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"Linux Gazette...making Linux just a little more fun!"

Linux Site O' The Month: SourceForge

By Sean Lamb

SourceForge (
"Breaking down the barriers to Open Source development"

What's This?

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.

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 categories include:

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

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