Review Board 1.0 alpha 1 released

Roughly two years ago, David Trowbridge and I began development of Review Board for use in our open source projects and our team at VMware. During that time, we’ve turned Review Board into a powerful code review tool that works with a variety of version control systems. Most of VMware has moved over to it, as have an estimated 50-100 companies world-wide. We’ve had over 100 contributors to the project, people providing volunteer support on the mailing list, and people have developed third party tools for integrating with Review Board.

After all this time in development, with this many people contributing, we decided it’s probably time to get a release out there. Sure, we could have done this a long time ago, but there’s a number of large things we were hoping to get in (a recently-committed UI rewrite, for instance). Now that we have most of the major features we want for our 1.0 release, we decided it was time for an alpha.

Over the coming months, we’ll be working on stabilizing the codebase, fixing a few large remaining usability quirks, enhancing performance, and writing some proper documentation (which is coming along nicely).

We’re eager to get a quality product out there and to begin development on the next release. There’s a lot of neat things planned:

  • Support for writing extensions to Review Board.
  • A fully-featured API covering every operation you’ll need to perform.
  • Some degree of policy support (specifying which users/groups can see which parts of a repository, for instance).
  • Reviews with statuses other than “Ship It”. This will probably be customizable to some degree.
  • Possibly some theme customization to allow Review Board to blend in better with corporate sites, Trac installs, etc.

Along with this, I plan to roll out a new website for the project that will have a browseable list of third party extensions, apps, Greasemonkey scripts, and more.

We have more information on our release on our release announcement.

Twittering as Review Board Approaches 1.0

On the road to 1.0

We’re getting very close to feature freeze for Review Board 1.0. The last couple of major features are up for review. These consist largely of a UI rewrite that simplifies a lot of Review Board’s operations and moves us over to using jQuery. This will go in once it’s been reviewed and tested in Firefox 3, IE 6/7, Opera and Safari.

There are some preliminary screenshots up of the UI rewrite. Some things will be changing before this goes in, but it should give a good idea as to the major changes (if you’re already a Review Board user).

In the meantime, we’re working to get some other fixes and small features in, and I’m beginning work on a user manual. I’m not sure how much will get done for 1.0, but with any luck I’ll have a decent chunk done.

Twittering the night away

I’ve just set up a @reviewboard user on Twitter that I’m going to try to keep up-to-date as progress is made. This should give people a decent way of passively keeping track of updates if they’re Twitter users.

Barter system?

Britt Selvitelle of Twitter fame just sent me a great screenshot of a barter system for Review Board. Can’t get someone to review your code? Offer them something in exchange!

As some people know, we’re planning to have extensions in the next major release (1.5 or 2.0). This would be a fun little extension to have 🙂 Maybe I’ll write it as part of a tutorial.

Djblets and Review Board moving to jQuery

When we first began development of Review Board and its Django utility package Djblets almost two years ago, we needed to pick a JavaScript library to use. There were several good ones available at the time, and after evaluating several options we chose the Yahoo! UI Library (YUI) and YUI-Ext, an extension library to YUI. Both were excellent and have served us well over the past two years.

However, YUI-Ext itself is really no more, which means we needed to choose something new. We could have continued to bundle it and YUI with Review Board, but users of Djblets would have to hunt down a copy and load in all of YUI and YUI-Ext just to use such features as datagrids. This was, to say the least, inconvenient.

YUI-Ext and the Licensing Situation

Now I said YUI-Ext is no more, but really it’s still around, just in a new form. It had been renamed to ExtJS and became its own independent library. While compatible with YUI, most of the functionality we needed was really provided by ExtJS, meaning we didn’t really need both. Over time, YUI evolved as well, so we began looking into the differences and figuring out which to go with.

