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Call for donations - Nick lays down the law
Contributed by johan on Wed Sep 9 08:21:53 2009 (GMT)
from the buy-moar-cds dept.

Nick Holland (nick@) has submitted a mail to the misc@ mailinglist to point out that sales of the OpenBSD CD sets have been dropping rapidly this release. This note is a worthwhile read so please go get a cup of your favourite drink and dedicate a minute to reading this - it is important.

List:       openbsd-misc
Subject:    Supporting OpenBSD
From:       Nick Holland 
Date:       2009-09-09 3:54:12

What makes OpenBSD unique?  Everyone's got their own list, but here's

* Good work is unacceptable, great work is expected.
* Quality is the #1 goal, it takes a back seat to NOTHING else.
* Freedom for the users to use OpenBSD without question and without
  lawyers having to be involved, again without compromise.
* Strong leadership.  Not a "core team", or an elected committee
  that blows in the wind of public opinion, but one person who
  sets direction and policy for the project.  You may not always
  agree with Theo, but you never wonder where he stands on an
  issue, or what direction the project will go.
* Commitment to doing it right in one way, not twenty different
  ways ("pick one, maybe you get lucky").
* Refusal to accept the damned "all programs have bugs" chant as
  an excuse for making crap
* No fear of retaining things that work, and trashing things
  that are broke or inferior to newer (or older!) alternatives.
* The "Just Works" philosophy.

Please read on for the rest of Nick's mail:

But...a project like OpenBSD doesn't just run on volunteer effort,
it takes real money.  Hardware, infrastructure, Internet services,
and if you are going to have ONE PERSON in charge, you need to
keep them focused on the project, not "in their spare time", and
give them the money to live in reasonable comfort.

I just had a talk with Theo, and he shared some numbers with me.
There's a digit missing from the current CD pre-orders from where
we were hoping to be now.  There's a trailing zero missing from
what we'd really like to have.

Long ago, while waiting for customers to hand me money, my first
boss told me, "The hardest thing to do, but the most important,
is to ask for the sale".  I've never been very good at that, but
here it is...

People, it is time to get your browsers over to
and start running some money into the project.

Do you use OpenBSD for fun?  Contribute.
Do you use OpenBSD for work?  Contribute.
Does OpenBSD allow you to worry about the problem you are trying
to solve rather rather than the tools?  Contribute.
Do you wish your employer used the OpenBSD quality standard in
your work?  Contribute.
Does your employer use OpenBSD?  Ask them to contribute (after
you do, of course).
Do you bundle OpenBSD or subprojects like OpenSSH into your
product?  Contribute big! (you won't, you rarely do, but hey,
I'll ask anyway)
Do you find yourself wondering why so few take computer software
quality seriously?  Contribute!

CDs are our favorite way to get contributions.  The price is well
within what the average person can easily pay for, they are a lot
more educational than a month of cable TV (and maybe even more fun).
Sure, the CD itself is not something everyone needs anymore, but
it is about much more than the data recorded on it.  It is the mark
of being an active OpenBSD supporter, and it provides a nice, neat
count of "this many people care".

Don't get me wrong, Theo likes big cash contributions, too, but
(ok, my life flashes before my eyes every time I try to put words
in Theo's mouth) while a $10000 donation from BIGCORP Inc., is
nice, it is probably more satisfying to see two hundred $50
contributions from private people and small businesses who
appreciate and put a value not only the work OpenBSD does, but
the KIND of work, the "Quality and Freedom Second to NOTHING"
philosophy.  Don't wait and hope for a big company to speak for
you, speak your thanks directly for the work and effort that
goes into OpenBSD by buying a CD set.

I'm going to answer a question that comes up periodically: "What
about T-shirts and mugs and ...?"  Well, those are profit points,
too, but CDs are dirt cheap to make, they store easily, and one
size fits all.  T-shirts have a higher manufacturing cost, take
up more space, and must be stocked in multiple sizes, all of which
must be kept accessible.  Certainly, buy a t-shirt, buy a mug,
poster, whatever..but buy a CD set, too.

