Rejuvenating old code through open source

June 24, 2008 Jack Repenning

Over at OpenLogic, Stormy Peters seems guardedly hopeful about open sourcing old code you no longer wish to maintain — hoping against hope, perhaps.  That might surprise you, if you recall that Eric Raymond’s introduction to open source, the inspiration of his series of papers collected as "The Cathedral and the Bazaar," was picking up an open source project whose originator no longer wished to maintain it.

Stormy has doubts about the viability of open source software you don’t care about any more.  Eric thinks it’s the beginning of wisdom.  What’s up with that?

The answer, of course, is in the next question: given that you no longer wish to maintain this software, can you find someone else who will?  "Tossing software over the wall" into the open source world isn’t much good to anyone, because any consumer of open source software depends on the community. But transferring the project to someone new means creating a new community, and that’s all goodness.

So the occasion for Stormy’s qualms was HP’s announcement that they’re transferring the Tru64 Advanced File System to the Linux community.  Let’s see what we can see:

  1. Is it worth transferring, or is it worthless? Looks like valuable property.  Not only have the Tru64 customers been loyal for ages, but the wizards of Linux file systems speak well of it.
  2. Is there someone ready to pick it up? Again, HP is not tossing this into thin air, they’re donating it to the Linux community, which seems fairly viable (!), and which has been struggling for a higher end file system for some time.

So, I’m expecting good stuff.

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