Open Source and the frustrations at end-of-life, and beyond

by David Lane

Over the years, I have turned to Linux and the Open Source community for a number of solutions to obscure and difficult problems. And, rarely, has the community let me down. But the community, like software development in general, has limited resources and sometimes limited interest.

Which is where I find myself today. Now, do not mistake this for a rant or use it to justify your position that Open Source software is not cut out for the job. But occasionally the frustration of trying to find the answer is enough to make you scream.

Here is my problem. I have a piece of software, an obscure piece of software that shows the power of the community and the rapid development model. It should probably also be considered well past its end of life, but that is a different issue. The software is for use in Amateur Radio packet operations but it has not been updated since 2003 and ideally runs on a kernel version of 2.4. I have a distribution of RedHat v9 (yes, I really mean version 9 – prior to Red Hat moving to their split personality of Fedora and RHEL, they got up to version 9 before spinning off Fedora Core 1 and RHEL v3) that I believe is the 2.4 kernel. But I thought I would try first with Fedora Core 3. This was after being unsuccessful at trying to compile the software in question under Core 7.

It was during the installation of support libraries for Core 3 that I discovered a problem. The repositories for Core 3 and the libraries that are non-standard like the AX.25 libraries I need, simply do not exist. I am sure with enough searching I could find what I need and maybe compile it up from scratch, but I am not sure I want to work that hard at it. And I expect that even if I can get the libraries, it might still not work because of changes that have been made in the kernel and associated core libraries between 2.4 and 2.6, which means that I would have to search even harder for the files I need. I should point out that finding even good information about the program is hard to find and the few sites that have information have either invalid files or corrupt archives or dead links.

So, I am left with few options. There is no replacement for the software. Few people are knowledgeable enough to reverse engineer, or forward engineer the libraries or the software, and I am not enough of a programmer to start a new project.

The community is a wonderful thing, but occasionally even the resources of the community are not enough. And that is sometimes very frustrating. By the way, if you have any experience with xFBB or a copy of the libraries to make it work, I would love to hear from you!

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