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Subversion: Is the jump from CVS worth it?

March 17, 2004

This article was contributed by Caleb Tennis

CVS (Concurrent Versions Systems) ( is by far the most widely used source control program in the open source community. Though it tends to suffice for most projects, CVS is considered by many to be antiquated, lacking features and abilities which would be very valuable to most open source projects. Subversion ( is a project which attempts to replace CVS, adding new features where needed, and changing existing functionality only when necessary.

The most notable change for CVS users is Subversion's repository handling of atomic commits. In CVS, every file was individually versioned according to its changes; in Subversion the entire repository is versioned. While conceptually different, the advantage to this change quickly becomes apparent: the entire repository can be returned to a known state. As an added bonus, the addition of special keywords allows one to view changes between file versions quickly without knowing the revision number.

Subversion adds two commands not present in CVS: "move" and "copy". With these, revision histories for files and directories are preserved between location changes. This feature is a boon for most CVS users, who commonly complain about the inability to rename files and directories easily.

In Subversion, branches and tags are nothing more than copies of a directory, making them easier to work with than their CVS counterparts. After becoming accustomed to the concept, one quickly realizes that branches in a Subversion repository are parallel to one another, whereas in CVS the branches feel orthogonal. The branching operation is considerably faster by design, and Subversion's "merge" command is more intuitive than CVS's "update -j".

Additionally, Subversion caches more meta information in the local working copy, eliminating the need for client-server communications for commands like "status", "diff", and the new "revert". Commits are processed by only sending the differences and not the entire file like in CVS, making the commit process considerably faster. Even binary files stored in the repository are handled using a binary diff, making storage more efficient.

Finally, Subversion adds new features that aren't readily available with CVS. Properties, such as MIME types or the execute permission bit can be attached to files. "Hook" scripts can be triggered to run based on certain events, such as a "commit". From the server side, repository control is more fine tuned, and many nice maintenance features have been added, without compromising ease of use.

One of the biggest concerns that many have when considering Subversion is the requirement for Apache2. It is worth noting, however, that Subversion has no requirement for Apache2. It can use the WebDAV protocol through Apache2 for repository access, but also works fine through a standalone server daemon.

These fundamental changes offer newer, and arguably better ways of working with the repository than with CVS. With so many great changes, the authors of Subversion truly have created a viable drop-in replacement for CVS. As more projects start to embrace Subversion for what new features it offers, it is sure to become the new standard for open source project revision control systems.

Comments (20 posted)

System Applications

Audio Projects

alsa-lib 1.0.3b released

Version 1.0.3b of alsa-lib is available. The change information says: "it fixes SIGSEGV problem for dmix plugin (when a specific GCC version is used)".

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A new version of Jack-plumbing, a JACK connection daemon, is out. "The JACK plumbing daemon has a new rule to dramatically reduce ordinary rule set sizes, a new system wide configuration file, and a new version number to indicate progress."

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Planet CCRMA Changes

The latest changes from the Planet CCRMA audio utility packaging project include new versions of Open Music for Linux, CMUCL Common Lisp, CLM, and CMN. Also: "added a new section documenting how to configure multiple soundcards, and also another one on extra stuff for configuring USB soundcards."

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Database Software

PostgreSQL 7.4.2 Now Available

Version 7.4.2 of the PostgreSQL database is out. "After several fixes were backpatches to the 7_4_STABLE branch, we have now released a 7.4.2. As the list of Changes since 7.4.2 is quite small, they are included in this email".

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PostgreSQL Weekly News

The PostgreSQL Weekly News for March 15, 2004 is available.

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Networking Tools

Net-SNMP 5.1.1.rc1 is available (SourceForge)

Net-SNMP version 5.1.1.rc1 has been released. "It is the, hopefully, final pre-release before the real 5.1.1 on Friday. Please let us know on the -coders list if you see any show-stopping bugs. net-snmp provides tools and libraries relating to the Simple Network Management Protocol".

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The CUPS Driver Development Kit

The CUPS printer project has released version 1.0 rc 1 of the Driver Development Kit. "The CUPS Driver Development Kit (DDK) provides a suite of standard drivers, a PPD file compiler, and other utilities that can be used to develop printer drivers for CUPS and other printing environments. CUPS provides a portable printing layer for UNIX®-based operating systems. The CUPS DDK provides the means for mass-producing PPD files and drivers/filters for CUPS-based printer drivers."

