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OpenBSD Looking At Funding Shortfall In 2014 277

Freshly Exhumed writes "Today the OpenBSD mailing list carried a plea from Theo de Raadt for much needed financial aid for the OpenBSD foundation: 'I am resending this request for funding our electricity bills because it is not yet resolved. We really need even more funding beyond that, because otherwise all of this is simply unsustainable. This request is the smallest we can make.' Bob Beck, of the OpenBSD Foundation, added: 'the fact is right now, OpenBSD will shut down if we do not have the funding to keep the lights on.'" The electricity bill in question is $20,000 a year for build servers located in Canada.
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OpenBSD Looking At Funding Shortfall In 2014

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  • fuck them (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @01:56PM (#45967237)

    It is now official. Netcraft has confirmed: *BSD is dying

            One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered *BSD community when IDC confirmed that *BSD market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last [] in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

            You don't need to be the Amazing Kreskin [] to predict *BSD's future. The hand writing is on the wall: *BSD faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for *BSD because *BSD is dying. Things are looking very bad for *BSD. As many of us are already aware, *BSD continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.

            FreeBSD is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core developers. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time FreeBSD developers Jordan Hubbard and Mike Smith only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: FreeBSD is dying.

            Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

            OpenBSD leader Theo states that there are 7000 users of OpenBSD. How many users of NetBSD are there? Let's see. The number of OpenBSD versus NetBSD posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 NetBSD users. BSD/OS posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of NetBSD posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of BSD/OS. A recent article put FreeBSD at about 80 percent of the *BSD market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 FreeBSD users. This is consistent with the number of FreeBSD Usenet posts.

            Due to the troubles of Walnut Creek, abysmal sales and so on, FreeBSD went out of business and was taken over by BSDI who sell another troubled OS. Now BSDI is also dead, its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house.

            All major surveys show that *BSD has steadily declined in market share. *BSD is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If *BSD is to survive at all it will be among OS dilettante dabblers. *BSD continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, *BSD is dead.

  • Too bad (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:15PM (#45967509)

    You know, it's really too bad. I was an avid OpenBSD fan until I interacted with Theo and he was extremely belligerent regarding pretty routine matters that required no hostility. Then his followers jumped on me as well, as if it was necessary to back up their fearless leader in what was perceived to be life or death combat.

    In the past I had donated regularly to the project, but after that incident I began to give to the FreeBSD community instead. Who by and large seem to be a much more friendly bunch and certainly don't seem to be sweating massive power bills.

    Seems to me that Theo's inability to conjure up the slightest bit of charisma in the face of utter defeat is symptomatic of why OpenBSD is dying. They needlessly humiliate and scorn their own followers over minor perceived philosophical or technical differences, thus the only path they can end up on is one with less and less support.

    They will probably fail in the long run as a result of this behavior and their inflexibility to re-locate or distribute their build servers. Theo has ranted about how they must be in what amounts to his garage, but I don't buy it. I'm pretty sure they could easily be re-located -- but don't mention that in his presence or he'll surely burn you, too.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      He seems reasonable to me provided the person he is talking to is well-informed. I hear this story a lot, but I've never seen a link to or a log of the conversation posted. I imagine if it was, we'd see that it was likely another case of someone thinking they were more well-informed than they actually were.
      • Re:Too bad (Score:4, Insightful)

        by shutdown -p now ( 807394 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:34PM (#45967811) Journal

        Basic politeness shouldn't depend on whether the person you're conversing with is well-informed or not.

    • by borcharc ( 56372 ) *

      Does Canada have some form of energy assistance that Theo can apply for to keep the power on in his garage? Many US states have programs that cap power under 7% of your income if you are poor as I assume he is with the lack of donations paying his bills, surly Canada does as well.

      • by rtaylor ( 70602 )

        A $20k/year electricity bill is rather abnormal and would not qualify for this kind of thing.

        • by Aaden42 ( 198257 )

          $20k/year power bill in the US? The DEA would already have leveled the whole house on suspicion of drug production.

    • All of us in geek tech, everyone in the business, whether sysadmins, developers, grunts, project managers, hardware devs, etc. are all such truly well-rounded, serene, polite, and co-operative people who exude zen mastery.

    • Re:Too bad (Score:5, Interesting)

      by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @03:06PM (#45968191) Journal

      Well, you know I was a fan of OpenBSD until I had to interact with the mailing list.

      I figured they're all professionals and giving their time for free. The best way to show respect is to not waste their time. So, I carefully read up on the things I was asking about. I documented what I had read in the message and which questions remained unanswered. Actually during this process, I actually answered some of my questions, simply by being more careful.

      So, I then posted.

      And I got polite, helpful responses, even though I was compiling a custom kernel which is strongly discouraged. But then Theo himself weighed in and... gave polite, helpful responses.

