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VA

VA Lays Off Mesa Developer 207

j7953 writes: "Brian Paul, the author of Mesa, was laid off by VA Linux. Here's his mail to the mesa3d-dev list." Other places are reporting that Keith Whitwell of the DRI project was also laid off. Presumably just two of many major contributors to open source, but honestly I don't really know who got the axe. So far Slashdot has been unaffected by the layoffs (VA owns Slashdot too in case you live in a box).
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VA Lays Off Mesa Developer

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  • Sucks to be him
    Gl @ finding another job
  • Once you leave, it'll start a vicious cycle. Less people will advertise on OSDN because of the smaller userbase, and more sites will leave OSDN because they make no profit from it, until OSDN collapses and VA Linux is nothing but yet another proprietary software dot-bomb.
    • Umm... VA Linux *owns* Slashdot. It's their decision to make if they want to include it as part of OSDN or not. It's not like CmdrTaco et. al. have much say in the matter; they sold it to Andover.net, who sold themselves to VA Linux. Hope they got some cash out of the deal... that stock doesn't look as good as it used to. :/
      • If every editor of Slashdot got up and left, and started a new site based on Slashcode (with a different name of course) that had the same content as the old Slashdot but with lots of anti-VA propaganda, I think VA would give CmdrTaco the rights to Slashdot back fast.
        • ... maybe it would work, but who would stoop so low?

        • Ever heard of non-compete agreements? I'm willing to bet that CT, et al had to sign such things at one point or another, and that their still in effect.
        • If VA where to go under, /. would definately be listed as one of it's assets. It would be sold off to repay VA's creditors.

          At that point, VA wouldn't really have the choice to give /. rights back.

          Not only that, but do you think they could afford to run this site without corporate support or a subscription system? Bandwidth and boxes aren't cheap. Not only that, they would all have to get real jobs to eat. I know how hard it is to find time to read /. at work without someone looking at you, now try to find time to RUN /. while at your day job.

          It will all work out in the end. I actually wish /. did go to a subscription system.
  • I was thinking that the tech industry was on the upswing, but it looks like things are going to be hurting for the next while.

    The massive layoffs in the airline industry are going to take a large toll on the economy. It's said that the six largest airlines in the US could all be bankrupt by the end of the year.

    I can only hope that the war stirs the economy up. It has done so in the past, but that was when we were still an industrial nation.

    • I was thinking that the tech industry was on the upswing

      Visited Earth lately?

  • Links (Score:4, Informative)

    by Jim42688 ( 445645 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @02:09PM (#2305914)
    Brian's home page [mesa3d.org]
    Slashdot interview with Brian [slashdot.org] [linuxpr.com]
    Press release about Brian winning Free Software Foundation Award for Mesa
  • Just start over... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by update() ( 217397 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @02:10PM (#2305917) Homepage
    At this point, VA Linux, as such, is doomed to failure. Maybe they can scrape a profit out of Sourceforge, banner ads and hypercaffeinated beverages. But it's always going to be LNUX -- the first IPO record breaker, owner of the $320 share price, the creator of Surprising Wealth, the company that was going to challenge Dell and Compaq. There's simply nothing they can do to ever get back to the point of breaking even on expectations.

    Right now they have still have a lot of cash and assets, tangible and intangible. OSDN, according to someone who responded to one of my posts and seemed to know what he's talking about, is turning a profit. (No idea how - the ThinkGeek ad I'm looking at now isn't making any money.) It's not scaring Microsoft, but it's plenty to make for an extremely well-funded startup. Come up with a new plan that you think is going to work, change the name and make a clean break. Right now, they're just circling the drain.

    • As far as I know, VA never surpassed either of these companies in any linux market segment while the stats were being collected.

      VA never had the capabilities to ramp up to economies of scale that Compaq, and moreso, Dell have been able to exploit. No matter what kind of box VA pushed out, Dell could always sell comparable hardware for lower cost.

      VA Linux got caught up in conflaguration of linux / day trading / tech stock hype. It is unlikely that this company should have ever have gone public, and it is unlikely they will continue to meet NASDAQ regulations for staying public.

      • VA was never a threat to Dell or Compaq.

        I agree -- I'm just saying that they were hyped as, and had their stock priced as, a competitor in that league, and that as a result no amount of small-time success will allow them to meet expectations.

        VA Linux got caught up in conflaguration of linux / day trading / tech stock hype. It is unlikely that this company should have ever have gone public..

        Again, I agree. It's too bad. They could have made a go as a boutique Linux systems vendor, having fun, funding a few hackers and being big shots in their little world. I think the high expectations, and particularly the insane valuation, was the worst thing that could have happened to them.* It forced them into a realm where they couldn't possibly compete with the Darwinian ubersurvivors of the PC price wars.

        * Well, maybe not. I don't know how many shares they converted to cash before flaming out.

