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November 2015, “Community Choice” Project of the Month – FlightGear

For our November “Community Choice” Project of the Month, the community elected FlightGear, a multi-platform flight simulator. The FlightGear team shared their thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.

SourceForge (SF): Tell me about the FlightGear project please.
FlightGear team: FlightGear is an open-source flight simulator. It supports a variety of popular platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux, etc.) and is developed by skilled volunteers from around the world. Source code for the entire project is available and licensed under the GNU General Public License. The goal of the FlightGear project is to create a sophisticated and open flight simulator framework for use in research or academic environments, pilot training, as an industry engineering tool, for DIY-ers to pursue their favorite interesting flight simulation idea, and last but certainly not least as a fun, realistic, and challenging desktop flight simulator. We are developing a sophisticated, open simulation framework that can be expanded and improved upon by anyone interested in contributing.

SF: What made you start this?
FlightGear team: The FlightGear project started as an idea that was proposed by one member of a strong community of flight simulator enthusiasts assembled around the old rec.aviation.simulators newsgroup. As this community had already developed many additions and infrastructure for the proprietary flight simulators of the day, the idea was to break free of the shackles of the closed source world and the inability to effectuate any real change within the software, and to develop the world’s first open source flight simulator. A team quickly crystallized around this idea and, in the middle of 1996, the FlightGear community and project was born.

SF: Has the original vision been achieved?
FlightGear team: Yes, though there is always further development we want to make. As we’re about to release V3.6, we have a large group of people from all over the world using the simulator and a vibrant community contributing content, such as aircraft an scenery that build on the Open Source nature of the project.

SF: Who can benefit the most from your project?
FlightGear team: Everybody who is interested in flight simulation, including real life pilots, scientific users, or just-for-fun flyers.

SF: What core need does FlightGear fulfill?
FlightGear team: The dream to be able to fly has probably been people’s dream ever since the beginning of history. FlightGear gives the ability to fly almost any aircraft at any time and any place at zero cost, at least virtually.

SF: What’s the best way to get the most out of using FlightGear?
FlightGear team: Start flying with our default aircraft, the Cessna 172 , it’s a great and accurate model of the most popular trainer aircraft in the world. FlightGear gives a great simulated experience while learning the program and how to fly in real life.

SF: What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?
FlightGear team: The early decision to use XML for almost all the data files has made it easy for non-coders to contribute to the simulator in a wide variety of ways. We’ve also got an active forum, and a monthly newsletter. Some of us also meet in person at FSweekend, the world largest international flight simulator event. We also recently started to have regular video chats.

SF: Have you all found that more frequent releases helps build up your community of users?
FlightGear team: Absolutely, since we have been releasing on a regular schedule our user base has increased significantly. I also have the impression that our code gets more stable because we gather more feedback.

SF: What was the first big thing that happened for your project?
FlightGear team: We prefer not to think in terms of first or biggest but one great experience was being contacted by a commercial flight-simulator company (ATC Flight Sim). One phone call evolved into a long-term relationship that culminated in a FlightGear-based flight simulator with FAA Level 3 FTD Certification.

SF: What helped make that happen?
FlightGear team: An FAA certified flight simulator needs to be complete; however, to get to that point, many people contributed a whole lot of effort on a lot of different fronts.

SF: What was the net result for that event?
FlightGear team: Much of the work required to get over the finish line for FAA certification fed back into the Open Source core of FlightGear, so there was a net benefit for everyone involved.

SF: What is the next big thing for FlightGear?
FlightGear team: A new user interface – our existing plib-based interface is showing its age. In the last year we introduced a web-based interface and we are currently adding a Qt based UI. We’re also planning to use HLA/RTI, which will allow FlightGear to integrate with distributed simulation environments (important for industrial applications) and make better use of multi-core processors.

SF: How long do you think that will take?
FlightGear team: Probably years.

