MirageOS Hackathon

Gemma Gordon edited this page Apr 20, 2016 · 6 revisions

Hackathon Trip Reports

A huge thanks to everyone who documented their hackathon experience!

MirageOS hackathon in Marrakech

Text and images by Enguerrand Decorne

Setting up and settling in

The first MirageOS hackathon was held from March 11th-16th 2016, at Priscilla, Queen of the Medina, Marrakech. It successfully gathered around 30 Mirage enthusiasts, some already familiar with the MirageOS ecosystem, and others new to the community. People travelled from Europe and further afield for a week of sun, tajine and hacking.

Main room

Getting to the guesthouse was an adventure, and once there we prepared by quickly setting up a nice internet hotspot then organised groups to head to the souk to meet new arrivals. Soon enough the guest house was filled with people, and various new projects and ideas began to emerge. Having a few books and experienced OCaml developers around helped the OCaml newcomers get stuck in, and it didn't take long to get their first unikernel or OCaml library up and running. Daily meetings were arranged at noon on the rooftop in order to allow the exchange of project ideas and questions, and we used the hackathon notepad to loosely pair projects and people together. Our DHCP server enabled extensive dogfooding and successfully fulfilled our project-testing needs.

Participants found a wide range of activities to keep themselves occupied during the event: contributing to the MirageOS Pioneer Projects, starting new projects and libraries, improving the MirageOS ecosystem and core components, discussing new ideas... or simply enjoying the sun, delicious tajine, or walking around Marrakech itself. Some expeditions were also (non)organised during the week, allowing sightseeing of the nicest local spots, or negotiating with local stallholders to get the best prices on souvenirs and fresh fruits to enjoy during hard hacking sessions.


My week inside the camel's nest

A few days before heading up to Marrakech (in a very non-organised fashion, having been offered a hackathon place only two days before!) the idea of writing some kind of notebook using Mirage had been floating around - we wanted to be able to allow people inside the hackathon to exchange ideas, and those not physically present to be kept updated about progress. I decided to write a simple blog unikernel, Canopy which relies on Irmin's capabilities to synchronise remote git repositiories. By describing new pages in a format similar to Jekyll (and using Markdown) on a git repository, new content pushed there would be pulled to the website and displayed there nicely. This allowed every participant to report on their current projects, and see the content displayed on the notepad after a simple git push.

The project was well received and new ideas started to emerge in order to turn it into a CMS enabling users to easily describe new website with a simple git repository. A huge thank you to Michele for his awesome contributions, as well as everyone involved with answering questions about the Mirage ecosystem along the way. This project also allowed me to dive a little further inside various libraries, report a few issues, discuss features and discover new concepts... A week well spent that I would be glad to repeat at the next MirageOS hackathon :)



This hackathon was a huge success and allowed the MirageOS community to combine sun and high productivity in a crazy yet very relaxing week. We hope (and plan) to see more events like this, so anyone interested in OCaml, Mirage - expert or not - is more than welcome to join us next time!


MirageOS + OCaml Newcomers

by Alfredo and Sonia

Our experience in Marrakesh was great. We really enjoyed the place, the weather, the food, the people and the atmosphere! I think the setting was a great win, there was lot of open space where you could find a quiet spot for yourself to concentrate while programming, as well as a place with lots of people coding, or a place where you could be talking about anything while enjoying the sun, or just hang out and get lost for a while in the nice Marrakesh's old city.

We had already learnt some OCaml, but we both are quite new to both OCaml and MirageOS, so we decided to work on a project with low entry barrier so we could get in the loop more easily. Nevertheless we had to invest some time getting more familiar with the specifics of the OCaml environment (libraries, packaging, testing frameworks, etc.). Hannes kindly helped us getting started, showing us a library (ocaml-hkdf) we could use to understand this all better, and from here we could start writing some code. Having most of the authors (Thomas, David, Hannes...) of the libraries we used (nocrypto, cstruct, alcotest, opam...) there with us was also a win. Finally we managed to release a pair of libraries with key derivation functions (ocaml-pbkdf and ocaml-scrypt-kdf), so we are quite happy with the outcome.

The only downside of the hackathon we can think of, if any, is that we didn't get too deep into the MirageOS specifics (something we are surely willing to fix!), but we wanted to stay focused to keep productive and had enough new things to learn.

Hackathon Projects

by Ximin Luo

Here's a list of things I did during the hackathon:

  • Read into ocaml-tls and ocaml-otr implementations, as well as David's "nqsb" TLS paper
  • Talked with David about developing a general pattern for implementing protocols, that allows one to compose components more easily and consistently. He pointed me to many resources that I could learn from and build on top of.
  • Read documents on "Extensible Effects", "Freer Monads" and "Iteratee pattern" by Oleg Kiselyov.
  • Read documents and source code of the Haskell Pipes library by Gabriel Gonzalez.
  • Sent some PRs to Hannes' jackline IM client, for better usability under some graphical environments.
  • Showed some people my ocaml-hello "minimal build scripts" example, and my ocaml emacs scripts.
  • Tested the "solo5" system that runs mirageos on kvm as an alternative to xen.

I'm continuing with the following work in my spare time:

  • Read documents and source code of the opam monadlib library with a view to extending this and unifying it with other libraries such as lwt.
  • Using the approach of the Haskel Pipes library to develop a general protocol handler framework. I'm experimenting initially in Haskell but I'd also like to do it in OCaml when the ideas are more solid.

In terms of the event it was great - everything worked out very well, I don't have any suggestions for improvements :)

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