    • They will be de-listed in a few months.
  • by idonotexist ( 450877 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @02:11PM (#2305922)
    I'm not saying this is going to happen, but let's just say for the hell of it that VA goes under.

    What would become of Slashdot? I would assume Slashdot would sink with the ship considering Slashdot is a part of VA, however, am I wrong? Is there a 'contingency plan' if this horrible event were to occur? I would think such a plan would be important with the understanding that many companies have recently come to a very abrupt end and creditors rush to hold assets (domain names, software, site content, (gasp) user infomation, etc), leaving the potential for rebirth or independent continuation of a site by a third party virtually impossible.
    • Is there a 'contingency plan' if this horrible event were to occur?

      Beats me, but the slash code is open source, and even though slashdot.org belongs to VA, one would assume it could go back to being chips & dips, and most readers would follow...

      I'll lose my "low" user number, and high karma, but that doesn't really matter too much. I'm still in the process of losing my high karma here anyway :-) (I'm losing it mostly by having posts mod'ed up to 4 or 5, then as "overrated" back down to 2 or 3...)

      • (I'm losing it mostly by having posts mod'ed up to 4 or 5, then as "overrated" back down to 2 or 3...)

        dont you just hate that? i really wish they would apply the karma over a rolling horizon.
        • dont you just hate that? i really wish they would apply the karma over a rolling horizon.

          Now there's an idea. Of course someone that posts a lot of things worth "2" will get enough karma to post at two by default, but will lose it because they don't post much worth "3"...

          (of course the reality is good posts posted sooner get high ratings, good posts posted later don't go so high. I've had posts every bit as good as my 5's never go above 2 or 3 because they were posted late. Almost all of my fives were when the article it was attached too was in the top 3, normally the top most)

    • What would become of Slashdot?

      Hemos and CmdrTaco might be laid back hacker types, but they did one hell of a job of controlling their contract. Dating back to when they sold themselves to Andover [slashdot.org], they had full control over content and a nice fallback position (incidently, Slashdot.org's NIC records show Andover owns the domain). Somewhere ( I can't find it easily) there is a long story on Slashdot about the merger - it was 30, 60 or 90 days after the Andover/VA Linux merger (when the legally required gag period ended), and it covers all the details of Slashdot's contract and who owns what.

      VA Linux has done a damn good job of really walking the walk. They own Linux.com, and it's one of the least distro specific sites on the web (I'll not discuss what I think of it - I prefer content over form, and we'll leave it at that). Slashdot seems to be left alone, and SourceForge does what's it's supposed to - runs as an automated depot for code.

      But between all the sites, that's a frickload of bandwidth, and one nice thing about SourceForge is that you don't have to deal with mirrors updating.

      --
      Evan

    • What would become of Slashdot?

      I think they will sell our usernames and posts to Frys [slashdot.org].
    • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @05:41PM (#2306669) Journal

      Sell Slashdot to NYT online. That would solve all the login problems too.

  • Layoffs are tough (Score:2, Insightful)

    by smoondog ( 85133 )
    Layoffs are obviously tough, I feel bad for those who are losing their jobs in the tech industry. The author of MESA will probably have no problem finding another job. In the long term, though, I worry about the effects on open source development when worker/developers are laid off. I think we need to figure out ways to make open source more sustainable for those who develop projects so layoffs won't cut off important projects. Obviously MESA isn't going anywhere but other projects might be difficult to continue without the support of a company.

    -Sean
    • > In the long term, though, I worry about the effects on open source development when worker/developers are laid off.

      Well obviously it helps open source development because contributors don't have Real Jobs getting in the way of their productivity! ;-)

      • On the other hand, its hard to code when you don't have electricity and are starving to death.
        • On the other hand, its hard to code when you don't have electricity and are starving to death.

          Prove to me that the author of Mesa has no money and no income, and I will promise to pay him $2 per day for the next year. That's enough to live on (it's more than the median income per person for this planet). Some other philanthropist can chip in for electricity.
  • Profit? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by laymil ( 14940 ) <laymil@obsolescence.net> on Sunday September 16, 2001 @02:16PM (#2305941) Homepage
    So, seeing as Slashdot is part of VA...does slashdot itself turn a profit? I mean, i know there are a lot of users, and a lot of banner ads, but really...i'd like to know.
    That said, layoffs are common anywhere, but they still suck ass.
  • by Allen Akin ( 31718 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @02:21PM (#2305961)
    As far as I know, none of us who were working on open-source 3D graphics at VA are still with the company. There was a trickle of departures (Jens Owen, Frank LaMonica, Gareth Hughes, et al.) over the past six months. The rest of us were laid off along with the Professional Services group of which we were a part.

    There are a few projects underway, but at present no one knows whether those will be handled by contracts with individuals or whether some portion of the group will be hired by another company.

