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August 2014, “Staff Pick” Project of the Month – CMDBuild

For our August “Staff Pick” Project of the Month, we selected CMDBuild, flexible software to configure a custom database of assets and design related workflow processes. One of the project’s managers, Fabio Bottega, who has been with CMDBuild since 2005, shared his thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.

SourceForge (SF): Tell me about the CMDBuild project.

Fabio Bottega (FB): CMDBuild is an open source, enterprise web application to model and manage your IT asset database. CMDB stands for configuration and management database but CMDBuild is more than an IT asset database. With CMDBuild you can configure and customize a complete IT governance environment, think of it as enterprise resource planning (ERP) for IT division management.

Every organization needs its own data model; it’s own information technology infrastructure library (ITIL) and/or non-ITIL workflows, reports and dashboards, connectors, etc. With CMDBuild you configure your data model using our web interface to create and connect a custom workflow. CMDBuild is like an “open source Microsoft access” except that it’s an enterprise web application, written in Java, with a modern SOA architecture and a powerful workflow management system. The CMDBuild philosophy is to create complete configurability.

SF: What made you start this?

FB: In 2005, the information systems division of the municipality of Udine (a town in the northeast of Italy where we are based) started a revision and optimization activity for some internal processes, according to ITIL “best practice” standards. The CIO searched for an open source tool but could not find any, so he approached Tecnoteca with the idea to start a new project to develop an open source CMDB tool. The initial financial impetus to grow came from the municipality but it was a long and difficult path to get here.

SF: Has the original vision been achieved?

FB: Compared to the initial CMDBuild objectives, we went much further faster than we hoped both in technical and in functional aspects, with one exception: the growth of a strong community. To begin with, contributions were very few because of the lack of English documentation. After we released manuals in English, contributors localized 13 languages ​​and some advanced users began helping users on the forum. Then code contributions began, with a new Web service CMDBuild and CMDBf compliance. But the project needs more help from the community for CMDBuild to continue to grow.

SF: Who can benefit the most from your project?

FB: CMDBuild target users are medium to large public and private organizations (from 200/300 to 20,000/30,000 or more employees) that want to manage their IT governance in a controlled way.

SF: What is the need for this particular asset management tool?

FB: The main use of CMDBuild is to manage the IT governance (assets and workflows) of an organization. However, thanks to its flexibility and architecture, CMDBuild is also a good solution for managing data and the workflows of non-IT environments. For example, we recently created and released the new openMAINT software, a complete solution for the property and facility management (CMMS), on SourgeForge that started from CMDBuild. And some organizations use CMDBuild to manage and maintain vehicles, to manage artwork in museums, to manage workflow-based office practices, etc.

SF: What’s the best way to get the most out of using CMDBuild?

FB: There are two things you can do: learn about the philosophy and the technical mechanisms of CMDBuild and have clear ideas about the best way to manage the IT division of your organization.

To learn CMDBuild, I suggest starting with the overview manual and then switch to the administrator and user manuals. If you then want to study the workflow system, the Web service, and the external connectors there are separate manuals for each. I suggest the ITIL approach to clarify the optimal way to manage the IT infrastructure of your organization. You must believe that a configured solution, which works exactly how your organization works, is better than a hardwired solution.

SF: What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?

FB: We opened a forum where we provide updated documentation with each major CMDBuild release, we organize events and publish slides and videos, and of course we make the updated source code available in real time. Then we take care of the “socials” by issuing a bimonthly newsletter, a LinkedIn group with over 300 members, and a dedicated channel on Twitter, YouTube, and SlideShare.

SF: Have you all found that more frequent releases help build up your community of users?

FB: Yes, frequent releases enable users to obtain bug fixes, new features, and updates that keep users close to the project. CMDBuild has one or two major releases each year and a minor release about every two months.

SF: What was the first big thing that happened for your project?

FB: After two or three years of life CMDBuild was chosen for some high profile public administrations in Italy (since Tecnoteca, an Italian company, is the brain child of CMDBuild), such as the State Attorney, the City of Bologna, the Regional Council of Tuscany, the Italian Chamber of Deputies, etc. From then on, thanks to these testimonials that supported the project in public events, word of mouth, etc., the CMDBuild circulation increased.

