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Ubuntu Launchpad Opens Up Development

Open source project development isn't just about open code it's also about open development tools and open collaboration. Linux vendor Ubuntu is aiming to make its Launchpad hosting platform and Bazaar (bzr) distributed version control system, the standard for a new generation of open source developers. LaunchPad 2.0 was released today.

For the first generation of open source development, tools like CVS (Concurrent Versions System), SVN (subversion) and SourceForge.net were the standards. Ubuntu's Launchpad 2.0 release which uses Ubuntu's bzr (pronounced Bazaar) is taking a different tact than its peers by opening up the development process to encourage wider participation in the open source ecosystem. The Ubuntu system could end up spurring a new wave of openness in open source development practices.

"Most people that come to Launchpad, experience it because of Ubuntu, but Launchpad is not just for Ubuntu, it's an open collaboration platform for any open source project," Launchpad project manager Christian "Kiko" Reis told InternetNews.com. "It's special because it really provides you with a place to showcase your project and because the barrier to participation is so low, it's a great place to attract community participation."

The bzr system that powers Launchpad is a distributed de-centralized version control system people can use to create branches of software and maintain local code histories. In contrast CVS and SVN are centralized version control systems that require developers to work through a central repository .

"A decentralized version control system is all about lowering the barrier to entry and encouraging participation," Reis explained. "When you use CVS, you're talking about a single repository which you have to request access to. So if I'm a developer and I find your software interesting and I want to build a branch of your code, I have to come and talk to you to give me permission."

The Launchpad system is where bzr users can host their code branches, much like Sourceforge.net and Google Code are good place to host SVN code repositories. Launchpad also provides workflow enhancements for bzr users to help merge code branches. Ubuntu's Launchpad in combination with bzr enables code imports from existing CVS or SVN repositories to help ease migration.

Better integration

The Launchpad 2.0 release which is now online, provides a new user interface, new navigation system and better integration with external bug trackers.

"We wrote GPL plug-ins for Trac and bugzilla and we can do bidirectional synchronization with them so it's much easier to talk regardless of what bug tracker you're using," Reis commented. "Launchpad is a much more scalable code hosting platform for bzr now."

Launchpad currently hosts 7,000 open source projects, among them is Sun's MySQL database which moved to the system earlier this year.

"Launchpad is a great platform and we're happy to be working with them and exposing our code to a broader audience of participants," Zack Urlocker, vice-president of products, database group, Sun Microsystems told InternetNews.com.

Urlocker noted that MySQL had previously been using BitKeeper, which is also a distributed development tool.

"It's [BitKeeper] a very innovative tool, but it wasn't always easy for other people to access the code," Urlocker commented. "It's been our goal to be more open and make it easier for our community to participate in development, so the combination of Bazaar with Launchpad has opened up quite a few possibilities for more participation in the community."