Think about the last time you were frustrated by a computer software problem. Now, imagine that you could simply elect to fix the problem yourself. Back in 2014, that’s exactly what happened to Distillery Full Stack Developer Anton Fedchin (afedchin).
Fedchin had been searching for a solution to house his wide range of media. When he found the Xbox Media Center (XBMC), now known as Kodi, he was excited that the open source media player seemed to meet his requirements. As he quickly found, however, it had some significant bugs and issues. So Fedchin decided to fix them. Fast-forward to 2018, when he’s made a significant contribution to the reworking of Kodi to fit the needs of today’s platforms and devices.
Open Source Shows Us What a Wonderful World It Can Be
For the average person, software problems are something to be endured. They annoy us and infuriate us, but there’s not much we can do beyond hitting "submit" on those error reports. For talented, motivated developers like Fedchin, it can be a very different story.
Open source projects like Kodi let developers work together, harnessing their collective knowledge to continually make software better. Anyone with specific, relevant knowledge about a technology can participate in development, helping to fix bugs and issues. They can also provide helpful and timely end user feedback about software, sometimes in real time.
Fedchin views open source as crucially important to the future of software. Open source initiatives embrace the open exchange of ideas, fostering collaboration, transparency, ongoing innovation, and community-building. Fedchin points to the Linux kernel, a computer operating system kernel deployed on billions of devices worldwide, as an impressive example. According to the 2017 Linux Kernel Development Report, it’s the "largest collaborative project in the history of computing." Since 2005, when Git made tracking possible, approximately 15,600 developers from 1,400+ companies have contributed to the kernel. The world’s 500 most powerful computer systems all run Linux, relying on the collaborative efforts of 15,600 developers and counting. In other words, when the world’s developers work together, they can create some seriously solid systems.
Kodi Gets by — with a Little Help from Its Developer Friends
Present-day Kodi owes a great debt to the tireless development efforts of dozens of developers like Fedchin. Kodi supports most of the popular platforms and operating systems, including iOS, Android, Windows, Linux, and Raspberry Pi. (It was also developed for Windows 10 Mobile, but that version won’t see release, given Microsoft has dropped development of it.) The highly customizable Kodi media player helps you organize your video, audio, and image files in a useful way. Via the official add-on, it also supports use of popular streaming services such as Netflix.
When Fedchin first began working on Kodi, he’d never before participated in an open source project. However, after he’d submitted a couple of pull requests to the XBMC mainline, XBMC’s Keith Herrington sent him an invite to join Team XBMC. Fedchin accepted, eager for the new experience.
Working on Kodi over the years, Fedchin has helped with overall project development, adding new features, and fixing bugs related to the Windows platform. He completely reworked the DirectX part of Kodi, allowing use of stereoscoping 3D video output and the modern DirectX 11 API (instead of the obsolete V9). In addition, last year, working with a Microsoft engineer, Fedchin worked on porting Kodi to the Universal Windows Platform (UWP) to allow Kodi to be installed on the Xbox.
Though it had long been a dream to get Kodi running on newer Xboxes, Team XBMC initially thought it was too complex an effort to be realistic. They worried Kodi had simply become too complex to port over. Working in top-secret conditions with Microsoft — so as to not get everyone’s hopes up, should the effort fail — Fedchin and his team completed the work that would make the dream a reality. They painstakingly converted and picked apart the Windows-specific code, slowly converting it to UWP specs. By late 2017, the UWP code was merged into the master Kodi code base. Test builds began and the team continues to improve the UWP version for the Xbox. (For more specifics, check out the full story.)
"It’s been very cool to work in such a team," Fedchin explains. "The most important thing I’ve learned is to work effectively in a fully international team. There are different time zones, different languages, and different types of people. I’ve also learned C++, DirectX, UWP, modern design methods, and lots of other things." He’s certain the experience has helped him to be more effective in serving Distillery’s clients, including bringing his enhanced collaborative and technical skills to clients like Syncplicity.
The Future of Open Source is so Bright, We’ve Gotta Wear Shades
Here at Distillery, we’re excited about the future of open source development. Like Fedchin, we believe that open source makes software — and the worldwide development community — yet stronger. By harnessing the power of our collective experience, we remove the barriers to what we can achieve.
Want to learn more about Distillery’s superstar team of developers? Let us know!
Ekaterina Kudievskaia is excited to be part of Distillery’s marketing team. With a background in education, operations, and sales, she’s known as a proven problem-solver, team-builder, and collaborator. A sucker for sushi, coffee and any dessert with whipped cream on it.