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Everything You Should Know About Subversion

May 26, 2008
Subversion software is a control system used to keep track of amendments made to files when they are being worked on by a number of people. It helps maintain a historical version of the work that is being contributed to. As a result it is often used to help manage work on source codes, web pages and documents.

The current version of the software is designed to be compatible with as many operating systems as possible and is meant to built upon previous successful versions of the product. Although it is a form of software that the majority of people know very little about it is well known in the open source community and is used in a number of large open source projects. It is becoming increasingly popular in the corporate world with many large enterprises using the software.

Subversion file systems are described as 'three dimensional' which means that they include an added dimension of revisions that improves upon the traditional two dimensional directory tree system that are typically used. The major problem with this in the past is that the revisions that were made often meant that the files that were created were quite large and as a result were not very practical.

The new developments make the new system quite compact and much more efficient. The way this works is that each of the filesystems has their own root which is used as a reference from which to access the contents at that revision. The benefits of this to the user is that they can make changes and track the changes that are made without having to transport enormous files. The storage space only gets bigger in relation to the number of changes made as opposed to the number of revisions made.

The files system used in subversion keeps changes atomic by using transactions. This means that the transactions that are created begin from a specified region of the filesystem and as a result not necessarily the latest version of the file. This is one of the core components that ensures that the files do not take up a great deal of space and it also makes it easier to track the changes that have been made to a file. This means that a client can begin a transaction and make a change. He or she can then exit and can re-open the transaction and continue using it. This means that multiple people can work on the same transaction and work together on an atomic change.

There are a number of recognised problems with the system. One of these areas of difficulty is that when it comes to renaming an operation the system can encounter problems. At present if you want to rename a file then the deletes an old name and copies the new name. When it references previous versions it still uses the original file name and it can become confused when files are modified and moved.

This can cause a number of conflicts that can be detrimental to the subversion database. There are a number of problems related to the storage of files. Additional copies of the file that is being worked on are saved on the machine which is being used locally and this can cause issues when there are a great deal of problems for developers that are working on multiple branches of the file simultaneously.
About the Author
Shaun Parker has been working in the software industry for a number of years. He offers subversion training and recommends clearvision.
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