Thanks to those that contribute money and buy CDs.
Thanks to the OpenBSD team, I can't tell you what an honor
it is to work (in my small way) with some of the worlds best
programmers and software DESIGNERS.
Thanks to Theo de Raadt for the years of showing that it IS
possible to hold one's ideals up high and proud, never
compromise them, and never give in, in spite of the pressures
from those that will trade their ideals for a little temporary

And thanks to you for reading my rant.


Undeadly urges you to do what you can to help OpenBSD. Get a CD set, tell your friend to buy a t-shirt or make your company donate to OpenBSD. Be creative!

If you managed to make your company or organization donate a large sum, please write a comment and tell the rest of us how you did it.


<< Call for testers - improving ACPI | Reply | Flattened | Expanded | 4.6 Release Song - Planet of the Users >>

Threshold: Help

Related Links
more by johan

  Funny, that... (mod 8/42)
by Noryungi (noryungi) ( on Wed Sep 9 12:58:37 2009 (GMT)
  My, my... I did not think OpenBSD donations would be affected by the economic downturn.

Anyway, I just pre-ordered a 4.6 CD set, a t-shirt, a mug AND threw in a little donation (50 Euros) in the pot as well.

Then, I saw this article. I think it's pretty much spot-on: if you use OpenBSD, it's only fair to contrbute - I am glad I buy a CD set every time. And, most of the time, I throw in a donation as well, for good measure.

And the t-shirts add to the geek creds, too! ;-)
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: Call for donations - Nick lays down the law (mod 5/37)
by Clever Monkey (clvrmnky) ( on Wed Sep 9 13:07:57 2009 (GMT)
  I gave 'em $50 and bought a t-shirt (as usual.) This way I don't have to store the CD sets (after several years, they start to stack up) but still help out. I don't get a copy before other folks anymore for pre-ordering, but I rarely get around to installing before the actual release date anyway.
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: Call for donations - Nick lays down the law (mod 17/43)
by Renaud Allard (renaud) ( on Wed Sep 9 14:40:27 2009 (GMT)
  That's not nice indeed.
I preordered like any other release for years now. But I must admit, although people at ordering were helpful and very nice, I found it harder to order this release than former ones when Wim was still active. Maybe this is something to think about, an official EU shop simplified things quite a bit.
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: Call for donations - Nick lays down the law (mod 6/42)
by Matthew McCowan (mccoma) ( on Wed Sep 9 15:44:33 2009 (GMT)
  so how does the recurring paypal donations fit into this?
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: Call for donations - Nick lays down the law (mod -2/40)
by Howard Pepper (HowiPepper) on Wed Sep 9 20:37:26 2009 (GMT)
  Ordered my CD set, T-Shirt and mug as soon as I saw the announcement for pre-orders.

Btw, this will make my ninth CD set in a row. I've purchased 'em all, since 3.8, and I have plenty of storage space for many, many more CD sets!

Keep up the great work, OpenBSD developers!
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: Call for donations - Nick lays down the law (mod 1/35)
by Anonymous Coward (3jane) on Wed Sep 9 20:51:44 2009 (GMT)
  Hi, I don't need that much the CD set at all, but well, I'm probably disabled in some fashion, but I can't figure out for the love of god howto donate real money to Theo instead of buying something. Is there a paypal account I can wire money to? I mean, I have every single freaking release and T-shirt, but I feel that Theo&co. don't need to give me anything extra, and I can afford to spend money on a good damned cause. So please, provide us with a link to the paypal account or something, I'd much rather send pure money than to buy stuff that I don't really need. Ofcourse it's nice to have the CD, but it's not that important. Thanks.
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: Call for the purchase of CD's. (mod 2/50)
by Larry A. Barr (lbarr) ( on Fri Sep 11 03:59:38 2009 (GMT)
  Perhaps I will burn through some of my OBSD geek points, but here goes...