SF: What helped make that happen?

FB: The open source license helped to achieve this result and the fact that the initial sponsor, the Municipality of Udine, is a public administration. Italian public administrations are required to always consider open source solutions in their software choices and when they find valid products they use them.

SF: What was the net result for that event?

FB: A lot of case studies, testimonials, events slides and videos.

SF: What is the next big thing for CMDBuild?

FB:  We are working on a new “mobile interface”, an app that can be used with smartphones and tablets. Then we will work to develop a “relations graph viewer”, a web interface to analyze relationships and dependencies, impacts between assets, and infrastructures and services in a visual way.

SF: How long do you think that will take?

FB: We will release the “mobile interface” in about three months and the “relations graph viewer” in about nine months.

SF: Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?

FB: Availability of resources is a common problem in open source projects and we have this problem too. We need more economic resources to grow the project, increase its working group, and provide it with new features. We can achieve this result getting more subscription by the organizations we support or by obtaining funding from investors.

SF: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently for CMDBuild?

FB: Every choice can be made in many ways but we are happy with the choices we made.

SF: Is there anything else we should know?

FB: Yes, for some time an important part of our job was dedicated to balance the results obtained in Italy with those obtained in the global market (from the beginning more than 90% of the downloads came from countries other than Italy). Tecnoteca is based in Italy so we required more effort to access the global market. Now we support a lot of organizations around the world. Our goal is to grow our market even more through the Internet, new partners, and through awards, such as this SourceForge “Editor’s Choice” Project of the Month!

August 2014, “Community Choice” Project of the Month – VASSAL Engine

For our August Project of the Month, the community elected VASSAL Engine, a game engine for building and playing online adaptations of board and card games. One of the project’s managers, Joel Uckelman, who has been with VASSAL Engine since 2006, shared his thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.

SourceForge (SF): Tell me about the VASSAL Engine project.

Joel Uckelman (JU): VASSAL provides a virtual tabletop for playing board games live over the net and by email. It’s cross-platform and open source, and has a huge library of games of all types—traditional board games, Euro games, war games, and card games—over 1400 in our module library at present.

SF: What made you start this?

JU: Rodney Kinney created VASL (Virtual Advanced Squad Leader) in 1997 as a program for playing Advanced Squad Leader (a tactical WWII combat game). After a while it became clear that most of the code in VASL would be applicable to other board games as well; in 2001 Rodney split the project into the generic game engine VASSAL, while the ASL-specific parts kept the VASL name but became a VASSAL game module.

I joined the project in 2006. The draw for me was and is that VASSAL lets me play games with my old opponents who now live in far-flung places, lets me keep set up large games for which I lack the table space, and lets me keep logs of what happened in those games. VASSAL is a tool I want to use myself, as well as a way I can contribute to both the board gaming and open source communities.

SF: Has the original vision been achieved?

JU: Yes. We’re well beyond what anyone envisioned at the outset and have been for years now.

SF: Who can benefit the most from your project?

JU: People who want to play short board games in real time, people who want to play longer games in sessions or by email, people who lack the space for setting up large games, game designers building and testing prototypes, game publishers who want more visibility for their board games—all of these can benefit from VASSAL.

SF: What is the need for this particular game engine?

JU: There are custom programs for some board games. However, writing a custom program for each board game that someone might want to play is a huge duplication of effort, beyond the abilities of most people, and maybe not even feasible given the incredible number of games published.

Just within the war-gaming section of the hobby, there are more than 150 games published in a typical year; there must be hundreds of Euro games. Fortunately, even the most disparate board games have common elements: There are players, pieces, boards or maps, maybe cards, and dice. The code one needs for handing these things in one game is largely applicable to others as well. With VASSAL, there’s no need for anyone to recreate these things for each game. Using our module editor, anyone can build a game module—it’s not necessary to be a programmer to do so.

Without VASSAL or a program like it, there would be no way to play the vast majority of board games over a computer.

