Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Version control

Posted: December 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

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Version control is an important cog when working in software development, It allows you to monitor changes made from version to version. for example, when using version tracking a developer might want to compare version 1.1 of a game with version 2.2 of the same game to see what changes had occurred. version control systems keep track of every version of the software, this becomes a straightforward task. Knowing what changes have been made will help with comparing the performance of particular versions, working out when bugs were introduced (or fixed), and so on.

I have used a kind of version tracking myself in previous projects, last year we were tasked with an arduino project to develop a program that controlled traffic lights. I had numerous versions saved just in case I needed to revert back to and earlier version because i had destroyed the current working code. It also helped me when looking back at previous versions of the changes i made and how i benefited from the change and if i needed to revert the change to further my project.

I am also currently using the same method in my Java project in my programming assignment.

Intellectual Property

Posted: December 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

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If you’ve not created it, it’s not yours!! Copyright law is considered to be a form of intellectual property, it applies to any piece of creative work. Copyright has hit the news headlines more than once over the past few years with many music recording artists feeling undercut by illegal downloads of their works. Another headliner was The pirate bay which illegally hosted copied versions of Movies/TV/Music and images that were made available for anyone with the correct software to download for free. Just recently the Pirate Bay has been seized by government forces for the breach of copyright law and claims that 100 million people still pirating movies and TV shows despite police raid this week.

So, how important is intellectual property when it comes to open source software? Intellectual property is also taken into consideration when dealing with software licensing there was a recent case where a company called Versata Software sued Ameriprise Financial Services for breaching its software license. This case can be read here.

This case shows it is essential you are aware of the laws on copyright before you leap into a project.

Sustainability within Simutrans

Posted: December 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

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Sustainability in an open source project is a key point to consider. Since its creation as a hobby project in 1997, Simutrans has undergone many changes. It is currently on version 120.01 and still has an average of 722 Commits over a 12 month period. Although the number of commits had declined slightly year-on-year, the number of contributors has maintained over the past 12 months. If we were to look at a 5 year trend, the number of contributors has doubled which leads me to believe that the Simutrans community are still working hard to keep the project alive.

Looking at the Version history it seems there are new patches and downloads every 2-3 years with there being other smaller updates available in between.

Looking at the Simutrans project, it seems like Simutrans has the sustainability factor. It still has a great following in the community forums and still issues regular updates. It seems like the possibilities are endless with what could be done to make this game more advanced. I predict this project will be long standing as it still has a lotof appeal to its fans.

All software projects need to have some kind of method or system to monitor glitches or bugs within the program. Two of the most popular systems that are used for this task are Bugzilla and The Trac Project.

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Although these systems are very popular it seems they are not good enough for the world of Simutrans. It took me a while to discover what system the Simutrans community was using to track its issues and it turns out they simply use the forum. Now I don’t claim to know much about bug tracking as I have only just encountered it but in my eyes this seems to be an unconventional and painstaking way to do this, Why aren’t the community using these great FREE systems to check for issues?  Maybe the benevolent dictator has said this is how we do it and let that be that?

The method used for bug tracking in Simutrans pretty much relies on the community finding a bug in the program and then posting on the forum as seen here:

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Once the post has been submitted it is then left for all of the community to read at will and if they have a solution then they can respond when and if they please.

There are rules/guidelines to follow when reporting a bug which are posted at the top of the forum.

Since writing this post I have posted in the community forum myself, I have requested if someone can explain to me why the bug tracking is done in this way and chosen not to use a readily available bug tracking system.

Since posting on the community forum, I have had received several replies from the Simutrans community as per my question as to why the bug tracking is done via the forum. One response I got back from one member was “we use the forums because it seems to work fine for us… it allows a wide range of coders and players a chance to suggest fixes for the bug (or maybe it isn’t a bug at all) or at the least find the source issues as to why a bug is occurring, making it much easier to locate and fix.” This seems to make good sense and perhaps I was wrong in my original view of this being a painstaking exercise as it clearly works well for this community.

