Subject: Re: History of the NetBSD Foundation
To: None <>
From: Thor Lancelot Simon <>
List: netbsd-users
Date: 09/01/2006 22:36:01
On Fri, Sep 01, 2006 at 05:34:22PM -0700, Marc Tooley wrote:
> Transparent history is the only way to defend against accusations of 
> this high a level anyway. I say release the minutes, the new bylaws, 
> the old bylaws, and official documentation to the public, especially 
> now that we're donating and it's a non-profit.

You understand that some -- maybe most -- of the documents you're asking
for are simple matters of public record, and that you can obtain them
by simply asking the state to give them to you?  As a trivial example,
you can confirm that NetBSD lapsed and that its incorporation process
was bungled simply by looking at the corporate history, which I think
you can probably even buy from multiple vendors online at this point
(Last time, we had to make a phone call.  How 20th century!).

I don't _think_ we can make minutes of the Annual Meeting of the
project available in public because it has been attended by hundreds
of people (the NetBSD developers) each year for the last four years.
We might be able to release a summary, but we cannot simply take what
those people said, thinking they were speaking to a private audience
of the other developers, and send it out to the wider world without
obtaining all of their permission, which due to the numbers involved
is probably impossible.

However, I will note that literally hundreds of people (we have 400
developers) were involved and that it is a pretty safe assumption that
if underhanded, scurrilous stuff like you're (I hope!) joking about had
in fact come up, it would be no secret by now!  "The likelihood of
keeping a secret is proportional to the square of the number of people
who know it" and all that.

> . What does Wasabi Systems have to do with this, why does Perry's name 
> keep popping up in conversation, and do these developers' agreements 
> have something to do with Wasabi's use of NetBSD? When Mr. Hannum 
> said, "I don't see any point in commenting on that, especially since 
> Perry already recognized some of the mistakes he made there[,]" this 
> implies to me that money has changed hands. Is this the case?

Are you kidding?  Who is supposed to have paid off whom to do
what, exactly?  I think it is a pretty clear matter of fact -- ask anyone
who read my messages on the subject to the internal developers lists, or
who recalls my comments on the advisability of including several Wasabi-
affiliated people on the first new Board -- that I was strongly opposed
to any kind of significant entanglement of NetBSD, a nonprofit,  with Wasabi,
a for-profit corporation that clearly (because it was supposed to make
money!) would have some contradictory goals to those of NetBSD itself.  I
did *not* get my way, but I was in at least a local sense wrong; Wasabi's
employees were generally able to maintain a great separation between their
employers' interests and what they thought best for NetBSD and served
very effectively on the Board and many committees.  The suggestion that
someone paid someone to do something untoward is absurd, and I hope that
it is not what Charles intended to suggest, because I think everyone
involved knows very well that no such thing happened.  On the other hand,
Wasabi did draw off a lot of development manpower from NetBSD (because if
you are paying people to hack on proprietary-BSD at work, it is not so
likely that they will want to spend their free time hacking on opensource-
BSD at home; we are not a culture of monomaniacs, after all) and I think
that was very unfortunate as, I think, does Perry.

This kind of innuendo and fearmongering does nobody any good.  One might
say that the right term of art for the role Wasabi Systems is playing
in this conversation is "MacGuffin".  :-/

> . Can a sample developer's agreement be posted so we can all take a look 
> and see just what's so important about them? Is there money involved?

Money?  You have to be kidding.  Where on earth is this money supposed to
come from?  Unlike some projects, which seem to keep their cash under
the bed, our finances are a matter of public record.  We file our taxes,
we tell everyone where our money comes from and, at a pretty detailed
level, where it goes.  And, to be blunt, there's hardly ever been any
money in NetBSD that anyone could sneakliy get out of it in the first

The agreement is very similar to the agreements required to gain
commit access to other centrally managed open source projects and I
don't see any reason why it couldn't be posted here (but I do not
think I should just do so without asking first) -- I will ask.

> . Why is TNF not willing to simply grandfather Mr. Hannum in as an 
> original founding member instead of rejecting his access bits entirely 
> like that? What protection does this afford them that they didn't have 
> before, and why does TNF feel the need to protect itself thusly? (I 
> guess the same goes for the other long-standing developers who were 
> recently booted.)