SF: Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?
FlightGear team: In many ways our project is fortunate in that the only resource required is coding time; it’s easy for coders to find an area to make major changes without needing too much coordination. However, more coders are always needed! Many of the core coders have been working on the project for 10+ years, during which time we’ve grown up, got married and had kids and don’t quite have the time to spend a week of holiday on a code-fest as they once did. However, there is a steady influx of new developers who add a fresh perspective and outside experience to the group.

SF: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently for FlightGear?
FlightGear team: Defining a multi-threaded client-server architecture from the beginning would make a big difference today but, of course, that wasn’t a priority back then.

SF: Why?
FlightGear team: Currently we don’t take good advantage of multi-core CPUs.

SF: Any reason you can’t do that now?
FlightGear team: We can and will, switching to HLA/RIT will give us that, but it’s going to be a long and tricky process.

SF: Is there anything else we should know?
FlightGear team: The FlightGear project is very grateful for all the services and support SourceForge has provided to us (and all the other Open Source projects) over the years.

[ Download FlightGear ]

November 2015, “Staff Pick” Project of the Month – Maxima

For our November “Staff Pick” Project of the Month, we selected Maxima, a computer algebra system with symbolic mathematical computations for algebra, trigonometry, calculus, and much more. The Maxima team shared their thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.

SourceForge (SF): Tell me about the Maxima project please.
Maxima team: Maxima is mathematical software; it is the Open Source continuation of one of the oldest computer algebra projects in existence, originally called Macsyma.

SF: What made you start this?
Maxima team: Maxima’s long history started at MIT in 1968, as part of Project MAC (“machine-aided cognition”). In 1982, the project sponsor, the Department of Energy, released a version that is now called DOE Macsyma. Bill Schelter at the University of Texas at Austin maintained one copy. In 1998, Schelter obtained permission from the DOE to release his copy under the GNU General Public License; this is the origin of the Open Source project Maxima. Schelter died in 2001, but a group of volunteers have continued the project.

SF: Has the original vision been achieved?
Maxima team: Macsyma achieved the original vision of a usable multi-purpose Computer Algebra System (CAS); the vision of an Open Source CAS system was achieved by Maxima shortly after project inception. Our current goal is to be good stewards of the Maxima project, improve and streamline the code, ensure its compatibility with various LISP compilers and runtime environments, and incrementally add features that are requested by the user community.

SF: Who can benefit the most from your project?
Maxima team: Mathematicians, physicists, engineers who regularly algebra and calculus problems can benefit the most from a commercial-grade Open Source CAS. Maxima is comparable to, and in some areas, perhaps even superior to commercial CAS packages.

SF: What core need does Maxima fulfill?
Maxima team: Maxima delivers a commercial-grade computer algebra system to the desktop of the serious engineer, researcher, or student.

SF: What’s the best way to get the most out of using Maxima?
Maxima team: Like with any complex tool, practice helps. Read the extensive manual. Also, while the graphical interfaces offered with Maxima, especially wxMaxima, can be very helpful and intuitive. It makes good sense to become familiar with the command-line version, which can be very beneficial when dealing with complex problems.

SF: What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?
Maxima team: Maxima has a strong user community that communicates via mailing lists. Maxima developers are always available to respond, answering questions, and responding to bug reports.

SF: Have you all found that more frequent releases helps build up your community of users?
Maxima team: In recent years, Maxima followed a regular release schedule. This appears to have been appreciated by the majority of our users.

SF: What was the first big thing that happened for your project?
Maxima team: The first big thing happened decades ago, when Maxima became the first general purpose CAS that was released as Open Source.

SF: What helped make that happen?
Maxima team: Maxima would not exist without the dedication of Bill Schelter.

SF: What was the net result for that event?
Maxima team: The world’s first general-purpose Open Source CAS was born.

SF: What is the next big thing for Maxima?
Maxima team: No specific event is planned; our goal is to continue maintaining a CAS that can run reliably and efficiently on multiple platforms.

SF: How long do you think that will take?
Maxima team: It is an on-going effort.

SF: Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?
Maxima team: Yes and no. The people who contribute to Maxima are capable but they are volunteers who cannot work on this project full-time.

