• 2015-01-26 — 2015-05-13
  • Mon & Wed 5:00PM - 6:15PM
  • 4085.582.01
  • Orange Hall (ORN)-1375
  • remydcsi@rit.edu

First Flight

The purpose of this homework assignment is to introduce students to their first FLOSS practices. Read it in full, there are a number of graded deliverables.

The due-date is listed in the Syllabus.


IRC is one of the primary means of communication for a FOSS community, particularly for informal communication.

There is a course IRC channel on irc.freenode.net. The channel is #rit-foss. Communicating regularly in IRC factors into the FOSS Dev Practices component of your final grade.


It is a good practice to “hang out” in IRC channels of projects that you use and especially of projects that you contribute to. Here you can find early alerts regarding any upcoming major changes or security vulnerabilities. It is also the easiest (lowest overhead) method for getting your questions answered.


Only for the brave – if you want to be completely awesome, you can setup a proxy node so you are always logged in. People can leave you messages this way.

If you want to be completely completely awesome, you can setup BitlBee so you can tweet from your IRC client.


Discussion mailing lists are a more formal mechanism of communication for FOSS projects. More formal than IRC, less formal than bug trackers. Discussion mailing lists are often used to ask questions, announce upcoming releases and beta tests, and to debate redesigns and refactors. The advantage here is that mailing lists are typically archived and indexed by Google; discussions that should be preserved for posterity should occur here. Upstream projects usually have an existing mailing list where messages of these sort are to be posted.


Setup a blog if you don’t have one. Much like mailing lists, blogs are archived, indexed by Google, and therefore preserved for posterity. When you encounter a technical challenge, typically you google for a solution and you typically find that solution in a blog post of some developer who has run into a similar situation. Blogging about your attempts, successes and failures (and writing tutorials!) is a best practice for increasing the general body of searchable knowledge available, for increasing the Wisdom of the Ancients.

Blogs around a topic are also typically aggregated by a planet (an RSS feed aggregator). This way, all developers blogging about Project X can have their blog posts fast-tracked to a readership subscribed to Planet X. For instance, here’s a link to Planet Python.

The Planet for the course may be hosted at some point in the future at http://yacht.rit.edu/planet.

You must create a blog (if you don’t have one already) and write at least one post per week about your progress, attempts, successes, failures, reflections, and/or all of the above.


  1. Create a blog if you don’t already have one. There are lots of free services available. You might try http://wordpress.com or http://blogspot.com, or even http://foss.rit.edu.
  2. Write an introductory post, detailing the process you went through to complete the FirstFlight assignment.


Attention Wordpress Users! By default Wordpress will limit the number of posts that are listed in the RSS feed to 10. This will create an issue roughly halfway through the term when you are supposed to have more than 10 blog posts. In order to fix this issue you must take the following steps.

  1. Log in to your Wordpress Administration Site
  2. Go to Settings
  3. Go to Reading
  4. Set "Syndication feeds show the most recent"


Code forges are service sites around which FOSS development orbits, some of the more popular sites are github, bitbucket, sourceforge, and launchpad.

For your own enlightenment, review the following comparisons of the different forges:

You’ll need to create your own account on github.com. All development for this course should be tracked on that forge. Github is, after all, the most popular forge.


  1. Create a Github account if you don’t already have one.

Upload an Avatar

This is optional (but appreciated). Humans identify with faces more than they do nicknames (surprise!), so go ahead and associate an avatar that'll automatically show up in GitHub, the course web site, and other places around the web.


Gravatar is now owned by Automattic, who also make WordPress. Go to their site and create a WordPress account (or use one you have already) and make sure your RIT email is in there.


Libravatar is a free equivalent to Gravatar and has the advantage of not requiring a WordPress.com account. Head over to their New Account page and link up your email address with a picture.

Patch the Course Project

Check out the source repository for this course; it’s hosted at http://github.com/decause/hfoss.

Inside the repository, we’ll keep an index of all the students in the course and metadata about them (you!).


  • Load up the git cheatsheet at Zack Rusin's blog and keep it nearby.
  • Work through this git tutorial if you don’t have any experience with git.
  • Fork the repository (link to github help on this).
  • Clone a local copy.
  • Add a file in the /scripts/people/$YEAR/$TERM folder titled $YOUR_IRC_NICK.yaml. Perhaps obviously, it is a YAML file. You can use the rjbpop.yaml file as an example. You will want to make sure that you have $TERM in all lowercase. For example a student in HFOSS fall of 2014 would have their YAML file in the /scripts/people/2014/fall folder.
    BE WARNED: Your .yaml file must match the format *exactly* (meaning it is case and whitespace sensitive.)
    CRUFTY: There is a people.yaml file in that directory. It is a legacy hangover from older code. Do not bother editing it. It will actually make merges more difficult. The .yaml file contains a name field, which will be used to refer to you publicly. Feel free to use a nickname or just your first name if you prefer.
  • Once you've confirmed your .yaml file matches exactly, commit and push your changes to github, and issue a pull request.
  • Once the patch is accepted upstream and pushed to production, this should add your blog feed to the Participants page.)