We have repeatedly been the victims of a particularly ugly kind of
rumormongering, specifically claims that NetBSD is "tainted", contains
source code we are not entitled to distribute, or so forth.  It is an
unfortunate fact that for many years we could not effectively respond
to those claims (which were false) because our agreement with the owners
of the Unix source code, which required us to remove certain files that
had been distributed by Berkeley in Net2 and 4.4BSD, had a binding
confidentiality clause.  The experience left us with a _very_ bad taste
in our mouths, and, in addition, many commercial and even research users
of NetBSD have been quite clear with us that they wanted a clear chain
of ownership for code in NetBSD as they have for, for example, FSF-managed
GNU projects (to commit to GCC, in fact, one must sign over one's changes
to FSF.  We don't require anything nearly that draconian).  Particularly
with the recent spate of specious lawsuits about who owns what Unix-like
code coming from the likes of neo-SCO, we find it imperative that we have
a clear paper trail that establishes that we work hard to make sure that
if you get it from NetBSD, you're allowed to use it.  It is also a sad
legal necessity that we obtain developers' agreement that if they _do_
commit "tainted" code to NetBSD, they (not us) carry the liability for
what would be, after all, their own mistakes.  And, too, we have had
the occasional issue here and there over the years with inappropriate use
of our resources (e.g. hardware, software, or bandwidth) and we want a
simple agreement from each developer about what uses _are_ okay and at
least a few that are not.

Finlly, we have a responsibility to our users to know our developers,
have them have some accountability in the real world for what they do,
and to ensure that inactive credentials to modify the sources used to
build the NetBSD our users put on their systems do not linger for years
on end.  Other projects have had problems with both phantom developers
(fake "developers" consed up for what were presumably nefarious purposes,
though in each instance of this that I know of it was nipped in the bud)
and with source contamination via compromised developer credentials.  We
do not want to inflict any of that on our users and having a single
policy for all developers (rather than, say, one policy for everyone else,
including all the other original developers, and another for Charles M.
Hannum) seems like the only equitable way to get this done.  In any event,
it is not the case that anyone was "booted" (if you can get in touch with
some of the people in question, ask them, please -- we have been trying
to get in touch with a couple of them for months); we have been
trying to clean up inactive developer accounts for years, and the
Membership committee in fact extended the deadline for this last
cleanup from June to September to provide more time to try to ensure
that every developer impacted had been contacted and asked to return
a signed agreement.  In the last week, personal efforts to contact
developers involved (including one of NetBSD's other founding
developers, who quickly returned a signed agreement) have in fact yielded
results, and the number of accounts listed in Alistair's recent
message is lower than that expected just last week.  We continue
to try to contact developers and encourage them to return to
participation in NetBSD by signing the simple and harmless agreement
in question (which as I noted I'll try to get to you quickly).

Nobody knows, as far as I can tell, why Charles will not sign and return
his own agreement, because though we have been attempting to contact him
for _eighteen months_ to inquire as to the status of his developer
paperwork and account (including numerous personal communications by
email and phone by several developers acting as individual volunteers) he
has, though otherwise participating on our internal and external lists,
never responded in any way to any such attempt at contact.  Ultimately,
all anyone can do is speculate and honestly I do not think it is fair to
speculate about people's motives like that.  I'm sure he has his reasons
to spurn contact on this issue.  Some of them are probably things he's
said publically in this thread.  They're sufficient reasons for him and
there's little point trying to force him (or bait him) to share them.
He's an adult, he has his reasons, that's worthy of respect.

> . It's obvious Mr. Hannum feels the need to protect either the original 
> developers' agreements or himself by holding onto those documents. Why 
> does he feel the need to do so? Specifically, it seems there's 
> something unspoken going on with regards to those agreements that 
> suggests either there's a large chunk of money involved or a large 
> chunk of liability that some lawyer has told someone they have to worry 
> about. Is this so?

As far as I know, Charles has at least one, and possibly two, agreements
that I signed.  He is protecting no interest of _mine_ by making me sign
and mail stuff over and over again, I can tell you that for sure.  It is
a nuisance and I wish it had not occurred.

I'm afraid I don't have time to answer the rest of your worthwhile
(but, I have to say, highly sensationalistic) questions.