Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
Open Source Programming

Grad Student Looking To Contribute To Open Source 283

An anonymous reader writes "I'm an Applied Math grad student who knows a bit of Mathematics and a bit of programming. C++ is my first programming language — I am decent at it. I wish to start contributing to a numerical library with two purposes — contribute to open source and develop my C++ skills at the same time. I looked at the Boost libraries and joined the developer list. However, I have no idea on how to start contributing. I'm not an expert in template programming, having written only toy programs to understand that concept. I've used some of the OOP constructs like inheritance,but only for very small projects. Do you have any tips on how to get started on contribution? Are there any other emerging numerical libraries to which I can contribute? Are there any other avenues where I can contribute to open source and improve programming skills?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Grad Student Looking To Contribute To Open Source

Comments Filter:
  • by mike260 ( 224212 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:15AM (#33867260)

    You did try googling for, say, 'open source c++ numerical library []' right?
    I ask because that yields a fair few that welcome contributions; maybe if you told us what your issues with them are then that would help us find you some alternatives.

    • by AngryNick ( 891056 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @07:44AM (#33867866) Homepage Journal
      What seems pretty obvious is that the guy's question is about how to get involved in an OSS initiative, not how to find one. Cultural barriers aside, the perception from the outside is that many existing communities are closed, elitist kingdoms that are unwelcoming and intimidating to newbies. So, while providing a helpful search query may be clever, it does not address the essence of the question and serves to perpetuate the stereotype.
      • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:07AM (#33868390)

        Most projects love off-loading working onto eager, but inexperienced, contributors. You can't go wrong with most groups by going to them with a good attitude, stating what you can do and asking what you can do to help out. If you get grief from them for that, you can safely write them off as terminal assholes because no reasonably well-balanced human being would slap down someone who approaches them like that.

        I've been contributing to a project for a while where the core contributors are far better and more knowledgeable than the average contributor. The community has an elitist reputation, but what I've found from watching how others are treated is that those core contributors will treat the small time contributors very well if they contribute according to their abilities (meaning they don't flood the core contributors with trashy git commits for obviously complicated problems) and work as a team.

        Part of the problem is that a lot of people don't like hierarchies and resent the hell out of them. The fact is, however, that they not only exist, but are necessary for social organization.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        What seems pretty obvious is that the guy's question is about how to get involved in an OSS initiative, not how to find one. Cultural barriers aside, the perception from the outside is that many existing communities are closed, elitist kingdoms that are unwelcoming and intimidating to newbies. So, while providing a helpful search query may be clever, it does not address the essence of the question and serves to perpetuate the stereotype.

        Most communities seem closed because the internet is vast and there are a lot of idiots and trouble makers out there who at best waste time and at worst wreak havoc with a project. Since FOSS projects don't have employment processes and hiring forms, they need mechanisms to make sure they are working with the right people for the job.

        Here are some hints to help you get through the initial barrier of egotism end rudeness that many projects use to protect themselves:

        1. Join the mailing lists.

        2. You may if you

  • by StripedCow ( 776465 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:16AM (#33867270)

    To understand most boost modules, you definitely need a thorough understanding of templates.

    • by sqldr ( 838964 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @07:38AM (#33867830)

      last time I read a boost header, I found that an understanding of hardware/OS-specific optimisations and quirks was rather important too. By the time you've read through all the #defines and figured out which bit runs on *your* OS, you've forgotten what you were reading it for :-)

      It's not just a useful library, it's supposed to be fast and get its data sizes right too. I'd start with something less industrialised.

  • Maxima (Score:4, Informative)

    by JohnFluxx ( 413620 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:18AM (#33867272)

    The KDE C++ math classes are "eigen": []
    This is just a library (well actually a set of inline header files)

    More generally, there are programs like "maxima" (symbolic manipulation, integration, etc) and "octave" (like mathlab).

