[This article was contributed by Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier]
The Linux Router Project is dead. So says Dave Cinege, the creator
of the project. Though the project has been stagnant for some time, it
still came as a surprise to see it officially pronounced dead,
particularly given the bitterness of Cinege's eulogy for the project:
The operating system that helped to create the embedded Linux
marketplace, the Linux Router Project (LRP), is dead.
As of January of this year I have finally accepted the fact I will
likely never be able to develop LRP into the operating system it could
have been. A full 6 months later I'm forcing myself to update this page
to reflect this. It is not an easy thing to give up on your life's work.
Apparently the cause of death was Cinege's inability to translate his
work with LRP into a source of income.
My many contributions to the computing community has reaped very little
personal benefit for myself. As I now struggle to pay the bills I can
not help but feel quite pissed off at the state of affairs, for myself
and the other authors who contributed massive amounts of time and
quality work, only to have it whored by companies not willing to give
back dime one to the people that actually created what it is they sell.
Acknowledgement and referral would have at least been acceptable. Few
companies do even that.
While it's unfortunate that Cinege didn't benefit financially from his
work on LRP, it's also an illustration that developers shouldn't depend
on their contributions to free and open source software to land them a
job or otherwise put money in their pockets. While a number of
developers have, indeed, landed jobs as a result of their work with open source,
it's hardly a guarantee of gainful employment. And it's true that
companies may not even choose to publicly acknowledge the projects
they've used to build their products. Vortech Consulting, for example,
based Coyote Linux on LRP, but
there's nary a mention of the Linux Routing Project on the Coyote Linux
The relationship between free software developers and companies is often
uneasy. A recent bit of company bashing on the linux-kernel list led to
These discussions always make me wonder if the open source crowd is
ever going to realize it's reasonable to be friendly with
The world is not going to end up with all software working
perfectly and being free. Software is hard work, software tends to
rot if you don't take care of it, there has to be an business plan
- Give it away.
- Make lots of money.
While Cinege and many others see commercial companies as parasites using
their work for profit without any kickback for the original contributors,
open source as a parasite on proprietary software. There is a fair
amount of mistrust and misunderstanding going in both directions. Many
unknowns remain in the equation of how free software and
money-making enterprises will work together; this situation is likely to
persist for some time.
It's very clear right now, however, that if a developer hopes to earn a
living off of their contributions to open source, he or she will need
to come up with a workable plan beyond releasing software and hoping for job
offers, contract work or grants to fund further development efforts. Even
then, as with any entrepreneurial enterprise, it's no guarantee that
they'll be able to pull it off. And, it's possible that someone else
will come along and do a better job of capitalizing on your work. Part
of releasing software under an open source license is giving up full
control of the work.
Writing software is just one aspect of what makes a software company,
open source or otherwise, successful. Brilliant software isn't enough to
ensure a steady flow of clients. Developers who want to make a living
off of their open source project will also need to wear the marketing
hat, the sales hat, and so forth to turn a freely-available project into
money. Some developers aren't interested or adept at doing those things,
which is fine. In that case, they need to align themselves with partners
or a company that will do that work for them if they hope to turn open
source development into a money-maker. That, or resign themselves to the
idea that someone else may do it without them.
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