SF: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently for Maxima?
Maxima team: Nothing, really since most of the critical design decisions were made long before Maxima was born as an Open Source project, back in the Macsyma days.

SF: Why?
Maxima team: Maxima is in many ways a legacy project: we are not breaking new grounds here but maintaining an important legacy product that many of us also actively use in our research.

SF: Any reason you can’t do that now?
Maxima team: We are doing it right now.

SF: Is there anything else we should know?
Maxima team: Maxima is also available for Android mobile devices, and runs efficiently on smartphones and tablets.

[ Download Maxima ]

“Community Choice” Project of the Month Vote – December 2015

The vote for December 2015 Community Choice SourceForge Project of the Month is now available, and will run until November 15, 2015 12:00 UTC.

Roundcube Webmail

Roundcube Webmail is a browser-based, multilingual IMAP client, with an application-like user interface. Roundcube provides the full functionality you’d expect from an email client, including MIME support, address book, folder manipulation, message searching, and spell check. Roundcube is written in PHP and JavaScript.
[ Download Roundcube Webmail ]

Equalizer APO

Equalizer APO is a parametric and graphic equalizer for Windows. It is implemented as an Audio Processing Object (APO) for the system effect infrastructure introduced with Windows Vista. It features a virtually unlimited number of filters, works on any number of channels, has low CPU usage, includes a modular graphical user interface, and is very low latency which makes it well suited for interactive applications.
[ Download Equalizer APO ]


rEFInd is a fork of the rEFIt boot manager. Like rEFIt, rEFInd can auto-detect your installed EFI boot loaders, and it presents a pretty GUI menu of boot options. rEFInd goes beyond rEFIt with an improved management of systems with many boot loaders, better control over the boot loader search process, and it also provides the ability for users to define their own boot loader entries.
[ Download rEFInd ]

The FreeType Project

FreeType is written in C. It is designed to be small, efficient, and highly customizable, while capable of producing high-quality output (glyph images) of most vector and bitmap font formats for digital typography. FreeType is a freely available and portable software library to render fonts.
[ Download The FreeType Project ]


SMPlayer is a free media player for Windows and Linux, that is able to download subtitles, and includes built-in codecs which can play and download Youtube videos. It also remembers the settings of all files you play, so you can easily stop and resume a video. SMPlayer is a graphical user interface (GUI) for the award-winning MPlayer, which is capable of playing almost all known video and audio formats.
[ Download SMPlayer ]


WinPython is a free Open Source portable distribution of the Python programming language for Windows XP/7/8, designed for scientists, supporting both 32bit and 64bit versions of Python 2 and Python 3.
[ Download WinPython ]


dispcalGUI is a graphical user interface for the display calibration and profiling tools of Argyll CMS, an Open Source color management system. Calibrate and characterize your display devices using one of the many supported hardware sensors, with support for multi-display setups and a variety of available settings like customizable whitepoint, luminance, tone response curve, the option to create matrix and look-up-table ICC profiles, with optional gamut mapping, and some proprietary 3D LUT formats.
[ Download dispcalGUI ]

Pinguy OS

Pinguy OS an out-of-the-box working operating system for everyone, not just geeks.
[ Download Pinguy OS ]

Stella – Atari 2600 Emulator

Stella is a multi-platform Atari 2600 VCS emulator. It allows you to play all of your favorite Atari 2600 games again! Stella was originally developed for Linux by Bradford W. Mott, and is currently maintained by Stephen Anthony.
[ Download Stella – Atari 2600 Emulator ]

October 2015, “Staff Pick” Project of the Month – TeXstudio

For our October “Staff Pick” Project of the Month, we selected TeXstudio, an integrated writing environment for creating LaTeX documents. Benito van der Zander and Tim Hoffmann, TeXstudio’s Lead Developers, shared their thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.

