Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Being a good opensource user

There are many ways to contribute to opensource software (OSS), programming only being one of them. I develop OSS, but use OSS too. For example, I am a big user of the Linux kernel, the KDE desktop, Kubuntu, Debian (I have unstable in a chroot), Firefox, Eclipse, Classpath, and many, many others. What these have in common, is that I generally have no time to look into the source code of these projects. A small patch excluded, I am really a regular user of these projects.

However, I try not to leech (see also Peter's related comment on that): I care about these projects and, therefore, I file bug reports. Sometimes, I even join the developers and talk to them via commonly used IRC and mailing lists. Even, every now and then I get this itch and then I do look up source code and contribute a patch. But filing bug reports is the least one can do, the least everyone should do.


Classpath is the GNU project to provide a free Java library, i.e. the set of java.* classes that come with the Sun JVM. It is not a virtual machine, though, for which several opensource implementations are available, many of which use Classpath as library provider. They have a very nice chat channel at, called #classpath. There wiki provides a platform for given feedback on how well software runs. A bug track system (BTS) is available too. An overview of the bugs that I filed, can be found at my account: bugreports+Classpath.

Needless to say, Classpath is important in making our Java based chemoinformatics truely opensource.


Things are different for Debian and Kubuntu: these are distributions and, except for some patching, are generally not involved software development as done by upstream. However, they generally do appreciate to know about bugs too, so there is some duplication of bug reports here.

That said, they do provide nice tools for bug reporting which works for all packages that they distribute. Debian has reportbug and Kubuntu has Launchpad. An over view of bugs I reported with Debian can be found at bugreports+debian. I do not have bug reports in Launchpad yet, but two can be found in mailing list archives, see bugreports+ubuntu.


I also tracked back two bugs I reported with KDE, see bugreports+KDE.


Surely, I filed many more bugs to many other projects. A long list of bug reports can be found on SourceForge. However, it seems not possible to make an easy list of that :(


  1. I take it you've got no faith in the Sun process to open the Java source then? ;-)

  2. Jim, it's really projects like Classpath that make big companies like Sun open things in the end. It *might* happen, if we keep the pressure strong. Until that actual moment, I continue to be a strong Classpath fan.

    Moreover, Classpath has come such a long way that it can already replace Sun in all but the graphical stuff, which is 98% feature complete, but generally a bit slow. JChemPaint runs, Jmol runs, even Bioclipse you can get going to a good extend (it's the Swing/AWT bridge that gives trouble; Eclipse runs like a charm, a slow charm though, with Classpath, and I think that's an astonishing achievement). All our non-graphical chemoinformatics stuff should be no problem at all.

    But, when Sun indeed has make their Java library opensource, I would surely file bug reports there too. However, Sun is not known for responding quickly to bug reports, which are currently filed.

    Oh, and I am not so much into that Apache Harmony project either.

  3. Jim, I just read on a Dutch website that apparently some high Sun official said at an Oracle conference, that the Sun JVM should be opensourced within the next two months, using an OSI license:

    Could not find an English news item to back this up.