OSDC 2008

Half way through the conference (link),inclusive of one day Google Hackathon. A developer conference like this one offers a wide variety of characters and looks, some of them confirming the usual bias stereotype picture that non-techy people have of geeks, prgrammers and techies with long hairs and T-Shirts with some kind of IT related statement though. There are no ties and suits but lots of passionate guys (and few gals) following the various techy tracks. Amazing enough, I never saw so many people typing aways on some sort of shells and terminals on Linux or MAC Notebooks (Windoos?) during the session
and occasionally looking up and asking questions. There is also the usual religious discussions, views and jokes about the various OS and programming languages and specifically about open source against propietary software or companies supporting it or not.

On the first day, during the Google Hackathon, I get my hands dirty on Googles Social API, Google Maps and the Apps Engine. For the rest of the time there are at almost any time at least 3 different talks, sessions or presentations going on and to choose from. Some rather generic topics, some so narrow and focused on a certain feature, that you wont carry away a lot if you are not into it.
Among the highlight of this years conference so far were they keynotes by Larry Wall (the brain behind Perl, see Wikipedia link) and Chirs DiBona from Google California (handling some opensource related licensing stuff).
So bias we are occasionally towards developer and geeks, so much I enjoyed some of the very entertaining and teaching sessions, not to talk about the Lightning Talks which are an experience of a kind !

My Office Toolbox

In previous company I used usually (was asked to use) Microsoft Office, MS Visio and MS Project. In my current company I endeavor to use opensourece or free applications as far as possible.

Here the list of alternative products:

  • MS Visio turns into DIA (link)
  • MS Project turns into OpenWorkbench (link)
  • MS Office turns into OpenOffice (link)
  • Nothing turns into FreeMind (link)

I am not into the religious war of Microsoft is evil and dislike everything that comes from Redmond. NO, I use the products as well (and even have 1(!) proper license for MS Office and Visual Studio 2008), but I prefere to stay clean in terms of licenses and I need the above applications on a range of notebooks and desktop PC’s.

On SourceForge.net (Part 2)

I just released the latest version of my UUID Generator. Now as 0.3Beta, moving away from Alpha status. Not to sure what is the proper distinction between software in Alpha and Beta Stage. Despite the very limited amount of functionality my tool offers, it is still a good exercise to understand the logic of SF Open Source projects. I created feature requests, one of them is in the new release. Still observe the ranking, interesting enough in the second week it shot up to rank 998 then after a couple of days inactivity down to 2268. Now with the new release up to 1924. Guess it is the same like with blogs, you dont write, no visitors. With new entries visitors come back. Thanks 😉

I am browsing around SourceForge.net and check out other projects. Not sure how many projects are there in total, but there are many dead ones, also test rubbish with big title and ambitious description but no activity at all for months (years). I also notice that only serious projects do bugtracking and have a active forum. Almost no project offers documentation. Reflects a bit the real world though.

UUID Generator 0.3B

UUID Generator 0.3B

Project site at SF.net (link)

About Open Source

Working in the Software industry for the last 15 years I saw the nice and ugly sides of programming. For me the biggest challenge in software is to create and keep a team of talented and motivated developer who love their work. In bigger companies it is almost impossible to create a environment for this (with exceptions like  maybe Google). I always admired the quality of gaming software, seems here we have a high level of identification with company and product.

Back to the topic Open Source: It is astonishing what high level of quality Open Source Teams achieve without meeting each other and big management overhead, basically without spending money. I guess it is impossible to create such motivation in a private company ?!

If you are not really sure what OPEN SOURCE means, you better check the definition and limitation. A good starting point is the Open Source Initiative (link). Free software does not necessary mean free like in free beer !

You want to browse Open Source hosts with a myriad of projects ? Check out the links at the right side of this blog under OPEN SOURCE COLLABORATION.

The first Sourceforge project

I started my first project on Sourceforge.net, project title UUIDgen (link).  The very simple Java Swing application creates UUID’s on demand. Not really a big deal, since the basic packages are ready available in Java SE. Gather some experience with the process of creating releases, documentation and maintaining sourcecode in the open source context. Feel free to download the first release (requires installed JRE) or get the Netbeans 6.1 project.

UUIDgen Screenshot

UUIDgen Screenshot 0.1 Alpha



SCM – Sourcecode Management

In the beginning there was one developer and it was fine. Then someone decided to add a second developer to give the first one companionship and it was chaos.
I think every developer run at least once into the situation that someone else touched the same piece of sourcecode as he and faced the situation to merge the sourcecode. Sometimes possible and easy, sometimes impossible because 2 parties were working on the same module for months (for whatever reason causing this situation!). Lets ignore the organizational reason why more than 1 person does the same thing.

In the first company I ever worked in (15 years ago) we realized this is a problem and solved it manually by a simple homemade tool that locked (write-protect) certain source files on shared drive. Later we bought another 3rd party tool to do this job and finally we moved on to MS Sourcesafe in the late 90’s. It worked very well because we were only 3..5 developer sitting in the same physical location.

The next company I joined did the same, but bought a very expensive piece of SCM which did the same job for a considerable alrge number of developer at different sites. What happened ? The system was not very stable, at least from the moment we had no more fulltime admin, lot of downtimes happened and developer were not able to synch or commit changes. Individuals started to remove the write protection on their local sourcefiles and within of weeks there were numerous branches of sourcecode. And it was chaos.

Finally I decided to start development again and learn from previous mistakes. For SCM you have a selection of commercial and opensource products. To name 3 of them: CVS (link), Subversion (link) and Bazaar (link). You can download them and install them on your server (and potentially run into the trouble of administrating both hardware and software!). I came to the conclusion to buy this is a service from a reliable provider.

You might want to checkout this company (link)

I use their team subversion package. Subversion is integrated into Netbeans (link) and can be used with Windows Explorer with Tortoise as plugin (link).