Before I get started let me start by saying that I have already pre-ordered my 4.6 set, the second day it after it became available...

I fully appreciate what Nick is saying, but, I would respectfully like to offer a slightly different perspective. I run my business webserver on OpenBSD. Have ever since day one. I love OpenBSD. I love the cleanness of it. The way it works as I expect it will. The quality that is second to none. I love the man pages that are up-to-date. I love looking at the logfiles and watching all that pro-active security foiling the hackers each and every day. I appreciate the hard word the OpenBSD teams puts into every release. On boards such as I proclaim my love at any opportunity. I proudly wear my OpenBSD t-shirts and have even bought some them for my non-geek friends. I am wearing the one that came with 4.2 as I type this.

That said, I came really really close to not ordering this 4.6 set and here is why...

As I said I run my business's webhosting server on OpenBSD. I have ordered every even CD set since 3.4. To compensate for not ordering the odd numbered sets I would supplement my orders with t-shirts, etc.

My main reason for only purchasing the even sets is that it is a pain to upgrade each year and I often dread doing it. I really don't have time to do it twice a year. Since the policy is to only upgrade from one set to the next, each year I must backup for transfer the data and configuration files, then install the new version. Then the config's and data must be copied back. The problems that invariably crop up worked out. Then the ports must be installed. Which you must wait until after the "official" release to even get. Then I have to work through getting years worth of custom scripts, tested and the bugs worked out of those. Frankly, it's a pain in the ass. When you are running a one man business and customers with no tolerance for down time this is usually an all-nighter down at the data center.

Why must the release cycle be every six months? Would it be really that terrible if it was only once a year? And why must the end of the supported life cycle be just one year back? I realize that the main motivation is to force buying the new CD's but for some of us it is a major drawback. I have been working around this for years and frankly it's getting old.

I would love it if the OpenBSD team came up with an annual subscription model that came with a CD set. I don't care if the software packages that go with a particular older version are no longer supported, but I would really like to be able to at least log in and get access the version of ports I am still using in production, whether it's the current version or not. Call it privileged access to archives, whatever. Same goes for seeing the patches maintained for at least another year back, if it would not put an undue burden on the team. If you want people to use OpenBSD, you have to give them a longer life-cycle than just one year. It sounds as if the forcing them to buy CD's isn't working, maybe it's time to re-think this policy.

I read somewhere that the installed OpenBSD base is somewhere around 7 or 8 thousand and more or less steady and stable. i.e. this number is neither significantly increasing nor decreasing. (To be honest I have no idea if that claim is either accurate or true) I am happy to contribute to the OpenBSD project, for their work, their sweat, their time, but at the same time what I am paying for is something from a business point of view must make sense.

I hear Nick when he says he'd really like to see that extra zero tacked on when it comes to CD orders. How about modifying the model or offering additional options rather than just depending on the CD sales? How about thinking at how people are using the software and looking for ways to help them find more uses for it? In other words figure out how to help expand the installed base. Like I said I would gladly pay for an annual subscription to have access to the older versions of the ports. If the hardware is unchanged from year-to-year, then there isn't a lot of incentive to be compelled to upgrade, unless there is some new feature in the new release you are dying to have.

To my way of thinking OpenBSD project needs to at least consider looking for ways of seriously expanding the user base, so there doesn't have to be so much pressure put on the people that already showing their support for the project to support the project as a whole.

To add to that thought, we don't need every exotic wireless card under the sun supported as one example. I love all the laptop support. I would use OpenBSd on my laptop and make it my only OS if I could. But without flash support I can't test websites, as retarded as that sounds. I am fine with sticking with mainstream, proven and tested hardware. If the company doesn't want to play when it comes to documentation and license issues, I am fine with modifying my buying habits accordingly to stay aligned with the project.

