$20 million needed for the "Better CVS" Initiative

Posted 22 Sep 2002 at 17:51 UTC by shlomif Share This

Ayn Rand said in "Atlas Shrugged" that any man must make a choice between upholding freedom, life and not defaulting on logic or reason, or between succumbing to irrationality. Similarly in the free software world one must make a choice of holding on to their free software ideals.

I used to think of myself as an "in for free beer" kind of guy. Use it, whether it is free or not. Code. Distribute. Be happy. I still feel no guilt feelings or remorse for using proprietary software. Prominent examples include: Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint, WinZip, CoolEdit, PaintShop Pro, xv, Matlab, Borland C++, Delphi, Eudora, and the list goes on. I would not hesitate before using them again. But I also know there should be a choice between free software and proprietary software, and that the free alternative should eventually be up to par if not better than the proprietary one.

We all agree that CVS and Perforce are OK as far as source control management systems are concerned. We all agree that ClearCase is very powerful but has become bloated, and practically Consultingware.

We need a better source control system. And we need it as free software. Using a proprietary source control system for open-source projects is unthinkable. It is ridiculus as claiming that gcc can be proprietary or that the Linux and BSDs kernels should be closed-source, or that Perl , Python or Ruby should be proprietary languages. The reason is that source control is a meta-hack: something developers depend on to write good code. As such, it should essentially be free software.

Luckily for us there are at least three alternatives out there that are better than CVS (albeit doubtedly not as good as the commercial state of the art):

1. Aegis - Aegis was created by Peter Miller, a superb UNIX hacker and computer scientist, and intended to be the ultimate SCM tool out there. Aegis is already mature and usable. Peter Miller has been very quiet about getting contributions to Aegis, which IMO, is a good thing.

2. Subversion - a SCM tool that aimed to be primarily a "better CVS" and nottoo much more. Under very active development, and in beta stage now.

3. Arch - an SCM package by Tom Lord that is already usable. Lord has recently requested donations so he can keep working on Arch on his free time. My suggestion to him is to not be so desperate: work on Arch for fun.

There isn't something inherently wrong with Source-control management systems that would make them impossible to be developed as open source. But we need money to hire competent companies and hackers to do the work for us, if we wish to make the situation quicker. This money would be dedicated to continuing development of those products, hopefully bringing them more up to par with the state of the art.

So this call for arms is four-fold:

1. For companies and individuals to donate money.
2. For companies to allocate developers to work on these alternatives.
3. For individuals to invest time in improving those existing tools bringing them up to par with the state of the art.
4. For hosting services not to pre-assume their users want CVS (or only CVS) and supply hosting of one or more of the other free alternatives.

A final note: there is no such thing as "1.0" of SCMs. The ultimate Version Control System is somewhere in infinity. There will always be the 2.0 of SCMs, as well as the 3.0 etc. Knuth is not God because God has already released TeX 4.0 and is hard at work on version 5. As I noted once, the number of items on a project's to-do list always grows or remains constant. (and some of the good Hackers-IL people could find ways to prove it from the second law of thermodynamics.)

I have started a mailing list to discuss the "Better CVS" initiative and to post pledges of donations here:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/better-cvs/ .

Best regards,

Shlomi Fish

Smells like Freshmeat, posted 23 Sep 2002 at 03:59 UTC by jdub » (Master)

I thought vapourware announcements were strictly for SourceForget and Freshmeat? :-)

Donations?, posted 23 Sep 2002 at 05:38 UTC by djm » (Master)

Why bring money into it? I can't recall any free software project of merit begging donations before it got started (or after for that matter).

Subversion and OpenCM are well along the path to usability and are continuing to improve. CVS is good enough for the interim.

If you want want the next generation SCM systems sooner and are unable to assist development, then there are numerous non-development roles that are of immense assistance to projects such as these. Writing documentation, writing regressions tests and even using the software and reporting bugs that you find are all tasks which will get these projects to 1.0 much sooner than vague pleas for cash.

why reinvent the wheel?, posted 23 Sep 2002 at 06:47 UTC by bagder » (Master)

Since Subversion is there, 100% open source and a pretty fine ground to build further on, why not just go ahead and join in there? Why is there a need to build yet another wheel?

I'm helping not starting my own, posted 23 Sep 2002 at 07:31 UTC by shlomif » (Master)

The intention of the project is to concentrate and synchronize efforts, not to create a vapourware. By all means, we will contribute to Subversion, Arch, Aegis, OpenCM, or whatever. Our common enemy is, naturally, BitKeeper, and this is because I don't like Larry McVoy's attitude or his hipocrism.

BitKeeper an enemy?, posted 23 Sep 2002 at 21:20 UTC by splork » (Master)

You state that you don't mind proprietary software yet you call bitkeeper an enemy? Sounds like a "hypocrites who hate proprietary software (but don't look behind that curtain hiding the windows box) club."

$20 million?, posted 23 Sep 2002 at 23:12 UTC by atai » (Journeyer)

$20 million? Has Larry McVoy's company even raised that much money for BitKeeper?

show us the code, posted 24 Sep 2002 at 05:01 UTC by mulix » (Master)

I think this effort is misguided (like every other "begging for money" effort) and you (shlomif) and the projects will be better off if you contribute code, instead of advogato articles. It will increase the advogato S2N ration, too.

Oh, come on, posted 24 Sep 2002 at 17:23 UTC by jbuck » (Master)

What are you going to do with $20 million? Atria developed the original ClearCase for vastly less than that; the millions they spent were mainly on marketing and distribution, expenses not needed for a free software project.

If you're intent on throwing money at the problem, you only really need enough to allow one dedicated person with the right skills to work full time. Divide your target amount by at least 200. Since the FSF is unhappy with the BitKeeper situation, then perhaps you could work with them to fund the creation of something that is clearly superior, so that the pragmatists can be won back to using free software.

I dare you, posted 24 Sep 2002 at 20:24 UTC by ladypine » (Journeyer)

I dare you to find one forum/maling-list in which you participate, that has not yet heard about your plans regarding CVS.

&quoAyn Rand said...&quo, posted 27 Sep 2002 at 02:17 UTC by mbp » (Master)

I always wince when I see somebody start a discussion with "Ayn Rand said ..." :-) But this article is more amusing than offensive. I'm chuckling at the thought of what she would have thought of a plan that begins with "first, everybody has to donate their time and money" to a person who doesn't particularly have a plan, nor any technical credentials, but who thinks that they have a unique insight and everybody ought to follow them. Really, come on: that's almost exactly the kind of bullshit that Atlas Shrugged harpoons. I can't think of an approach that is more opposed to both Objectivism and the free software way of doing things.

As other people have said, you need to come up with code, or at least a design, if you want to be taken seriously.

$20 million is way too much, posted 3 Oct 2002 at 01:58 UTC by gstein » (Master)

Larry is way off when he quotes that it takes $12 million to create a version control system. And $20 million is definitely way too much.

Take the standard rule of thumb for an employee: $10,000/month. Now let's say that you've got six people working on the system for three years. That is just $2.2 million dollars.

How many people? How long? Hard to say. Subversion has got three dedicated developers plus (say) 1 full-time equivalent from all the developers in the community. It has been in development for a bit over two years.

Asking for donations/cash? Nah. It is much better to contribute actual developers, documentors, testers, etc.

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