SF: What’s the best way to get the most out of using VASSAL Engine?

JU: Read the Users’ Guide. Read the instructions for the game module you want to use (if the module designer provided any). This is the best way to get started. It helps if you’re familiar with the game you want to play already, as then you’re not learning VASSAL, the module, and the game at the same time. If you have a problem, ask about it in our forum or in the #vassal IRC channel on freenode (but please wait for a reply if you drop in to #vassal—sometimes we’re a bit slow to answer).

SF: What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?

JU: For some years now we’ve had a forum (bridged to a mailing list) for our user community. It’s quite active—there are more than 44000 posts there as I write this. Our development team also frequents the VASSAL topic on ConsimWorld.

SF: Have you all found that more frequent releases helps build up your community of users?

JU: We’re fairly aggressive about fixing the bugs users report, so one of our motivations for releases is to get those fixes out to users—it makes users happy to see bugs they reported fixed, it makes it easier for us to troubleshoot with fewer changes between releases, and killing bugs in the wild helps us spend less time on bug reports and more time on development.

SF: What was the first big thing that happened for your project?

JU: What happened was a collection of many small things rather than one big thing. Many war games have VASSAL modules before they’re even published in hard copy these days, which is something I never expected. It dawned on me that we were having an impact on the hobby when I started to see VASSAL module designers being thanked in the credits for printed games.

SF: What helped make that happen?

JU: Game designers deciding to use VASSAL for play testing.

SF: What was the net result for that event?

JU: It’s gotten VASSAL much more exposure in the board gaming community, but it’s also helped grow the hobby. We hear constantly from people who bought a game because they saw the VASSAL module or because they realized they could now play the monster game for which they lack table space. That’s good for us, good for game players, and good for game designers and publishers—good for everyone in the hobby.

SF: What is the next big thing for VASSAL Engine?

JU: The next major version is VASSAL 4.

SF: How long do you think that will take?

JU: I’m asked this often and I always try to dodge it. The most accurate thing I can say is that our current release, 3.2, is getting attention for bug fixes only now and I’m focusing the bulk of my own development efforts on VASSAL 4. In short, I don’t know when you’ll see V4 but I do know it will be next.

SF: Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?

JU: Partially. I’m aiming for us to have Android, iOS, and web clients for V4, in addition to Mac, Linux, and Windows clients that we have now. As a team, we don’t have all that much expertise with tablets or web apps right now. More developers, especially ones familiar with those areas, would expedite things a bit.

SF: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently for VASSAL Engine?

JU: From 2009 to 2012—the period when 3.2 was in development—we were adding new features, but we were also getting a torrent of bug reports from the bug reporting tool we added to 3.1. Both experiences made us reflect on the overall design of VASSAL. It became clear that some design choices that were appropriate in 1997 weren’t in the 2010’s. But the main thing I learned was that we need a clearly defined specification (for the module designer API) so we can tell whether a behavior is actually a bug. VASSAL is in an odd position in that some of our users are game module designers and some are game players. It means that VASSAL is a client for some people and a library for others. Because VASSAL is extensible, module designers are constantly finding creative ways to do things, and we’ve increasingly found ambiguous situations where fixing an apparent bug for one module designer breaks another designer’s module. Providing a proper spec should help with that.

SF: Any reason you can’t do that now?

JU: We’re planning to do all of that in VASSAL 4.

Community Choice Project of the Month Vote for September 2014

The vote for September 2014 Community Choice SourceForge Project of the Month is now available, and will run until Aug 24, 2014 12:00 UTC:

Vote here for the Community Choice SourceForge Project of the Month for September 2014

PyQt

PyQt is the Python bindings for Digia’s Qt cross-platform application development framework. It supports Python v2 and v3 and Qt v4 and Qt v5. PyQt is available under the GPL and commercial licenses. The Sourceforge project is the repository for the GPL source and binary packages.

[ Download PyQt ]

MPC-BE

Media Player Classic – BE is a free and open source audio and video player for Windows. Media Player Classic – BE is based on the original “Media Player Classic” project (Gabest) and “Media Player Classic Home Cinema” project (Casimir666), contains additional features and bug fixes.

