"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"
Linux Site O' The Month: SourceForge
"Breaking down the barriers to Open Source development"
This article is the the current installment in an ongoing series of site
reviews for the Linux community. Each month, I will highlight a Linux-related
site and tell you all about it. The intent of these articles is to let you
know about sites that you might not have been to before, but they will all have
to do with some aspect of Linux. Now, on with the story...
So you wanna be a developer...
Now that you've got your Linux box up and running the way you like it, it's
time to start building that killer app. But where do you start? You've got
an idea, and you've already written some code but you're not giving back to the
community until you've released your code for the world to see.
To get your project out, and to get the feedback that is so essential to help
find bugs and get feature suggestions, you need to first create a project
website. It would be nice to build this site with php and mySQL so you can
add news items through a web form rather than rewriting the page everytime
you wanted to post a little tidbit. You'd also like your project site to
have a short and simple URL, rather than stretching to Timbuktu and back,
peppered with tildes. Your project site needs to link to a download location
where users can get a copy of your code, and you'll need a place to put the
app for the users to download. Next, you need to create mailing lists for
your users and, if you're getting some coding help, your co-developers. Some
of those web forums would be nice too. Then you remember the old adage
"release early and often" and you wonder how you can get your code out to the
masses quicker after you've made changes.
Whew! That's a pretty tall order for some of the smaller projects. How do
all these developers find the time, servers and money to do all this? One
answer that is becoming more popular is SourceForge.
Project administration for the masses
SourceForge brings all of these plus more features together into one location,
and then gives away these services for free to Open Source projects. Projects
hosted at SourceForge receive:
You may be thinking that you don't need everything that's included to host
your project. Perhaps all you need for your little script is a website.
Well, then just use the website portion of the service. Projects are not
required to use all of the services available at all times. They can use only
the services that they need and let the rest sit until they are needed.
- 100Mb of web space on a server that features php, perl and cgi support.
- mySQL database support.
- a short default URL, http://yourproject.sourceforge.net, and hosting
for any properly registered domain name.
- multiple mailing list administration and hosting.
- working CVS repository; not just a branch in a public CVS tree, but your
- anonymous FTP space for package releases.
- web-based project administration.
- public and private bug trackers.
- public and private discussion forums.
- daily backups with offsite rotation.
The great unwashed masses need only a web browser and an internet connection
to get to your project site at SourceForge. The portions that you make public
in your project hosting are available to everyone. The people you designate
as developers connect to your project account with ssh1 (note, ssh2 is not yet
supported at the time this was written), so security is less of a problem.
Who's doing this and why?
SourceForge is sponsored by VA Linux Systems. VA is paying for the whole
shebang, so project admins don't need to add a ton of ad banners to their
sites to help support the servers (only a small SourceForge logo is required
on project pages. The site's About page answers the why question:
"As open source developers ourselves, we have run into the kinds of obstacles
that still plague many would-be developers. It was our intent to remove many
of those obstacles and let developers focus on software development. (An odd
concept, but easier to get used to than you'd think.) A suite of tools isn't
enough, though. In the end, you need the hardware power for the whole setup."
The list of projects already hosted at SourceForge is impressive. The current
- Communications (126 projects)
- Database (48 projects)
- Desktop Environment (59 projects)
- Education (34 projects)
- Emulators (5 projects)
- Games/Entertainment (160 projects)
- Internet (169 projects)
- Multimedia (163 projects)
- Office/Business (29 projects)
- Other/Nonlisted Topic (34 projects)
- Printing (12 projects)
- Religion (6 projects)
- Scientific (86 projects)
- Security (22 projects)
- Software Development (174 projects)
- System (166 projects)
- Terminals (12 projects)
- Text Editors (30 projects)
So sign up already!
With all of these features and services in one place, and to get them all for
free for open source projects, it's easy to see why so many projects have
already signed up. In case you're wondering, the first project to be hosted
at SourceForge is SourceForge.
Copyright © 2000, Sean Lamb
Published in Issue 53 of Linux Gazette, May 2000