I love the Apache web server. It’s blazingly fast, it’s ubiquitous, and it can do a ton of neat stuff. Most of the world’s webservers run on Apache. The only thing that I don’t like about Apache is some of the configuration and set-up. If you ask 10 webmasters what’s the trickiest technical thing to do, about 5-6 of them will say things like “configuring a web server to do redirects, mod_rewrite, and setting up .htaccess.” For example, WMW has a guide to changing dynamic urls to static urls with mod_rewrite, but it’s still pretty complicated. Notice intelligent people debating the finer points of regular expressions places like here, here, here, and here.
A few of us were talking about this at Google. Should we include an .htaccess tool in Sitemaps so that you don’t need a UNIX command-line to generate password hashes? Maybe a tool to take a list of desired redirects or rewrites, then output the correct syntax that you could cut and paste into a web server config file?
So if you’re a student and want to earn $4500 for hacking on some code this summer (and beef up your resume with Open Source experience *and* get more familiar with Apache), why not try to making it easier to configure Apache? A light-weight project might be a program that takes easy input and outputs the correct configuration code that can be cut-and-pasted into Apache config files. A project for a more skilled person might be directly changing Apache to allow simpler configuration. If you do propose a project to simplify Apache config files, let me know.
(Note: I didn’t actually discuss this with the Apache folks; it’s just an area where I see webmasters make mistakes. If you’re doing Summer of Code, you’ll want to chat with the Apache folks first, because they might have other things that they need more.)