March 23, 2006 8:39 AM PST

OpenBSD founder makes funding plea

Developers at OpenBSD have admitted that the organization is running at a loss, and they want to increase annual income to continue funding the development of the project's open-source operating system.

"OpenBSD for the past two years has turned a loss of approximately $20,000," Marco Peereboom, an OpenBSD developer, wrote in the OpenBSD Journal on Tuesday. "This is starting to seriously impede the development of OpenBSD and OpenSSH."

OpenBSD is a secure Unix-like operating system that is popular among system administrators running firewalls.

Theo de Raadt, the founder and lead developer of OpenBSD, confirmed the loss figures to ZDNet UK and said the project currently has an income of around $100,000, half of which comes from donations, with the other half coming from product sales.

The project's biggest expense are its hackathons--events where developers meet to write code--which it tries to run a few times a year and cost between $10,000 and $30,000.

Although the organization has a number of commercial users, including many Internet service providers, de Raadt said that all of its donations come from individuals rather than companies, many of whom claim they have no budget to pay for the operating system. "The culture of entitlement is starting to damage the open-source community," he said.

Many companies that work with open-source projects are motivated purely by self-interest rather a fundamental belief in the value of community-developed software, said de Raadt. "Is IBM only helping Linux to work better on IBM machines so they can sell more hardware? They're not doing it to help regular users," he said.

OpenSSH, a secure network connectivity tool project that is developed by the OpenBSD project, has received no funding from vendors, despite the fact that the tool is used by many operating systems to encrypt Internet traffic.

"OpenSSH is included in every Unix-derived operating system, yet the total amount of assistance we've ever got from vendors is zero," said de Raadt. "It's astounding. I don't know what to do about it."

One problem that Peereboom highlighted in his article for the OpenBSD Journal is that people tend to download the operating system from the Web site rather than buying CDs, which are one of the project's main sources of revenue.

"What is happening is that the CD purchase-FTP ratio is out of control. People pretty much stopped purchasing CDs in quantities they used to and use the FTP mirrors instead. This lack of sales is what is causing the project to turn a small loss for the second year in a row," Peereboom said.

Ingrid Marson reported for London-based ZDNet UK.

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30 comments

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Is it a sence of entitlement?
It may be.

I personally don't use the bsd operating system, the user unfriendly installer is a major turn off for the wide spread end user adoption, in my opinion.

I do regularly make use of openssh, and do install it on every linux box I own, including my LFS systems.

A broader end user community would get more support for openbsd, which could directly translate into more donations from indoviduals, but the installer being as user unfriendly as it is hurts getting the broader end user community needed for that to happen.
Posted by Jaqui_Greenlees (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
BSD is a hobby, SSH could be money
Subject line says it all.

The problem is that for their own reasons they want to keep the
two projects linked, but commercial vendors like IBM want to
know their money is going where they want it. The BSD
community as a whole isn't that large, and the one major
commercial user (Apple) went with FreeBSD as a basis
(employing a lot of major BSD hackers in the process).

Set up a profit making OpenSSH company, along the lines of
every other profit making open-source company, and then use
the proceeds of that company to fund OpenBSD.

As for IBM only contributing to Linux to sell hardware, rather
than for end-users. Erm, yes, of course. They've never really said
otherwise. Expressing moral outrage over the fact is pointless.
You could easily construct a licence that would prevent it (i.e.
prevented large scale commercial redistribution without a
royalty) but then IBM would probably have used another free
(but possibly inferior) tool.
Posted by JulesLt (110 comments )
Link Flag
Please read
First, how can you say the installer is unfriendly? As a previous user/purchaser of OpenBSD, I can say that all five versions I bought (2.7 - 3.1) ALL came with instructions that step by step walked you through the install telling you what to type in at each prompt. User unfriendliness is complete hogwash.

Secondly, OpenBSD was not a hobby at a university as one commenter here alludes, nor is it a "business model." OpenBSD was written originally by de Raadt because he wasn't happy with the existing security of OSes. His philosophy as I understand it is "I'm building it for me, if you want to use it, bully for you (but don't ask me stupid questions after I've documented the hell out of it)." The problem is that OpenBSD was so good at proactively securing the OS, more and more people used it. With users came demands. Theo et al. ignored many for a while because it wasn't Theo's priority. Example: SMP support took forever because it wasn't important to them. Only after repeated pressure did they start bringing in SMP (and after someone had already created a patch for it). The problem is that all these people that are demanding features are not paying for them. It's not a model of "we'll give it away and now we magically expect people to pay" it's more "well we're doing what _you_ want now, so we think you should morally chip in."

