Friday, May 23, 2008

An Intro to Open Source Software Development

This article tries to give a mild introduction for those Java programming geeks who want to contribute to open source softwares but who get lost in this maze of tar balls with documentation, source code, third party jars and binaries.

this is not another creative writing attempt from the author.... lets get down to the business now.

For anyone who can understand the English language it is obvious that an Open Source Software is a piece of software which has it's source code open to everyone in this world who want to study or modify it. For someone who is better than a layman in software industry, an open source software is not just free software but also has a community of developers associated with it who are constantly working towards contributing to its development and also providing the required support through forums and mailing-lists.

basically what the author is trying to say is since they are several fellows work on the same thing, one or another will help you out if you have any problem.

For a more book type definition of what an open source software is, you can refer to [1].
Some organizations like the Apache Foundation [2] have plethora of open source softwares for various purposes.

what is there in it for an average programmer .... ;-) not me

Several of these open source softwares are written by experienced developers who want to solve some problem using a software. Hence most of them are well-written and could be studied by less experienced programmers who want to improve their coding skills.

what is there in it for an experienced programmer?

Well experienced programmers can show case there problem solving skills and good coding practices.

Now getting down to what you need to do to work with an open source Java software. First of all you need Computer of course, a JDK, an IDE like Eclipse. What you have to do is:
  1. Download the source code.
  2. Download the binaries.
  3. Download documentation like user manual or javadocs.
Thats all ! you are ready to go ........

  1. You have to import the source into eclipse as a project.
  2. You need the helping jars to compile the source code. (You can find them in the source or the binaries zip).
Since you can compile and build the source code you can make changes to it ! and even contribute to it.

Just let the code flow through your fingers ......Happy Open Sourcing !!!

References:

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_source_software
[2] http://jakarta.apache.org/