    I would love to see more work go into maxima :)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by DMiax ( 915735 )
      Eigen is probably the best starting point, since it is quite used (so your work is not too obscured), simple to extend, with good help from main programmers. Another project that would be nice to extend is GiNaC []. They have a TODO list with different difficulty levels.
    • Re:Maxima (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jank1887 ( 815982 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @07:56AM (#33867926)

      I second this motion. You can immediately start USING Octave and Maxima. You're a math student, so just start doing math. You'll quickly uncover some bugs and limits. And as said above, you can see the bug reports for both. At that point, get to work.

    • And if you lean more towards statistics you can hack away at R

  • Fix bugs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by a_n_d_e_r_s ( 136412 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:18AM (#33867274) Homepage Journal

    1. Join a big open source project.
    2. Read the bug reports
    3. Start churning out fixes for bugs
    4. Profit!

    • Re:Fix bugs (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:47AM (#33867398)

      4. Profit!

      Wait, what?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ModernGeek ( 601932 )
        Yeah, it's a great way to build your resume and show that you aren't just some lingo slobbering hipster. Most companies would rather hire someone with some code on the 'net with their name on it than someone who is fresh out of school with no real experience.
    • Re:Fix bugs (Score:4, Insightful)

      by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:06AM (#33867460) Homepage Journal

      Definitely yes. Start out with simple, contained bugs. Then move to the bigger ones, that span several modules. Once you get a good understanding of the structure of the project, you can move on to "Feature request" type bug reports.

    • FIND bugs! (Score:3, Interesting)

      If you know the math, you should be able to come up with regression tests and find corner cases and invalid approximations and so forth. In other words, you should be able to find bugs, or prove that certain bugs aren't present. This is a very valuable service, and you can get familiar with the code by writing the tests that use it and understanding the ways it implements the algorithms involved.
    • Comment removed based on user account deletion
  • Various Resources (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:19AM (#33867278)

    Boost ( is broad and pretty fancy. Eigen ( is narrower in scope - linear algebra - and just might be closer to your interests. To learn the details of templates, Alexandrescu's book -- Modern C++ design -- is a way of diving in deep quickly. Reading the Loki sources is also a good way of going about it ( ). Those are resources I can come up with off the top of my head. And general advice also hold: try stuff. Make a source repo for yourself (git, mercurial, darcs, whatever) and pick a small problem to solve and hack at the templates there. Use version control so you can come up with one solution and refine it and look over your own development history.

  • Kinematics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MichaelSmith ( 789609 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:25AM (#33867298) Homepage Journal

    I work in air traffic control and kinematics are a big deal for us. This is the software which takes care of coordinate systems, motion and transformations. Say you have a vehicle with a particular WGS84 coordinate. Its moving at a particular speed in a particular direction relative to true north. After one hour where will it be in three dimensions relative to its original position? How much distance will it have covered? What happens if its trajectory went within two metres of the south pole? What path in 3D will it follow if it maintains a constant altitude above the datum along the way?

    Ok now say it is not allowed to fly into (say) North Korea which has a particular shape. How can you project its path forwards to determine if it goes into the air space over that country?

    And so on. Its bloody complicated stuff and I reckon a lot of open source software would benefit from a library which did this. Ideal for a maths guy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by phillips321 ( 955784 )
      You lost me pretty early on, i think after the 2 words "I work". What is this "work" thing you are on about? Fair play though, this would take a considerable amount of effort and time and i doubt anyone in the open source world would benefit from this unfortunately, please correct me if i'm wrong and provide an example of how an ATC system could be used 'at home'
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Lets say you want to build UAV to fly significant distances around the world. It is going to have to fly a great circle trajectory and it will have to understand the volumes of airspace it is flying through. Airspace is a bit like the skin on a apple. It can't be treated as a simple Cartesian volume the way most simple games do it. The curvature of the Earth varies from place to place. This also affects your ground track.

        So your UAV will have to follow a route through the skin of the apple, so to speak, av

      • by znerk ( 1162519 )

        please correct me if i'm wrong and provide an example of how an ATC system could be used 'at home'

        One word: gaming.

        And while we're on the subject, I'm absolutely certain that an open-source trig library like the phenomenal one that must be present in EVE Online [] would be a fantastic addition to the free (as in liberty) gaming community.

    • by yumyum ( 168683 )

      I assume you have looked at LuciadMap []. It does much of this, though in Java, not C++.

