[OSGeo-Discuss] RE: OS and proprietary

Miles Fidelman mfidelman at traversetechnologies.com
Sat Apr 26 15:05:31 PDT 2008

P Kishor wrote:
> For the two good examples of OSS that you provide that had well-funded
> parents who lost interest in their children, Perl and Python and PHP
> and Linux are four that didn't have well-funded parents, but once they
> became successful, they attracted well-funded uncles and aunts. Not
> far from our field, 

Good examples. I guess they point out a third kind of parent - labor of 
love by an individual, who somehow or other had enough of a backing by 
someone to spend their time launching their baby.

Larry Wall was a programmer at Unisys, I believe working on the 
"Blacker" project (something I had some peripheral involvement with in 
my BBN days). Larry writes "Like the typical human, Perl was conceived 
in secret, and existed for roughly nine months before anyone in the 
world ever saw it. Its womb was a secret project for the National 
Security Agency known as the “Blacker” project, which has long since 
closed down. The goal of that sexy project was not to produce Perl. 
However, Perl may well have been the most useful thing to come from 
Blacker." (http://www.linux-mag.com/id/322).

Guido van Rossum was working at a research institute when he wrote 
Python, and I assume they supported at least part of the time he put in. 
Then he moved on to CNRI, which explicitly paid him to work on Python.

It's less clear what Rasmus Lerdof was doing when he wrote PHP, but it 
seems he was programming for a living, and I get the sense that this 
closer to an unfunded startup - a programmer developing some tools for 
personal use, that he released into the wild.

Linux, of course, was the baby of Linus Torvald's thesis.

I guess, the Gnu project was born of Richard Stallman - but then 
Stallman defies all categorization. He was sleeping under a desk at MIT 
when he got started, later won a MacArthur Genius Grant, and everyone 
around him has found ways to support him.

> I would love to think of PostGIS and MapServer as
> being fostered by well-heeled organizations, but while I wish
> Refractions and DM Solutions all success, they have done tremendously
> with their wards in spite of being small organizations.
Of course PostGIS is an extension to PosgreSQL which is a classic 
example of a well-funded research project (initially the Ingres project 
at UCB) spawning open source code. PostGIS might be a good example to 
examine of extending an open source project.
> How true when you say that "Each case is different."
> My original sentiment still stands -- if you have the money, but don't
> have the skills, and don't need it "yesterday," it might be better in
> the long-term to fund an extension of a good OSS project than to take
> the easy way out and buy a COTS package.

Miles R. Fidelman, Director of Government Programs
Traverse Technologies 
145 Tremont Street, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA  02111
mfidelman at traversetechnologies.com

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