There are moments in anyone’s life that seem mundane at the time, but become pivotal in retrospect: that chance meeting of your spouse, or the job you applied for on a lark, or the inspirational course that you just stumbled upon.
For me, one of those moments was in late December, 1993. I was a sophomore in college, waiting in Chicago O’Hare for a connecting flight home to Denver for the winter break, reading an issue of the late Byte magazine dedicated to operating systems. At the time, I had just completed what would prove to be the most intense course of my college career — Brown’s (in)famous CS169 — and the magazine contained an article on a very interesting microkernel-based operating system called QNX. The article, written by the late, great Dan Hildebrand, was exciting: we had learned about microkernels in CS169 (indeed, we had implemented one) and here was one running in the wild, solving real, hard problems. I was inspired. When I returned to school, I cold e-mailed Dan and asked about the possibilites of summer employment. Much to my surprise, he responded! When I returned to school in January, Dan and QNX co-founder Dan Dodge gave me an intense phone interview — and then offered me work for the summer. I worked at QNX (based in Kanata, outside of Ottawa) that summer, and then came back the next. While I didn’t end up working for QNX after graduation, I have always thought highly of the company, the people — and especially the technology.
So you can imagine that for me, it’s a unique pleasure — and an an odd sort of homecoming — to announce that DTrace is being ported to QNX. In my DTrace talk at Google I made passing reference (at about 1:11:53) to one “other system” that DTrace was being ported to, but that I was not at liberty to mention which. Some speculated that this “surely” must be Windows — so hopefully the fact that it was QNX will serve to remind that it’s a big heterogeneous world out there. So, to Colin Burgess and Thomas Fletcher at QNX: congratulations on your fine work. And to QNX’ers: welcome to the DTrace community!
Now, with the drinks poured and the toasts made, I must confess that this is also a moment colored by some personal sadness, for I would love nothing more right now than to call up danh, chat about the exciting prospects for DTrace on QNX, and reminisce about the many conversations over our shared cube wall so long ago. (And if nothing else, I would kid him about his summer-of-1994 enthusiasm for Merced!) Dan, you are sorely missed…