    • Re:Kinematics (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kinema ( 630983 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:32AM (#33867544)
      Speaking of kinematics, you might want to take a look at a EMC [] (Enhanced Machine Controller). EMC is a CNC [] package originating from NIST. EMC has an active community using and developing it. There are known bugs in the forward and inverse kinematics for PUMA style robots that could really uses the eye of a trained mathematician.

      I'm sure there are are plenty of other areas that the EMC project could utilize your math skills. There are many, many users and developers of EMC that would appreciate your skills.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by awjr ( 1248008 )

      I was part of the team that developed the short-term collision alert system for Swanick, UK. This type of prediction is unnecessary and not very useful to air traffic controllers, particularly in Europe, where each air space has a different way of dealing with traffic.

      For example, pilots want to get their aircraft to specific altitudes to conserve fuel (usually around 29,000ft). In the UK, ATC keeps strict vertical and horizontal seperations, in France, they just let them hit the altitude they want, then pl

      • This type of prediction is unnecessary and not very useful to air traffic controllers, particularly in Europe,

        I assume you are referring to the simple example I gave above about trajectories intersecting volumes. Its actually really useful stuff though perhaps not if STCA is your whole business. OTH if your business is avoiding controlled flight into terrain then the example I gave might be more relevant.

        That said my example was more intended to point out the ways in which real world coordinate systems could be better handled in OSS, and the applications which might exist in (say) games and UAVs.

    • At the end of the days its just trigonometry and vectors. Writing software to do that is just a case of wrapping plug and play equations given to you by a friendly mathematician into a nice API. Coders shouldn't be expected to derive the maths from first principals themselves or even know it at all.

      • Since the poster is a maths guy I was hoping he could design the whole thing and (as you say) get some coders in on the software production.

        • by Viol8 ( 599362 )

          Thats usually the best way. I've worked with a few maths types and very smart though they are they don't generally have particularly good coding skills. A lot of the time their code ends up messy, convoluted and if they don't know the language very well , hopelessly inefficient.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pjt33 ( 739471 )

        It's actually uglier than "just trigonometry and vectors". If you're willing to use a spherical approximation to the globe then yes, but WGS84 is an ellipsoid. To get an idea of how complicated it is, check out this paper [] (and note the references to numerical analysis).

    • You haven't solved those problems yet?? I thought they would have been solved 20 years ago.

      I'm flying next week and suddenly I'm nervous.

    • by vbraga ( 228124 )

      Not difficult to build this if you work from GRASS source code for the GIS part. I believe it's C but if I recall correctly (I looked at it a long time ago) it's well written. Maybe just expand GRASS. Would be interesting to look at. I'm not working with GIS anymore but I could contribute, if someone else get interested.

  • Is there a bug tracker on this project? Tracking down and fixing bugs will force you to become familiar with the codebase, and hopefully, expose you to code from which you can learn. Also, find projects that you will use personally on a regular basis--i.e. "scratch your own itch". You'll do better work if the end result is not just some code somewhere, but something that you need and make use of frequently.
  • You are best off asking this question on the mailing list/irc/whatever of the community you want to contribute to. They'll know what needs fixing, and nurse you through submitting a few patches to them.

  • Team Up (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Blrfl ( 46596 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:33AM (#33867342) Homepage

    Don't take this the wrong way, but you're in math, not CS. Call the CS department, find someone who's willing to team up with you on this and work together on turning the mathematical end of your contributions into good code. You'll come out of it with a better understanding of how software should go together, your CS cohort will get some insight into applied math and both of you will be better for the experience.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I'm going to disagree with your assessment that just because he doesn't have an IT degree he will be unable to contribute to an OSS project. I've known plenty of people who didn't have an IT degree but were still damn good at anything IT related, including coding. He's not looking to contribute to the next Linux kernel or make improvements to the PERL RegEx engine. He's asking how can he contribute to what he knows, Math. And those kinds of libraries are more about the math(go figure) than memory manage
      • Re:Team Up (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Blrfl ( 46596 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @10:21AM (#33869410) Homepage

        I think you completely misread what I'm suggesting. What I propose is that the OP, who describes himself as a neophyte when it comes to software, find someone with some experience in that field to be a mentor and help get him off to a good start.

