Hacking for the future: the Saab Linux Kernel Challenge

What do you do if you have a problem that needs solving and also would like to test the skills of potential employees? Well, you arrange a competition. This is exactly what Anders Isaksson had in mind with the Linux Kernel Hack Challenge.

Anders Isaksson work’s within Saab’s HMI (Human Machine Interaction) and Avionics in Tannefors, Sweden and is one of the brains behind the Linux Kernel Hack Challenge. In this interview he gives us some background into the competition.

Firstly, for the newbie, what is Linux?

Linux is a Unix-type of operating systemfor computers, servers and embedded systems like mobile phones. Linux is mostly constructed - and in some variants consists entirely of - Open Source software. It is one of the most significant examples of what developing using free software and Open Source code has accomplished. Linux was created for the most part by individuals. Today, many companies also participate in the development of Linux, either directly through their own employees, via financing or through other forms of contribution.

Why a competition?

Previously, I worked in the telecommunications industry and the company I worked for abandoned their operating systems and opted for Android instead. Android is based on Linux and during the transition period, some of the employees had the chance to learn a lot about Linux. At one of the earlier information meetings that were held for the staff, we were told that Linux developers produced thousands of lines of code per day. I don´t remember the exact numbers, but it´s an incredible power, all these developers have. When I looked into the problem that this competition was supposed to solve, I thought that it could be good to use this development power in another way. Mostly because it´s a challenging problem that I hope can attract some of the competent Linux developers out there. The task is to provide a Linux kernel modification that gives a more accurate worst-case execution time measurement taking into account cache effects.

What kind of expectations do you have with this competition?

First, I hope that the technical problem gets solved. At the same time, it would be nice if we could - through the competition- attract competent personnel by offering a work placement to the person who manages to solve the problem, or a person that actively contributes to the solution.

Is it common to compete within Linux or programming?

I´m not an expert, but I do know there are competitions around. For example, companies arrange competitions where the goal is to break security solutions for instance. Hackathons are also extremely popular right now in the ICT world.

You will market this competition at Linköping University during the Link-dagarna 27 November. Does it feel like there is a great interest among students to work at Saab?

Yes of course. My understanding is that Saab is an attractive company  among new graduates. We’ve got a history of innovation and problem solving, not to mention a great diversity in products and services that are really cutting edge, at the forefront of technology. The Gripen NG system is a great case in point. At the same time, we’re competing in a competitive job market, which can make it difficult to attract people with the qualifications and educational background needed. However, with competitions like this, hopefully we can connect with tomorrow’s talent.

The competition is open for EU-residents and the first prize is a flight in the Gripen simulator, including travel to Linköping and hotel accommodation.

Read more about the competition: https://github.com/christoffer-nylen/linux-kernel-hack-challenge

Read more about Link-dagarna: http://www.linkdagarna.se/new