  • Sourceforge? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chrysalis ( 50680 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @02:23PM (#2305972) Homepage
    VA Linux owns Slashdot and Thinkgeek, but also Sourceforge. Sourceforge is supposed to be a major source of profit.
    But is it, really? Sure, Sourceforge is a wonderful framework for developpers and users.
    But how many companies really *need* this instead of just installing a CVS server + a discussion board + a public FTP server?
    Out of these companies, how many really will *buy* this? Especially since Sourceforge is also an Opensource project?
    Not a lot IMHO. On the other hand, Slashdot and Sourceforge requires a lot of bandwidth and computers. Plus employees. That's expensive. Surely a lot much that incoming revenues.
    So, will Sourceforge survive?
    Sourceforge has already tons of unresolved bugs. All his mailing-lists are archived by Geocrawler that explicitely states that "Geocrawler is not longer being maintained" (check the "about" button in the home page) .
    If VA fires unique people like Mesa's leader, is it also the beginning of the end of Sourceforge?

    • With all the important projects that are housed a SF it would be nice to think that there was an easy way to migrate or reestablish it in the event of closure, bankruptcy, etc. There's FSF's "Savanah" site but it might not be able to take the load and could possibly restrict projects to those using the GPL. Sometimes plugs on bandwidth get pulled very abruptly with little warning.
    • If VA fires unique people like Mesa's leader, is it also the beginning of the end of Sourceforge?

      No, 3D graphics development has nothing to do with Sourceforge maintainance or consulting expertise.

      This is a matter of consolodation. Its the right thing to do in the current climate. VA has to trim all fat to the point where it can get by on the rather small revenue from its web portals and Sourceforge businesses. Or at least conserve its cash through the high-tech winter. I support VA in that, I'd rather that they be small than nonexistent.

      You don't want Brian to drop Mesa and start maintaining Sourceforge do you?

    • Is Sorceforge going away really an "if"?
      It's going to happen!
      VA has stopped selling hardware and I would be really amazed if any of the other VA offerings make near enough money to keep them afloat.
      SF.net needs to publish an exit plan today.
    • by Coppit ( 2441 )
      Out of these companies, how many really will *buy* this? Especially since Sourceforge is also an Opensource project?

      Companies are paying to get it installed. Sure, it's open source, but that doesn't mean it's easy. As a matter of fact, at the University of Virginia we're using it to teach first-year graduate students about configuring, building, and installing Unix software. One of the pedagogical goals for their upcoming 2nd lab is "understanding poorly written documentation". :)

    • Yea, what is all this subscription nonsense about anyway. I was under the impression I could just use sourceforge and CVS the code from any project there etc. What does a subscription actually entitle someone to?
  • Seems reasonable to fire the people who would work on a given project for free anyways. Keep only people on project that nobody outside the company would work on, fire the rest, and let the community take over. Isn't that the strength OS?
    • It does matter. You do realize how difficult it is to write 3d device drivers? Without VA, the DRI developers will have problems even getting specifications to write the 3d drivers, much less actually writing them. Something like that takes time, and a LOT of time, something you lack when you have a job. Developing a 3d library like Mesa is no easy task either. Think about it, there is no way the project would have gotten OpenGL 1.3 compliance (3.5 is OpenGL 1.3 compliant IIRC if I read the stuff on linuxgames right) without the leader being paid to do it. Do you think there would be as many 3d cards supported if the DRI people did it all in their spare time? According the people in #loki, the two that VA fired friday did over 90% of the work on DRI. Same goes for the Mesa developer. Maybe Loki will have the funds to hire them (you know, the company that is screwed if there are no 3d drivers for GNU/Linux).
      • There are many 3D cards supported, but how many recent ones? NVIDIA does its own thing, IMG will be doing its own thing too ... that leaves ATI, Matrox might be getting back in the game but they never released the specs to their setup engine and with pixel&vertex shaders moving forward I doubt they will give enough data for drivers competetive with Windows.

        So really in the future whats the purpose of open source OpenGL? Only for ATI cards and academic purposes?
    • Re:Does it matter (Score:3, Interesting)

      by stripes ( 3681 )
      Seems reasonable to fire the people who would work on a given project for free anyways.

      Yes, and no. You lose the ability to have influence over the direction of development. For example to decide which graphics cards get worked on first/next.

      If the developer gets a new job that isn't to keep working on the code, they will also (probably) work on it less. So if VA needed the code to keep evolving then they are at risk there too.

      There is also the chance that the new employer either doesn't allow OSS work, or has such an interesting project that the developer gives up on the old project...

      • "Doesn't allow OSS work" only means something if you're doing it during their time- what you do on your personal time is your own business unless it directly competes with your employer. As for interesting projects, perhaps- but unless they're paying me ove 100k per year, I'm not giving them much more than my 40 hours per week.
        • "Doesn't allow OSS work" only means something if you're doing it during their time-

          Bull. It depends on what you sign. I turned down several jobs this year because they wanted all intellectual property, at least one only wanted it in their field, but I didn't want to take the chance.