        Here's my rationale: I've been writing software for 31 years and have 25 years of industry experience. For the last seven years, I've been working for a company that is staffed mostly by electrical engineers who specialize in signal processing and are really, really good at it. A lot of what they write works, but software isn't their bailiwick, and it lacks the organization and forethought about how it might be used in the future that people who've been around the block tend to put into it.

        By teaming up with someone in CS, the OP won't be figuring out how to do it right by trial and error and perhaps turning out ugly code in the first place, and he gets to spread some of the applied math gospel to the heathens over in CS. :-)

  • by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <> on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @05:40AM (#33867380) Homepage

    The easiest way to enter Open Source to write patches for existing software. Learn how to communicate with other developers, how to be flexible and adopt their coding styles and practices. Chances are this will help you learn the most, because you'll be writing smaller amounts of code and it will always be under review by someone else. Once you've shown your competency, you're usually given commit access to the project.

    Boost can be a very helpful community. Submitting a new library to Boost typically follows a few steps: gauge interest, put up code/examples/documentation for informal comments, submit for review. It sounds like you've got a lot to learn in C++ so it might be a long road (Boost has a very high bar to meet), but if you've got perseverance and are eager to learn, you can make it happen.

  • Sage! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Applied math student...knows C++...dude. Contribute to Sage [].

    The goal of the Sage project is to creating a viable free open source alternative to Magma, Maple, Mathematica and Matlab. It is based on Python, but has many components written in C and C++. It has good capabilities for numerical computation, but more help is needed. It's pretty easy to dive in and start fixing bugs, and your work would immediately benefit thousands of mathematicians and mathematics students.

    Sign up for the sage-devel list [] and sta

  • Boost Linear Algebra (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward


    please contribute to the Boost Linear Algebra library, uBLAS.
    You or any other interested in contributing new algorithms can contact me directly on the boost ublas developpers mailing list.
    I'm the new maintainer of this library and will be happy to talk about any new contributions you want to make.
    This library is great and need serious love.

  • Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:33AM (#33867552) Homepage

    You're an amateur, like the thousands of others on the net, like me. This is not a programming skill problem - that comes from either practice or aptitude, not pure willing. This is a contribution problem. You're looking for a project that has many skilled users and also has a very, very basic need they have to meet but at a basic level and that they haven't already done themselves and probably won't take too long. See the problem?

    You're asking entirely the wrong questions - I would suggest that instead of trying to add something to Boost or similar, that you try to do something yourself and thus work out why Boost and similar projects are quite complex, have certain standards, etc. The problem of patch submission, new features and bug-fixing is not one of people willing to write the code that fixes the problem - that part's easy, and the fun part - it's finding something interesting that fits within the scope of the project and it's the problem of getting that code into the shape that the project would be happy with too. Thus bug-identification and lots of the hard slog-work (test suites, etc.) are much more useful than anything else you can come up with. I guarantee that the first few ideas you have to contribute to a large project will be knocked back because a) they've been suggested a million times, b) they don't WANT to do it that way, c) they CAN'T do it that way for some reason or d) they just don't trust your code and would spend longer fixing it than just writing it themselves.

    I would suggest that you do one of the following:

    1) Write your own library, for something you know intimately. Publish it on a website, document it well, do it under a loose license. Chances are it will overlap with other projects but they are always alternatives for everything and if your library is BETTER than the others, it will be used in preference, code will be absorbed from it into other projects, or people will ask you to for more of it. Chances are that it will take you a LONG time to make it better than even the bare basic libraries you find on the net.

