Ports maintainer or adopting a port

John Nielsen lists at jnielsen.net
Sat Mar 31 17:59:53 UTC 2007

On Saturday 31 March 2007, Kimi Ostro wrote:
> Not sure if this is appropriate for this list, basically I am looking
> to hear from past, current and future ports maintainers:
> is it fun?

I maintain a couple ports. Both were "new" in that they weren't in the ports 
collection before I submitted them. Both were pieces of software that I 
wanted to use, and for me the ports system made the actual "porting" much 
easier than it otherwise would have been. I didn't have to figure out how 
to use gmake instead of make, didn't have to manually extract the tarball 
every time I wanted a clean start (just do "make extract" or "make patch" 
once you have a couple basic lines in the port's makefile). Similarly, once 
you have a basic packing list you can "make install" and "make deinstall" 
instead of trying to copy or delete things manually. I think it's a lot of 
fun as long as you don't bite off more than you can chew.

> what are the requirements? (besides time)

In the case of software that isn't updated frequently, the requirements are 
pretty minimal, especially if you aren't doing the initial port. You should 
try to be proactive in keeping track of updates to the software (or at the 
very least respond quickly to e-mails to you as the port maintainer). For 
many programs you don't need to have much if any programming experience, 
just a willingness to read and understand the Porter's Handbook, and the 
ability to get your head around make(1) and Makefiles. Obviously 
programming experience is helpful in cases where things won't build cleanly 
or weren't written with portability in mind.

> what does it mean to you? do you recommend it?

I definitely recommend it. One of my favorite things to get in my e-mail 
is "Commited, thanks!" I second Garrett's two cents about warm fuzzies and 
community contribution[1], and as a side benefit you get bragging rights 
which can be useful in the broader open-source community or even with 
regards to employment or things like discounted web hosting.

> best way to get started? what do I need to know about FreeBSD & Ports?

Partially covered above; you should be familiar with FreeBSD in general and 
how and where it is used. Participation in the community (esp. via the 
mailing lists) is at least as important actually using the OS regularly for 
real-world activities. To get started just pick something to work on and do 
it; preferably something that has some utility or importance to you. If you 
get stuck ask for help (here or on -ports, generally). When you get 
something that's usable and at least a little polished, send in a PR. The 
ports team does an awesome job of giving feedback and getting things 
committed quickly once they're ready.

> I am looking at adopting a port or two and looking to gain more
> insight, maybe someone that can do projects page for ports? which
> holds a list of unmaintained ports??

Others have suggested good ways to identify unmaintained ports. There is 
also a lot of software out there that's not in the ports tree but easily 
could be. Sourceforge projects, Perl modules on CPAN, and other websites 
might be good places to look around and see what's out there.


[1] I enjoy esr's take on open-source and the gift culture philosophy: 

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