jEdit Community - Resources for users of the jEdit Text Editor
Moving Plugin Central
Submitted by mdillon on Tuesday, 8 October, 2002 - 02:07

With Plugin Central's bandwidth requirements averaging nearly 2 gigabytes per day, the prospects of finding a single provider willing to host the site for free from among jEdit's users are not good. Even if the site load could somehow be balanced across servers hosted by multiple providers, the number of servers that would be necessary to make the resource requirements reasonable to ask of volunteers would be large enough to make that possibility even less likely. For that reason, we have established a new jedit-plugins project on SourceForge to host Plugin Central. The transition from Standard Media's server to SourceForge should be completed within the next few weeks.

Our plan is to host the PHP pages used for plugin information, plugin list export, and site administration on the jedit-plugins project web site. For a data backend, we will make use of SourceForge's database facilities, porting the current Plugin Central database from PostgreSQL to MySQL. Plugin downloads will be implemented on top of SourceForge's standard File Release System (FRS).

One of the big advantages of using SourceForge's FRS to serve the plugin downloads is that it already has a redundant, distributed architecture, with multiple hosts around the world providing high-capacity download mirrors. This frees us from having to coordinate and maintain our own network of mirrors, allowing us to concentrate on more important things that are actually relevant to us, like releasing new and updated plugins.

The SourceForge FRS also poses a significant problem for jEdit's built-in Plugin Manager: the download mechanism is not set up to easily allow automated downloads, since it is explicitly designed for use with a normal web browser. Because the FRS download procedure includes an intermediary HTML page for selecting the preferred download mirror, older versions of jEdit would no longer work properly if we were to switch to use the recommended download URLs directly, since they would download that HTML page instead of the plugin itself.

Our solution to this problem is twofold. For future versions of jEdit, the XML export page that is fetched by the Plugin Manager will be modified to accept a new URL parameter indicating the preferred FRS download site. A list of these mirrors will be stored on the Plugin Central web server where it can be used by the Plugin Manager in a new dialog for choosing the preferred mirror. Using the mirror parameter, the export script will tailor the download URLs to point directly to the chosen mirror. When this parameter is missing (as with older versions of jEdit) or invalid, the export script will construct URLs using the hostname dl.sourceforge.net, which is a round-robin DNS entry pointing to all the available download sites. The Plugin Central web site itself would use the recommended links to prdownloads.sourceforge.net, since it is meant to be used in a normal web browser.

We feel that this plan will allow us to move over to the new host with minimal disruption to jEdit's end users. In fact, the move should be transparent to everyone except those who download plugins directly from the Plugin Central web site. Those users will have go through the extra HTML page, just as they must do when downloading jEdit itself. This seems a small price to pay for the benefits to be gained by moving our repository to SourceForge.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, please post them here or send a message to the jEdit-users mailing list.

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