[ Download MPC-BE ]

Octave Forge

GNU Octave is a programming language for numerical computations. Octave Forge is a place for development of its packages; from bioinformatics and fuzzy logic to mechanics and instrument control.

[ Download Octave Forge ]

OpenMediaVault

OpenMediaVault is the next generation network attached storage (NAS) solution based on Debian Linux. It contains services like SSH, (S)FTP, SMB/CIFS, DAAP media server, RSync, BitTorrent client and many more. Thanks to the modular design of the framework it can be enhanced via plugins. OpenMediaVault is primarily designed to be used in home environments or small home offices, but is not limited to those scenarios. It is a simple and easy to use out-of-the-box solution that will allow everyone to install and administrate a Network Attached Storage without deeper knowledge.

[ Download OpenMediaVault ]

OWASP Zed Attack Proxy

The Zed Attack Proxy (ZAP) is an easy to use integrated penetration testing tool for finding vulnerabilities in web applications. Note that this project is just used for hosting the ZAP downloads. Please see the homepage for more information about OWASP ZAP

[ Download OWASP Zed Attack Proxy ]

SQLite Database Browser

*** PROJECT MOVING TO GITHUB *** https://github.com/sqlitebrowser/sqlitebrowser *** PROJECT MOVING TO GITHUB *** SQLite Database browser is a light GUI editor for SQLite databases, built on top of Qt. The main goal of the project is to allow non-technical users to create, modify and edit SQLite databases using a set of wizards and a spreadsheet-like interface.

[ Download SQLite Database Browser ]

wkhtmltopdf

wkhtmltopdf and wkhtmltoimage are command line tools to render HTML into PDF and various image formats using the QT Webkit rendering engine. These run entirely “headless” and do not require a display or display service.

[ Download wkhtmltopdf ]

GNU ARM Eclipse Plug-ins

These plug-ins provide build and debug extensions for Eclipse CDT (C/C++ Development Tools) for 32/64-bit GNU ARM toolchains like GNU Tools for Embedded, Linaro, etc, ready to run STM32Fx project templates and full integration for advanced J-Link JTAG/SWD probes, including SWO tracing console.

[ Download GNU ARM Eclipse Plug-ins ]

SystemRescueCd

SystemRescueCd is a Linux system rescue disk available as a bootable CD-ROM or USB stick for administrating or repairing your system and data after a crash. It aims to provide an easy way to carry out admin tasks on your computer, such as creating and editing the hard disk partitions. It comes with a lot of software such as disk management tools (parted, partimage, fsarchiver, filesystem tools, …), network administration programs and simple text editors . It can be used for both Linux and windows computers, and on desktops as well as servers. This rescue system requires no installation as it can be booted from a CD/DVD drive, and USB stick, or from the network using PXE. But it can be installed on the hard disk if you wish. It comes with up to date kernels to provide support for recent hardware and also for all important file systems (ext2/ext3/ext4, xfs, btrfs, ntfs, reiserfs, vfat), as well as network filesystems (samba and nfs).

[ Download SystemRescueCd ]

July 2014, Project of the Month – eXo

For our July Project of the Month, the community elected eXo, a highly customizable, social-collaboration enterprise platform. One of the project’s managers, Patrice Lamarque, who has been with eXo since 2008, shared his thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.

SourceForge (SF): Tell me about the eXo project please.
eXo: eXo produces a social collaboration platform for the enterprise, with software and add-ons. Large and medium-sized companies that desire social collaboration within their information system or that build an online community, social intranet, or a customer/partner portal use eXo’s platform.

The eXo platform has many social collaboration features built in, such as wikis, forums, documents, Q&A, calendars, and content management built around a social layer composed of activity streams, rich profiles, and social networking. It is standards-based, enterprise-ready, and highly extensible via apps, add-ons, templates, portlets, gadgets, Java, and REST APIs.

SF: What made you start this?
eXo: The eXo project started back in 2001 and was released as the first open-source Java portlet container in 2002. Back in the day, it was an exploration of open source development and open standards.