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Web Site Development

Two new releases of Tiki

Two new releases of Tiki, a CMS/groupware suite, are out. Version 1.7.6 of the stable series and version 1.8.1 are available. The SourceForge announcement says: "Release 1.7.6 marks the end of the Tiki 1.7 family. 1.8 now officially replaces the 1.7 family."

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realtime-0.0.4 with 2.6.4 kernel support

Version 0.0.4 of the realtime Linux Security Module is available. "This version handles the new concurrent groups mechanism Linus introduced in 2.6.4. It still works with earlier 2.6 kernels. There are no functional changes. Unless you are running 2.6.4, there is no reason to upgrade."

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Desktop Applications

Audio Applications

Rhythmbox 0.7.1: ''On The Road Again'' (GnomeDesktop)

Version 0.7.1 of Rhythmbox, an integrated music management application, has been released. "There's a number of cool things in this release, many of them brought to you by Christophe Fergeau, so you should thank him a lot :) Most notable of those is the iPod support, which is still experimental."

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Desktop Environments

GNOME Summary (GnomeDesktop)

The March 6, 2004 edition of the GNOME summary is online. "Featuring news about F-Spot, the coming deep freeze and more!"

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GNOME 2.6 Beta-2 Released (GnomeDesktop)

Version 2.6 Beta 2 of the GNOME Desktop & Developer Platform has been released. "The second BETA release of the GNOME 2.6 Desktop & Developer Platform! That's right - it's almost here, and it's your chance to have a sneak preview, and hopefully beat out some of the last remaining bugs before our final release."

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XFce 4.0.4 is out !

Version 4.0.4 of the XFce lightweight desktop environment is available. "This is a maintenance release." See the change log for details.

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XCircuit 3.2.14 Released

Version 3.2.14 of the XCircuit electronic schematic drawing package is available. Change information is in the source code.

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Financial Applications

Kurush 0.10 Released (GnomeDesktop) has an announcement for version 0.10 of Kurush. "Kurush aims to be an easy to use personal finance tool for GNOME Desktop and it is built around Mono and GTK# with the help of the Montant IDE."

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Pydance 1.0.1 released

Version 1.0.1 of Pydance is available. "Pydance is a dancing game based on ideas from dancing games in the arcade. Dance with your body (or your fingers) and try to keep the beat. The better you do, the higher you score."

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ScummVM 0.6.0 released (SourceForge)

ScummVM 0.6.0, a cross-platform interpreter for point-and-click adventure engines, has been announced. "This release includes the usual load of bugfixes and major feature enhancements. Among other changes, there are two new graphics scalers (HQ2X/ HQ3X), an improved launcher/options dialog, and support for a number of new games."

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Eye on performance: MegaJogos scales up with NIO (IBM developerWorks)

Jack Shirazi and Kirk Pepperdine write about Java game performance issues on IBM's developerWorks. "Marcos Fonseca, the main man behind the MegaJogos multi-player game site and a member of the Java Games community, recently altered the application behind the site to use the NIO package to enhance its scalability. Though successful, the migration was not without its challenges. In this installment of Eye on performance, Kirk Pepperdine and Jack Shirazi follow Marcos's journey as he discovers some of the finer points of NIO performance"

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GUI Packages

GTK+ user interface libraries, version 2.4

The GTK+ team has announced the release of version 2.4 of the GTK+ widget toolkit and its associated libraries (GLib, Pango and ATK).

Full Story (comments: 6)

Imaging Applications

More graphics from the command line (IBM developerWorks)

Michael Still does graphics work from the command line on IBM's develoerWorks. "There's nothing quite like command-line tools for handling large batches of tasks, and image manipulations are no exception. Web developers and administrators will appreciate the ability to handle large numbers of files easily, either at the command line or in scripts. Programmer Michael Still presents more examples of the ImageMagick suite, this time demonstrating how to put curved corners, logos, or frames and borders on your images, as well as how to convert to and from multipage file formats including Adobe's PDF format."