      I remained a fan of OpenBSD.

      Maybe you did get on his bad side, but much of the hostility I've seen in the OSS community is people getting grumpy because someone comes along and would rather the professionals help them for free than take the time to use google.

    • by Hatta ( 162192 )

      Why were you interacting with Theo about routine matters?

    • Re:Too bad (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SpottedKuh ( 855161 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:02PM (#45968799)

      I had the pleasure of having beer with Theo when he was in Edmonton, AB several years ago. He even refused to let me go to the ATM to grab cash; he bought the beer for me.

      My only complaint about the guy was that he was way too smart, and I struggled to keep up with all the computing security things we discussed. Hardly the worst complaint to have about him :)

      He just has zero patience for bullshit, and I think that's why people complain about his personality. If you ever get the opportunity to meet him in person, I believe you'd rethink this meme about him being an ass.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:16PM (#45967533) Homepage
    1. the nature of OpenBSD means build servers are the word of god on the lips and hearts of every developer and user. their physical verifiability and integrity is sacrosanct. finding a remote build location in this the year of our NSA 2014 would prove difficult if not impossible.

    2. this is controversial. its not an attempt to stoke a flamewar, but it i feel must be said. the BSD license itself hinders the visibility of the projects its designed to protect. It allows corporations, the very entities that theo wants his electric bill 'on their books' to ignore the project entirely and slurp down releases whenever a security hole shows up on their product. Other than a README most corporations arent required to think twice about the code, let alone where it comes from, under the BSD. IMHO only when starts returning srvfail will these companies know what theyve lost. GPLvN remind companies on a per-release basis where the bread for which their butter goes comes from. code must face the scrutiny of developers, engineers, legal teams, managers and a multitude of other stakeholders.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by borcharc ( 56372 ) *

      Their demand to keep the servers in house when free space/power has been offered is stupid. If you think the NSA or any other determined adversary can not break into some bsd dev's basement, then I cant help you. This is dumb oss don't pee in my pool management.

    • The GPL does not require companies to give back. A company may use a GPL based product internally, fix it, adapt it and never share a line of code. The GPL only applies when someone wants to distribute their derivative work.
  • Host a Kickstarter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MAXOMENOS ( 9802 ) <maxomai&gmail,com> on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:27PM (#45967695) Homepage

    Theo et. al. might turn up their noses at the idea, but a $40,000 kickstarter to keep OpenBSD going might not be a bad idea.

    Rewards might include: kudos for contributions, limited edition (kickstarter only) t-shirts/posters/soundtracks, CD sets (duh), and for big contributors ($2500-$5000) a customized VDD set up for whatever purposes you want, yours to keep or share as you like.

    • Top contributors get to submit their very own code!

      Seriously though, a Kickstarter plan is essentially a bake-sale for them, the equivalent of your average PBS pledge drive. Donate $20 now and get this decorative mouse-pad! ...which is fine, as long as it's a limited run that makes you feel good about donating $20 to OpenBSD instead of FreeBSD/NetBSD/Dragonfly/whateverBSD.

      There's no harm in selling signed-by-Theo OpenBSD t-shirts. They've already "sold out" by begging for cash. At least give back a trink

    • by SuperBanana ( 662181 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @03:28PM (#45968443)

      Further ideas for funding levels:

      "Theo Happy Day" - for each person who contributes at that level, Theo behaves like a responsible, polite, civil, empathetic human being for an entire day.

      "Fire suit" - for this contribution, you are entitled to one (1) interaction with Theo where he does not insult, belittle, demean, or behave in a condescending manner, towards you.

      • by Tom ( 822 )

        While Theo is not the nicest guy around, it's perfectly possible to have a good conversation with him where he doesn't insult (etc.) you. I speak from personal experience there.

        Theo faces the same problem that cryptographers, some physicists, climate scientists and similar people do: You get to have a lot of interaction with people who have no clue but an opinion. After the 100th e-mail claiming to "disprove Einstein", or "reveal the HOAX (always in capital letters!) of climate change!!!" or rant on OS secu

        • Same problem every /.er faces.

          What's your reaction to a clueless request for computer assistance from a casual associate? Mine is open hostility.

          It's not as bad as it used to be.

    • by Noryungi ( 70322 )

      Kudos for contributions = []

      Limited editions (whatever) = []

      And, yes, I am going to donate soon - and not request anything in return - simply because I like OpenBSD.

  • Wait (Score:5, Funny)

    by MBGMorden ( 803437 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:31PM (#45967753)

    Apparently there's free as in speech and free as in beer, but there is no free as in electricity.

  • by Freshly Exhumed ( 105597 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:45PM (#45967951) Homepage

    Here's a link to a photo on OpenBSD Journal of the build server racks and all the great (some quite old) machines being used: []

    Lots of memories looking at some of those machines... I'd be a bit concerned about the longevity of some of those.