ExtJS, it turns out, was a non-starter for us. Unlike YUI-Ext before it, the ExtJS licensing terms were a bit restrictive and, frankly, confusing. Open source projects could use it under the GPL3, but commercial products required a special license per developer, which is $289 per developer. The GPL3 itself is unclear with regards to our situation. We’re an open source project, but we’re MIT-licensed. What if a company wants to modify something for their own use and not release it to the public? What if down the road someone wants to offer commercial extensions to Review Board? We’d have to choose the commercial license to be safe, but then contributors would also need to pay $289 for a license, wouldn’t they?

Looking Again at YUI

We didn’t want to step down a dangerous road with ExtJS, so we started to look again at YUI. It’s definitely come a long way and I must recommend it for developers looking for a strong toolkit with good UI support. They provide good documentation, many examples, and base functionality for nearly everything.

However, there’s a lot we’d have to rewrite to move to it, and if we had to rewrite the code anyway, I wanted to look around a bit at the current generation of JavaScript toolkits. Especially since our needs have changed over the years and we’re looking for something with a lighter footprint. We’re also moving away from the dialog-centered UI we have on some pages, which is where YUI shines.

jQuery

We ended up deciding to go with jQuery, partially because of the footprint and partially the clean way in which scripts can be written. As an experiment, I converted our Djblets datagrid code to jQuery. The result is a smaller, much more readable, reusable, cross-browser script. I was impressed by what jQuery let me do, and by the size.

I did some comparisons on the number of files downloaded and the size of the files, using the Review Board dashboard as a test.

With YUI and YUI-Ext, we were loading 7 JavaScript files, excluding our own scripts, at a total size of 376KB (when minified).

With jQuery, we loaded only 2 JavaScript files, at a total size of 128KB.

Our datagrid.js file also went down from 13KB to 9KB largely due to some of the niceties of jQuery’s API.

This is a pretty significant savings, a whole 252KB, which could be a couple of seconds on an average DSL line. And it’s not just the file size but the number of requests, which can make a big difference on a heavily accessed web server.

What This Means for Djblets

Developers using Djblets can now use datagrids without needing to do anything special. Djblets bundles jQuery, which it will use by default unless you choose to override which jQuery script is being used. This means all you need is an install of Djblets set up and you’re ready to use it!

Going Forward

We’re working on migrating the rest of Review Board to jQuery. This will take place over the next few weeks, and is one of the last major things we hope to do for our 1.0 release.

Review Board Roadmap and Donations

Roadmap

With the upcoming release of Django 1.0 in the next few weeks, we decided it was time to formalize a roadmap for Review Board 1.0. The roadmap provides a good overview of what users can expect for our release, and what it will take to get there.

At this point we’re asking for people to contribute wherever possible. The big thing is fixing bugs targeted for the 1.0 release. We’d also like some help in finalizing unit tests.

Quality Control

We’re doing what we can to improve quality control in Review Board. For a lot of people, Review Board works great, though setups often differ and some users hit issues that others never see. For this, we’re trying to improve our unit tests to catch these various cases. When people submit patches, we’d greatly appreciate unit tests to cover the new code, and in some cases will require them for the code submission.

Selenium

We will soon start using Selenium in our unit test process to simulate user action in various web browsers. Selenium allows for remote-controlling a web browser, simulating clicks, text input, and other user actions and checking the results. Over time, when our Selenium test suite is more complete, we should be able to catch browser-specific problems a lot more easily.

Buildbot Server

Another issue users have hit lately is breakages due to changes in Django for the 1.0 release. As things calm down there, this will become less of an issue, but we’ve put things in place to catch these problems before users do.

We have just set up a buildbot server that will perform a full build and run the test suite whenever there’s a code check-in to Review Board, Django, Djblets or Django-Evolution. It will then notify us when there’s a new breakage. Users can check the build page before updating just to make sure they won’t hit a major problem. Later on, our buildbot server will generate nightly builds and handle Selenium tests.

