Volunteering and getting involved
Does managing large Linux systems sound interesting? Or perhaps getting your hands dirty with servers and hardware? Or even programming web apps and Python libraries? Whatever your interest in tech is, there's definitely a place for you in the SRCF.
Due to the technical nature of our activities, there are many misconceptions about volunteering. Keep the following in mind!
There are no technical prerequisites
Linux, computing and programming are understandably somewhat spooky to the general public. However at the SRCF, we believe in fostering a friendly community regardless of skill. If you've got some prior experience in any area in tech, great! If not, we'll gladly help you get up to speed. There are also plenty of non-technical ways to help the SRCF.
Anyone can contribute
People often think we're mostly Computer Science Tripos students. The reality is that a diverse community of ages, subjects and nationalities volunteer at the SRCF. In fact, CST students are in the minority!
By students for students
The SRCF was formed in 1999 to provide services which the University Administration could not. We empower students to learn and run their own IT. If there's something you'd like to change or see, tell us, or better yet... get involved and make it!
Ways to get involved
Join the online community
This is where members of the SRCF community come to chat, hang out and discuss ideas. Pick a platform of choice, we bridge all of them.
Express your interest
There is no "application process" -- anyone is free to contribute whenever they can but if you fill out the form below, we can get in touch with you directly.
Contribute to software
Most components of our operation are public on GitHub. Feel free to open an issue, or better yet, a pull request with your proposed changes.
What does volunteering look like?
Being a volunteer is an open-ended role with as much or as little commitment as you wish. A few things our volunteers do are:
Upkeep and maintenance of public servers
We run several publicly-facing servers that are used by over 1000 people. The general purpose shell server,
pip and our web server
sinkhole, for example, need constant maintenance. Other responsibilities include ensuring safe upgrades of Ubuntu to latest versions, managing virtualization of these servers and much more. This is a great opportunity for those interested in managing large Linux systems (NIS, Debian packaging) and networking (DNS, NFS).
Managing and running services
Apart from our core services, we run several other more complex services such as Mattermost and BigBlueButton. For anyone interested in gaining or improving their Linux, networking and software skills, running a service is a great chance to do so.
Over the years, SRCF volunteers have produced software such as our control panel, Goose (our authentication service), and our own Python library. If you're interested in programming, this is a great chance to learn and improve your coding skills in a production context.
Tinkering with hardware
The SRCF runs its own servers located in the University. These need to be wired and connected to the Cambridge University Data Network, have their CPUs and associated firmware occasionally upgraded, and be managed for virtualization via Xen. In addition, we sometimes swap out hardware for newer boxes that are donated to us. For those interested in more low-level computing applications, this is a great chance to get a glimpse of "the cloud" that is ever-popular.
Answering support questions
There are many users that simply have questions about how to use our services, how to run their own software, or general computing questions. Volunteers can join a mailing list where they can answer user support questions. This is a great opportunity to learn more about our setup and computing in general while helping others.
We all appreciate great documentation so we are committed to writing the best documentation for our users. Historically, many SRCF services have not been properly documented, however. Help us maintain our current docs up to date, write missing documentation for our services and our software.