SF: Has the original vision been achieved?
eXo: The original vision of a composite application container has long since been surpassed. Over the years, we’ve built on top of the portal’s framework to add documents and content management, collaboration, and social networking.

SF: Who can benefit the most from your project?
eXo: Enterprise customers with internal or external facing Internet portals and social communities benefit from eXo’s platform.

SF: What is the need for this particular social collaboration platform?
eXo: Social collaboration is being adopted very quickly in the enterprise world to boost employee satisfaction, productivity, innovation, and decision-making. However, there are few open-source solutions that can compete with big-name proprietary solutions in terms of enterprise readiness and user experience.

SF: What’s the best way to get the most out of using eXo?
eXo: While it’s a very extensible and customizable platform that can be used in a wide range of scenarios, eXo’s social platform is an out-of-the-box and ready-to-use software package. The user experience is optimized to quickly engage employees and get the full benefits of social collaboration.

SF: What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?
eXo: We’ve built a community website with forums, project docs, and other resources. We’ve placed downloads on SourceForge and built a marketplace of add-ons. See our recent guest blog post on SourceForge.

SF: Have you all found that more frequent releases helps build up your community of users?
eXo: We have found that download ranks on SourceForge and proper placement in the enterprise directory generates lots of traction for us.

SF: What was the first big thing that happened for your project?
eXo: After the first version of the eXo portlet container was coded, Benjamin Mestrallet (our founder and CEO) wrote an in-depth article that was published on TheServerSide.com. The success was overwhelming. Indeed, the eXo portal container was the first open source implementation of the portlet specification, beating big proprietary vendors to the punch!

SF: What helped make that happen?
eXo: Tons of caffeine, months of sleepless nights, and a passion for open source.

SF: What was the net result for that event?
eXo: Shortly after the article was published, we were contacted by the American Department of Defense, which had noticed the article. They were looking for a portal framework to build a new communication platform as part of the chain of command in war zones. They wanted to hire us to do consulting for the project. The thing is, there was no company so we were unable to bill. Hence, we jumped on the opportunity by incorporating eXo and signing up our first prestigious customer!

SF: What is the next big thing for eXo?
eXo: At the current rate, we should welcome our 50,000th individual member by the end of the year! We’ve always had community forums. We initially started with SourceForge forums before we built a forum app into the product and started our own community website. This served as an informal support channel between individual developers, employees, customers, and partners. Last year, when we upgraded it to the latest major version (eXo Platform 4), we observed a surge in participation. New sign-ups exploded and name the “eXo Tribe” was born. Within the year, the community website went from around 4,000 to 20,000 members!

SF: Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?
eXo: The eXo community website contains more than support forums. It’s a place where developers, partners, or eXo lovers can find quality documentation and tutorials that leverage the eXo Platform 4. A knowledge base, built and maintained by the eXo global support team, includes many walkthroughs built around advanced customer cases.

In addition, the Add-ons Center centralizes extra integrations and apps to extend eXo capabilities. Many add-ons have their own discussion space in the community. We even showcase some of them, such as the chat application and real-time video calls to instantly connect with community. And it a place where we support translation contributions from the community. To date, eXo has been fully translated into 20 languages.

And we have a full-time team to respond to community expectations and improve the website. So yes, we are in good shape to make it happen!

SF: If you had it to do over again, what would you do differently for eXo?
eXo: It’s hard to tell because eXo has already a long history and we experimented with many things. Some worked well, others less. As with many open source projects, we neglected self-promotion for many years. Sure, we speak at conferences and participate actively in the open-source community in general, but we put little effort into spreading the word of eXo and its benefits. I guess we were too busy building the product for impatient customers. Perhaps focusing on extending the community earlier would have been a good thing to do.

SF: Why?
eXo: Because communities generate contributions like feedback, adoption, and distribution that are critical for success. A community is great a catalyst for energy and motivation!

SF: Any reason you can’t expand your community now?
eXo: Frankly, I don’t see anything stopping the eXo community from growing in size and in participation. This past year, hundreds of community members contributed translations via http://translate.exoplatform.org making the eXo Platform 4 translation into 20 languages 100% complete. It’s the cycle of adding languages and gaining more members who contribute that spreads the word.