I quit using/buying OpenBSD because it was too secure. It was too difficult for me as a hobbyist to manage unsecuring apache, etc. so I just switched to Linux. OpenBSD is a fantastic OS and I owe Theo et al. for teaching me much of what little Unix knowledge I know. But to say it's their fault that people aren't ponying up is a cop out, mainly perpetuated by people that have never used the OS or know its history.

-SD-
Posted by SteveDave2 (34 comments )
Link Flag
Is it a sence of entitlement?
It may be.

I personally don't use the bsd operating system, the user unfriendly installer is a major turn off for the wide spread end user adoption, in my opinion.

I do regularly make use of openssh, and do install it on every linux box I own, including my LFS systems.

A broader end user community would get more support for openbsd, which could directly translate into more donations from indoviduals, but the installer being as user unfriendly as it is hurts getting the broader end user community needed for that to happen.
Posted by Jaqui_Greenlees (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
BSD is a hobby, SSH could be money
Subject line says it all.

The problem is that for their own reasons they want to keep the
two projects linked, but commercial vendors like IBM want to
know their money is going where they want it. The BSD
community as a whole isn't that large, and the one major
commercial user (Apple) went with FreeBSD as a basis
(employing a lot of major BSD hackers in the process).

Set up a profit making OpenSSH company, along the lines of
every other profit making open-source company, and then use
the proceeds of that company to fund OpenBSD.

As for IBM only contributing to Linux to sell hardware, rather
than for end-users. Erm, yes, of course. They've never really said
otherwise. Expressing moral outrage over the fact is pointless.
You could easily construct a licence that would prevent it (i.e.
prevented large scale commercial redistribution without a
royalty) but then IBM would probably have used another free
(but possibly inferior) tool.
Posted by JulesLt (110 comments )
Link Flag
Please read
First, how can you say the installer is unfriendly? As a previous user/purchaser of OpenBSD, I can say that all five versions I bought (2.7 - 3.1) ALL came with instructions that step by step walked you through the install telling you what to type in at each prompt. User unfriendliness is complete hogwash.

Secondly, OpenBSD was not a hobby at a university as one commenter here alludes, nor is it a "business model." OpenBSD was written originally by de Raadt because he wasn't happy with the existing security of OSes. His philosophy as I understand it is "I'm building it for me, if you want to use it, bully for you (but don't ask me stupid questions after I've documented the hell out of it)." The problem is that OpenBSD was so good at proactively securing the OS, more and more people used it. With users came demands. Theo et al. ignored many for a while because it wasn't Theo's priority. Example: SMP support took forever because it wasn't important to them. Only after repeated pressure did they start bringing in SMP (and after someone had already created a patch for it). The problem is that all these people that are demanding features are not paying for them. It's not a model of "we'll give it away and now we magically expect people to pay" it's more "well we're doing what _you_ want now, so we think you should morally chip in."

I quit using/buying OpenBSD because it was too secure. It was too difficult for me as a hobbyist to manage unsecuring apache, etc. so I just switched to Linux. OpenBSD is a fantastic OS and I owe Theo et al. for teaching me much of what little Unix knowledge I know. But to say it's their fault that people aren't ponying up is a cop out, mainly perpetuated by people that have never used the OS or know its history.

-SD-
Posted by SteveDave2 (34 comments )
Link Flag
How is this surprising?
I'm not unsympathetic to the plight, but how did these guys not see this coming? How did they think their long-term business model would pan out?

I think the OpenBSD folks are hoping people use their OS and pay for it out of moral obligation, but once you start giving anything away for free, you can't go back. Free is the ultimate competitor. Free is a voracious, market-changing dynamic. This shouldn't come as a surprise.

IBM has made no secret that they intend to make a lot of money off of open source technologies, but they've also been clear that Linux is their OS of choice, so their pumping their development funds into Linux. If you don't want IBM and others to use OpenSSH, DON'T GIVE IT AWAY FOR FREE!

These guys need to get creative. One idea: try to license a nicely packaged OpenSSH to Microsoft to supplant/replace telnet in their OSes. I work with all platforms, but I'm always disappointed not to have a secure shell built into Windows. Server 2003 has excellent command line tools, but who wants to use Telnet to access them? One long-term deal with the devil could carry OpenSSH's funding for a while if they run lean. Just an idea.

-Mister Winky
Posted by Mister Winky (301 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How is this surprising?
I'm not unsympathetic to the plight, but how did these guys not see this coming? How did they think their long-term business model would pan out?

I think the OpenBSD folks are hoping people use their OS and pay for it out of moral obligation, but once you start giving anything away for free, you can't go back. Free is the ultimate competitor. Free is a voracious, market-changing dynamic. This shouldn't come as a surprise.

IBM has made no secret that they intend to make a lot of money off of open source technologies, but they've also been clear that Linux is their OS of choice, so their pumping their development funds into Linux. If you don't want IBM and others to use OpenSSH, DON'T GIVE IT AWAY FOR FREE!