I realize that this rant may not sit well with some. For that I am truly sorry. I have no desire to any shape or form to be on the outside looking in, but I feel this needs to be at least brought up and discussed. The team wants and needs more donations. Fine, I agree. But we need more people making the donations that aren't already also.

If it's a matter of more of us needing to volunteer our for testing, or editing man pages or whatever to help out, then I'll find time somewhere to help contribute. But financially I am tapped out and I suspect I am not the only one.

Sorry for my rant and I will gladly get down off the soapbox now and go back to my seat in the bleachers.
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Why have the donations dried up??? (mod 9/51)
by Rich (TechyNerd42) ( on Fri Sep 11 18:00:28 2009 (GMT)
  I have no wish to drag the whole sorry saga up again, but I do wonder if the whole Theo/Wim CD-revenue shit-slinging episode has something to do with this? I value my life far too much to take sides or offer an opinion on something that I don't really understand and know even less about, but it certainly can't have done the project's reputation any good at all.

One thing that did come out of that episode and which sticks in my mind though is the revelation (well, a revelation to me, and I suspect to many of us on the 'outside'!) of just how ad-hoc the project is in terms of its business status (or not). There seems to be no visible accounting, little evidence that the project income is used as it should be (and I am NOT suggesting for a moment that funds are not used appropriately - let me make that QUITE clear), and very little confidence in the future direction and status of the project.

How many people will think twice about donating to a project when there is basically no real and public idea of what's really happening financially? It's never going to happen (because ideas and suggestions to the project are never taken up, quite frankly) but maybe the project should be brought into a company structure. The cost of doing this is trivial, and it would give the project a legitimacy that it currently seems to lack. And without it, the chances of getting funds from companies that may otherwise donate are much diminished, especially after the details that came out in the Theo/Wim episode became much more widely known.


On a separate note, I also pretty agree with much of what Larry A. Barr is saying above. I started using OBSD from 3.5 and I have CDs for most of the versions since then. However, this is mostly out of loyalty to the project - most of them have gone completely unused.

My main machine is still running on 3.6 because updating it from 3.5 to 3.6 was a most painful and time consuming exercise despite (what I thought) was some good prep my me (clearly not good enough!). I now need to update it again to 4.* which will, of course, involve a complete re-install by now.
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  How much ? Seriously ? (mod 0/46)
by Veg (veg) ( on Fri Sep 11 20:52:53 2009 (GMT)
  Even when I'm not currently using OpenBSD, I still like to contribute and I often buy CDs - I even bought the audio CD!

So, I was going to buy 4.5 and then noticed that it's $50! That's a lot of bread - especially as a Snow Leopard upgrade is $29. OK it didn't include a dubious audio track but it did have stickers. Of the many OpenBSD CDs I own, not one has ever been used - do people still use install CDs ?

In truth, I suspect that proportionally few buy the CD to actually install the OS - they buy it for the same reasons some people still buy music CDs even if they already have the MP3s - they want to "buy in" to OpenBSD and get something tangible for it. And the artwork *is* really lovely.

Knock the price down to $30 and you'll easily make up the money by increased orders. If that means you have to stop including the dodgy songs then we'll just have to deal with that loss.
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

  Re: Call for donations - Nick lays down the law (mod 4/36)
by Kenneth C. Ferguson (escapenguin) ( on Sat Sep 12 05:09:01 2009 (GMT)
  Pain or no pain during upgrades, I wouldn't have the stability and confidence I have in my systems without OpenBSD. I very rarely have to throw in the towel and do a fresh install during said upgrades, and if I do, it's usually my own goddamn fault. Not having to deal with CALs, entitlements, and all that bullshit is a big plus. I hope it stays that way for a long time. Kudos to the devs. I wish I could donate more.
  [ Show thread ] [ Reply to this comment ] [ Mod Up ] [ Mod Down ]

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