SourceForge (SF): Tell me about the TeXstudio project please.
Benito van der Zander (van der Zander): TeXstudio is a (La-) TeX integrated writing environment (IWE). While IDEs are there to develop computer programs, TeXstudio is there for writing (La-)TeX. TeX is a programming language for natural language text, which takes a plain text with macro annotations and compiles it to PS or PDF. The advantage is that you get a document with consistent style and nice formulas, where some parts of it can be generated algorithmically and stored in a normal version control system. The disadvantage is that it is less intuitive to write. This is where TeXstudio comes into play and makes the writing intuitive again. For example it auto generates most TeX commands, shows the source with highlighting, marks invalid parts, and previews the resulting document.

SF: What made you start this?
van der Zander: I was writing a novel about how to migrate from Windows to Linux, while searching for a cross-platform LaTeX editor that would have features to support novel writing, (i.e. inline spelling, grammar, and style checking). The most complete cross-platform LaTeX editor seemed to be Texmaker. However, it had many little bugs and no inline spell checker so I wrote a lot of patches for it. But they were not accepted so I had to fork it, which resulted in TeXstudio.
Tim Hoffmann (Hoffmann): For me, it started when I was looking for a LaTeX editor to write my PhD thesis. None of the available programs fulfilled my needs, but Texmaker and Benito’s fork came closest. So I started writing some patches and small extensions. I found that TeXstudio was more open to contributions. Over time, I got more and more involved.

SF: Has the original vision been achieved?
van der Zander: The focus has moved from novel writing to the writing of math-heavy documents. Also the novel writing support was not as helpful as expected. The spell checker based on Hunspell works fine, but the grammar checker based on LanguageTool returns too many false negatives and positives. The style checker should have implemented some writing guidelines by Andreas Eschbach, which suggest you strike out every adjective to see if these words are necessary. The strikeout worked but not the adjective search. To really improve it we would need to research natural language theory but that is outside of the scope of this project, so we are waiting to improve the underlying libraries. I had hoped to get it established as a general-purpose text editor but as TeXstudio grows it becomes more LaTeX-centric. And we are now three core developers with different goals and visions.
Hoffmann: To me, the vision of TeXstudio is an editor that lets me focus on the text I want to write, not being distracted by technical aspects. We’ve come a great deal towards that goal, even though there is still room for improvement.

SF: Who can benefit the most from your project?
van der Zander: Everyone who writes something using LaTeX, be it research papers, PhD theses, or novels.
Hoffmann: That’s true. TeXstudio significantly reduces the entry barrier for LaTeX beginners. Due to its high configurability and scripting support, more advanced users can adapt TeXstudio to their needs and work most efficiently.

SF: What core need does TeXstudio fulfill?
van der Zander: Writing a LaTeX document in an editor that understands LaTeX and does not display it as plaintext.
Hoffmann: LaTeX was invented 30 years ago and in some areas is still better than modern WYSIWYG word processors. However, due to the limited computation power at that time, it was designed to the needs of the computer and not to the needs of the user. As a user interface, TeXstudio bridges this gap by working around many of the shortcomings and limitations of LaTeX. This makes LaTeX significantly easier and more fun to use. Hence our slogan: “LaTeX made comfortable”.

SF: What’s the best way to get the most out of using TeXstudio?
van der Zander: Just start writing your text and while you are at it, here are some useful features to help you:

  • Unconnected block editing—You can select multiple parts of a file and edit them simultaneously, no matter where they are. This is especially powerful when searching for a regular expression. If you want to change all matches, you do not need to think about a replacement expression, just let it select all matches and edit them in the editor.
  • User scripts with triggers—You can write an arbitrary JavaScript function that is called, whenever you type or do something. You could write something to play Conway’s’ Game of Life in the editor.
  • Magic comments—TeXstudio does not use project files like most IDEs; rather, it stores all metadata in tex files itself. So, you can put % !TeX program = xelatex at the beginning of a file, if you want it to be always compiled with xelatex.
  • Inline preview—It is easy to see that there is a PDF viewer showing the entire output document, but you can also view only parts of an document embedded in the text or as tooltips.
  • Implicit cut buffer—You can surround text with parentheses or a command, do not write something on both sides of the text.  Just select the text and write the command/opening parenthesis, then TeXstudio’s auto completion will automatically restore the overridden text and surround it with the opening and closing parentheses.