          Sure that might not stand up in court, but it might.

          • They can't legally ask for everything. They can only ask/insist for the stuff that is pertinent to their current lines of business.

            And I'd not take a job with a company that asks for such a thing- they KNOW it's not legal and they put it in there anyway. What other bogus things are they up to?
    • D'oh! I forgot this one too.
      Seems reasonable to fire the people who would work on a given project for free anyways

      If you have the lead developer for Project Foo, it helps you sell support contracts to places that are using Project Foo. If you don't have any developers for Project Foo it is way harder to sell support.

    • Well it might be reasonable if you have no other plans. These guys were in professional services, the plan was supposed to be that they'd do contract development on this stuff and VA would turn a profit on that. In addition you help make your platform more viable and retain expertise both inhouse and on the platform.

      It now seems that graphics IHV's need to have a strong vested interest in driver development on Linux for it to happen.
  • So, VA axed the two DRI developer (read all about it at linuxgames.com), and now the Mesa developer! We are all screwed. The two people at VA did almost all of the work on DRI, and now they have to go and get other jobs...meaning DRI devel will slow down to a halt. Same for Mesa (good thing most of the work on 4.0 / OpenGL 1.3 compliance is already done).

    Maybe there needs to be a non-profit formed (or maybe funded by SPI, the backers of Debian?) to fund a few developers to work on DRI/Mesa? I would REALLY hate to see this stuff die. There is a lot of work left to do. Maybe Loki can help, but they seem to be in a bit of financial trouble too (a small side note: the local ebgames carries tons of Loki games. I asked the clerk why (he turned out to be the manager) and he said they sell about 15 Loki games a week...about as many mac games they sell!), but it looks like Loki can get back on its feet (or maybe the local ebgames is a gigantic fluke? ~700 games per year is still small, but still...). I guess with VA screwing the DRI/Mesa people, Loki will _have_ to hire them, because Loki has a vested interest in the DRI and Mesa projects going forward (how do you sell 3d games without drivers to run them with...)
    • AFAIK, vmware could gain by funding the DRI
    • Think about some of the changes going on in the industry right now:
      • New PC standards are for systems that are much less open than we've enjoyed in the past. Partly this is due to increasing demands for content protection. Partly this is due to a desire to reduce support costs. There are other reasons as well, but the bottom line is that the open-architecture PC as we knew it may be going out of style.
      • The high-volume platforms for 3D these days are proprietary entertainment systems (games consoles, perhaps eventually set-tops, and their descendants with better integrated A/V functionality). At this stage in the development of the market, vendors have tremendous incentives to protect their intellectual property and try to lock-in as many customers as possible.
      • Hardware vendors are collapsing. Microsoft's business model, in which they control the functionality that vendors can provide, reduces the opportunity to differentiate products and drives hardware profit margin down. As a result, a few mistakes are enough to take a vendor out of the game. There's less risk-taking by the vendors who don't enjoy comfortable leads in the market, and much less incentive for a vendor to do anything that would put its relationship with Microsoft at risk.
      • Conglomerates are acquiring control over the entire entertainment development and delivery process. Companies like Sony and AOL/TW intend to own characters, plots, production houses, news/information organizations, delivery channels, and platforms. (Microsoft has already taken the first steps toward doing the same.)

      One of the implications is that our old way of thinking about how graphics is delivered, supported, and used is becoming irrelevant (or at least relevant only to the smaller submarkets like engineering and sci vis). Is 3D graphics support for free systems meaningful when the market offers only proprietary systems?

      Just a larger context in which to think about the subject...

      • New PC standards are for systems that are much less open than we've enjoyed in the past. Partly this is due to increasing demands for content protection. Partly this is due to a desire to reduce support costs. There are other reasons as well, but the bottom line is that the open-architecture PC as we knew it may be going out of style.

        All the more reason to have Free drivers for a Free Operating System.

        The high-volume platforms for 3D these days are proprietary entertainment systems (games consoles, perhaps eventually set-tops, and their descendants with better integrated A/V functionality). At this stage in the development of the market, vendors have tremendous incentives to protect their intellectual property and try to lock-in as many customers as possible.

        Which is why there needs to be a company backing up the DRI developers. I'm sure a company will be willing to give the specs to a developer under a NDA if you throw enough cash at them.

        One of the implications is that our old way of thinking about how graphics is delivered, supported, and used is becoming irrelevant (or at least relevant only to the smaller submarkets like engineering and sci vis). Is 3D graphics support for free systems meaningful when the market offers only proprietary systems?

