The FreeBSD Foundation
tedm at toybox.placo.com
Thu Dec 23 02:34:41 PST 2004
> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-freebsd-questions at freebsd.org
> [mailto:owner-freebsd-questions at freebsd.org]On Behalf Of Jay Moore
> Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 2004 10:47 PM
> To: freebsd-questions at freebsd.org; Troy Mills
> Subject: Re: The FreeBSD Foundation
> On Wednesday 22 December 2004 11:02 am, Troy Mills wrote:
> > As some of you may or may not know the FreeBSD Foundation supports the
> > FreeBSD developers financially via funds mainly from donations from
> > the public. Anyway there is a IRS "1/3rd test" for "public support"
> > and the current foundation ratio that is a little out of whack due to
> > a few generous people donating large sums of money. I have no idea
> > what will happen if they cannot remain a public charity but I'm sure
> > the affects wont be positive as they clearly stated that it is in
> > there interest to remain a public charity.
> > I'm in no position to be shelling out lots of money right now but I'm
> > going to do my part and I would hope that some of you chip in as well.
> > from my understanding they need a larger number of people donating a
> > smaller amount to correct the ratio.
> QUESTION: Do sales of the FreeBSD CDs support the project? And if so, now?
> I thought I _was_ supporting the project through my CD
> subscription... I was
> not aware of the FreeBSD Foundation (thanks for the enlightenment), but
> financial support for software developers of any kind seems a bit of a
> stretch for a "charity". Perhaps I'm just not in tune with the legal
> definition of a charity.
The short answer to your question is "it depends on who you buy
your CD's from"
If you are buying them from http://www.freebsdmall.com then yes,
they have provided significant support in the past and still do - in
February 2004 they contributed $5K to The FreeBSD Foundation - and in
the past, years ago when they were Walnut Creek CDROM they contributed
far more support to the Project.
If your buying from someone else that presses their own CD's then
the answer is "maybe". You would have to ask them. Keep in mind
though that support comes in many forms other than just kicking
money into a pot. Far more valuable is time spent answering
You might consider this for example - If you ever purchased
my book you supported me, I in turn have answered numerous questions
people have posted on the mailing lists, and have e-mailed me.
For the people I've helped my assistance has been far more valuable
to them than any money that anyone has contributed to the project.
Now, as for the Foundation's status as a charity:
I'll start with asking you a simple question: Setting aside the
legal definitions, what in your mind IS a charity, exactly?
Well, to a lot of people, a charity is simply a kind of accepted
Robin Hood - it takes from the (willing) rich and gives to the
poor and needy.
But, this narrow definition isn't the dictionary definition of
a charity, and it really isn't the general definition of a charity
either. For example, take the Catholic Church. This is legally
and in many people's eyes morally, a charity. Yet, while Catholic
churches run ministries that help the poor, the Catholic Church
is by no means giving everything it has to the poor - it's accounted
the wealthiest organization on the face of the Earth, for starters,
and there are many thousands of projects that Catholics do that
aren't ministering to the poor and needy, but rather projects
that are for the public good that benefit the general public.
My definition of a charity, and the dictionary definition of a
charity, is that a charity is an organization that administers a
pot of money and talent that they dole out to not just needy people, but
to people and groups that do what you call Good Works - that is,
benevolent projects that have as sole purpose the benefit of
the general public - ie: us.
So on to your question about why are we paying software developers?
Well it's like this. There are things that are part of FreeBSD that
need to be done and have as a benefit, the entire FreeBSD project,
and in fact, anyone who uses FreeBSD. And, as FreeBSD moves more
and more away from a pure "hobbiest" operating system and becomes
a player in the commercial sector, increasingly these things are
issues with commercial software.
For example, every time that one of the Ziff-Davis ragazines does
yet another tired 'bake-off' contest between Windows and FreeBSD,
somebody from the FreeBSD camp must spend a lot of time hand-holding
the moron writers that write the bake-off articles. Who is that
person going to be? Will it be some young, but inexperienced
FreeBSD advocate who is very eager to do it and will do it for free?
Or will it be some experienced FreeBSD person who's time is
expensive, and in order to do it will have to tell paying clients
to wait an extra week? Which one of these people do you think
is going to help FreeBSD score higher?
Software companies that are contemplating porting their commercial
projects to UNIX versions, they read these tired bake-off contests.
And they aren't going to spend money on an operating system that is
represented in these articles as an unsupported, unreliable,
The long and short of it is that BSD in general survives due to
code and assistance rendered by the software industry, specifically
commercial producers. If the industry didn't provide jobs for
thes developers they wouldn't have the time to work on FreeBSD.
Some of these commercial software companies have products that depend on
FreeBSD and when there is a problem in FreeBSD these companies pay
for the time that developers spend fixing FreeBSD problems.
So, to keep these commercial consumers happy with FreeBSD, the
Project needs to meet them halfway. For example the port of the
Sun JDK to FreeBSD. I don't honestly think that there is a
developer in the world who doesen't work for Sun that really wants
to spend their free time fixing bugs in Sun's Java code, to get it to
run on FreeBSD. Even Sun's developers don't want to do this dirty
work. But if it's going to get done someone has to do it,
so that is why the FreeBSD Foundation exists - to step in and pay for
development when completing a project like the JDK port has
a clear and obvious benefit to the public good. That pretty
much defines a charity, don't you think?
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