    (I'll use an example that I'm familiar with - SDL has lots of graphics primitive libraries, but SDL_gfx is one of the best despite not being the only "big" one, despite being unofficial, despite being a one-man operation and yet is used in thousands of projects. All it does is draw circles and polygons and rotate images, for God's sake, but it works and it's simple and it's fast and it's documented so it gets followers)

    I know that when I go looking for a library to solve my problems, I am happier with something tiny and in my language of preference (C instead of C++) than some huge generic library that does a million and one other things. I have been on hundreds of tiny sites and found some absolute gems where the author just knocked up the exact piece of code I was after and nothing more and then I've used it, extended it, reported bugs in it and it becomes part of my standard toolchain (as an example, I use LodePNG to save PNG images from SDL_Surfaces, not because that's the only way, or even the easiest way, but because I found it easier than trying to get libpng to do it for me - some of my projects actually use libpng for loading and LodePNG for saving PNG's!).

    2) Meld into the community - hunt for bugs, be active on discussions, suggest features (after reading the FAQ's about what not to ask for, etc.), maybe even implement a few test routines to show how useful your feature-X would be. Produce test suites (horrible, horrible job that's incredibly boring but serves a useful purpose). Run valgrind, or some kind of mathematical analysis, on the code and report your fixes for anything found back to the community. The hard-slog but useful stuff that nobody really wants to do.

    Everybody would love to be chosen to just insert thousands of lines of code into a big famous project - it very, very, very rarely happens. More likely is that you have a small project of your own that others find useful (because it avoids t

    • Re:Well (Score:5, Funny)

      by Lusa ( 153265 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @08:23AM (#33868048)

      Mod this up! This is so insightful it should be a tattoo!

    • by ari_j ( 90255 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @12:04PM (#33871194)
      Here's an example of what the ledow is talking about with point #1. Or at least a corollary of his point in action. About a decade ago, I wanted to play with XML files in C++. There were no good, small libraries to do that. There were a couple of ridiculously large, complicated libraries that would handle XML files, but you'd lose more time learning the library than you would ever put into your actual code. So I created libxml++, to scratch my own personal itch []. It was, at the time, a small but useful wrapper around libxml. Very basic, and demonstrated mostly that I knew less about either C++ or XML than I thought I did.

      But people used it. (They also used my CLI Yahoo Messenger client, but that became defunct after I handed it off to other developers, due to the then-rapidly changing Yahoo protocol. The single most touching e-mail I have ever received was from a user of that client.) One of them submitted some patches, and eventually in 2002 I passed off ownership of the libxml++ project to him. I don't code in C++ much anymore, so I don't use my own library, but I do check in on it every so often. There are regular commits, including one last week, and an active mailing list, with several thousand messages. It's in Debian's main package repository and a number of diverse other packages depend on it.

      All of this is the result of an itch I had ten years ago. Don't let anyone tell you that this kind of thing never happens and that there are just a billion useless libraries and programs half-written out there. There are a billion of those, but if you have a need for something that nothing on the market seems to fill, the chances are good that you're not alone in that unfilled need. Fill it and make it easy for others to use it and contribute to it, and see where it ends up in 2020.
  • octave (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gatzke ( 2977 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:38AM (#33867570) Homepage Journal

    Octave is a Matlab clone that now works pretty well. Go make a toolbox or two for octave.

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:38AM (#33867572)

    Are there any other avenues where I can contribute to open source and improve programming skills?"

    The internet is drowning in code and starving from lack of decent documentation on how to use it. if you want to transform a mediocre, existing OSS project into a world-class, standing head and shoulders above everything else in its field piece of exemplary work, then take ANY numerical library and write some examples for it, write explanations on how it works, what its limitations are (hell: even comment some of the source code itself). Write user guides, API guides, put together a FAQ or a Wiki. List the mistakes and create some workarounds.It's not sexy, but it's what we need most.

    The other thing that inspecting other people's work will do (apart from really honking-off some of the more protective - read; poor - software authors) is to show you, close up and in the real world, some of the constructs and techniques that are employed. For better or worse, this will give you a lot of experience in good and bad techniques and will give you a much larger palette to choose from when you decide to endow the planet with yet another piece of OSS of your won making.

    • Showing up to contribute to open source and then being told to write the documentation is rather like volunteering for a wildlife rescue only to be told to clean rocks with paper towels instead. By "contribute", I automatically assume "write code" rather than the unwanted task of "go into that foreclosed house and clean out the toilet that exploded."
    • Exactly, code is only part of the project. And it is often the easiest piece to make (sure it might take more time but coding is easy of anyone with some skill). But there is a bigger part of the projects that need real smarts. Good documentation Is one part, accuracy and bug checking, prioritize bugs, following the direction of a project and keep it on course. Getting honest feedback. Keeping it up to modern standards. Security, Implementation, training...

