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Open Source Development with CVS: Learn How to Work With Open Source Software Paperback – October 25, 1999

4.3 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The need for a modern source-code management strategy in the distributed open-source community is paramount. The benevolent dictatorship model of open-source maintainers is only quasi-stable, but it is far better than the other extreme: the chaos of democratic code development.

The best available compromise is the concurrent versioning system (CVS), which introduces proctored code merging into source code management. CVS is ideally suited for worldwide open-source development, and the world is ready for monographs that address the management issues that Per Cederqvist explicitly avoided in his fine 164-page postscript manual distributed with the CVS tar-ball. What is the role of a maintainer/manager in establishing test protocols for code merges? What minimal functional level of developer communications is necessary for merges to remain stable? Is a maintainer-less release possible?

These questions go largely unanswered in Karl Fogel's new Open Source Development with CVS. Fogel's 300-page book consists of chapters alternating between CVS basics and common code maintenance issues. He includes a few anecdotes from open-source lore and lots of nonspecific commonsense guidelines on team software development.

Fogel is at his best when he is engaging us in thinking about what should and should not be under CVS control. He points out that complex relationships exist between developing code and its dependencies on intimately related applications, such as build tools themselves (gcc, autoconf) or partner applications (e.g., the server's client or the client's server). His brief discussion of strategies is too short to be satisfying.

Frustratingly, this book is chock-full of postmodern self-indulgences, such as his boasting reverence for technological ignorance. The discipline needed by good maintainers is missing here; Fogel's informal prose is often grating, and his copious parenthetical remarks are distracting or bullying (they sure are); one wonders where his editor was. Ultimately, his management arguments boil down to an endorsement for the benevolent dictatorship model--a safe conclusion, but one that seems not to use CVS's merging capability for all it's worth. To the question of how to run a project, he responds, "Well, we're all still trying to figure that out, actually." True, and he isn't there yet, but at least he has the questions right. --Peter Leopold

About the Author

Karl Fogel (Chicago, IL) co-founded Cyclic Software in 1995. He now works as a programmer in Chicago, IL and is a member of the CVS development team.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Coriolis Group Books; 1st edition (October 25, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1576104907
  • ISBN-13: 978-1576104903
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 7.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,788,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Nagle on August 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
Open Source Development with CVS Karl Fogel
Here is a chatty discussion of CVS and how to use it. The best thing about the book is that he spends a lot of time discussing his examples. That helps you to understand the output. I also found the troubeshooting section to be more than adequate, and a discussion of pcl-cvs (the plugin to emacs) to be a nice and helpful addition.
Fogel wrote some chapters about open source development. Call them filler or distractions, still it gives insight about how version control management contributes to open source. . The book has an appendix of descriptions of each command and at times Fogel urges the reader to refer to the Cederqvist manual. I actually appreciated that because it allowed Fogel to write about the things not already found in the online manual.
One quibble was with the organization of the book. To learn how to setup CVS from scratch, you need to start by reading chapter 4 (Admin), and then go back and reread chapter 2 (An overview). Maybe a briefer overview would have been better and an explanation of the functions in succeeding chapters.
The chattiness of the chapters (which is a good thing) often made it hard to find the user commands. Perhaps user input could have been highlighted in some way. Also, the discussion of file permissions was simply inadequate. Indeed, chapter 4 contained an error related to permissions on page 112 (what does "+R" mean? ) and didn't discuss sticky bits for group ownership. This was significant, because I couldn't proceed with learning CVS until I could figure out those permissions.
In short: an excellent, invaluable book, but you should consult the Cederqvist manual for the section of file permissions.
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By Aronbo on December 4, 1999
Format: Paperback
I've been using CVS for a couple of years, read the manual and had great success. However, there have been lots of gaps in my understanding and places where I wasn't really sure what was happenning. This book answered those. It has lots of well chosen examples that illustrate points that I've wondered about, but been afraid to try out for fear of really messing up my CVS repository.
The book is a little heavy on the "Open Source" religion, but dismissing it because of that would be a big mistake. This is a fine book.
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Format: Paperback
I found this book a joy to read. Before ordering this book, I had read the GPL'd chapters online and found them to be quite good so I wanted to support the author with my wallet. I figgured the rest would be the regular pomp about Open Source that we are seeing alot of lately, but I could not have been more incorrect! The author not only knows his technical details about the CVS system, he fully groks the Open Source movement, personalities and community.
The author alternates chapters between community issues (ethics, forking, project maintenance and administration, as well as "people skills") and the technical nuts and bolts of running a CVS server and/or using a CVS client.
While the title touts the Open Source movement, CVS is just as at home in a closed environment, say a web development team, inhouse application development, or anywhere else that you need to track text based files. Mr. Fogel does a good job of showing run of the mill examples and code, as well as some more esoteric uses of CVS commands and utilities.
If you are doing any sort of development and are investigating content version control software this book (and application) are for you.
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Format: Paperback
First off, I would have to say that you'll (or, at least, I did get) get the most out of this book if you read the Per Cederqvist (sp?) manual either beforehand or concurrently. This book uses more of a tutorial, heavily example-oriented approach, whereas the Cederqvist goes feature-by-feature, with small examples. And, before you gripe about the wealth of open-source info in this book, remember that CVS was originally created (at least so I've heard, don't quote me word for word here) to facilite decentralized open-source development. So, that considered, it is infact not at all out of place in this book, and in my case, just as interesting as the rest of the book. I'm a novice config mgr, and I've only been using unix, and more specifically GNU/Linux software for under a year now, but as my skills progress, I'll definately get more involved in the free software movement.
This book in some ways, starts where the Cederqvist leaves off, providing a much needed (for me), and much higher-level exposition of CVS's key features. For example, I didn't really get the 'update -j' semantics until I read this book. Not long afterward, I was writing a lengthy script to automate branch merges, and efter re-reading this book, I found out that you could, infact pass -j to checkout as well, and took a good 40% off of the overhead of my script. CVS wrappers such as log.pl and others are nicely described here as well. True, this book doesn't make the perfect reference, but I've found myself many-a-time frantically flipping through its pages to find out why something I'm doing Isn't working!
But, this book may soon become obsolete, by its author no less. Karl Fogel is part of a development team working on a much desired replacement for cvs. There should be more details at 'subversion.tigris.
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