Kieran Grant works in IT support for a financial services company but unabashedly aspires to be a Linux SysAdmin and, someday, a kernel developer. After using and hacking Linux for five years, the 19-year-old from Logan City in Queensland, Australia is well on his way to achieving that goal.
His love of machines and “anything mathematical” led him to first start learning assembly code using the MS-DOS debug program. He switched to Linux because it meant he could “learn how a real OS worked, straight from the source code,” and it helped him learn C programming. At the time, he had a slow Internet connection and low usage limit so his first distribution was SimpleMEPIS -- a dated version he bought on eBay.
After finishing high school he earned a TAFE diploma in IT Networking and went to work with his brother, Ryan, at Wealth & Retirement Solutions in Brisbane as an IT support consultant.
“I'm currently hacking together scripted templates for their online-based database system (Xplan from Iress) using a variant of Python (XMerge Code for XPlan),” he said via email.
When he can, he practices Linux networking in a virtual environment using KVM accelerated Qemu running a variety of Linux distros including CentOS, Fedora, and Ubuntu. He works in a virtual network that varies from using IPv4 forwarding – “I love playing with IPTables,” -- to using tun devices.
“I love the fact that still, in 2013, I can write a script or do something on the CLI that can be done faster then *ANY* GUI,” he said. “And also, working on a Linux terminal, tapping away changes or tests to IPTables to set up a NAT router, to changing it to have a non-NAT full fledge router with DHCP, DNS and anything else in between. What's not to love?”
As a side project, he’s trying to get a minimal bootstrapped Linux system running on either a virtual environment or on his PowerPC iMac “from source, to see how minimal one can go, and what can be done to enhance security.”
Take a Linux router, for example, he says. “One can have the minimum hardware, and either have all "modules" in-kernel, and then disable module loading, or maybe have a minimum set that is signed, and force signature requirement for loading.
“This is something I am keen on as I am really interested in using Linux routers instead of spending loads of money on some big-brand router,” he said.
While he already uses his Linux desktop as a Linux router for his PowerPC Ubuntu box, he’s hoping this project will help him better appreciate the different parts of the system and how to enhance security and reduce response time.
At the same time, he’s working on another side project using straight native C programs for writing CGI scripts for web servers. “Why wait for the overhead of an interpreter when you can run straight machine code!” he said. He’ll be writing programs that use only the C Library on top of the kernel itself, with the goal of keeping it POSIX compliant for portability.
New Linux Foundation member
Kieran recently joined the Linux Foundation as an individual member because he believes Linux is the best environment for producing open, free and creative work.
“It will also allow me to better participate in the Linux community and to be able to continue learning about Linux and the awesome things that can be done,” he said, “and hopefully it will help in finding a job in a Linux environment.”
Welcome to the Linux Foundation, Kieran!
Editor's Note: From June 3-30, 2013, new individual members of The Linux Foundation will receive a 50 percent discount off of their choice of LinuxCon/CloudOpen North America  or LinuxCon/CloudOpen Europe . Join the Linux Foundation: https://www.linuxfoundation.org/about/join/individual