February 12, 2002

Grad Student Wins IBM Scholar Challenge

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Rimon Barr grad was one of the 25 winners worldwide of the IBM (International Business Machines, Inc.) Linux Scholar Challenge. More than 1,400 entries were received from 669 universities. Barr developed a program called “rImap,” in which users can synchronize their e-mail.

The contest called for students to formulate projects using the open source Linux operating system. Projects required creating an application or tools that would enhance the Linux system, along with increasing its user-friendliness.

Barr was familiar with information about the Linux operating system, and commented on its usefulness.

“Linux is an operating system, like [Microsoft] Windows. One guy started [Linux] and gave it away for free,” Barr said. “Since then, many other people all over the world added features, and it’s still free.”

“If there’s something wrong with Linux, people fix it. If there’s a feature needed, someone eventually writes it. … Linux is not easy enough yet to be used by a novice user. But upgrades are free; you don’t have to pay for new versions,” he added.

The panel of judges consisted of IBM technologists. They considered the entries based on qualities such as creativity and usefulness. The winners each received IBM ThinkPad laptop computers.

“We’re working to encourage a generation of students who have adopted Linux to make key contributions to the open source community,” stated Steve Solazzo, vice president of Linux at IBM, in a press release. “IBM is strongly committed to Linux, the open source community, and open standards.”

Barr discussed the impact of the contest on Linux users.

“It encourages people to learn to program and to write real software that others can use,” he said.

One IBM official commented on the large response the competition generated.

“The overwhelming response to the Linux Scholar Challenge proves how deeply Linux is entrenched in the university community worldwide,” said Irving Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of technology and strategy at IBM in a press release. “The open source community thrives on new thinking and initiative.”

Barr had constructed an application that resolved a problem he had with his own e-mail, and he decided to enter the program he wrote as a solution into the competition.

“I had a problem that I was trying to solve, so I wrote a small program for myself. I wrote some software that would help synchronize my e-mail,” he said. “Then, I learned about the contest, and that my program was appropriate. I added some features, fixed it up, and submitted it.”

Barr commented that users of his program could adjust the program to be used with different e-mail applications.

“Currently, it works with my e-mail setup, but … others can extend it. People can write code and insert it into my program to make it work with their e-mail programs,” Barr said.

“In fact, people are already using my program. Some people downloaded it and sent me suggestions and bug reports. I’ve fixed those bugs and implemented some of their suggestions,” he added.

Archived article by Kelly Samuels