    • by pr0nbot ( 313417 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:57PM (#45968097)

      Each of you who clicks this link is only increasing their electricity bills!

    • Does it really cost $20k to keep those servers running for a year?
      • by LoRdTAW ( 99712 )

        I did a little math, its no where near perfect but its a rough estimate.

        using an arbitrary cost per kilowatt hour of lets say 10 cents (nice even number) that works out to $20000/$0.1 = 200000kwh per year. We can then divide that by 365 to get 547.95kwh per day. Then divide that by 24 to get 22.8kwh used every hour. So that is a 22.8kw load. To figure out the load we divide 22800/120 to get 190 amps worth of 120V load. So a rack full of servers pulling 120V at 5 amps each (a 600 watt guesstimate) would come

        • by richlv ( 778496 )

          does that include expenses for raids from stupid police because they thought he's growing weed ? :)

    • by Phelan ( 30485 )

      So updating these servers with newer models via donation or whatever would go to great lengths to reduce that $20k bill.

      I understand why they need the different build environments but:
      2 Network switch vendors
      3 UPS vendors
      in 2 racks
      It's like the thrift store of computer closets.

  • Did this last year (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rahvin112 ( 446269 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:45PM (#45967953)

    Didn't they do this last year as well? I seems Theo isn't drawing the dollars anymore and has to have a funding drives every few months.

    But I agree with others, turning down offers of free hosting for the build servers then refusing and begging for money doesn't engender sympathy.

  • by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @02:57PM (#45968091) Journal

    Of all those security vendors who use OpenBSD in their proprietary security appliance boxes why can't any of them give some money back?

  • That server collection is a dump, that looks about identical to my wiring. I love it. It tells me two things. The admin is not some OCD creep that obsesses over the wrong things. But it also tells me that there isn't a person with a marketing bone within 1000 feet of that server collection. I am not a fan of the MBA mentality but gathering money is what they do (usually for their own selfish gain).

    The horrible truth is that a tech company with all marketing people will generally do better than a tech com
    • It's an old picture and some of the hardware has been replaced. As far as I know they are currently out of VAXes among other things.

      • It's an old picture and some of the hardware has been replaced.

        Then they should provide a newer picture!

  • by tlambert ( 566799 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @03:58PM (#45968763)

    Problems with donating to OpenBSD

    (1) The donations are being requested after the end of the tax year

    Most charitable donations occur in October/November/December for tax reasons. This is true of both deductible and non-deductible donations.

    (2) Donations are not tax deductible

    This isn't a huge problem, if the OpenBSD Foundation were willing to invoice the company for the amount; then it could still be deducted as a business expense, but then the OpenBSD Foundation would have to claim it as income and pay tax on it. This isn't terrifically onerous for them in any case, as they are not a charity, and thus have to pay tax anyway, unless they can just get someone to pay their power bill directly instead (something they've requested).

    Another option would be to have a U.S. OpenBSD non-profit that could then support work by OpenBSD under contract, even if that work were something like "provide nightly builds of OpenBSD binaries in exchange for grant funds". They don't seem interested in/able to utilize, this approach.

    (3) Invoicing would not exactly require some measure of editorial control, but...

    There would be at least an implied expectation of quid-pro-quo, even if none exactly existed, since an audit of the company that was invoiced could require at least a paper justification for the value obtained in exchange for the invoiced amount. It doesn't have to be a great deal for the company, and it could actually be a completely lopsided deal, but there would need to be a token exchange of goods and/or services for the invoiced amount.

    (4) If someone is willing to pay their power, they demand they be a Canadian company

    I can understand the ramifications for this coming from a non-Canadian company; OpenBSD needs to understand the ramifications of "any port in a storm". There really aren't that many Canadian technology companies in this sector, compared to the U.S.; the highest percentage of OpenBSD-based products are in fact German.

    (5) There are not a large number products based directly on OpenBSD

    The companies that do have products based on it are generally not hugely profitable, and the small number that there are are listed here: [] which gives you some indication of their market penetration.

    (6) The OpenBSD folks don't have the most stellar relationship with the rest of the Open Source community

    Without assigning specific blame, this should probably be addressed sooner, rather than later.


    All in all, it's rather difficult to set up a legal fiction that would let it be advantageous to a business to donate.

    It's not that they do not provide valuable software, it's just that most of the value they provide is not in the OpenBSD OS itself, it's in the ancillary projects that are associated with the same people.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      1. Open a business. Do consulting work and custom programing work.
      2. Build servers or partner with a company to build servers. OpenBSD is supposed to be all about security. A very secure server OS from a company not in the US might sell well in light of the FUD over the NSA.
      OpenBSD can be used anywhere Linux can but Linux has the mindshare. Maybe a Canadian company can make a go at secure servers.