These guys need to get creative. One idea: try to license a nicely packaged OpenSSH to Microsoft to supplant/replace telnet in their OSes. I work with all platforms, but I'm always disappointed not to have a secure shell built into Windows. Server 2003 has excellent command line tools, but who wants to use Telnet to access them? One long-term deal with the devil could carry OpenSSH's funding for a while if they run lean. Just an idea.

-Mister Winky
Posted by Mister Winky (301 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No sympathy
What a dope and who didn't see this coming? When you are at a university it is easy to create a product and give it away because either your parents are paying for your education or you are drawing a salary from the university.

In the real world you have to make money. Even if you don't pay people a lot (which of course means you don't get the best people), you need the money for R&D. I guess having people in the "community" work on this doesn't really create a great process.

Now they have set their price - free, and it will be very difficult to undo this.
Posted by J. Blow (193 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No sympathy
What a dope and who didn't see this coming? When you are at a university it is easy to create a product and give it away because either your parents are paying for your education or you are drawing a salary from the university.

In the real world you have to make money. Even if you don't pay people a lot (which of course means you don't get the best people), you need the money for R&D. I guess having people in the "community" work on this doesn't really create a great process.

Now they have set their price - free, and it will be very difficult to undo this.
Posted by J. Blow (193 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What Does he Expect?
After reading this, I had a quick look at the site OpenBSD.org.

The very first sentence touts (even before a single word is said about the features & benefits) that OpenBSD is Free.

Next, my eye is immediately drawn to the logo/slogan, which lists free as the primary benefit, ahead of functional, and secure, even!?

Simply ignoring things like marketing and market perception in the name of community will be fatal for a lot of projects moving forward.

What the open source community really needs, and this underscores it, are some serious marketing minds who are interested in seeing the various projects survive and thrive.

Contributions from other disciplines can be just as important as the contributions of code.

But this particular quandary seems to be more about a lack of common sense& The OS is blatantly positioned and branded in such a way that free is the primary benefit.

And he acts surprised when people feel entitled to take him up on it?
Posted by ByteJuggler (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Free vs. Free
"Free" is meant on OpenBSD.org's website as free as in speech. You can see all the code and modify it to your heart's content. You can redistribute it as you see fit (as long as you preserve the original copyright). You can sell your version. You can, as theo has put it, "urinate on it or put it in baby chipper shredders." It is "free" as in liberty, not free as in "cheap."

-SD-
Posted by SteveDave2 (34 comments )
Link Flag
I'll take my BSD plain, thank you
Free is fine but aren't we getting a little tired of that term when we believe it should be the norm as in terms of realistic ownership in a non-mopnopolistic sitation.
But 50% of the market has turned to opensource and free is like the wind so why advertise it at this point so much unless BSD happens to be more 'freer' then other FOSS software on a whole.
Still they probably will keep the Free label as it sounds nice.
Here is a better website for more user info:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.freebsd.org/" target="_newWindow">http://www.freebsd.org/</a>
I just like to say BSD and that's it. Yes we know it's free now.
Also there is NetBSD, DragonFlyBSD,DesktopBSD and PC-BSD. These distros are very well polished with awsome websites. A few are connected to debian so you get all that software.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Link Flag
What Does he Expect?
After reading this, I had a quick look at the site OpenBSD.org.

The very first sentence touts (even before a single word is said about the features &#38; benefits) that OpenBSD is Free.

Next, my eye is immediately drawn to the logo/slogan, which lists free as the primary benefit, ahead of functional, and secure, even!?

Simply ignoring things like marketing and market perception in the name of community will be fatal for a lot of projects moving forward.

What the open source community really needs, and this underscores it, are some serious marketing minds who are interested in seeing the various projects survive and thrive.

Contributions from other disciplines can be just as important as the contributions of code.

But this particular quandary seems to be more about a lack of common sense& The OS is blatantly positioned and branded in such a way that free is the primary benefit.

And he acts surprised when people feel entitled to take him up on it?
Posted by ByteJuggler (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Free vs. Free
"Free" is meant on OpenBSD.org's website as free as in speech. You can see all the code and modify it to your heart's content. You can redistribute it as you see fit (as long as you preserve the original copyright). You can sell your version. You can, as theo has put it, "urinate on it or put it in baby chipper shredders." It is "free" as in liberty, not free as in "cheap."