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Samba 3.0.2a Available

Samba version 3.0.2a has been announced. "Samba 3.0.2a is a minor patch release for the 3.0.2 code base to address, in particular, a problem when using pdbedit to sanitize (--force-initialized-passwords) Samba's tdbsam backend. This is the latest stable release of Samba."

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Wine Release 20040309

Release 20040309 of Wine has been announced. Changes include an improved winegcc tool, drive configuration simplification, multimedia dll improvements, bug fixes, and more.

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Medical Applications

FreeMED 0.7.0 Beta 2 Released (LinuxMedNews)

Version 0.7.0 Beta 2 of FreeMED, an electronic medical record and practice management system has been announced. "As FreeMED is in feature freeze for the upcoming release, this release features critical bugfixes in the billing and reporting systems, as well as some critical UI fixes. It has working FreeB support, as well as fixing problems in the claims manager."

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OpenEMR Announces 2.5, Videos, and Prescriptions (LinuxMedNews)

LinuxMedNews covers recent changes in the OpenEMR project. "For those of you that are unfamiliar with OpenEMR, it is an open source practice management and electronic medical record application. We are creating OpenEMR to compete with and be a replacement for Health Pro, MegaWest and Medical Manager. We are now in the process of finalizing billing using FreeB and anticipate having those features implemented and tested by the end of April 2004."

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Music Applications

Hydrogen 0.8.2 is out

Version 0.8.2 of Hydrogen, a drum machine, is out. Changes include better MIDI input support, JACK transport improvements, bug fixes, and more.

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SpiralModular 0.2.2 released

Version 0.2.2 of spiralmodular, "an object orientated music studio with an emphasis on live use", has been released. Changes include: "loads of fixes and features, most notably a new GUI design and improvements in LADSPA and ALSA support."

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Office Applications

Evolution 1.4.6 released (GnomeDesktop)

Version 1.4.6 of Ximian Evolution, a personal and workgroup information management application, has been announced. "This update includes bug fixes as a result of community and customer feedback received since version 1.4.5."

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Gnumeric 1.2.8 released (GnomeDesktop)

Version 1.2.8 of the Gnumeric spreadsheet has been released. "This is a medium priority release. It works around a few cosmetic issues. Additionally we finally tracked down which theme (6nome) was crashing, and fixed that. Unfortunately that patch promptly broke Industrial/Gorilla forcing 1.2.7 to become 1.2.8. There was some work to tune the charting engine and support bubble plots, along with some improvement in xls import for embedded text boxes (XL95 and XP)."

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Video Applications

GnomeMeeting's PC Conferencing Alternative (GnomeDesktop)

The first release of GnomeMeeting has been announced. "Version 1.0 of the GnomeMeeting software package is a H.323 videoconferencing application for Linux PCs that allows users to make audio and video calls over the Internet, as long as recipients are equipped with H.323-compatible equipment. (H.323 (define) is a set of communications protocols used to transmit and receive audio and video information over the Internet.)"

Comments (none posted)

Web Browsers Status Update (MozillaZine)

The March 16, 2004 Status Update is available. "It includes news on a Windows installer for Mozilla Thunderbird, Mozilla Forefox profile migration, the Mozilla Firefox Roadmap, branding, JavaScript controls, the IMAP IDLE command, cookies, spoiler protection, Extensible Tag Framework (XTF) and more."

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Independent Status Reports (MozillaZine)

The March 14, 2004 Mozilla Independent Status Reports are available. "The latest set of status reports includes updates from mozdev, Googlebar, Firebird Help, Dictionary Search, Mnenhy, the Metagrams Toolbar and cuneAform."

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Mozilla Foundation open letter on trademark use

The Mozilla Foundation has posted a copy of a letter it is sending to vendors selling Mozilla-oriented merchandise. The Foundation, it seems, is serious about its trademarks and won't let just anybody make use of them. "The Mozilla project uses Mozilla, Firefox, the fox-on-the-globe and other names and logos to brand its products and goods. We like to think that it's a mark of quality.... We'd like to be certain that what's being sold with our logos on is the good stuff. And (let's be honest here) it's only fair that we get a cut, to contribute towards keeping the Foundation going."

Comments (8 posted)


Pyro AI and Robotics System 2.2.1 released

Version 2.2.1 of the Pyro AI and Robotics System is available. See the whats new document for change information.