  • by vikingpower ( 768921 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @04:00PM (#45968777) Homepage Journal

    US $ 20,000 = € 14800 ( I convert to euroland givens, as I have no idea about the price of a kWh over there ). In euroland, a kWh costs more or less € 0.20. Hence, € 14,800 purchase 74000 kWh. 74000 kWh / ( 365 days *24 hours / day ) = 8.53 kW.

    Now - I like the picture. But I refuse to believe that even these power-guzzling old machines draw a steady 8.53 kW on a 24/7 basis. No way. A quick look-up in wikipedia shows me that kWh rates in Canada are even lower than here in Europe. What is Theo hiding ??

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Nightshade ( 37114 )

      I tried to do the math on this too. First of all, I'm not sure if the number is 20,000 USD or CAD (Since OpenBSD is based in Canada not the US). Next up is the fact that many of the machines are older non x86 machines that are not power efficient. For example when the SGI/AlphaStations/VAX/SparcStations were produced, focus was on MHz not power utilization. Finally, I think the project might use some type of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) as well as network switches, etc.

      So by your math you're looking

      • by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Wednesday January 15, 2014 @05:53PM (#45969877)

        I tried to do the math on this too. First of all, I'm not sure if the number is 20,000 USD or CAD (Since OpenBSD is based in Canada not the US). Next up is the fact that many of the machines are older non x86 machines that are not power efficient. For example when the SGI/AlphaStations/VAX/SparcStations were produced, focus was on MHz not power utilization. Finally, I think the project might use some type of uninterruptible power supply (UPS) as well as network switches, etc.

        So by your math you're looking at CAD 20,000 = EUR 13,500 which at EUR 0.20 per kWh would buy you 67500 kWh = 7.7 kWh.

        Now the project has supports about 20 architectures []. And there are dedicated machines used to build the base system and dedicated machines used to build ports so at least 2 of each machine. On top of that there's probably an NFS server to host the source code, some UPS, network switches, etc, etc. So say about 50 machines total.

        So 7.7kWh / 50 machines gets you to 154 watts per machine. I do believe they are on 24x7 as there are daily builds for many architectures, etc, etc. 150 watts is not unreasonable power consumption in my opinion.

        Not only is 150 watts not unreasonable, it is actually far better than I would expect. average server draw for some of the older stuff I would expect to be double that. People don't seem to realise how quickly power consumption adds up when you need to run a whole bunch of computers, switches and UPS to support them and most likely some cooling on top of that.

      • I think the project might use some type of uninterruptible power supply (UPS)

        The 2 Powerware units and 1 APC unit at the bottom of the left rack are UPSes, and the 2 Liebert units at the bottom of the right rack are also UPSes.

        as well as network switches, etc.

        The left rack has a QLogic Fibre switch at about the midpoint and an HP Ethernet switch at the very top. The right rack has a Dell Ethernet switch at the very top. The thermostat at the top centre of the picture shows an ambient temperature of 19C while the setting is for 18C, so the HVAC is apparently quite good. I see a few serial port cables so I would ima

    • a thousand times this.

      I live in Calgary. Electricity just isn't that expensive here. Contracted rates are on the order of 8.5 cents/kwh. Even if he's paying the regulated rate, I don't think it's gotten over $.15/kwh and that's only for one or two months a year. Those of us who know The0 aren't surprised that his numbers don't add up.

      I have old hardware running in my basement as well... Volumetrically, probably about the same... If my power bills were even 1/4 what he's asking for, my wife would have

    • by xombo ( 628858 )

      And why can't he put them on Wake on LAN and only power up and do builds on-demand?

  • 20,000 USD (or 20k CAD for that matter) pays for A LOT of electricity, so this sounds really fishy.

    • by dnaumov ( 453672 )


      > The OpenBSD project uses a lot of electricity for running the
      > development and build machines. A number of logistical reasons
      > prevents us from moving the machines to another location which might
      > offer space/power for free, so let's not allow the conversation to go
      > that way.

      Makes it sound even more BS. 20,000 dollars which is supposedly what the project needs annually for electricity alone would easily cover any such "logistical reasons".

  • ...they should ask for donations to buy power-generating equipment. PV-panels, a wind generator, anything which fits the budget and is a feasible option in the area where they are active. The generated power can either be used directly to keep those servers running or it could be used to run the meters backwards. If you give someone a kilowatt hour she runs her server for a few hours. If you give him the capacity to generate his own power he will become free.

  • He wants to find a Canadian company that will, on an annually recurring basis, shift all the hydro expenses from one utility account to said company's utility account.

    This is such a specific ask that I doubt it will be successful.

    He needs to do something like a Kickstarter campaign or just accept donations. It's not difficult to setup a not-for-profit in Canada such that your tax implications would be negligible (if anything). The whole thing is considered an R&D expense, anyway, if he wanted to go the

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