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How to Find an Open Source Package

This is an article I’ve been wanting to write for literally months now and today’s little SquirrelMail snafu (curse Courier IMAP Auth daemon; curse it!) has given me a good reason.

Note: I know that both SquirrelMail and Courier IMAP are good Open Source projects and generally work fine.  For me thought they blew up big time – and right in a customer’s face.  That’s bad.  Yes it’s my fault but it sent me questing for another webmail package FAST.  Hence this article.

So here’s the problem – you need to find an Open Source application to do X where X is some kind of task either common or highly specific.  You don’t know where to start.  Who you gonna call?  SourceBusters1?  Nope!  But here’s what you are going to do.

  1. Figure out what you need.
  2. Figure out where to search.
  3. Figure out

Freshmeat, SourceForge and Google

There are three main tools that you can use to find an Open Source application:

Each of these tools have unique pros and cons.  Of the three I prefer Freshmeat but each is covered below.

Freshmeat

 

SourceForge

SourceForge is one of those required but bloody well annoying Internet things.  Yes it is an absolute treasure trove of resources but it is clunky, difficult to search and just plain often doesn’t work.  Here’s an example, when I went to do my webmail search on SF this is what I got:

Our search servers are currently experiencing high load. Please try your search again later.

No matches found for webmail

Or you might get SourceForge’s other common result when it has problems:

 

Yes that’s right – nothing at all.   Sigh.

Now you just can’t tell me that SourceForge doesn’t host not one webmail application but dozens probably.  Their server infrastructure seems to always have issues and go both only and offline with a fair degree of regularity.

Google

And don’t forget that there are a lot of Open Source projects that don’t exist in either FreshMeat or SourceForge.  For example my favorite Open Source content management system, Drupal, isn’t AFAIK in either.  That doesn’t mean it isn’t a real Open Source

But Sensei … How Do I know If the Open Source is Good?

Ah… Well there is the rub.  You often don’t know.  And when you just have a great big pile of bits all tarred together then it is difficult.  But rest easy Grasshopper – there are a number of ways to tell, you can put any Open Source package through one or more “trials” and see how it measures up to the task:

  1. The Trial of Self Acknowledgement.
  2. The Trial of the Install.
  3. The Trial of the Email.  Or “if an email is sent into the ether and no one hears it, can you get support?”.
  4. The Trial of the Mailing List.
  5. The Trial of the IM.
  6. The Trial of the Last Update.  Look at the website and see how frequently the Open Source
  7. The Trial of the License.
  8. The Trial of the Code.  And lest we forget

 

1Sorry for the poor GhostBusters humor; I just couldn’t resist.

 

 

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