    • I started using boost recently to have a look at their graph library. Hell, what kind of mess is that.
      The documentation is less than poor. I mean, they believe it is documented. But it is clearly not understandable.

      There are no links between concepts and types that implement them. Almost no useful code example. Everything is presented as a template spec which is quite useless if you do not know the overall project.

      So if you want to contribute to boost, I suggest you start writing "readable" documentation fo

  • by znerk ( 1162519 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:46AM (#33867596)

    I am not a strong programmer, although I can at least code my way out of a wet paper bag, if given enough time. Similarly, math is not my strong suit.

    I have a personal programming project which I will eventually end up releasing to the open-source community for several reasons;

    • I think the possible benefits to the information industry would outweigh any profit potential in it.
    • I can't figure out how to monetize it without massive litigation in our current patent system.

      The idea may actually already be patented, but I have a 1970's science-fiction story that contains the "prior art" if anyone wants to challenge me. I don't actually think there are any patent issues, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm correct, especially since I haven't done any actual research along those lines. I can say without a doubt that I don't believe the concept is currently in use in any field that I'm aware of.

    • My programming and math skills are not sufficient to bring it to fruition in a reasonable amount of time.

    I haven't released the details "into the wild" yet because I want my name attached to the end product (for portfolio reasons, I guess, or maybe I'm just proud of the idea). I'm not entirely sure how to go about protecting my interests in this matter.

    It deals heavily with prime factors of extremely long numbers (so long, in fact, that I believe I will eventually require 128-bit computing for efficiency with my current algorithm ideations; it appears that it would be best to work with 120 binary bits at a time (or some multiple thereof, but quantum computing is still a good ways off from consumer-grade products, I fear). I will still need to work with strings (as opposed to pure numerical constructs) due to the immense size of the numbers involved. I initially came up with the concept while reading about a related idea in a sci-fi novella from 40 or so years ago, and I started toying with it as a... well, I guess the best thing to call it would be an informal feasibility study. After some research and some limited testing, it seems to be holding up to my initial ideations, other than length of time involved to actually perform the process. It seems the process is a bit cpu-intensive, and my initial estimates of "several hours" for completion appear to have jumped several orders of magnitude. Distributed processing should ease that quite a bit, although threads are a bit out of my scope. I do have some good ideas on how the process might be parallellized (is that even a word?).

    I have a basic grasp on most of the algorithm, but I am (go ahead, laugh) primarily a VB coder, and I believe this project would be better suited to C, or perhaps python (I have heard something about sci-py?) I am not going to trumpet about my skill set, obviously, but I do believe I can eventually finish this project on my own - I've bounced the idea around in my head for several years, and only recently started actually working on the code. Unfortunately, as I said earlier in this post, I think I'm using the wrong language; and I'm not currently in the best position to be learning a new one. I also seem to have some sort of mental block for languages other than VB (even .NET is problematic, most of my coding has been VB4 and VB5) or so-called "scripting" languages.

    I'm not sure how best to get someone to contact me via slashdot, but if anyone is interested in a (probably) not-for-profit endeavor, and can throw me some contact info, I would cheerfully find a means of communication to give this project a productivity boost. I would be requiring an initial non-disclosure agreement, of course, but am totally willing to share credit (and any profit that may arise) from any actual release.

    • I don't mean to be a wet blanket, but there are a lot of warning flags in what you wrote.

      It's pretty common for us to have ideas that seem great and innovative, but because of our lack of expertise in a given field, we don't realize that the idea is either flawed, or has already been refined and applied. I expect this is especially true with difficult math problems, such as large-number factorization.

      All I'm saying is that before you start hiring employees, you should probably invest a lot more effort in v

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by znerk ( 1162519 )

        All I'm saying is that before you start hiring employees, you should probably invest a lot more effort in vetting your idea.