SF: Is there anything else we should know?
eXo: We’ve matured into a global company (with help from 130 employees on four continents) to become both production and enterprise ready. Learn more about eXo at http://www.exoplatform.com.

June 2014, Project of the Month – Freeplane

FreeplaneFor our June Project of the Month, the community elected Freeplane, an application for mind mapping and project/knowledge management that helps you develop, organize, and communicate your ideas most effectively. One of the project’s lead coders, Dimitry Polivaev, shared his thoughts about the project’s history, purpose, and direction.

SourceForge (SF): Tell me about the Freeplane project.
DP: For users, Freeplane is a free and open source software application that supports thinking, sharing information, and getting things done at work, in school, and at home. For the community and its developers, it’s a place for discussing and realizing ideas about knowledge representation and information analysis.

SF: What made you start this?
DP: In 2003 I discovered FreeMind and was fascinated by the potential of mind maps. I was contributing to it over a long time. In 2007, I forked it and started Freeplane with a vision of creating a more efficient software design and building a team with good rapport between the team members.

SF: Who can benefit the most from your project?
DP: The software can be used for organizing and analyzing information of any kind. When information is structured you can more easily see existing relations, notice gaps, and find new questions and answers. Engineers use Freeplane for note taking. Students use it for better learning. Scientists use it for developing logic of their papers and presentations. Storytellers use it as a database of ideas, characters, places, and phrases for writing stories. Managers use it for managing project tasks and teams. There are so many areas where analyzing information can lead to new understanding and better communication.

SF: What is the need for this particular mind-mapping program?
DP: Freeplane is fast. It can display, search, filter, organize, manipulate, and export thousands of pieces of information. It can be completely controlled with the keyboard. It is also highly configurable (e.g. it allows easy definition of own shortcuts and has very good support for scripting). Groovy scripts and installable add-ons that provide additional functionality can be written and shared by users.

SF: What’s the best way to get the most out of using Freeplane?
DP: Visit our forum and become a part of the online community. Here you can share questions, answers and ideas, or help other and ask for help. You can also get the deep inside answers and influence features even if you are not a developer yourself.

SF: What has your project team done to help build and nurture your community?
DP: We all believe in the value of communication with the community. I see the community as an extension of the team. In our forum, we discuss coming features and get feedback. I think that it increases developer motivation and also makes our work more efficient.

SF: Have you all found that more frequent releases helps build up your community of users?
DP: More frequent releases are rather important for happy developers because they do not like to wait too long for features that they develop to be used.

SF: What was the first big thing that happened for your project?
DP: New impulses to the project have always come with new people and their ideas. In 2011, a group of young scientists working on new academic literature software called Docear, which is used to search, organize, and create academic literature, decided to use Freeplane as the foundation for their work.

SF: What helped make that happen and what was the result?
DP: The main arguments were the quality of our software design and the way we supported their work, so now there is a strong collaboration between our two projects and teams.

SF: What is the next big thing for Freeplane?
DP: We just released the final version of Freeplane 1.3.x, and we are presently working on a new user interface and new features for the next version 1.4.x. And every day there is a chance that somebody comes with a new great idea and starts to implement it with us. For example, there are many requests for Freeplane for mobile devices; people want to take their mind maps with them. Although several free and non-free apps support Freeplane’s format partially, there are none with full Freeplane support.

SF: How long do you think that will take?
DP: I hope we release 1.4.x later this year. The mobile version or a more fancy Freeplane based on JavaFX technology are likely to take more time.

SF: Do you have the resources you need to make that happen?
DP: We work as long as it takes and usually set no deadlines. The most important resources are confidence and passion.

SF: What would you do differently for Freeplane?
DP: Recently I have learned about software craftsmanship, clean code, and appreciated test-driven development. Applying these principles to Freeplane development is a new challenge.

SF: Is there anything else we should know?
DP: We are eager to welcome new guys (and their ideas) to join our team!