Working for Red Hat

As of August 18, I will be Red Hat’s newest file systems developer! I’m working part-time for Ric Wheeler (if you don’t know Ric yet, you’re missing out). Possible projects, depending on what is most useful to Red Hat’s customers:

* Merge e2fsck parallelization work. I wrote this on contract for Ric Wheeler when he was at EMC, but larger economic realities forced the end of this contract before it was quite done. Ted T’so is the ultimate arbiter, of course, but I think it just needs a little touching-up before it’s mergable as a non-default option. The technique I use, which can be described as active buffer cache management, could replace DIO/AIO for several applications with a little OS support.

* General ext4 work. ext4 is very close to shipping, but I hope to be at Red Hat for the final frenzy of touch-ups before Red Hat puts it in a release.

* Improve btrfs check and repair. Btrfs already has a rudimentary file system checker, but I’d like to implement incremental online check and repair, my personal holy grail.

Things I won’t be working on:

* Chunkfs. Chunkfs is a particular instance of the general repair-driven file system design principles I’ve been advocating. I wrote a prototype, both to convince myself that it would work and to give a concrete example for other file systems developers, but the experience convinced me that you really need to build these features in from the very beginning. If btrfs wasn’t on the horizon, the layered file system approach might be worth implementing. I do need to write up a summary of what I learned working on chunkfs and in particular collect in one place the various measurements I made showing that the idea will work.

* GFS2, cachefs, NFS, etc. I’m just not that into network file systems.

And I have to admit, for all that I thought I was a blasé and worldly kernel developer, I am a little excited about the idea of working for Red Hat in and of itself. Back when I was making 6 floppies’ worth of drivers so I could install Red Hat, I would have laughed if you’d told me I would actually work for Red Hat someday.


Q: I thought you hated having a real job. Why stop consulting?

A: Honestly? The number one reason is that health insurance is impossible to get in the U.S. if you’re an independent consultant. Europeans, Australians, and other residents of sane countries are permitted to feel smug at this point.

Q: Why part-time?

A: I want time to work on my writing – science writing, most likely. Expect more regular articles in LWN.

Q: But distro work sucks, you’re going to hate it. Packaging, bug fixes, support, etc…

A: Actually, I was a one-woman distro back in 2001-2002, doing a Yellow Dog-derived distro for a small embedded company. I liked it, and I did everything – customer support, building RPMs, burning CDs, and fixing installer bugs, in addition to actually writing kernel code. I only left because no one there knew more than me about operating systems (and I didn’t know very much about operating systems).

Q: So, would you recommend consulting?

A: I’d recommend it for paranoid, ambitious, meticulous, compulsive people with a wide variety of interests and the ability to put with a lot of annoying extraneous crap. It can be pretty awesome – I write this overlooking the ocean in Hawaii – but it’s a hell of a lot of work, at least in the beginning.

21 thoughts on “Working for Red Hat

  1. Wow and you too in Red Hat.. And we will still play with SuSE ;) A small request for you (just in case it is not too hard) when you meet Ric, tell him that “SPB wishes him luck”.. Probably he will understand :) If not – we failed somewhere ;) Thank you in advance ;)

  2. Hi!! well i must say congratulations..

    I think that probably you’ll be working at the first or second option, unless RedHat make peace with Oracle (and because of Jboss, don’t know if its going to happen).

    And i really like to read more of your articles, thanks again.

    Ona question though, will you keep writing here after entering RedHat and keep writing at LWN??

    Thanks again and Congrats!!!

  3. Val, why is Btrfs implementing a file system checker? I thought Btrfs should be roughly comparable with Sun’s ZFS which doesn’t need an fsck, ever. Hammer, another modern filesystem for DragonflyBSD also doesn’t need an fsck.

    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to criticize anyone, I’m just curious :-)

  4. I had a feeling that something like this is in the cards. Best of luck and hope to see you in Boston (at least from time to time) now that you have a boss here.

  5. Wow, congrats! Big news, and best of luck to you!

    (You don’t know me, but we once bonded over the Women-in-Linux HOWTO.)

  6. Expect more regular articles in LWN.

    That prospect alone has me clapping my hands with glee. Congratulations on the new job.

  7. Not so much smug as horrified: I always have to be reminded that in the US health insurance is a reason for switching jobs.

    Otherwise: sounds like a lot of fun! With fun side projects to boot! Congratulations.

  8. The only thing more shocking would have been if you said you went to work at Microsoft. Are they letting you work remotely?

  9. Congrats, Red Hat is a good company…

    Hi Val, as a former Red Hat alumni, I hope you have as much fun as a I did there.

  10. cheers on lwn

    Good thing you’ll be writing for Lwn. Always enjoy your article.

    The health-insurance thing sucks major donkey balls. You’re right, I’d feel smug, except I don’t particularily enjoy to watch people suffer needlessly, (not even Americans *evil-grin*)

    There are precisely two conditions for qualifying for full healthcare-coverage here in Norway. One — you must be legally in the country. Two, the stay must be, actual or planned, for a period longer than a year. That’s it. Up until I got friends abroad I never even considered healthcare-coverage something which one migth conceivably worry about.

  11. Basically, you are referring to the first use of a program named “fsck”, which was to repair partially completed writes after an unclean unmount. Fsck has many other applications as well. For details, see:

    With regard to ZFS, it doesn’t need fsck to recover after an unclean unmount. It doesn’t have an fsck to repair file system inconsistencies with other causes. What I would like to write for btrfs is the latter

  12. welcome

    That’s great having another woman programmer in RH. There are not many of us in engineering.

    Happy hacking in new job,

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