August 17, 2008

Christian Hammond
Review Board Roadmap and Donations


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.


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)


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 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 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/
  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.


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.

May 18, 2008

Christian Hammond
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.

May 1, 2008

Christian Hammond
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 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.

April 15, 2008

Christian Hammond
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!

April 4, 2008

Christian Hammond
Django Development with Djblets: Unrooting your URLs

Typically, Django sites are designed with the assumption that they’ll have a domain or subdomain to themselves. Often times this is fine, but if you’re developing a web application designed for redistribution, sometimes you can’t make that assumption.

During development of Review Board, many of our users wanted the ability to install Review Board into a subdirectory of one of their domains, rather than a subdomain.

There’s a few rules that are important when making your site relocatable:

  • Always use MEDIA_URL when referring to your media directory, so that people can customize where they put their media files.
  • Don’t hard-code URLs in templates. Use the {% url %} tag or get_absolute_url() when possible.

These solve some of the issues, but doesn’t address relocating a Django site to a subdirectory.

Djblets fills in this gap by providing a special URL handler designed to act as a prefix for all your projects’ URLs. To make use of this, you need to modify your file as follows:

SITE_ROOT_URLCONF = 'yourproject.urls'
ROOT_URLCONF = 'djblets.util.rooturl'

SITE_ROOT specifies where the site is located. By default, this should be “/”, but this can be changed to point to any path. For example, “/myproject/”. Note that it should always have a leading and a trailing slash.

The custom template context processor (djblets.util.context_processors.siteRoot) will make SITE_ROOT accessible to templates.

SITE_ROOT should be used in templates when you need to refer to URLs that aren’t designed to respect SITE_ROOT (such as User.get_absolute_url). Your own custom applications should always respect SITE_ROOT whenever providing a URL.

ROOT_URLCONF is typically what you would set to point to your project’s URL. However, in this case, you’ll be pointing it to djblets.util.rooturl. This in turn will forward all URLs to your project’s handler, defined in SITE_ROOT_URLCONF.

This is all you need to have a fully relocatable Django site!

To sum up:

  1. Add djblets.util.context_processors.siteRoot to your TEMPLATE_CONTEXT_PROCESSORS.
  2. Set SITE_ROOT_URLCONF to your project’s URL handler.
  3. Set ROOT_URLCONF to ‘djblets.util.rooturl’
  4. Prefix any URLs with SITE_ROOT in your templates, unless the URL would already take SITE_ROOT into account.

This is functionality that will hopefully make its way into Django at some point. For now, you have an easy way of unrooting your Django project.

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