The ELC is now officially incorporated as a non-profit trade association in the state of California, and has the beginnings of a web site in operation. For the latest ELC news and info, or to obtain a membership application, visit http://www.embedded-linux.org/.
Brian Behlendorf is one of the chief software architects behind the Apache project and is the instigator of SourceXchange. This project provides a method for programmers to get paid while writing open-source software. As such, we would like to see it succeed. We talked with Brian by e-mail at the end of March to see how things were progressing.
Margie: SourceXchange started as a project of O'Reilly and HP, and then was spun off as Collab.Net. What was the reasoning behind this move?
Brian: I incubated the ideas behind the company while employed by O'Reilly, and worked with people there to develop a business plan, which we then shopped to a couple of investment firms. After selecting Benchmark, we spun the company out into its own entity, and I moved to CTO when we found a CEO.
It was always the plan that I would be working on some ideas at ORA, and then we'd spin them out when there was sufficient interest. There was much more interest much sooner than we thought there would be. SourceXchange is one service of Collab.Net—there will be more.
Margie: Do O'Reilly and HP still participate?
Brian: Yes. Tim O'Reilly is on our board, and we have lots of communication with ORA. HP is still involved as a sponsor in SourceXchange and is also involved in some of our additional products. They are the first customer of our open-source project hosting infrastructure, on which their new web site (http://www.e-speak.net/) and open-source project sit.
Margie: Has the change proved of benefit to the project?
Brian: Becoming our own company has helped us hire the people we needed to, and focus more deeply on this as a business, which we feel it needed to be long-term.
Margie: Tell us exactly how SourceXchange works.
Brian: Well, the http://www.sourcexchange.com/ site goes into quite a bit of detail on this, so I won't repeat what's said there. The short answer is:
Sponsor submits an RFP (request for program)-->Developers submit proposals/bids on that RFP-->Sponsor selects a proposal.-->Project begins.-->Developers work towards a milestone, then upload their code.-->Sponsors review it and approve or disapprove.-->If they disapprove, developer keeps working until the sponsor is happy, or until a peer reviewer says the milestone is met.-->Repeat until all milestones are approved and project is completed.-->Sponsors, developers and peer reviewers rate each other.
Margie: How many programming projects have actually been finished? Which ones?
Brian: Two—the Generic Data Packet Recorder, sponsored by Sparks.com and completed on 2/18/00; and a Test Suite Framework for the Apache Web Server, sponsored by HP and completed on 11/20/99. For details, see www.sourcexchange.com/ProjectBrowse?Button=Search&browse_status=Completed&browse_status=Archived.
Margie: What is the biggest project to be finished at this time?
Brian: Both of them were $5,000 US projects, but there are now some in the $25,000 US range in the system.
Margie: Which project have you personally been the most interested in?
Brian: The test suite for Apache was fairly interesting to me. Right now, the most interesting one is probably the Apache 2.0-related handler (Listener Module) for a protocol called BXXP, sponsored by Invisible Worlds (project #13). I've also got a project of my own I'm pretty happy about, a Java servlet- and WebMacro-based browser for UNIX mbox-format mail archives, sponsored by Collab.netproject (project #11).
Margie: Does SourceXchange take up all your time, or do you still get to do some programming?
Brian: Collab.Net in general, as well as doing all the political and back-end work for Apache, consumes most of my time. I haven't done serious programming in a long time, but still write the odd Perl script each week.
Margie: Obviously, you are still involved with Apache. What's going on there?
Brian: Tons—ApacheCon was just completed and was a resounding success, with over 1000 attendees and some great sessions. Apache 2.0 is in alpha. XML and Jakarta are taking off.
Margie: Do you feel the SourceXchange project is a success? (Are programmers actually getting paid?)
Brian: Yes. There is over $300,000 in the system right now for developers, and it's just the beginning, really.
Margie: Do you see this project as leading the way for how all programming will be done in the future?
Brian: No, but it will be an important component. Sometimes you are willing to trade off quality and correctness for determinism and speed, and thus you need in-house developers. Sometimes the software you're developing needs to be done in-house for proprietary reasons. I'm not one to state that all software will be free in the future, although I think most of it will be.
Margie: What do you see in the future for open-source software and Linux?
Brian: Great things. Further expansion. As software becomes infrastructure, it becomes commoditized, and open-source software is the most stable state of infrastructure because of its ubiquity and low cost to use.
Margie: Anything you'd like to add?
Brian: Not really; I've done an awful lot of proselytizing over the last few years, and now feel a need to turn that energy toward making sXc and other Collab.Net projects a success, so I've been more quiet recently.
Margie: To wrap up, how about some personal-type information?
Brian: I've been married for almost five years, have a house in San Francisco, am really into DJ'ing ambient and dub music, use a Sony Vaio C1-XS as my laptop, drive a Jeep, and enjoy microbrew root beer.
Margie: Thanks very much for taking the time to answer our questions. --Marjorie Richardson
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