We have a limited number of servers to test with. If you have server space and resources to donate and would like to run a BuildBot Slave server, let me know. We’re looking to set up slaves to test various combinations of the following:

  • Python 2.5
  • Python 2.4
  • Django SVN trunk
  • Django 1.0
  • Windows 2000, XP and Vista
  • Internet Explorer 6 and 7 (for Selenium tests)
  • Opera (for Selenium tests)
  • Firefox 2 and 3 (for Selenium tests)

Sandbox

Our BuildBot server is also set up to allow us to test code changes before we submit the code. Running a sandbox build of our pending code will cause all build slaves to run the entire test suite. This ensures that we don’t break things accidentally.

If you’re a contributor working on large patches for Review Board and would like to have access to the sandbox, please post to the mailing list and we can work with you on getting an account set up.

Installation Improvements

We’re working to make the installation experience much easier. I’m in the process of creating Python easy_install packages for Review Board and Djblets. Soon, users will be able to simply easy_install ReviewBoard to get going instead of checking out the development tree. I’m hoping to create both nightly builds and release builds.

Code will soon go in to move the entire project configuration into the administration interface. Modifying settings_local.py and restarting the server will be a thing of the past. All that will be left there will be a few site-specific settings and the database settings. Expect this to go in real soon.

A tool is in development for helping to generate the initial Review Board server tree based on an installed reviewboard Python module (using easy_install) and generating the web server configuration files. This will hopefully take care of a lot of problems people hit when trying to get their server configuration right the first time.

And last but not least, before 1.0 we will have a first-time installation page that handles the creation of the initial settings_local.py and the adding and checking of repositories.

So in the end, the installation process will be something along the lines of:

  1. sudo easy_install ReviewBoard
  2. sudo rb-install-site /var/www/reviews.mycompany.com
  3. Fill out the fields presented.
  4. Hand-tweak the configuration files if needed.
  5. Go to the page for the new Review Board server, fill out the fields and finish the install.

This is the goal, anyway. We’re going to try to get as close to this as possible for 1.0.

Donations

Review Board has become a full-time project for us. Though it got its start at VMware, it’s really a personal project developed in our spare time, not a project run by VMware. As the project grows, we’ve been putting more time, energy and money into it.

Hosting fees have started to become large, given that we’re now hosting the main project website, the main Review Board server for our code reviews, the demo server, the Google Summer of Code review server and the BuildBot server and slaves. Down the road, we have many plans that will also require funding.

To help cover our costs, we’re now made it easy to donate to the project. If Review Board has helped you, your company, team, or project and saved you money or time over alternative solutions, maybe you’d like to help give back to keep our project going. Every bit helps.

Happy birthday Review Board!

One whole year…

While attending SuperHappyDevHouse, David and I realized that it was the one year anniversary of Review Board‘s public announcement. (This was the evening of May 17th. I’m just a few hours late in getting this post up.)

It’s been a pretty awesome year for Review Board. What begun as a small project intended for use in our team at VMware and in our personal open source projects turned into a large project with a great community of developers and users. It’s now being used by dozens of companies and projects (some of which have given us permission to list them publicly) and has had code contributions from over 35 users. To everyone who has contributed to the project, we’d like to give our thanks. Review Board wouldn’t be the tool it is today without your help.

I’d like to list some of the major things that have happened in the past year.

  • Review Board has been adopted by one or more teams at around 40 companies (including Yahoo! Search, VMware, and Tripwire).
  • Received contributions from over 35 users.
  • Added support for CVS, Subversion, Perforce, Git, Mercurial, and Bazaar.
  • Added support for useful features such as interdiffs, screenshot commenting, syntax highlighted diffs, customizable dashboard for keeping track of review requests, status reports, a full JSON API, and more.
  • Several presentations were given at various companies and conferences on Review Board by third parties.
  • One public presentation was given by us at LugRadio Live USA 2008 (view the presentation)
  • We’ve started hosting projects for this year’s Google Summer of Code on our Summer of Code server.

