Launchpad.net: A New Approach to Develop Software

A new, collaborative site, hosted by Ubuntu parent Canonical, will help development teams to cross-check bugs in shared code that affect multiple different projects.

Launchpad.net 1.0, a new collaborative Web site and service package designed to improve the flow of communication between developers on different software projects, began public beta testing April 2.

Launchpad joins a well-established group of online open-source development sites and communities that include SourceForge.net, CollabNet and FreshMeat.net, among others.

Registration to be a beta tester for Launchpad is free of charge but is dependent on approval of the project team. The project has been in the alpha stage for more than a year.

Sponsored by Canonical Ltd., the U.K.-based company that develops Ubuntu and Kubuntu Linux, Launchpad uses a different approach to free software project management and hosting, Canonical founder and Chairman Mark Shuttleworth told eWEEK.

"Launchpad helps projects collaborate more effectively to solve shared problems, such as bugs in shared code which affect multiple different projects," Shuttleworth said.

For example, Shuttleworth said, in a large project, such as Apache (an open-source Web server) or Firefox (Web browser), bug trackers often run into similar problems involving deployment on different operating systems but dont communicate because theyre working in separate communities. With Launchpad, the communities can now communicate and share code among themselves, Shuttleworth said.

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"For a bug, say, in Firefox being used on Red Hat Linux, the bug trackers may be working on the same problem with Firefox on Ubuntu or Solaris. If they dont communicate, theres a lot of wasted time and effort there ... Launchpad solves this," Shuttleworth said.

Such conversations have traditionally been difficult across communities using different development tools. Launchpad helps to bring those communities closer together by linking the information from a variety of project-specific sources and presenting it through a common interface, Shuttleworth said.

Simple, Web-based Interface

The public beta uses a new interface that allows projects to establish their presence in Launchpad. It also highlights the current activity of members in the project.

Launchpads team management capability enables spontaneous team formation within a community and lowers the barriers to entry for new contributors to a project, Shuttleworth said. There are now about 2,700 projects and nearly 1,000 teams active in the system, some with several hundred members, he added.

The popular GNU/Linux distribution Ubuntu uses Launchpad to keep track of work in progress across hundreds of free software communities, a task that would not be possible without the capabilities of the platform, Shuttleworth said.

Launchpad makes it possible for the Ubuntu team to coordinate work on tens of thousands of bug reports, many of which involve third-party development communities, and hundreds of feature proposals for each release, and to make sure that Ubuntu is widely available in hundreds of languages, Shuttleworth said.

"Launchpad is built for Ubuntu, but its great to see other projects adopting it, too, most notably in recent weeks Zope and Silva," Shuttleworth wrote in his blog on April 2. "I hope those projects find it much easier to collaborate with one another, and with other projects, too."

Launchpad consists of a set of integrated tools that support collaboration and community formation, including team management, a bug tracker, code hosting, translations, a blueprint tracker and an answer tracker.

Free software communities constantly reuse one anothers code. In many cases, a bug is first discovered in a different community than the originator of the buggy code. Coordinating the diagnosis and bug fix requires a conversation that spans those communities, Shuttleworth said.

This is particularly true of distributions like Ubuntu, where the majority of the code is an aggregation of thousands of packages from hundreds of separate communities, Shuttleworth said.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...