The future of packages

I noted in this post that the infamous FreeCode is now gone. I had fond memories of posting my software when it was FreshMeat.net. But time passes and things change. We should move forward with improvements and put aside outdated methods. As an academic type of person I agree with what I have just written, and it is foolish to hold on to the past just for the sake of nostalgia, but sometimes even I wonder if we did not loose something important, like moving from the touchy-feely of holding a paperback to an e-reader. 

This is not going to be a long rant about how better off we are or we were. This is not going to be some seriously introspective look at the universe or systems administration or computer science or engineering.  This is more of a simple notation from my very limited world of people that I end up reading about on the internet or forums that I read.

I will admit that when FreeCode went static my first reaction was a bit nostalgic and filled with a mild sadness. After a while, I can see that things need to move on in a certain way, but that it did leave some gap to be filled in that small developers of very useful software need an outlet to present their wares. There should be some kind of place where new software can be featured in a relatively unfiltered way.

A number of people have suggested that sourceforge is still around and kicking, but I would argue that it is an unusable mess. Yes, my software is on sourceforge, but I would not recommend anyone going there. It is riddled with ads and downloads that only security researchers would dare to click on while using a machine that was wearing a condom and was meant to be wiped daily if not hourly. No, at one time sourceforge was great, and now it has regulated itself to the annals of the internet.

I had a small email discussion with a person whom I always respected in the field, and they noted that github was the new FreeCode. Interesting, I thought, but there is a problem with that mentality, which has shown itself to me again today, and this is why I am writing this short post. I was reading a new site (osnews, it may be a bit dated, but still relevant) and saw yet another project that piqued my interest. When I clicked on the link, however, I was presented with a github page. Hrm, OK. What is a normal person to do in this case? I was not at my “development” box with Github installed. This brings about another question (I am not a “real” github user, in that I know enough to make a project and upload it to github), which is in the past it was download a .tgz and build it and test it, or download the package (.rpm, .deb, etc) and install that. Now it is bring the repo over to your machine (which I suppose is exactly like the .tgz) and build it.

This is very similar to the building process we had (and still have), but there is no “front page” of github in the same way there was a front page of FreeCode. There is no ranking system. How do I know what the popular projects are, other than an obscure website that gives a short blurb about them, compared to say FreshMeat/FreeCode where I can look at it daily or weekly and see a list of the top and newly announced projects? I feel that something has been lost here. At the same time there was some effort by Eric Raymond and others to bring back a copy/site like FreeCode, I even personally offered to help with hardware, bandwidth and time, I am still waiting on that email Eric…

One could argue that I should just do it, but with no support (and no one reads my web pages), how would it ever take off? I think that a few “popular” people should get moving with this, or at least make some kind of system similar to what we used to have available as a front end to github. Then again, when are we all going to move away from github and onto the next big thing in “development source code management” and then it will again be obsolete?

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