        Yes. I shouldn't have to not be able to use certain devices because I choose to use only a Free Operating System (what? dual boot? what the hell? My 22.5GB is 100% GNU/Linux). No one can really say what will win--Free or Proprietary--because neither has existed for very long (in real business sense, show me which one is winning in 100 years). There will always be some who will refuse to use specialized devices. Like me. I don't want to waste my money on getting a system for web browsing, another for IRC, another to watch TV on, yet another for buy things with, even more to listen to music...why do that when I can buy one system that can do whatever I want (including play games)? The fact is, the PC will _always_ exist. It will never stop existing. It will become smaller, and may end up fitting in your pocket and using your glasses or contacts for a display, but it will always exist. Sure, there will be people who will buy tons of these specialized devices, but there will always be the niche that wants a device that can do it all. The old way of thinking will still be valid, just not on such a large scale.
    • So, VA axed the two DRI developer (read all about it at linuxgames.com), and now the Mesa developer! We are all screwed.

      Err, no, you don't get it. There was Mesa before there was VA and if there were no VA or Precision Insight there would still be Mesa. It's called Open Source, it doesn't die when companies go down. Sometimes it gets stronger.

    • So, VA axed the two DRI developer (read all about it at linuxgames.com), and now the Mesa developer! We are all screwed. The two people at VA did almost all of the work on DRI, and now they have to go and get other jobs...meaning DRI devel will slow down to a halt. Same for Mesa (good thing most of the work on 4.0 / OpenGL 1.3 compliance is already done).

      Nice to see people have forgotten all the work I did so quickly... Makes all those long nights seem worthwhile, doesn't it?

      -- Gareth
    • Why form anything.
      There is already a company that makes excellent GL drivers for Linux and pays its developers quite well.
      But of course, you will refuse to pay 50$ for their driver while, at the same time, calling for establishing non-profit foundation.
      That is just ... well, stupid.
    • VA is out of the hardware business. They're also out of the contract hardware support business. Their remaining products are software and professional services, with an overwhelming emphasis on servers: storage management and clustering, SourceForge and so forth.

      The occasional professional services gig that involves rolling out 3D engineering and CGI workstations hardly justifies keeping lead Mesa and DRI developers on board. Nearly all of VA's engagements deploy machines that never run in a graphic mode, and indeed often don't have a monitor connected at all.

      As for Loki, they claim to have a positive cash flow now. Bringing on video driver developers might not be something they can afford, though, especially while under bankruptcy protection. Loki develops for a small market with low margins: gamers using Linux desktops more or less exclusively. I'd sooner think that DRI and Mesa developers would find a home with companies making high-end 3D design and animation tools, and with consumer electronics companies making video-related appliances.
  • by Amon Re ( 102766 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @02:41PM (#2306039)
    PI would have probably been better off if VA Linux did not buy them out. They used to receive funding from other opensource companies like Redhat and Suse, but all that stopped when VA Linux bought them. Now it seems that one of the most important and hardest to work on opensource projects out their is doomed. 3D drivers are already complicated enough when you are paid to do the work fulltime and are nearly impossible to do with only spare minutes during the day. DRI is going to need a company to back it to get any useful drivers or a better solution would be for video card companies to write there own opensource dri drivers.
    • They should be perfectly free to restart Precision Insight today just as if it was still their first day in "business". I do believe however that they would have to target full screen OpenGL with no windowing system to be effective and this isn't the personal motivation of the founders for starting Precision Insight.

    • The DRI is still there and Open Source.

      VA is basically left with nothing and this software will go on, probably supported by at least some of the individuals VA just laid off.

      VA is a distraction here. Let's hope the individuals can position themselves to deliver on the driver work that Linux needs.
    • In the message that Brian Paul put on the DRI list, he indicated that there was some talk by some of the former employees re-forming something like PI- but that it was more talk than action at this point. He also indicated that most of them still wanted to carry forward, but that the going would be slow for a while as the former DRI developers gathered up the smoking pieces of thier lives.

      Of note: Gareth Hughes is now working for NVidia in their GL group from what was said in back and forth conversations with him on the DRI developer's list.
  • by heroine ( 1220 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @02:54PM (#2306080) Homepage
    The fact that VA I.O.U. laid off the last vestige of their engineers is sad, but you didn't need to be a prophet to know that was going to happen long before fuckedcompany.com reported it 2 weeks ago.

    I'm pretty sure if VA I.O.U. focused more on producing productivity software instead of library tweeking, infrastructure tools, and studies in basic computer science, they could have made money. There's only so much you can do with a cluster manager, but there's a lot you can do with a program that runs on the cluster.

    Unfortunately VA I.O.U.'s business scope was far to constrained by the personal experience of the board of directors, who were primarily basic computer scientists and not interested in options unrelated to their personal experience.

    Where it's really going to hit hard is in the decline of sourceforget.net. They pushed so hard to get everyone off the many free software portals of 1999 that when sourceforget.net eventually founders it's going to wipe out most of what we know as open source projects.