Comments (none posted)

Languages and Tools


Caml Weekly News

The Caml Weekly News for March 9-16, 2004 is available with the latest Caml language articles.

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BlackMamba: A Swing Case Study (O'Reilly)

Ashwin Jayaprakash writes about GUI design under Java with his BlackMamba project. "In this article we'll discuss how to develop a desktop application using many of the architectural principles in the proverbial Book of OOAD. BlackMamba, shown in Figure 1, will be our case study. We will also list some of the common pitfalls that one encounters when developing such an application in Java Swing and learn how to overcome them."

Comments (none posted)

HTML Parser Production Release 1.4 available (SourceForge)

Production version 1.4 of HTML Parser has been released. "Ten months of development have culminated in a very robust, extensible product that has been tested, and is already being used, by thousands of developers. HTML Parser is a library, written in Java, which allows you to parse HTML (HTML 4.0 supported)."

Comments (none posted)


CL-Ncurses 0.1.1 released

The initial release of CL-Ncurses, an Ncurses interface for Common Lisp, is out.

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Simple IO Handling with IO::All (O'Reilly)

Brian Ingerson explains Perl's IO::All on O'Reilly. "Being quite satisfied with my new idiom, I sat down for a few more weeks, and wrote a few hundred lines of code, and hid it in a module called IO::All and uploaded it to CPAN. Now I can do my 5-line slurp in 1 line. Phew!"

Comments (none posted)

This Week on perl5-porters (use Perl)

The March 8-14, 2004 edition of This Week on perl5-porters is online. "This week was the can-of-Unicode-worms-festival week for the Perl 5 porters. Regular expressions were another recurrent topic."

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This week on Perl 6

The March 7, 2004 edition of This week on Perl 6 is available. "Time marches on, and another summary gets written, sure as eggs are eggs and chromatic is a chap with whom I will never start a sentence. We start, as always, with perl6-internals."

Comments (none posted)


Billy the Kid update

A new update of Billy the Kid is available with bug fixes. "Billy the Kid is a Python Extension Module providing you with all kinds of more or less usefull stuff at the raw packet level. It allows you to create raw UDP/TCP/ICMP packets and it also includes a nice interface to libpcap. It gives you the ability to do all those nasty things you've always dreamed about. But this time you can do it from within Python! No more hasseling with C, messy pointers and other stuff. Billy the Kid takes care of that from you."

Comments (none posted)

PyGTK 2.2.0 released (GnomeDesktop) has the announcement for version 2.2.0 of PyGTK, the Python bindings to GTK+.

Comments (none posted)

PyQt 3.11 Released

Version 3.11 of PyQT, the Qt bindings for the Python language, is out.

Full Story (comments: none)

Python-dev Summary

The Python-dev Summary for February 1-29, 2004 is available with lots of Python development news.

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Dr. Dobb's Python-URL!

The March 14, 2004 edition of Dr. Dobb's Python-URL! has been published. Take a look for many Python article links.

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ORE v0.1 released! (GnomeDesktop) mentions the release of version 0.1 of ORE, the Ruby Editor for GNOME.

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A Tribute to Ruby

David Heinemeier Hansson presents a positive view of Ruby. "Ruby doesn’t make new things possible, but many things desirable. It also affords continous simplification and occasional breakthroughs at an for me unprecedented level. There’s an immense sense of satisfaction in making less code do more on a regular sometimes even daily basis."

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Dr. Dobb's Tcl-URL!

The March 16, 2004 edition of Dr. Dobb's Tcl-URL! is out with the latest Tcl/Tk article links.

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XBRL: The Language of Finance and Accounting (O'Reilly)

Dale Waldt looks at XBRL on O'Reilly. "The eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) is a language for capturing financial information throughout a business' information processes that will eventually be reported to shareholders, banks, regulators, and other parties. The goal of XBRL is to make the analysis and exchange of corporate information more reliable and easier to facilitate."

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XML Namespaces Support in Python Tools, Part 1 (O'Reilly)

Uche Ogbuji covers XML namespace processing on O'Reilly. "I have covered a lot of tools for processing XML in Python. In general I have deferred discussion of each tool's handling of XML namespaces in order to stick to the basics in the individual treatments. In this article I start to examine the support for XML namespaces in these packages, with a look at SAX and DOM from the standard Python library. "

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