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Quagga - The Free Software Directory

by tedt Contributions Published on Feb 24, 2006 03:58 PM
As is so often the case in life, two steps forward requires one step back.

This was the case with Quagga - The Free Software Directory in the new year (as an aside, Quaggas are an extinct zebra-like ungulate from Southern Africa). Our overworked sysadmins found some time recently to give our servers an upgrade. This upgrade introduced some changes in certain aspects of python, specifically how it handles dates and time. Unfortunately, this change also injected an incompatibility into the directory code. The initial manifestation of this problem was the total absence of all details related to the program. There was no program description, no source download link, nothing about the license, just a stark white page with links to the categories on the left. Within a half hour though, of our noticing that the 4500 plus programs where conspicuously absence, our crack sysadmins had resolved the problem.

At some point around this time another break occurred in the directory. This time the situs was the search engine. This error manifested itself by the engine only serving up the highest ranked result. This too was remedied shortly after discovery. In considering the cause of this a bit of history on the development of the directory is in order; you see the directory was developed by the FSF based on a set of very specific needs, and this, coupled with the Foundation's limited resources lead to the development of the directory being done by all the hackers on staff and by volunteers and contributors who generously donated their time and/or resources. So with efficiency of the utmost importance, each individual programmer contributed their part in the language that they were most comfortable with, and then have Apache and MySQL work to coordinate the various parts. So these employees have come and gone, and the directory has continued evolving as needs and time saw fit. Thus, it is understandable why our current sysadmins do not understand every nuance of how the directory works, especially considering their already pressing workload around the office and with their testing of UTUTO-e, the free GNU/Linux distribution.

Now that the directory is back to full health again, we can start implementing some improvements. Some planned areas of work that the FSF is considering is giving a fresh face to the directory, reworking the category structure, and most importantly improving the search engine. With an average of 200,000 visitors a month on the GNU directory site, and over 25 independently hosted mirrors, Quagga is a primer listing of free software for free operating systems. If you want to see the work that has already been done, or join this highly visible project, check out cvs -z3 -d:pserver:anonymous@cvs.savannah.gnu.org:/sources/gnulist co gnulist.


Or if you have any suggestions on directory changes that you would like to see send me a note at Ted Teah.  Next time I hope to have a chance to share some of the work the FSF has been doing to introduce and improve the copyright administration software.

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