    They've already eliminated ftp servers, most shell services, and they're pretty much reading off the handbook of service eliminations that every other open source portal took last year before it shut down.

    • Where it's really going to hit hard is in the decline of sourceforget.net. They pushed so hard to get everyone off the many free software portals of 1999 that when sourceforget.net eventually founders it's going to wipe out most of what we know as open source projects.

      No, no, no!

      If SourceForge founders, then a bunch of people have to move their code base somewhere else. That's it. No problem.

      If SourceForge were to suddenly founder overnight, with no warning whatsoever, there would be various degrees of inconvenience all around, depending on how careful people have been about keeping their own copies of stuff. I suspect most active developers will have complete copies of everything on their hard disks at all times, so they would have no problem. And at least a few people will keep tarballs around of the source to the other programs, even if they aren't in active development.

      I suppose if a few really obscure programs had no active development at all, and further that no one who uses them had a copy of the sources, that the source could be lost for those programs. But I don't think even this will happen. I'll bet you an ice cream it won't.

      steveha
  • What a strange trip (Score:4, Interesting)

    by zairius ( 54221 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @03:00PM (#2306098) Journal
    When I joined Andover.net they had just changed from selling software to making websites to puts ads on (slaughterhouse,mediabuilder, and andovernews). The strategy was to develop sites that would attract page hits that required very little actual day to day managing so the developers could go build other sites. To be honest I never understood how the news site could be 'worth it' since you had to pay someone everyday just to keep the page hits even. Well I came on board and my first major project was to make a bit Gifoptimizer then Gifwizard (since they had started charging for their service). I went on to write the backend code for Gifworks and the highly obnoxious 3dtextmaker. But then the day came to ramp up page hits by acquiring damn with the costs of actually maintaining it (gifworks and 3dtextmaker now happily chug away in a back closet somewhere with probably no one watching it.... about 3 million page hits a month whose only overhead is electricity and bandwidth).
    Well we got Slashdot to bolster our page hits and Freshmeat soon followed too. Then we got bought by VA Linux. After a while they decided that OSDN(Andover.net) was costing alot of money to run so they axed everyone who wasn't involved in Slashdot or Freshmeat it seems. I still wonder what it costs to run Slashdot. I stil somewhat regret not taking the offer of working on the Slashdot database... although the days when something goes wrong I'm glad I didn't. It is amusing to see that VA Linux is not mostly what is left of Andover.net... although what is left of Andover.net seems to be primarily what we had acquired... a lot of the stuff we built before our spending spree seems forgotten or discarded. Somewhat depressing.... I have this fear if the sites I helped with ever crash... no one will turn them back on and they will fade into oblivion. Oh well just some random thoughts.

    John Casey
    Gif Spinner
  • NASDAQ delistings (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sheldon ( 2322 ) on Sunday September 16, 2001 @03:13PM (#2306151)
    If a company stock trades at below $1 for a some period(I thought it was 30 days?), they are delisted from NASDAQ. There's more to this rule than that, I think there is also a $50 million market capitalization and maybe some other stuff.

    VA Linux is on the verge of this. It's stock has been freefalling for quite some time and is now hover right around $1 with market cap of around $59 million.

    Redhat is doing fine, they are still up around $3 with market cap over $500 million.

    Caldera on the other hand is probably going to be delisted here shortly. They've been below $1 for almost two months now, currently at 39 cents with market cap of just under $30 mil.

    Stocks trading under $5 are generally considered high risk and few investors will touch them.

    But being delisted from the exchange is a sign that the vultures are circling. Companies almost never recover from that position.

    It's a sign of the times I guess. A lot of these companies in the 90's should never have gone public. Instead focussed on growing their business up and out the old fashioned way, one small step at a time.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      "It's a sign of the times I guess. A lot of these companies in the 90's should never have gone public. Instead focussed on growing their business up and out the old fashioned way, one small step at a time."

      Once you've taken money from VCs, this becomes impossible. You're obligated to drive for an IPO as quickly as possible, so your investors can cash out. They didn't give a fuck about you building a profitable business, they just wanted to cash in on the pyramid scheme that was the late 90's internet bubble as often as possible.

      Hopefully the collapse of the bubble will make the startup environment more like it used to be.
      • They didn't give a fuck about you building a profitable business, they just wanted to cash in

        check the list of insider sellers of VA for the words "Larry" and "Augustin" before you start baggin on anyone else for "cashing in".

    • If you have followed tech stocks for the last year you may have noticed that NASDAQ hasnt been delisting hardly anyone. Egghead.coms stock was below around 9 months, and only reason it is delisted now is because it went bankrupt. Same with dozens of other stocks that should of been delisted many months ago. Some even a year ago. I dont really think they are following delisting guidelines anymore because of the economy, they want to give companies I chance.
    • In a bull market companies like VAL or Caldera would have good chance of making it. Now, it is more and more clear that bull market may not be back for some time. When it is back, VAL or Caldera may no longer exist (it could take a while). What is the remedy for that? One possibility: let IBM and Intel spend some of their $$ directly for Linux development and support and not so much for Linux advertising. But it is probably too late for that either, because IBM itself stoped hiring, financing, etc.

