Home News Featured Blogs Libby Clark Greg KH: 5 Open Source Projects That Need Developers

Greg KH: 5 Open Source Projects That Need Developers

Who wouldn’t want to be a Linux kernel developer? Kernel developers work at the heart of the Linux operating system and contribute and work on code that runs the world's technology infrastructure.

The work is so rewarding it attracts contributions from thousands of developers each year who make up the thriving community.

LinuxCon 2012 Kernel Panel But as Linus Torvalds himself reminded us during the Linux Kernel Panel discussion at LinuxCon this summer, being a kernel developer is not the only way to be an important part of the Linux and open source communities. In fact, developers can often have a large impact on a project with 10 or 15 developers.

“There are tons of really worthy open source projects that need help,” Torvalds said to a roomful of Linux professionals.

Each of the kernel developers on the panel gave a different pitch for following in his or her footsteps. But they also recognize there are many open source projects that need help and ultimately help Linux, too.

Sarah Sharp became a kernel developer because she likes tinkering at the intersection of software and hardware and says the community is fun to work with. Greg Kroah-Hartman said kernel developers get to see the world attending Linux conferences. And Ted T’so advised: “You should become a kernel developer if it’s fun. It’s been a blast for me.”

But with all the worthy projects out there, how do you pick one? We followed up with Greg KH after the panel for some recommendations. Here is his list of five open source projects you could work on:

- develops the X window system software, a framework for building GUI environments, and is one of the oldest open source software projects out there. A great way for anyone to get started is by applying for the project’s mentorship program, Endless Vacation of Code

-       LibreOffice is an open source alternative to Microsoft Windows software. “They have a handy "tasks for newcomers list," says Greg KH.

-       GNOME is a popular Linux desktop environment. The project is looking for contributors with many different skill types, not just developers. 

-       KDE develops workspace applications and provides an application development platform. “They can always use the help, especially for the core bits,” says Greg KH.

-       “Pick-your-favorite-application, they can all use the help,” Greg KH said, “especially from users who know how the programs work.” 

What other projects do you think are great for newcomers, or those looking for a new challenge, to get involved in? Tell us in the comments, below. Thanks!

Libby Clark



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  • M. Edward (Ed) Borasky Said:

    Greg's modesty may have prevented him from mentioning openSUSE. ;-) But seriously, I recommend new developers volunteer for the major community distros - Fedora, openSUSE and Ubuntu. They especially need packagers and documenters. I sort of disagree with Greg on LibreOffice, GNOME and KDE. The interesting, viable and vital parts of the Linux ecosystem, even 20+ years into the life of Linux, are most assuredly *not* in the desktop and productivity apps. Those are knock-offs of Office, Windows and MacOS X, pure and simple, not real innovation. I'd stick with the kernel, gcc,, and the major languages and stacks - Python, Ruby, Node.js, OpenStack, PostgreSQL, etc. In short, stick with projects with wide *industrial* use that people actually *pay* for. ;-)

  • jet Said:

    I would say Debian - the father of all new cool distros. Gimp, LibreOffice, Samba, KDE. Gnome is already garbage without concept, strategy and developers.

  • John McLear Said:

    Etherpad also needs your help! Etherpad

  • Min Said:

    Google owns them now, so why do they need help?

  • jorge Said:

    Etherpad is run by a foundation, not Google:

  • Mario Chamorro Said:

    Everyone should scratch their own itches in software . My own personal list right now: 1] Mozilla Thunderbird 2] 0AD 3] Linux Mint 4] The Free Software Foundation needs help with certain high priority projects:

  • jarrige Said:

    ......... probleme de traduction angler au francais....... merci.. je voudrais tous lire en francais... et probleme departage document sur google+ merc.. autres conection avc facebook vraiment problematique... sinon tous va tres bien un grand merci a vous ....jaime linux... jerome jarrige...

  • Dan Saint-Andre Said:

    Almost every project would likely benefit from more and better documentation. Sadly, those who are effective creators of documentation may not be able to dig details from the source code or dissect config files for application behavior. The result seems to be an abundance of docs that are an endless inventory or buttons and menu lists coupled with self-referential language: "... push the blue button to activate the blue feature ..." As a writer myself, I've tried to get details from developers for several projects only to get a few common answers: "... things are changing too fast to explain ..." or my personal favorite "... we are too busy making things work to explain ..." For me, good documentation starts with something that an end-user wants to accomplish that delivers a benefit to their endeavors. The docs help them answer the question, "If you want benefit X, will this application help you achieve that benefit?" Given a positive answer, the docs go on to explain how to use the application to realize benefit X. Repeat for all reasonable benefits available from the application of interest. Mostly reference documentation -- the inventory of buttons and menu entries and data files -- are useful as well. However, developers and application administrators are likely more frequent consumers than end-users. ~~~ 0;-Dan

  • Leo Said:

    The projects need money to pay for full time developers working hard to solve bugs, Q.A and create new features driven to their users. That's the only way I see to make Open Source competitive in the market.

  • Luis A Said:

    Why are not developers helping out in open source project? I can see several challenges on this. It's not easy to get introduced and say "hey, I want to code in your project". Some people will just ignore you, others may not welcome because of politics within the project. If you are an open source enthusiast that have read about the drama of some of the projects, it can be a huge turn off just to get started. So, Do you want to do your current job in your spare time? Software development is hard and many developers have a 9 to 9 job. Some people just want to do something else than staring at a terminal looking at somebody else's code after doing it in the office. In many places, it's not Google that encourages to spend work time in projects. If you are married with kids, you need to spend time with them as well. (right?). Ok, I do not want to sound like a Negative Nancy. I frankly believe that developers can benefit from pitching into Open Source projects. The following might be useful: 1. Document the procedures to get into a project. Many developers might have interest or do not know where to start. Some of them have developed patches that do not share because they do not know how. 2. Cater to the older developer. Some folks that have been working in COBOL, FORTRAN or PL/1 might want to get in newer technology to keep themselves current or just to spend the time in retirement. However many of the projects seems to be run by rowdy teenagers!. It would be bad not to allow these folks to work on these projects. It might be a good experience for all involved. 3. Although money is a factor, many projects they have a paid product to compensate for funds. It would be an idea to entice some of these to join their ranks as a paid employee, if funds allow. 4. Do not minimize contributions. Sometimes is one specific line of code that can make a project crash and burn. I did that on the Mantis project in which one line of code stopped the execution of the SOAP interface in PHP4. I filled a report and it got confirmed. Which conversely, if you find a small but important bug, share it. 5. Although documentation is a problem, it's kind of hard to convince a bunch of hard headed developers to allow you to document the project. IMHO, if you really like the software, just create a "For Dummies" style document on your own and publish it. You can then show the product to the team. Worst thing can happen is that they say "bletch..." :) My 2 cents...

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