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

Interview with SourceForge's Quentin Cregan:
Wait a minute, Sir! What about that forgotten Open Source project on your hard disk?

By Fernando Ribeiro Corrêa
Originally published at OLinux

Quentin Cregan is one of the key developers of VALinux' SourceForge Project. Currently, there are 7559 ongoing projects and more than 50000 registered users, building a powerful programmer's network community. SourceForge hosts Open Source Projects and supports thousand of users by providing many tools to allow collaborative work.

Olinux: Tell us about your career: college, jobs, personal life (age, birth place)

Quentin: I currently live in Brisbane, Australia - and work via the 'net.

Olinux: What are your responsibilities at Source Forge? Are there any full times workers?

Quentin: Currently I'm a cross between Support Monkey, FTP Admin and Developer. The staff are all reasonably multitalented =) Fairly able to turn their hands they doing whatever is necessary. There are currently six core staff members that are paid full time.

Olinux: How was SourceForge created? What was the main ideas in the begining? Who the initial group got together? Are any physical HeadQuarters?

Quentin: SourceForge was initially conceived as a project called "ColdStorage". CS was targeted at making permanent archive of every CVS tree for every Open Source project on the planet. That idea got slightly modified by the original founding members of the SourceForge project, along with input from VA Linux Systems' staff. The result is what you have today. The initial group was Tony Guntharp, Drew Streib, Tim Perdue and Uriah Welcome - who are all based out of SourceForge's official HQ - VA Linux Systems in Sunnyvale, California.

Olinux: How is Source Forge organized? Give us an idea of how it works. In terms of the division of responsalities, what are the main groups involved?

Quentin: SourceForge is made up of developers, sysadmins and community contacts.

Dan Bressler and Jim Kingdon try to make sure that we don't stray too far from the needs and wishes of the Open Source community. Uriah Welcome and Chris Endsley take care of the Systems Administration, and make sure that everything is working up to scratch. If not, their pagers wake them up at disgusting hours of the morning. Tim Perdue is the main PHP developer, along with some contributions from me. I handle mostly of the support reqs, and any other odd job that seems to crop up.

Olinux: How often and where the group responsible for key decision meet? those meets take place on any specific place or over the internet?

Quentin: While we're in constant dialogue via both IRC and email, we also have weekly telephone conferences. Although, these days, most people are physically in California, these meetings seem to be more face to face pizza eating events with one poor Australian on the phone, than a "teleconference".

Olinux: How the work is coordinated and managed (servers, directories, funding, staff payment)? How many people are involved? What are the main operating problems?

Quentin: The work, machines and bandwidth is sponsored by VA Linux Systems. The main problems we're facing are growth and ensuring total redundancy. We're currently undergoing a process of making sure that even if we lose our main fileserver (1tb, yes, 1tb), we can keep going with only a momentary loss of service.

Olinux: How many projects are currently open? How are projects development evaluated? Are any special policy to shut down and clear old projects?

Quentin: There are currently 7,450 or so hosted projects, shared between 50,442 registered developers. Old projects are deleted on request. However, our deletion process is more "archival" - keeping with the original ideas of Cold Storage. While development may freeze, the project itself is not actually physically deleted, merely shelved.

Olinux: What facilities are offered for the developers (acounts, machines, lists, email, links)?

Quentin: All developers on projects are offered: access to our compile farm (server cluster) - for compiling and testing across clusters. A shell account on our main development server, an email alias, as well as access to some great project management tools. We're trying to make everything that a developer could possibly need available to remove any and all overheads from software development.

Olinux: What are the steps for a certain project to be accepted as part of Sourceforge? are there any special criteria as being an open source software, non commercial? all of them are accepted?

Quentin: A project and an Open Source license. For a list of accepted Open Source licenses, please check out We're aiming to be a development host for as much of the Open Source community as possible.

Olinux: Why should a developer put his project on SorceForge instead of put it into another place?

Quentin: Apart from the developer services listed above, SourceForge has some fantastic web based tools. With SourceForge, you don't have to worry about finding webspace, or if your FTP server will be flooded with downloads. We provide the projects with a high capacity download server, which we're yet to see flooded. We also provide CVS trees to every project so that they can have their own revision control in their code. On top of all this - there are the web based and collaborative tools. The site itself allows you to manage news releases about your project, task management, document management, bug tracking, support management and much more. You can also receive code patches through the site, and set up mailing lists and news forums for discussion about your project.