      In case of RedHat it is better but not to the extent that would create a lot of confidence in Linux market. So, when the US economy is hit again by a major dawnfall RH may also be gone. Then what? Then, after a lot of pain a new paradigm will be developed. Say, capitalism as we know it will also be gone.
    • If a company stock trades at below $1 for a some period(I thought it was 30 days?), they are delisted from NASDAQ. There's more to this rule than that, I think there is also a $50 million market capitalization and maybe some other stuff.

      The listing requirements are a bit more involved than that, [nasdaq.com] but in the case of LNUX, you'd need either a minimum bid price of $1 per share and $10 million in shareholders' equity (and a couple of trivial requirements), or $3 per share and $50 million in market cap if there is no equity available to shareholders. So far, so good...but if the price skates below a buck, life is not going to be very happy.

      Stocks trading under $5 are generally considered high risk and few investors will touch them.

      There are many risks, the bid/ask spreads are large relative to share prices, such stocks are much more likely to become untradable or illiquid...but a really important part of the picture is that they aren't marginable (you can't borrow money against them) and, at least much of the time, aren't easily shortable.

      But being delisted from the exchange is a sign that the vultures are circling. Companies almost never recover from that position.

      Specifically, reverse stock splits almost never work; in some cases, a company with de-listed stock might be bought out by a firm that goes onto greater glory, or at least a stock price comfortably above a buck a share.

  • I guess it's about time to save all those precious sourceforge projects CVS bits elsewhere before everything is shut down and it's too late...

  • What potential revenue stream is VA sacrificing by laying off open-source developers of a UNIX related X graphics library? Is VA in the 3-D graphics business?

    Even from a Linux user standpoint, what Linux application will suffer from a lack of Mesa/DRI drivers?

    Hey, its sad when someone's ("Holy Grail") quest is thwarted. But these developers will find jobs; just not doing the quest they dedicated themselves.

    So VA pays a few less salaries, and hopefully those measures allow it to be financially viable enough to keep Slashdot and SourceForge. One can worry about VA making the cut, but its problems are not going to be solved by spending money on Mesa/DRI development.

    In fact, I still don't know what "critical" need Mesa/DRI provides. Linux will not become mainstream because of games; it still has problems providing a user-friendly GUI that matches most features found on commercial boxes, like windoze & Mac. And that's what drives away Mom, Pop, & Mr. Corporate honcho.

    • Just because the majority of readers think that Mesa/DRI is only useful for games, that doesn't mean it's not crucial for several other markets. One of the would be in engineering and scientific visualization. Remember that it's becoming more often for huge Linux clusters to be used in big data crunching applications. But after all the data is processed you want to be able to visualize: how air moves on a new wing design or turbine, a 3D volume visualization of the brain, meteorological patterns, stellar formation, how a car would react on a crash, etc. It would certainly be better for some people if they mantained the whole process under one platform.

      The other one is Digital Content Creation (DCC). The most recent example has been the production of Shrek. Though most of the Linux use in DCC and particularly FX have been in renderfarms (which don't require interactive OpenGL accelarated graphics), there is an increased use of Linux as animation workstations. PDI is making the switch, and also their co-workers at Dreamworks feature animation. Many other facilities are doing the switch to use Linux for interactive workstations: Pixar (their next movie Little Nemo will use Linux), ILM (by October they move 20% of their workstations, and 20% of their renderfarm to Linux, and the next movie after Episode 2 will mostly be done under Linux), Double Negative and many others. In October there is going to be a meeting organized by VES to discuss more of the FX technology and Linux. And of course several vendors already or are planning ports of their products to Linux: Maya 4 from Alias/Wavefront, Softimage 3D and XSI by Softimage, Houdini from SideFX already out, Rayz from Silicon Grail and several others.

      I guess it depends if you prefer a closed source but vendor supported solution. In oprder for Houdini to be released it was only available from HP workstation with their FX10 cards and they even provided their own X and OpenGL implementation (no XFree or Mesa/DRI). But I'm sure other customers or vendors might prefer an open solution.

      Just check the september issue of CGW for the Linux coverage in Hollywood. The current and past issue of LinuxJournal also have some coverage.

      CGW next issue [pennnet.com]
      Linux use in Dreamworks and PDI (LinuxJournal) [linuxjournal.com]
      • Yeah, it's understandable that VA (the hardware company) was funding this because a few years down the road they might have been in the position to compete with Sun and IBM in what's left of the 'workstation' market.

