FreeBSD has serious problems with focus, longevity, and lifecycle

Ian Lepore freebsd at
Tue Jan 17 21:46:40 UTC 2012

On Tue, 2012-01-17 at 10:56 -0800, Julian Elischer wrote:
> If it came to that maybe all the people who are currently saying they 
> need better
> support of the 8.x branch could get together and together, support 
> someone
> to do that job for them..would 1/5th of  a person be too expensive
> for 
> them?
> if not, what is a reasonable cost?  Is it worth 1/20 th of a person?
> Julian

I've got to say, this strikes me as the most interesting idea floated so
far in this conversation.  I've heard of many instances of sponsored
projects; they almost always involve major new features or support for
new hardware or technologies; paying someone for a specific small
focused fix is also common.  

A sponsored branch is... well... just an interesting concept to me. 

Unlike most developers, I have little interest in creating new code from
scratch to implement the fad of the week.  (There's that whole other
opensource OS if fad of the week technology is your thing.)  I live to
find and fix bugs.  Sometimes that means days of frustration to generate
a one-line patch.  Sometimes you find the problem in minutes but the fix
means a painful redesign that touches 342 files and has the potential to
ruin everyone's day when you get it wrong.  But, for me at least, it's
much more challenging and thus more rewarding when you get it right.

Despite being a developer myself, I understand completely where John is
coming from in opening this conversation, and I'm firmly in the "me too"
camp because I'm also an end user of FreeBSD.  I work at a company that
creates embedded systems products with FreeBSD as our OS. 

In July we started the process of converting our products from 6.2 to
8.2.  Out of sheer emergency necessity we shipped a product using 8.2 in
October -- 6.2 was panicking and the customer was screaming, we had no
choice; we've had to do several fix releases since then.  It's only
within the past couple weeks that I think we're finally ready to deploy
8.2 for all new products.  More testing is needed before updating
existing products in the field.  It takes a long time for a business to
vet a major release of an OS and deploy it.  It costs a lot.

Now, before we're even really completely up and running on 8.2 at work,
9.0 hits the street, and developers have moved on to working in the 10.0
world.  What are the chances that any of the patches I've submitted for
bugs we fixed in 8.x are ever going to get commited now that 8 is well
on its way to becoming ancient history in developers' minds?

So back to where I started this rambling... that concept of a sponsored
branch, or maybe something along the lines of a long-lived stable branch
supported by a co-op of interested users.  Some co-op members may be
able to provide developers or other engineering-related resources, some
may just pay cash to help acquire those resources for various short-term
or targeted needs along the way.  I think it could work, and I think
businesses that need such stability might find it easier to contribute
something to a co-op than the current situation that requires a company
such as ours to become, in effect, our own little "FreeBSD Project
Lite" (if you think FreeBSD lacks manpower to do release engineering,
imagine how hard it is for a small or medium sized business).

-- Ian

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