Thursday, August 16, 2007

Poor Mans GForge

I call myself an extremely experienced person, when it comes to software installation, configuration and stuff like that. Having installed server software like Apache httpd, Bugzilla, Perl, Sendmail, MySQL, innd, snmpd, radiusd, to name a few, on Linux and mainstream Unixes (Solaris, AIX, HP/UX) as well as exotic server operating systems like SGI, ConvexOS, Dec, or Windows, there's a rare chance that an installation may surprise me. The most notable example used to be Hylafax, which really wasn't easy to handle in 1996, or around that. (I wonder what it's like today. The project lives, so things might have changed.)

However, there's another example, which can easily driving me crazy: It's GForge, a collaboration server for developers, that basically enables management of a lot of projects via a comfortable web interface. If you have it installed, that is.

It's not, that I am unable to do it. I have running GForge installations. But my first installation required no less than three days of work, until everything was complete and the fun didn't shrink with the second or third such installation. It's simply that I am wondering whether it's worth the effort. In particular, because I find myself missing Bugzilla anyways, when working with the integrated issue tracker.

So when I recently had to setup a new development server, I decided to try something different: If I am installing Bugzilla (which I would end to do anyways), then I have my preferred issue tracker and a comfortable, multitenant user management tool ready. Why not simply attach Subversion, WebDAV (as a Maven repository) to the Bugzilla database?

The result of my attempt can be found at Bugzilla's own Bugzilla in Bug 392482. (Of course, it wasn't an immediate result. There have been a few evolutionary steps.) It consists of two parts: mod_authn_bugzilla is an authentication module for the Apache httpd. Basically, it's simply mod_authn_dbd with some minor changes (setting of environment variables). The Apache module authenticates users against the Bugzilla database. Like its ancestor, it's database agnostic, so you can use it regardless of the type of the Bugzilla database.

The second part enables management of user ID's with Bugzilla. By default, Bugzilla uses email addresses instead of classical user ID's. Which is of course fine within Bugzilla. However, you wouldn't want to use as part of a subversion URL.

I am quite happy with the system, as it is now. I am using standard components, which come with the Linux distro with almost no configuration changes. For example, my Subversion repositories are where CentOS wants them, and not on GForge's preferred location. The webdav directories are below /var/www, as they should be. Ok, I cannot create new projects via the web interface, but project administration is a rare task: User management is what costs the most time and is typically presumed urgent, so that's what matters.

If you are interested in the details, please contact me.

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