-SD-
Posted by SteveDave2 (34 comments )
Link Flag
I'll take my BSD plain, thank you
Free is fine but aren't we getting a little tired of that term when we believe it should be the norm as in terms of realistic ownership in a non-mopnopolistic sitation.
But 50% of the market has turned to opensource and free is like the wind so why advertise it at this point so much unless BSD happens to be more 'freer' then other FOSS software on a whole.
Still they probably will keep the Free label as it sounds nice.
Here is a better website for more user info:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.freebsd.org/" target="_newWindow">http://www.freebsd.org/</a>
I just like to say BSD and that's it. Yes we know it's free now.
Also there is NetBSD, DragonFlyBSD,DesktopBSD and PC-BSD. These distros are very well polished with awsome websites. A few are connected to debian so you get all that software.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Link Flag
Sales ideas
As a US citizen and a veteran, I felt insulted by the attitude I saw from OpenBSD a few years ago and found a way to get OpenBSD without paying them. Looks like they've backed off. Good. I might send a donation now.

Trim the package. No one needs all the different platforms and sending all of them at once makes you look wasteful. Split them into different packages, perhaps the i386 and the Mac could go on the same CD? Charge less (2 x $48 = $96, but 100 x $10 is $1,000).

Nerds are too small a market and they are too used to getting what they want for free. Let them dig for their instructions, they like to find stuff on their own anyhow.

Break out the instructions for people like me, a home user with a stand alone, PC desk top and put these instructions first and easiest to find. Same with a set for a PC home server or other small LAN. Do not embed these instructions as paragraphs inside other topics alongside instructions for installing to a college computer over FTP.

Seperate the install from CD instructions and the install from FTP instructions. 100 people say "Why bother? I don't really need this" for each one that says "Hey, neat. I'll dig it out". OpenBSD needs those numbers.

Make the installation more user friendly so normal people (the ones nerds think are stupid) can install. The Install.i386 instructions are backwards, move the long lists to the far end as an index and put the actual instructions up front.
Posted by Phillep (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Sales ideas
As a US citizen and a veteran, I felt insulted by the attitude I saw from OpenBSD a few years ago and found a way to get OpenBSD without paying them. Looks like they've backed off. Good. I might send a donation now.

Trim the package. No one needs all the different platforms and sending all of them at once makes you look wasteful. Split them into different packages, perhaps the i386 and the Mac could go on the same CD? Charge less (2 x $48 = $96, but 100 x $10 is $1,000).

Nerds are too small a market and they are too used to getting what they want for free. Let them dig for their instructions, they like to find stuff on their own anyhow.

Break out the instructions for people like me, a home user with a stand alone, PC desk top and put these instructions first and easiest to find. Same with a set for a PC home server or other small LAN. Do not embed these instructions as paragraphs inside other topics alongside instructions for installing to a college computer over FTP.

Seperate the install from CD instructions and the install from FTP instructions. 100 people say "Why bother? I don't really need this" for each one that says "Hey, neat. I'll dig it out". OpenBSD needs those numbers.

Make the installation more user friendly so normal people (the ones nerds think are stupid) can install. The Install.i386 instructions are backwards, move the long lists to the far end as an index and put the actual instructions up front.
Posted by Phillep (18 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Might want try to call Stevo
Even though is not pure BSD, Mac OS X still is BSD'ish.

Maybe Apple would make a big donation...
Posted by irisfailsafe (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually...
Apple is supposed to have based their Unix on BSD so it makes sense that they ought to fund the project.

Now what does the fact that they haven't provided funding (or at least enough funding) say?
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Might want try to call Stevo
Even though is not pure BSD, Mac OS X still is BSD'ish.

Maybe Apple would make a big donation...
Posted by irisfailsafe (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Actually...
Apple is supposed to have based their Unix on BSD so it makes sense that they ought to fund the project.

Now what does the fact that they haven't provided funding (or at least enough funding) say?
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
The End of BSD
Maybe like the Dino's BSD has come to the end of it's existance. The idea of giving away software with nothing in return is not a good idea. GNU/LINUX gets your work in return. BSD gets...Nothing. BSD is a bad idea.
Posted by sabot96 (24 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The End of BSD
Maybe like the Dino's BSD has come to the end of it's existance. The idea of giving away software with nothing in return is not a good idea. GNU/LINUX gets your work in return. BSD gets...Nothing. BSD is a bad idea.
Posted by sabot96 (24 comments )
Reply Link Flag
BSD, where are you?????
BSD is using debian now. debian uses non-free software. 17,000 titles!. It's time for BSD to start charging for extra services and join the Service Orientated Architecture revelution like Linux. BSD should foster people coming over to their side.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
2 interesting distros for the desktop
www.desktopbsd.com
www.pcbsd.com

Enjoy because it's freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Link Flag
BSD, where are you?????
BSD is using debian now. debian uses non-free software. 17,000 titles!. It's time for BSD to start charging for extra services and join the Service Orientated Architecture revelution like Linux. BSD should foster people coming over to their side.
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Reply Link Flag
2 interesting distros for the desktop
www.desktopbsd.com
www.pcbsd.com

Enjoy because it's freeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!
Posted by Blito (436 comments )
Link Flag
 

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