on campus, showing the 2000 documentary “Code Rush.” The documentary covers the open-sourcing of Netscape and the birth of Mozilla. It was pretty impressive to see over 20 college students show up to the Engineering Building at 8:30pm on a Saturday night. Mike and I also did a Q&A with the students before and after the movie about working in open source software, applying for jobs, and more.

Sunday morning we were back in the computer lab at 9am again for a half-day of hacking. We spent the first hour of the day teaching how to know if a test failure on tryserver is an intermittent failure related to the current patch or a pre-existing and known issue. This is very useful as the students have been pushing their patches to tryserver more often this semester than in previous groups.

This was our sixth time that we’ve hosted a hack weekend with the Capstone team (different team each semester). We schedule these to occur within the first few weeks of the start of the semester to help bootstrap the students on their project. It’s been a very valuable use of all of our time, as it helps the students get some face-time with their mentors, and the mentors get a better grasp of some of the challenges that the students are facing.

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