December 14, 2011
The Foundation has published its semi-annual newsletter. It contains updates on this year’s projects and fundraising campaign, testimonials from TaxiMagic and the Apache Software Foundation, and the Q1-Q3 balance sheet. You can read the newsletter here. It begins with the letter from the President which is as follows:
The Making of The FreeBSD Foundation
My first introduction to FreeBSD came in the form of a tall, wirery, figure, camped out in the Walnut Creek CDROM machine room. Rod Grimes cut the figure of a true hacker: skin only touched by the rays of a glowing CRT, nicotine stains on his long fingers toned by hours of vi keywork, and a wardrobe comprised of faded blue jeans and worn out t-shirts. Regardless of what hours I worked during my internship that summer of 1993, Rod was always awake, hunched over his keyboard, putting all of his energy into the first ever release of FreeBSD.
I was between my second and third years working on an undergraduate degree at the University of California at Berkeley. Even attending the institute of BSD’s genesis, I was completely unaware of Berkeley’s contributions to UNIX. So it was really a stroke of luck, a random choice to take a job organizing OS/2 software into a CDROM distribution, that led me to Walnut Creek that summer to witness the making of FreeBSD 1.0. But without Rod’s passion and dedication, I doubt I’d have realized the opportunity before me.
What I quickly learned from watching Rod and then delving into FreeBSD, was the incompleteness of my education from Berkeley. Sure I was technically proficient in computer algorithms and writing code, but my courses failed to give me a sense of the art of computer engineering: how to be a craftsman practicing my trade, how to design and build a complex system that is robust and maintainable, and how to collaborate successfully in such a system. The structure and methodology behind FreeBSD made it the perfect vehicle for absorbing the real world skills of being a successful programmer.
In 1993, the development model used by the BSDs was rarely encountered in open source projects: revision control, a bug tracking database, a coding style standard, the hardening of software through peer review and discussion, and a governing body to mediate write access to the code and to resolve disputes. Many of these pillars of professional and successful engineering are lacking in both corporate and open source environments today. In fact, it took almost a decade for BSD’s main competitor Linux to catch up and adopt something as fundamental as revision control. In so many ways, FreeBSD’s development model was superior and ahead of the times.
So I started my second education while completing my first. During my last two years at Berkeley I spent most of my free time, and some time I should have devoted to the classes for my degree, absorbing the lessons FreeBSD had to teach. The FreeBSD distribution offered practical examples of how to deal with almost any type of computer science challenge – examples that I found much more compelling than the contrived exercises in my text books. While I was learning I was also able to contribute in small ways. The reviews of my work were much more useful than for the projects associated with my formal studies. The feedback wasn’t always delivered in the most pleasant way, but that in itself provided valuable experience on how to improve my people skills.
Small contributions lead to larger ones. The apprentice became a mentor. Upon receiving my degree, I found myself sitting on FreeBSD’s governing body, the FreeBSD Core Team, with a skill set and experience in high demand and not found in other members of my graduating class.
The historical way to contribute back to the FreeBSD project has always been to volunteer time to enhance the “product” that is FreeBSD. For seven years this was the primary way I repaid FreeBSD for the valuable education I received by being part of its community. However, by 2000 I was struggling to find a better way to ensure the continued success of FreeBSD. FreeBSD’s mindshare growth was slowing. Linux was starting to receive the attention and financial backing of large corporations. I wanted to create something that could promote, protect, and grow the use of FreeBSD even while the duties of my paid day job prevented me from personally achieving that mission. The natural answer was to form a corporation.
This had been done before. Jordan Hubbard was operating FreeBSD Inc., but its charter and activities were never well defined. I wanted to build an entity that engendered the trust of the FreeBSD community, followed in the Open Source spirit of doing good for good’s sake, yet could perform tasks only possible with a legal corporate entity. The FreeBSD Foundation, an open-book, 501(c)3 U.S. non-profit charity, was born.
Fast forward a little over a decade, and the FreeBSD Foundation still adheres to the same mission I defined for it in 2000. Every year we sponsor BSD conferences and events around the globe, work to protect the intellectual property of the FreeBSD project, visit institutions and corporations to promote the use of FreeBSD, and fund research and development projects that enhance the FreeBSD OS. But even with our $400,000 annual budget there are so many things we want to do, but can’t. Just as was the case for me in 2000, the FreeBSD Foundation is searching today for new ways to help support the FreeBSD project.
In the coming months you will see one of the ways the FreeBSD Foundation is changing. Using the feedback we have gleaned from countless meetings with FreeBSD consumers both large and small, the FreeBSD Foundation is sponsoring the work to fully specify and estimate the cost of implementing critical enhancements to the FreeBSD platform. Developed in partnership with the FreeBSD community, the goal of this effort is to provide a roadmap for infrastructure improvements that have long been needed, but have gone unsatisfied due to lack of a coherent direction. This model will also give current and potential supporters of the FreeBSD Foundation concrete insight into our future plans.
I can’t imagine what my life would be like today without my FreeBSD experience. Through the FreeBSD Foundation I hope to give back to the FreeBSD community even more than I have received, and help to ensure that the next young engineer has the same opportunities as I did. However the FreeBSD Foundation can’t do it alone. If FreeBSD has impacted your life, please visit our website and help us to continue FreeBSD’s legacy.
Justin T. Gibbs
President and Founder
The FreeBSD Foundation