SF: What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?
van der Zander: We mostly work with the classics like bug/feature tracker, mailing lists, and personal mail. Once we renamed the project and let the community vote on the new name.
Hoffmann: Generally, we try to be responsive and helpful, be it bug reports, feature requests or any other questions. Also, we are lowering the entry barrier for contributions, for example, we just included an online translation service. Now, you don’t need any specialized tools or knowledge to provide a translation.

SF: Have you all found that more frequent releases helps build up your community of users?
van der Zander: They seem to help a lot with us becoming SF’s project of the week and month.
Hoffmann: Distributing new features and bug fixes regularly certainly helps to have better software. I expect that it has a positive effect on the community, but it’s hard to tell.

SF: What was the first big thing that happened for your project?
van der Zander: We do not really have big things, just many little things working together.

SF: What is the next big thing for TeXstudio?
van der Zander: I always wanted to add a macro AI, where you could edit some text, and than the AI would replay those actions on other parts of the text. It would be like a VI-mode but you would not have to remember any commands, and you would not need to tell it. Also, a lot of people have asked for touch screen or git support.
Hoffmann: In fact, there are lots of big and small ideas around, for example,
an auto-updating life view of your resulting document.

SF: How long do you think that will take?
van der Zander: Years…

SF: Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?
van der Zander: At the moment, I do not have time to do any of that. Also the macro AI would need many samples of typical editing tasks.
Hoffmann: Since TeXstudio has grown, we invest a lot of time in maintenance and community work. Time for big things is rare. We make the best from our limit resources by using small steps and continuity.

SF: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently for TeXstudio
van der Zander: One of the first things was to switch from the standard QTextEdit to a library called QCodeEdit. QTextEdit renders rich text like HTML, while QCodeEdit was made for editing source code, which is much more like LaTeX. It would have been wise to use another editor component. Also we would write more test cases for features we added. It always happens that some of the new features break stuff.
Hoffmann: Stability, clean code and testing should have had a higher priority.

SF: Why?
van der Zander: I used QCodeEdit 2, which was abandoned by the author in favor of QCodeEdit 3, which got a much better internal design. But then he never truly finished QCodeEdit 3, so we were stuck with maintaining the old library ourselves. And it is still had a lot of minor editing/rendering bugs that we had to fix.
Hoffmann: We did not foresee the dimensions the code and the user base would reach. At the beginning, a feature that just worked for the usual need was okay. Now, it really needs to be correct because one of the many users will step on even the remotest bug.

SF: Any reason you can’t do that now?
van der Zander: Switching QCodeEdit to another editor component now, would invalidate all the work we have done on it so far.
Hoffmann: We are gradually improving our code, but resources are very limited. Therefore, we’ve just revised our release scheme and update notifications to make using of beta and release candidate versions easier. This will be available from version 2.10.4 on. I encourage willing users to subscribe at least for release candidates. We hope to track down bugs more early with the help of the community.

SF: Is there anything else we should know?
van der Zander: There will be a new release, 2.10.4, very soon. So be on the lookout!
Hoffmann: Help in any way is very welcome. You don’t necessarily have to be a programmer to contribute to TeXstudio: Documentation, translation, UI/icon design, tutorials and screencasts are some of the non-programming areas that would certainly benefit from more attention. If you are interested, just contact one of the developers. We’ll find a task that’s fun for you and that puts your talents to good use.

[ Download TeXstudio ]

October 2015, “Community Choice” Project of the Month – fre:ac

For our October “Community Choice” Project of the Month, the community elected fre:ac, an audio converter and CD ripper for various formats and encoders. Robert Kausch, fre:ac’s Lead Developer, shared his thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.

SourceForge (SF): Tell me about the fre:ac project please.
Robert Kausch (Kausch): fre:ac is an audio converter and CD ripper that tries to provide a simple and intuitive interface without sacrificing features. It scales all way the from converting CD tracks to MP3 files with a single click to replicating whole music libraries in a different format while preserving folder and file name structure.

