Homework - First Flight

The purpose of this homework assignment is to introduce students to their first FLOSS practices. Read it in full, there are a number of graded deliverables.

The due-date is listed in the Syllabus.


IRC is one of the primary means of communication for a FLOSS community, particularly for informal communication.

There is a course IRC channel on irc.freenode.net. The channel is #floss-seminar. Communicating regularly in IRC factors into the FLOSS Dev Practices component of your final grade.

  • Download and install an IRC client on your development machine.
  • Choose a nick and register yourself with the NickServ.
  • Connect to #floss-seminar on irc.freenode.net and introduce yourself.
    • The instructor’s nick is threebean.

It is a good practice to “hang out” in IRC channels of projects that you use and especially of projects that you contribute to. Here you can find early alerts regarding any upcoming major changes or security vulnerabilities. It is also the easiest (lowest overhead) method for getting your questions answered.


Only for the brave – if you want to be completely awesome, you can setup a proxy node so you are always logged in. People can leave you messages this way.

If you want to be completely completely awesome, you can setup BitlBee so you can tweet from your IRC client.


Discussion mailing lists are a more formal mechanism of communication for FLOSS projects. More formal than IRC, less formal than bug trackers. Discussion mailing lists are often used to ask questions, announce upcoming releases and beta tests, and to debate redesigns and refactors. The advantage here is that mailing lists are typically archived and indexed by Google; discussions that should be preserved for posterity should occur here.

There is a GNU Mailman discussion list for the course hosted by RIT.


Communicating regularly over the course mailman list (asking and/or answering questions) factors into the FLOSS Dev Practices component of your final grade.


Setup a blog if you don’t have one. Much like mailing lists, blogs are archived, indexed by Google, and therefore preserved for posterity. When you encounter a technical challenge, typically you google for a solution and you typically find that solution in a blog post of some developer who has run into a similar situation. Blogging about your attempts, successes and failures (and writing tutorials!) is a best practice for increasing the general body of searchable knowledge available, for increasing the Wisdom of the Ancients.

Blogs around a topic are also typically aggregated by a planet (an RSS feed aggregator). This way, all developers blogging about Project X can have their blog posts fast-tracked to a readership subscribed to Planet X. For instance, here’s a link to Planet Python.

The Planet for the course is hosted at http://threebean.org/floss-planet/. There are instructions for how to subscribe your blog to it in the Patch the Course Project section below.

You must create a blog (if you don’t have one already) and write at least one post per week about your progress, attempts, successes, failures, reflections, and/or all of the above.

  • Create a blog if you don’t already have one. There are lots of free services available. You might try http://wordpress.com or http://blogspot.com.
  • Write an introductory post relevant to the course. The topic is your choice!


Code forges are service sites around which FLOSS development orbits, some of the more popular sites are github, bitbucket, sourceforge, and launchpad.

For your own enlightenment, review the following comparisons of the different forges:

You’ll need to create your own account on github.com. All development for this course should be tracked on that forge. Github is, after all, the most popular forge.

  • Create a github account if you don’t already have one.

Patch the Course Project

Check out the source repository for this course; it’s hosted at https://github.com/ralphbean/hfoss.

Inside the repository, we’ll keep an index of all the students in the course and metadata about them (you!).

  • Load up the git cheatsheet listed at Helpful Hints – A list of external resources and keep it nearby.
  • Work through this git tutorial if you don’t have any experience with git.
  • Fork the repository (link to github help on this).
  • Clone a local copy.
  • Follow the instructions in README.rst to setup your environment.
  • Edit the file data/students.yaml. Perhaps obviously, it is a YAML file. Add yourself to the file with the necessary keywords.
  • Verify that you added yourself correctly by running the script located at lib/hfoss/model/validate.py
  • Edit the file planet/config.ini. Look at the very bottom of the file and there will be the beginnings of a list of subscribed blogs. Add your blog’s RSS feed (or a topical sub-feed) to this list. Make sure its a working RSS URL! (Once the patch is accepted upstream and pushed to production, this should add your blog feed to the course planet.)
  • If everything checks out, then
    • Commit your change
    • Push to your github repository
    • Issue a pull request through the web interface.