Today is Ada Lovelace Day, named for the world's first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace. It's interesting to me that while the first programmer was a woman, and all of the ENIAC programmers were women, there are so many more men than women in technology fields nowadays. Ada Lovelace Day is a day to highlight women who rock in the tech world. Since here in FOSS-land, the FLOSSPOLS survey reports that only 2% of developers are women, compared to 28% in the commercial sector, I decided to write about a Linux kernel hacker: Valerie Aurora.
By default, Ubuntu uses the "relatime" mount option. It decreases the number of metadata writes on ext3. It turns out, Valerie created relatime because one of our friends discovered that Mutt couldn't tell which mailboxes had new mail when using noatime.
I think she really loves (or hates?) fsck. I can't tell which. She's responsible for some patches that shorten the amount of time needed to fsck an ext2 partition, along one that gets a 50% improvement on RAID 5 systems with ext3 and ext4. She also worked on a new filesystem architecture called ChunkFS. The goal of ChunkFS is to deal with the fact that as hard drives get bigger, fsck times get longer. She wants to be able to fsck smaller parts of the filesystem at different times, to avoid day-long fscks in the future. The white paper is interesting. And yes, she wrote a working prototype. Oh, and you know ZFS? The filesystem from Sun? She worked on that too, back during the architecture phase.
It's not all filesystems though. She's got patches in libc to make malloc() more efficient. She worked on the TCP/IP stack. She was the maintainer for SMP PowerPC support in Linux. Device drivers? Done that too. She's done it all.
She's not keeping that knowledge locked up though. Not by a long stretch. She's spent countless hours mentoring. She taught Linux kernel development classes at IBM, and she was even kind enough to teach kernel hacking classes for LinuxChix (on the old site). One time, she held a real-time kernel development Q&A session on the LinuxChix IRC server. She also
used to writes "Kernel Hackers' Bookshelf" for Linux Weekly News
Valerie was one of the first people I met in LinuxChix. Immediate first impression? Wow, she's smart. Second impression? Don't mess with her. She's tough. You may have seen her HowTo Encourage Women in Linux write-up. If not, check it out. Possibly, you said something that offended someone and were directed to it. If that did happen, I hope you read it. It's the link everyone uses for those situations.
Valerie Anita Aurora was once known as Val Henson, but she recently changed her name. She chose the middle name "Anita" after Anita Borg, a computer scientist that strove to encourage women in technology fields. Pretty cool name change, eh? Just bringing this up in case "wait, that sounds like Val Henson..." was on your mind.