Saturday, February 16, 2008

OpenSVN Review

UPDATE #2: Assembla is no longer free, so I looked for other options and I've switched to

UPDATE #1: Following writing this review, and the suggestion in the posts below, I looked into using Assembla. I've now been using it for several months for version control for home. I find it very fast, and haven't seen it go down once. I highly recommend it!


I recently bought a laptop, so that I don't have to be sat at a desk to ruin my eyes. I wanted to use my laptop for a bit of coding, but Perforce, the version control system I had been using, was installed on my desktop machine. This meant that my desktop had to be turned on, for my laptop to be able to check things in and out. This bugged me, so I started to look for solutions were my source could be hosted online.

There are lots of companies out there who will host your source code. They mostly use the open source systems CVS and Subversion (also known as SVN). Some companies charge monthly, with increasing fees for increasing server space and/or numbers of users. Some have a 'free' service, but the restrictions are pretty tight. If you're interested in open source development, and don't mind the world seeing your code, then there are other free hosting options out there too.

I found one SVN hosting site which was completely free, didn't have tight restrictions, and didn't require that your code is open source - OpenSVN ( It's operated by some students at National Taiwan University. As I'm always interested in a bargain, I thought I'd give it a try. After 5 weeks of using it, here are my thoughts:

  • The presentation on the OpenSVN site is poor. The other project hosting sites, with their art work and stock photos of people pointing at monitors, make you feel a lot more comfortable about putting your valuable source in their hands. Plus the OpenSVN site has some kind of bad certificate, which makes IE7 give dire warnings.
  • After the initial setup of the account, you don't need to go back to their site. Just use TortoiseSVN (or a similar windows client) to manipulate your files. I chose TortoiseSVN, and after a short learning period, I really like it.
  • The server has been down on four days of the 5 weeks that I've been using it. This hasn't caused big problems for me, as I just code on my own, for fun, and am OK waiting for them to fix it. If however I was working in a group, at a serious development company, this level of down-time would be unnacceptable.
  • I've not needed tech support, but doubt that whatever they provide would be on a par with what a professional hosting company could provide.
  • Initially I was a bit concerned about whether it would be too slow. I've found it to be fast enough for my needs - just checking in/out relatively small amounts of code. I'd say it takes about 15 seconds to either check in, or get latest, for an average amount of change. If however you were thinking of storing larger binary data (e.g. textures) then it may be worse.

Overall, OpenSVN is OK. I find the occasional down time acceptable, considering that it's free. If you use it, I recommend that you also make your own backup procedures, and not rely on theirs. For home development, when it comes to backing up a version control system, I'm of the belief that it's OK to just back up the last good version. If the history gets lost, then it's just tough turkey.

If you're new to SVN and hosted version control, then it's a good idea to use OpenSVN first so you can get a better feel for what your needs are before shopping for a commercial/reliable service.

What do you use?


Anonymous said..., free, no noticable downtime and no restrictions that i can see.

Mark Pope said...

Looks great. I might give it a try. Reading through the info on their site, there's a 500MB limit on the free account, but that's plenty...

OpenSVN is down again, and while I can live with it and think the service is OK, I'd rather not have to :)


Rustam Bunyadov said...

I've been using OpenSVN about a year or even more.

About 6 months ago, I got new laptop. Since then my colleague developer uses my old desktop. I've migrated almost all data to laptop, except some very old projects that I've almost forgot about. Sources were on opensvn only, and customer had binaries only.

Now, opensvn is down, and I don't know if it will ever come back again, cause I found the following announcement from google cache dated on Wed, 14 Nov 2007 05:43:02:
Due to errors in our backup scripts, we have gone two weeks without backups of the repositories. Unfortunately, we made an error when cleaning our filesystems. As a result, some repositories have been deleted. Some of them have been recovered from our last backup, which we regret is two weeks old. If you can't access your repository, mostly likely it is lost. We sincerely apologize for any loss of data and inconvenience.

I'm happy to code in Java, so probably I will be able to decompile everything back again, but that sucks!

Resume: I would not advice ANYONE to trust ANY non-commercial storage/versioning solution.

Mark Pope said...

Hi Rustam,

I can definately understand your frustration, and see why you recommend against using it.

I started using OpenSVN in Jan, and it's been up about 80-90% of the time. I recommend you try and access your repository again after the weekend, it'll hopefully be back up. You can then move to another service...


Rustam Bunyadov said...

Do you think it will? Oh, I hope so... OpenSVN was fine for me very long time, without down times, so I was very worried when I could not access it.

While googling for possible mirrors of opensvn service I found some info on those guys: they are students from Taiwan and they host RAID1 based server also located in Taiwan. If 2 or more non-commercial versioning services like opensvn could come together and agree on data replication between themselves we could get geographical redundancy and even more reliable service :)

Rustam Bunyadov said...

From opensvn admin I got the following alternate url

Give it a try, when is down. it is up and running for now.

I checked out from there. Luckily, my projects were not affected by recent hardware problem on their server.

Matt said...

Sourceforge offers some free services and some really cheap services. The thing about them is that they are pretty diverse and way nicer than just svn.

You get bug tracking, documenting hosting, svn or cvs, scheduling widgets, and all sorts of other benefits. Not sure what is available for free, but I think for like $200 you get a permanent as much as you want system.

Shyam said...

Personally, I have found OpenSVN a little slow. I was not only using SVN, but I was also utilizing the Trac system a lot. Frequently updating the wiki became slightly annoying with the slow speeds.

I switched to DevjaVu ( and have been much happier. On the free account you get 1GB storage. The only negative I have found is the initial creation of your project.

To get access to the free services, it works similar to the way GMail worked while in beta. You need an invite from a current user, or you need to get lucky and get an invite through some other means. Once this step is overcome, it's a smooth ride though.