Olinux: Does Sourceforge has any key strategic alliances with companies? Does any private company other company besides VALinux support Source Forge? Are the any profitable activities?

Quentin: SourceForge has helped numerous groups and companies with both Open Sourcing their code, and helping out with hosting bigger projects that have outgrown their main developer's DSL connection. For example, we're helping out Hewlett Packard with their moves toward Open Sourcing their printer drivers. We've also helped out projects like Mozilla, KDE, XFree86, and MySQL by supplying some extra hardware and support to help get their code out to everyone.

VA Linux is our primary supporter, and I believe they offer some value added services to private companies that wish to implement SourceForge locally. You'd really need to speak to one of the cool guys in VA corporate to ask about that.

Olinux: what are the main projects are under way? are there any commercial projects payed by companies? What role does sorceforge play in the Open Source world these days?

Quentin: Some of the most active projects on SourceForge include Crystal Space - a 3D engine, Mesa3D, FreeCraft, Python, FreeNet and more. This are listed on the front page of the site. SourceForge's role in Open Source appears to be becoming (hopefully) the base carrier of content. Geocities for Open Source, if you like =) We think it's great that so many developers can come to one place, and find so much freely downloadable and modifiable software.

Olinux: how the development is coordinated? deadlines & guidelines established? is there a special testing procedures before the changes are added to the core code? are there any special quality control, auditing on code produced? what are the analysis and programming tools used?

Quentin: Development of the SourceForge codebase is coordinated through a central CVS tree. All the code is fairly thoroughly checked by the developers, and through a testing process on our staging server before it is pushed live. Of course, there is sometimes the odd bug that has been left that gets found by one of site's users.

Olinux: What is the operating system used to run the project? Just Red hat? Why did SourceForge pick the software tools, PHP and MySQL, instead of others like Perl and Postgres? What kind of factors did most influence this decision?

Quentin: With the exception of the BSD machines in the compile farm, the servers all run VA Linux Systems' customised version of RedHat. It has a few slightly modified versions of software to work better on VA's servers.

PHP and MySQL were picked for different reasons. PHP was chosen because it was the right tool for the job, and requires little machine overhead. If we'd run the site as a Perl CGI, the footprint of loading a perl parser for every hit would be a tad, large, to say the least.

MySQL was chosen mainly because of its speed. Although this required the sacrifice of subselects and transactions - we've managed to work around this. There is a good article by Tim Perdue at that outlines the benefits and detriments of using PostgreSQL and MySQL. This article also covers some of the reasons why MySQL was chosen for SourceForge.

Olinux: what are the main steps toward a better software concerning the project development are still under way? are there any expected turn point in terms of future technology, better output or procedures used?

Quentin: We're always listening to user feedback and wishes through our feature request forum. From here, we get a lot of ideas as to what users really wish to see in the site, and we try our best to make as much of that happen within our schedule.

Olinux: has the project received any special awards? What it represented?

Quentin: I believe we've won a few awards for being a cool site. The list needs to be updated, there's currently a link on

Olinux: What is the project security policy for servers protecion? Tell us about major problems in keeping your servers secure? Is the project always exposed to hacker attacks or most of them already belong to the project?

Quentin: We're always working on improving monitoring and security tools. We've been the recipients of numerous attacks (DoS, hack attempts, etc.i) This is where we really rely on our SysAdmins, as well as some of the great security tools that are available for Linux.

Olinux: In you opinion, how much Linux/Os community has grown and how do you oversee its future?

I started using Linux back around kernel 1.0.something and haven't been back. Since then, the community has exploded around the project, which has been great to see. We've now got decent looking Window Managers, more features and greater acceptance, which has been great to see.

Olinux: What are the main internet technologies that you consider extremely interesting or relevant advance for technology information?

Quentin: I think the advent of the Internet as a collaborative community has been fantastic, and unprecedented. I personally can't wait for further advances in voice recognition.

Olinux: Send a short message to programers in Brazil that work in Free Software/Opensource projects and to OLinux user's?

Quentin: Thanks. To all developers in all countries - they've helped to make SourceForge what it is. Not only that, they've no doubt helped to bring inspiration to people learning how to code around the planet. As to people working on those projects, if they aren't already hosted on SourceForge, why not?! Let us know what we can do to make SourceForge better for the community as a whole and we'll do it!

Copyright © 2000, Fernando Ribeiro Corrêa
Published in Issue 58 of Linux Gazette, October 2000

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