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Open Source Software

The Cathedral and the Bazaar

I continue to become more interested in approaches to developing software the open source way. In our Ultralab community we are currently debating what constitutes true open source software, something Ultralab aspires to do, but we aren't there yet and there is lots yet to learn and comprehend.

I re-read the The Cathedral and the Bazaar, an interesting set of articles which explains Eric Steven Raymond's experience of modeling his own software development project on the Linux model of evolution. You might find it interesting too....


I anatomize a successful open-source project, fetchmail, that was run as a deliberate test of the surprising theories about software engineering suggested by the history of Linux. I discuss these theories in terms of two fundamentally different development styles, the "cathedral'' model of most of the commercial world versus the "bazaar'' model of the Linux world.

I show that these models derive from opposing assumptions about the nature of the software-debugging task. I then make a sustained argument from the Linux experience for the proposition that "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow'', suggest productive analogies with other self-correcting systems of selfish agents, and conclude with some exploration of the implications of this insight for the future of software.

Core Breakfast Seminar - Open Source tools

I presented a seminar about Open Source software tools today at one of Core's Breakfast Seminars. I was warmed by the enthusiasm shown by the attendees, some of whom I recognised from last years' NAVCON conference where I presented several workshops. The participants included school principals, teachers, ICT technicians, software developers and some folk from local commerce.

We attempted a SubEthaEdit session as a means to collect information about participants, their professional interests and what they were hoping to gain from the seminar. A few issues arose with that, which is a lesson to never assume everything will work just fine even though I've had very successful experiences many times previous.

I progressed by talking about what open source tools are out there - you can see those I mentioned in my presentation, I used webnote as the tool of choice.... it means I can present, finish and leave my presentation available for the participants to follow up later. It all works.

An interesting discussion was held about the proprietary vs. inhouse (custom developed tools) vs. open source arguments - some valid points raised here. One question centred around what support there is for users of Open source software when the going gets tough and the technology fails at a critical moment. Typically there is no call-out or telephone support, so what happens then? It was interesting to note that some participants had experienced fast responses from open source communities with solutions and fixes, some not necessarily from the development team but from the user-base.

A good discussion was held about the challenge of appropriating a range of tools and how these could be tied together is becoming an ever increasing issue we need to solve. Single sign-on, LDAP are becoming more and more essential as time passes by. It was clear the same pain was felt by many participants in the room. Where is the solution? Why hasn't a tool which empowers users to do this without needing a computer science degree been developed yet?

Hopefully participants left with ideas for what tools they have at their disposal and a greater understanding of integrating open source solutions in their workplaces.

Thanks go to Vince, Krissie, Stephen Powell, and Jedd for their assistance with making all this happen.

Success! with Plone and Feedparser

Today (Friday) ended with the perfect start to the weekend. After weeks of misery, (well, okay, it wasn't that bad was it Richard?) together we solved the issue with Universal Feed Parser working as a module within Zope (Plone) using Python. Firstly, what is Feed Parser?

Feed Parser is a Python module that downloads and parses or processes RSS, Atom and CDF syndicated feeds. The Feed Parser module gives Zope (Plone) the ability to bring RSS feeds from external sources into its environment. So as we gear ourselves up for releasing the new Ultralab website, this is a significant step forward.

Our problems stemmed from an error message which Plone reported whenever we tried to access the Feed Parser module...

import of feedparser is unauthorized error message

This error only affects Mac OS X Server that has multiple versions / instances of Python installed. What we have discovered is that the Feed Parser module was installed using a version / instance of Python running on the server which was different to the version / instance that Zope and Plone use. A key learning moment is understanding that Zope modules must be installed using the same version of Python as the Zope environment is using.

Take a look at a sneak preview of the new website.

Zope / Plone rewrite rule

Notes on how to apply Apache / Plone rewrite rule to allow Plone to serve using a non standard port to a standard port (80)

... the sort of thing you do once in a blue moon.

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