This was not the only reply I received though, other members said “As for the bug tracking, I believe the argument was that it just creates a bureaucracy that we don’t need, with priorities, version scheduling, assignees and what not. We don’t prioritize or assign issues, they just get fixed by some passer by, or they don’t.” Whilst another member responds the the previous quote by saying “That’s true for most bug/issue tracking software as well. Most open source projects have allow anyone to register and start creating issues and comment on existing issues. The drawback is of course that it becomes a second arena for discussions. I know of one open source project that made their Jira (a bug/issue tracker) read-only for non-developers, so that bugs had to be reported on their forum (which consists of a single board). What they use their Jira for now, I can’t tell, but they still create Jira issues for relevant forum discussions and link them together for some reason.”

Overall I got some pretty good feedback from the community and from what I can work out I think I even managed to get a response from the top of the food chain too, a Dr. Markus Pristovsek. He responded by saying “Yes, the main reason was that bugs were mostly reported by non-programmers (because most programmer tend to fix their bugs anyway). However, this means there is a second system to be kept alive, where people have to register too (and which you have to administrate etc) Bug tracking is something done for programmer from Programmer (or dedicated testers). Normal user (non-programming) should have bug reporting as easy as possible.

Even OpenTTD get bug reports in their forum, although they use a bug tracker (but somehow they never close bug reports … )”.

Governance at Simutrans.

Posted: November 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

The term governance as used in industry (especially in the information technology (IT) sector) describes the processes that need to exist for a successful project. The Simutrans community seems to be run by a person that has a custom title of self styled benevolent dictator. This suggests that an authoritarian leader exercises absolute power over the project but is seen to do so for the benefit of the community as a whole.

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I believe this sort of method is a successful way of governing the open source community, It encourages bolder moves in decisions because the ‘leader’ is one person. If we look at people like Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Larry Page and Bill Gates they all have one thing in common, leaders, visionaries and decision makers.

 

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people thought Steve Jobs was crazy when Apple first opened retail stores,  he told people that he was thinking for the future, building for the long-haul , he told them if they didn’t like the vision they shouldn’t hold the stock. This is an example of decision making or benevolent dictatorship which I’m sure you will agree benefited the Apple community.

 

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Communication is vital when involved in an open source project. Throughout our day to day lives we use a number of methods to communicate with our peers. When involved in an open source project we face a more difficult task with our peers sometimes living in different time zones/countries. To counter these obstacles the Simutrans community uses a number of different methods of communication. The initial mode of communication between developers is the community forum, this takes away many of the obstacles presented between global communication as it is not time restricted, you simply post your question/statement and await a response.

Aside from the community forum there is a number of fan sites that are dedicated to helping fans of the project with development. The fan sites are mainly online blogs of senior members of the community and offer tutorials on certain aspects of the development.

The Simutrans community does not only communicate through fan sites and community forums though, social media plays a part within the community and Simutrans also boasts its own Facebook page, Twitter page and Google+ page.

UntitledFurthermore, The Simutrans website hosts links to online documents and manuals to offer assistance, there is a Simutrans wiki page that can be displayed in a variety of languages which further shows the global markets this project spans.

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Simutrans has its own dedicated community forum where users go to discuss ideas and progress, reading through the introductions section it seem the age rage varies from anything between 10 years old to 70 years old. Looking at some of the introductions most of the community are long term supporters who started using the software at a young age.

International communication concept

On the Simutrans official website there is a section which offers links to the many different forums available, The main forum language is English but also there are subforums for other languages such as Czech, German, Spanish, French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish and Chinese. With the forums catering for such a diverse amount of different languages it strikes me that the Simutrans project is a global project spanning many different countries and cultures. Not only does the community support all these different languages but the website also offers a simutranslator service which further shows the global audience that this project reaches.
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Aside from a community place where developers can discuss the project there is also a large community fan base with a number of sites in a huge variation of languages. Its clear to see that Simutrans is a massive project that caters for a wide scope of age range and is supported in many different countries.