        I'm not "hiring employees", I'm asking for help with a project that might have some form of profit associated with its completion. That profit may or may not be monetary, and is much more likely to be the bragging rights of being able to point at the finished project and say "I helped build that". Whether the project is brag-worthy would be something that could be discussed after an NDA is signed, at which point more details about the project would be forthcoming. If it's not a worthy project, then the NDA

  • Have a look at R (Score:3, Interesting)

    by G3ckoG33k ( 647276 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @06:48AM (#33867602)

    Have a look at R, [], which is math related.

    Their developers page is at []

    The R Project has again participated in the Google Summer of Code during 2010 [] which had several projects in C++

    I think R could be nice as it combines a high level approach with the lower level of C++.

    They also have forum at []

  • You know what? Forget this "contributing". fuck em all. Do what's interesting and the easiest thing for you. Find a project that does things you're interested in, look it through and find what will drive your own interests and make it better. Then when they update, update along. Notice that your changes tend to get lost. Learn making patches and send them to that project. They'll integrate them and your changes will not get lost when you get latest changes from that project. That's the laziest and easiest t
  • It sounds like the Boost project might be something for you: []

  • Finish your degree as fast as possible. You don't want to burn any extra enthusiasm on anything that won't get you out of school. As it is, you will need every last drop.

    Also, read this article: "Three Books For Surviving Graduate School," at []

    It's a piece by the author of this book: Surviving Your Stupid, Stupid Decision to Go to Grad School, []

  • by mariuszbi ( 1113049 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @07:09AM (#33867686)
    As a C++ developer and boost user, I advise against starting to code for it. API design and implementation are quite hard as opposed to "normal" programming, as you need to factor several other problems: building a easy-to-use generic interface, mandatory in a library, is much more difficult to code than in project that works with specific data models. Also, I had specific problems with boost::filesystem API so I can tell you getting a bug acknowledged and fixed in a particular version might be frightening at first(no, I don't want to update my boost version to get it... I want it backported). I suggest you find a piece of code that you are interested and find useful and follow this simple roadmap:
    1.Install it and use it
    2.Subscribe to user/devel mailing lists
    3.Write missing documentation and unit tests for components
    4.Offer to implement features/fix bugs that have been appearing for some time but have a low priority.
  • by digitalderbs ( 718388 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @07:11AM (#33867700)
    In addition to BOOST, you might want to consider looking at other projects. Some that might be a good fit, and might need developers are :

    - GSL [] : The GNU Scientific Library is a scientific toolset for C and C++. These tools are quite modular, and you might be able to find your own module to code.

    - Plotting software : Help to any of the plotting programs would be a real boon for all scientists. This could involve developing non-linear fitting algorithms, GUI, or statistical analysis. Look at SciDAVis [] and possibly GRACE [].

    - non-linear fitting : C++ Minuit, or a CERNlib project may be a good match--I'm not sure whether these are only developed internally.

    good luck!
  • Don't start by adding big features to the project. It's the hardest part, and there are many people doing this already. The best is to first concentrate on the quality assurance:
    * Look at bug reports, try to reproduce them, add your insights, and maybe even find a fix for them
    * Write test cases, that's what is most missing nowadays in open-source projects. It's the best way to ensure that the library will work correctly on every kind of hardware/software combination. Only someone like you wh

  • Boost has its own conventions and using rather complicated templating they've managed to munge a lot of C++ syntax. Also as a hiring manager I'm rather tired of interviewing C++ candidates who can quote me the STL and Boost methods until they're blue in the face but couldn't explain pointer arithmetic or byte alignment issues if their lives depended on it.

    • Indeed, Boost uses templates to the point where it becomes abuse. If you want to learn how to use C++ in a decent way, stay away from Boost. However, if you have mastered C++ basics, and want to be able to solve real-life problems in an efficient way, then come back to Boost. In the meantime, you can hope that somebody invents a better language.

  • if your into technical progamming / numerical stuff maybe work on the Open Source FORTRAN's as they are poor performers compared to the paid for counterparts.

    Or even port some stuff to the CUDA side of things where i'me sure thier is a lot of interest
  • You posed two questions:

    (a) How to start contributing?

