If you see Jeff Luszcz on the train platform clutching a nondescript paper bag, it might contain a hard drive that has all the code of a multinational company on it. Or it might just contain his lunch. There’s no telling. In his last gig, Jeff, who recently joined PEAK6 as the company’s first-ever director of open source, built a database cataloging every piece of existing open source. And he used it to help companies identify all the open-source code they were using to prevent potential security and compliance disasters. Here’s what Jeff shared about earthquake preparedness, open-source weather tracking with his daughter, and the humbling experience of learning to 3D print.
My dad was a mechanical engineer and my mom was a nurse, so our house was always filled with technical books or equipment of some sort. I was lucky to get put in the “computer math” class in 6th grade and really fell in love with programming and technology.
Proud Tech Accomplishment
To address that challenge, I helped found and build out one of the first Software Composition Analysis companies (Palamida). The company took the idea: “how can we find and manage open-source libraries?” and turned it into an actual company and product. That involved learning so many different technologies, from FORTRAN to Go. We created a massive database of every piece of open source in the world, and then we would scan source code and figure out what was open source.
I used to help companies perform their open-source due diligence before they acquired a company. This involved getting the entire source-code base to billion-dollar companies and performing a code review to look for open-source license problems or security issues. There was one time I needed to take a one-hour train ride on the BART, meet the target company’s VP of Engineering on the train platform, receive a paper bag with a giant USB hard drive, and quickly return to the office to start the project. It must have looked like something out of a spy movie!
Just for Fun
My family got me a 3D printer for Christmas, which is a little like being given a puppy! I’ve been learning about how to do 3D modeling, the lingo, and getting it all set up. It’s a humbling experience, and it can take a lot of iteration and failures to get something good out of it. I’m looking forward to building some interesting projects and my kids desperately want me to “print baby Yoda!” Also, my family has really taken to boogie boarding and a little bit of surfing in the last year. It’s been nice to get out of the Zoom Room and experience nature with my wife and kids.
This year my daughters and I put together a Raspberry Pi based receiver for the NOAA weather satellites using the SatNogs project, a global network of open-source satellite ground stations that track hundreds of satellites around the world. This is a project that lets you use a Raspberry Pi, a $20 USB radio dongle, and an antenna made from a metal coat hanger to schedule and decode observations from weather satellites. It’s a little like fishing; you try your best to figure out what satellite you have the best chance of capturing and then let the software try its best when that satellite goes over. My youngest would rush to check the weather maps that got captured during the night to see if we caught a good one.
Tech for Good
Living in San Francisco, the threat of an earthquake is always looming in our minds. For the past 20 years I’ve helped with the NERT program in the Bay Area. This is a group of people who get basic training by the Fire Department on how to respond after a serious earthquake or other natural disaster. As part of this program, I teach people in the community how to communicate using radio and have been helping to set up an emergency microwave Mesh Network that can help in case the power and internet go down.
Best Part of My Job
I love the helping people understand the intricacies of working with open source, solving security and license problems, and bridging the gaps that sometimes can appear between engineering, legal and security. It’s also great helping to take a piece of technology and get it in a state that it can be open sourced and shared with the world.
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