SF: What made you start this?
Kausch: Back in the days I just couldn’t find a free and easy to use CD ripper, so I decided to write my own. Around the same time, someone came up with the Bonk audio format which I added support for as a distinguishing feature. That provided for the original project name BonkEnc Audio Encoder. The project was finished quite soon, but after publishing it on SourceForge, people started requesting more features and it developed its own momentum.

SF: Has the original vision been achieved?
Kausch: Yes, absolutely! This project was supposed to be a simple CD to MP3/Bonk ripper to be used by maybe a few dozens of people. Today, it’s one of the most popular audio converters with tens or hundreds of thousands of users from all around the world.

SF: Who can benefit the most from your project?
Kausch: Anyone who needs some kind of audio format conversion.

SF: What core need does fre:ac fulfill?
Kausch: Any kind of audio format conversion. Whether you need to rip CDs to FLAC files for archival, convert to MP3 for your mobile device or create audio books with chapter marks, fre:ac should be the tool of choice.

SF: What’s the best way to get the most out of using fre:ac?
Kausch: Users should first explore the interface, which is designed to be intuitive and self-explanatory. A quick tutorial for ripping CD tracks to MP3 files as well as some “How to” style questions and answers are included with fre:ac. In addition, lots of more advanced community made tutorials are available on the Internet.

SF: What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?
Kausch: I am the only developer and provide most of the support, so there is no real project team. The SourceForge forums and tracker are of great help for keeping in touch with the community and I use email to talk to individual users. In addition, releases and other news are posted on Twitter and since about two years ago. I have also been writing regular blog posts to talk about everything that’s going on in fre:ac development. I got inspired to doing this when reading the regular blog posts of the Haiku and ReactOS operating system projects, which give insight of what’s going on behind the scenes between releases.

SF: Have you all found that more frequent releases help build up your community of users?
Kausch: While new releases always spark a lot of interest, I try not to release too often or too early. As my resources are limited, it’s crucial that releases are stable and do not trigger too many bug reports. This leaves more time for implementing new features.

SF: What was the first big thing that happened for your project?
Kausch: The name change from BonkEnc to fre:ac. It was a lot of work to update the site and software and notify everyone about the new name, and it kind of felt like a restart of the whole project.

SF: What helped make that happen?
Kausch: A few years after starting the project, I didn’t really like the old name anymore. Especially as it turned out that the eponymous Bonk format had become obsolete. At some point I started looking for a new name and ultimately ended up with fre:ac, a contraction of free audio converter.

SF: What was the net result for that event?
Kausch: I like the new name much better but, that aside, I don’t think it had a major impact on the fate of the project.

SF: What is the next big thing for fre:ac?
Kausch: The upcoming 1.1 release will be an almost complete rewrite of fre:ac’s core based on a modular architecture providing lots of new features and support for alternative operating systems. People can already try the preview releases dubbed snapshots that are released every few weeks. With so many changes, you might expect this to be released as version 2.0, but I decided to stick to 1.1 as I think this is what fre:ac 1.0 should have been originally.

SF: How long do you think that will take?
Kausch: I hope to be able to make a 1.1 beta release at the end of this year or in early 2016. The final 1.1 release should then be finished within half a year after the beta.

SF: Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?
Kausch: I hope so. The most important resource is time and I’m a little limited on it. I’m working on fre:ac in my free time besides doing a regular 9 to 5 job as a software engineer.

SF: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently for fre:ac
Kausch: If I started a project like this now, I would use a modular architecture from the start. The original project was never meant to become this big, though, so having a monolithic architecture seemed sufficient back then.

SF: Why?
Kausch: A modular architecture makes it much easier to add new codecs and other features. It also helps when it comes to porting the software to other platforms.

SF: Any reason you can’t do that now?
Kausch: I’m doing that in the ongoing fre:ac 1.1 development effort.

SF: Is there anything else we should know?
Kausch: I’d like to thank everyone who helped getting the project this far. Translators, regular testers and especially the users who report bugs and make feature requests. The project would never have grown this big without you!

[ Download fre:ac ]