    (b) What project to contribute to?

    There are a number of posts that address the "how", which basically advise: "look for bug reports, then fix those", which I think is good advice and there is little I have to add to it. Except perhaps this: if you're a graduate student you will probably be able to find ongoing on-campus research projects. Is there any among those which is staffed with people you'd like to work with and from whom you feel you could l

  • Easy Question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JambisJubilee ( 784493 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @08:43AM (#33868170)
    The answer to your question is quite easy. Take whatever your thesis is, and create high quality software tools to help you to that end. Work where you're (trying to be) an expert. If tools already exist, expand those tools in the direction of your thesis.
  • Disclosure: I am not a programmer.

    There is an awful lot of work needed on Linux drivers of all types. I love the idea that you are eager to help. From what I have read on the web, this is an area where a) you can get a lot of information and b) your skills will grow very quickly.

    To get help and/or ideas, get connected with your local LUG (Linux User Group). They can give you all kinds of help and encouragement.

    Best of luck and thanks - I wish every grad would give a little of their time like you wish to

  • by GlobalEcho ( 26240 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:14AM (#33868500)

    I see a lot of posts from non-mathematicians here. Most are correct and useful, but not necessarily fitted to your situation. As a fellow mathematician who has dabbled in this stuff over the years, I can think of a few projects where your particular skills may be helpful:

    (1) Work on the GSL. This is the highest-quality numerics library out there. I'm not aware of particular weaknesses - it's really great - but I'm sure there's something.
    (2) Work on the open-source spreadsheets. These are basically OpenOffice, Gnumeric and KSpread. All three lack some numerical routines that could be useful.
    (3) Work on Scipy/Numpy, R, Octave or Maxima. The numerics routines in these libraries are not always GSL-quality, particularly special functions. The built-in optimization routines tend to be basic and sometimes light on features. Even translating unit tests between packages would be a useful, enlightening and somewhat interesting project that I believe no one has ever undertaken.
    (4) Work on an open-source optimization library, such as OpenOpt.
    (5) Performance/accuracy comparisons of existing spreadsheets, libraries, and programs.

  • Is study many languages other than C++. For example, learn Scheme through The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. []

    As a "one language" developer you will always be fifth-rate, in tools, techniques, and thinking.

  • Open Object Rexx (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dashley ( 730044 )

    Perhaps you might be interested in a smaller project where the number of developers is also small, but quite open to new blood. All of the current developers would be very happy to get you started with the ooRexx project. The source code is mostly C++ and we do not use templates, mainly because we have no need of them for our requirements.

    ooRexx is an interpreter for multiple platforms and has a very interesting math library. All interpreter calculations are done in floating decimal, not binary. The current

  • Hello, anonymous submitter,

    About I year ago I've started a small project with a friend, written in C++, that does some improvements to lossless audio compression (currently to FLAC). It calculates the autoconvolution of the audio signal to find similar parts in the audio. Especially for electronically generated music, this can be used to predict other parts in the audio, and thus reduce the entropy of the signal (i.e. compress the file better).

    If you (or anybody else) are interested in further develop
  • Octave. ARM. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cfriedt ( 1189527 )
    Improve Octave. Specifically, for ARM. Remember that open-source does not necessarily mean architecture independent. Practically all software is written with the perception that the compiler optimizes any poorly written C / C++ code and that the target is a PC. While this is good for x86, relying on hardware instruction rescheduling to make code more 'efficient', it's pretty awful for anything else. Having done a lot of work with ARM / NEON optimizations myself, I can tell you first-hand that gcc does not
  • by e065c8515d206cb0e190 ( 1785896 ) on Tuesday October 12, 2010 @09:48AM (#33868946)
    Trying to implement new functionalities is not easy if you're not an experience programmer.

    I recommend starting with an existing program or lib and try to fix the memory leaks. By doing that you will look at many lines of code, learn about coding standards, and still be able contribute. You'll also learn how to debug, which is the hard way to learn. And write proper code. Use valgrind.

    Hint: start with libxml2. And good luck.

"If it's not loud, it doesn't work!" -- Blank Reg, from "Max Headroom"