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[Caml-list] Unison status and request for help...
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Date: -- (:)
From: Benjamin C. Pierce <bcpierce@s...>
Subject: [Caml-list] Unison status and request for help...
Executive summary: Experts in both OCaml and Unison, your help is needed! 

                         ---------------------

If you're a satisfied user of the Unison file synchronizer, you might
have wondered if there was anything you could do to pay back the karma
that you've been accumulating by using this great tool completely free
of charge.  This message is for you...

Unison has come a long way in the past few years: from an experimental
research prototype with a handful of users, it's become a stable,
full-featured system with a significant user community (several
thousand, at least) and wide visibility (e.g., it's included in
several Linux distributions).  It is often cited as a success story
for OCaml: its portability and robustness are due in large part to the
excellent engineering of the OCaml language and compiler.

A natural effect of its popularity is that maintaining Unison,
responding to postings on the users list, investigating bug reports,
etc. has become a lot of work.  At the same time, the original
developers have all moved on to other places and other research
activities: Trevor Jim is now at AT&T Research, Jerome Vouillon is at
CNRS Paris, Zhe Yang just moved to Aleri Systems, and I, though still
at Penn, am spending my research energy on a follow-on system called
Harmony.  What this means is that there is no longer *any one* whose
primary job it is to maintain and improve Unison.

At this point, some help is needed from the user community to ensure
that Unison continues to grow and improve.

  * We need as many "unison experts" as possible to join in discussions
    and respond to queries on the unison-users list.  This is something
    that everyone can help with.  If you consider yourself a power user
    of unison and you see a posting on a topic that you know something
    about, please jump in!

  * We need a few "unison hackers" who can help with investigating bug
    reports.  Contributing to this activity will require (or involve
    acquiring) at some familiarity with OCaml programming and with the
    Unison codebase.  (Tracking down the really nasty bugs sometimes
    involves familiarity with the internals of the ocaml compiler and
    runtime system, but most bugs are not this hard.)

    To facilitate discussions of unison internals, I've created a new
    mailing list, unison-hackers@yahoogroups.com.  You can subscribe by
    sending a message to unison-hackers-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.
    Archives will be kept at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/unison-hackers.

    Among other things, this list will be used to announce change
    summaries for all checkins to the unison source repository.  Checkins
    will be reflected immediately in the "developer tarball" available
    through the download page.  (It may be useful at some point to move
    this repository to someplace like SourceForge, to make it easier for
    people outside of Penn to commit changes.  For now, though, proposed
    changes can be submitted as patches to bcpierce@cis.upenn.edu.)

    This list is also the place to discuss implementation issues for new
    functionality.  However, the focus in Unison's development will be on
    correctness, stability, and robustness -- new features will not be
    added to the main distribution unless they meet high standards of
    clean design and coding.

  * We badly need a Unison/Windows maintainer -- someone who understands the
    intricacies of OCaml compilation on Windows systems, can keep the
    Win32 source-installation instructions up to date with new versions
    of OCaml and Windows, build Windows executables for new Unison
    releases, etc.  (This need is really urgent: none of the current
    developers are heavy Windows users.)

    If you would be interested in taking this on, please send a message
    to bcpierce@cis.upenn.edu.

  * We could also use a few people to help moderate the unison-users
    list.  This is a light task -- moderation is only used to filter
    spam, and the group is set up so that pending messages can be
    approved or rejected by any of the moderators in just a few
    keystrokes.  If you'd like to be a moderator, just send a message
    to bcpierce@cis.upenn.edu.  (You'll need to subscribe to the list 
    first, if you are not already a member.)
    
Thanks!

        Benjamin


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