That’s just a small sampling. There have been many changes made to stabilize the codebase, improve usability, and generally make the product more awesome.

And of course there’s a number of things happening in the near future:

  • Monotone support.
  • A new, improved administration UI.
  • Extensions support, allowing Review Board to be extended in a variety of ways and integrated into other products.
  • A new set of command-line tools and a Python library for working with Review Board servers.
  • Support for P4V (for Windows Perforce users).

Database Migration and Parent Diffs

Today, a change went in that improves Review Board in two fundamental ways.

First, we now have a fast, powerful way of doing database migrations in-place, without dumping and loading the database. While this should make life easier for users and allow us to modify the database without fear of breaking people’s installs as often, it will also save administrators of large Review Board servers a lot of time. Before this change, the VMware database (of over 25,000 review requests) took at least 30 minutes to do a full migration. Now it shouldn’t take more than a minute.

Second, we’ve just landed the initial support for diffs based on parent diffs. If you’re a user of a distributed version control system (such as Git or Mercurial) you’ll appreciate this. Before, your change had to apply against revisions in the master repository, making it impossible to put up a review request for a change on a sub-branch of a branch when the parent branch didn’t exist on the server. Now, a diff of the parent branch can be uploaded along with your sub-branch’s diff.

Confused? Maybe an example will help. Say you’re working on a large restructuring change in your “code-restructure” branch in your local Git checkout. You have a topic branch off of your “code-restructure” branch with changes you want to put up for review. This used to be impossible without including the whole “code-restructure” branch’s changes in your diff as well, but now, you can put up a diff of the topic branch along with a diff of the “code-restructure” branch, and the topic branch’s diff will appear on Review Board, ready for review.

The backend code for this is now in Subversion. We’ll be adding support to the post-review tool shortly, making this accessible to anyone. Review Board will become fully usable for distributed version control systems.

Are you using Review Board?

Review Board is gaining popularity, and more companies are beginning to use it. If you work for a company or an open source project that’s using Review Board and can give us permission to list you on our Happy Users page, please let us know!

And here’s to an even better year for Review Board.

Free Review Board Hosting for Summer of Code

Google Summer of Code 2008 is on, and soon students will begin coding, which means mentors will be reviewing code. While the Review Board project is not a participating project in this year’s Summer of Code, we felt Review Board could help with the whole process, improving things for both the students and the mentors.

Starting today, and for the duration of this year’s Summer of Code, we at the Review Board project would like to supply up to 30 projects with free Review Board hosting at gsoc.review-board.org. We’ll handle maintenance of the server, support, and provide assistance to get students and mentors set up.

Doing code reviews with Review Board is simple and saves time over reviewing standard raw diffs, with features such as a powerful diff viewer with syntax highlighting and inline commenting, interdiffs, status reports, and support for a wide variety of revision control systems. We believe it can be as effective a tool for open source development as Bugzilla and Trac have become.

Th Summer of Code server is intended for Summer of Code-related changes only. While we’d love to provide hosting for projects in general, we have limited resources. However, should your project decide to set up its own Review Board server in the future, we’ll be able to assist in migrating your Review Board history to your new server.

If you’re interested in trying out Review Board for your Summer of Code project, you can find out how to apply on our Summer of Code Hosting page.

To learn more about Review Board and how it works, you can look at our project website or watch our presentation from this year’s LugRadio Live USA.

Review Board presentation at LugRadio Live 2008

This year’s LugRadio Live USA conference was a blast. There were some great talks, interesting booths, and fun swag.

The Review Board presentation went pretty well. I think in my next presentation I’ll demo more often instead of just at the end, but all in all people seemed to find it interesting. The presentation focused on what Review Board is, how it works, and how it could benefit open source. With luck, it will encourage projects to begin using a real code review system, making life easier for all involved.

For those that missed it, the slides and the presentation video are now available. Enjoy!