About eleven months ago, I wrote an
about the Parted Magic Linux Live CD distribution, a distribution
with the elemental purpose of partitioning hard drives. At that time, the
primary developer, Patrick Verner, had announced his intention to stop work
on the distribution due to lack of support from the community. I lamented
the fate of the project and wondered how many other promising projects had
died under similar circumstances. I vowed to try and do better to support
open software myself and called upon the community at large to do the same.
Fast forward to today, and your Optimistic Contributor feels vindicated in
his self-appointed choice of title.
Why, you may ask? Well, to put it simply, the project did not die.
To find out what happened, I spoke again with Verner on September 14th,
OC - When we last spoke in October of 2007, you had posted on your
website that development of Parted Magic would cease after version 1.9
was released. Since that time, you have released many more versions up
to 3.0 (with 3.1 on deck). What motivated you to continue the project?
PV - There were very little donations, help with code, or users giving me
at least a pat on the back. Between 1.8 and 1.9 was by far the lowest
point in this project. To this day I still think your article saved the
project, well, sort of. After your LWN article I received the best month
of donations and offers for help. The worse mistake I made was not asking
for help in the first place. Once I started asking for help and starting
directly asking for small donations the project turned around at a rapid
pace. The best advice I could give anybody working on OSS projects is
to ask. People assume you like doing it for free and don't need any help.
The project makes about $400 a month now and it's nice because I can
take the family out bowling a few times a week, buy some new computer
hardware, or buy something for the house.
OC - Since development has continued, the distro seems to have evolved
at a steady pace. What features would you like to highlight, or
rather, what feature(s) are you most proud of?
PV - The best thing about Parted Magic is the fact it's not based on another
distribution. Parted Magic is it's own entity and has the flexibility to
go where ever it needs to go and add whatever may be required to perform
needed tasks. There really isn't any comparison between Parted Magic
and any other distro. It's really off the wall compared to the rest.
Original thinking and process is what makes Parted Magic different and it's
what I'm most proud of.
OC - You have started what appears to be a project within a project with
MiniPM (aka Beef Drapes). What itch were you trying to scratch with
this new project?
PV - MiniPM is a small project designed to run partimage over
. It really
wasn't too hard to create and won't be heavily maintained. It fills a
small niche and so far it seems to do what it's supposed to and nothing
more. It's not much of a diversion. http://partedmagic.com/beef_drapes
is my test directory. It's not a separate project or fork.
OC - What do you believe will drive you to continue development on both
projects for the foreseeable future?
PV - When this project is no longer useful or donations starting declining
back to 1.8 levels I'm out. I don't want to do this for free. It's fun to
work on and I really enjoy it, but how can I justify the hours spent to my
wife if I'm getting nothing tangible in return? It was always a goal of
mine to do this for a living and I'm still hopeful it could happen. All it
would take is $2 from every person that finds this project useful. I work
50+ hours a week at my day job so things happen pretty slow here. I
couldn't even imagine how fast things would happen and the quality this
project could provide if I just had more time.
OC - If you could give advice to any open source programmer on how to
keep a project going, what would you say?
PV - Enjoy what you are doing, grow a thick skin, and find motivation to do
OC - How has your opinion open source community changed in the last 10
PV - Not at all. I failed to ask, that was my problem. If you want anything
from the open source community you need to ask and give back what was given
OC - Is there anything you would like to add?
Now, your Optimistic Contributor would like to take credit for helping to
save the project, but all I did was inform the community of the
situation. It was the community itself that did the actual saving. The
donations, the offers of help, just the notes of thanks were enough to keep
Verner going. Verner's response to one of my questions really resonated:
"If you want anything from the open source community you need to ask
and give back what was given to you."
I read that statement several times. After letting it sink in, I realized
how effectively Verner got straight to the point. In my previous article I
made the common statement that freedom isn't free. Verner has taken that
one step further in saying that a community isn't a community without
communication and give and take. That sounds obvious after the fact, but I
am glad Verner put the idea so clearly in my head. I can only hope (as I am
ever the Optimist) that others within the open source community receive the
same level of clarity as I have.
So what about version 3.0 itself? Just like the motivation of the project
maintainer, the project itself has undergone a bit of a revolution. Almost
the entire underpinnings have been updated or redesigned. The user
interface still looks very similar to what 1.9 was, but everything just
seems smoother and more polished than before. It is actually hard to
believe that the project is put together by a handful of individuals. The
best way to experience what the distribution is capable of (besides reading
my original article) is to take Verner's last answer to heart:
and tell me what needs to be fixed before the next release. This is a big
benefit to all Parted Magic users."
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