        There's also the more general theory that with more 3D game support, Linux would get more uses, and some of that money might trickle back to VA. (It's analogous to Microsoft and Apple investing lots of money into CD-ROM technology in the 80s. They never made much money directly, but the widescale adoption of CD-ROMs indirectly allowed them to increase their sales.)

        But, it was a long-term bet, and when you are a piddly company on the edge of existence, long-term bets aren't the best idea. Kinda like how Corel though they could do a Linux distro and 2-5 years out sell more Office Suites because of it.
        • That is strange.
          Woudn't it be better to bundle XIG GL drivers ( retail for 50$ or so ) instead of investing into programmers at, what was essentially a hardware company ?
          XIG folks has been doing this stuff for years and it is simply stupid for VA folks trying to do the same thing with just a one guy.
          They have to make up their mind : do they want to engage in public service or make money ?

      • Thank you for the response. It puts the issue in a more meaningful light.

        There may still be hope for these gentlemen. Perhaps they can apply for a research grant to develop the software (for scientific infrastructure development).

        As for DCC, I'm satified to leave it to private enterprise. I still see an opportunity for these guys to convince these financially challenged companies to pool their resources into a consortium. Everyone wants a competitive advantage, but there is no point in reinventing the wheel X times.
  • (VA owns Slashdot too in case you live in a box).

    Hey, the way this economy is going, we might all wind up in boxes.
  • Geocrawler too ? (Score:2, Informative)

    by bram.be ( 302388 )
    Geocrawler is no longer being maintained (http://www.geocrawler.com/about/ [geocrawler.com])

    Geocrawler is not the most important site in the osdn but it's usefull.
    --Bram.
  • we'd be happy to go live in a box!
    We lived in 5 feet of tractor-feed printer paper wrapped up in a stairwell, we did - all 47 of us kids.
    From the age of 2, we had to code in Cobol on mainframes, paying 3 shillings a day for the privilege of working.
    We had to get up at 02:30 to work 27 hours a day and when we got home our daddy would hit us over the head with a dead chicken until we fell asleep.

    And when you tell kids these days, they don't even believe you.

  • I will offer my opinion and ask others who know more than I do to clarify some issues.


    I am under the impression that high profile websites like www.slashdot.org would be paid by their uplinks for the bandwidth they require. What I am hearing in the posts within is that VALinux has been funding us.


    I have heard from sources I trust that companies like Microsoft and CNN are paid for at _LEAST_ the bandwidth required to feed their content into the net and that the companies who pay them are the telecomunications companies that need content to satisfy their customer base - IE.. ISP's.


    I know my ISP for instance pays the Telephone company in this area, and I am certain that my Telephone company in turn pays their uplink (which I believe is sprintlink) for the bandwidth that is required to carry the content that I for instance wish to look at. I do know for a fact that I certainly pay my ISP.


    Now www.slashdot.org provides content and this content as we all know requires bandwidth to be delivered. Since my Telephone Company does NOT have a direct connect to the slashdot servers the only way they can get access to this content is to _PAY_ for bandwidth to connect to the people who have a connection to the slashdot servers.


    My reasoning is that if my Telephone Company for instance were to find it cheaper to do a direct connect to the SlashDot servers that they could then channel the money they save directly over to the slashdot webmasters and it wouldn't cost them a cent.


    But the question in my mind is this... It appears that the content goes like this:

    slashdot -&gt backbone-cloud -&gt mytelco -&gt myisp -&gt me

    and the money goes like this:

    slashdot -&gt backbone-cloud -&lt mytelco -&lt myisp -&lt me


    To me this seems screwed up. Everyone in this picture who delivers content to the consumer is being paid for the service they provide, with the exception of the people who create it.


    If the content creators are not paid, then the content will dry up. Of course there will always be tax payer funded content on the net and advertiser funded content and of course corporate interest content. But the type of content most of us want will dry up. I guess at that point we will have to decide whether we wish to continue to pay our ISP's for the bandwidth we no longer use and they in turn will have to decide whether they need as much bandwidth from their uplinks. Could this be why the telephone industry has cancelled its orders for fibre and equipment which has resulted in belt tightening at Corning and Nortel?


    My suggestion is that if VALinux should be paid for at least the bandwidth required to deliever the content they make avaialble. This should not come from a subscription - this should come from their uplink because I for instance have already paid my ISP in good faith and they in turn pay a lot of money per month to the telephone company they connect through.



    • Yeah, and I expect to be paid for the content I provide on my page, too! ;)

      I just don't see how something like this could work for anyone except the absolute top tier of content providors.

      How do you decide how much each person gets paid? If BackboneProvidor 1 has more content providors on their net than BackboneProvidor 2, but the end users of BackboneProvidor 2 consume more content, who pays or just forgives the bill this month?

      What qualifications would you have to meet to get in on the deal? Number of hits? Google relevence ranking? Bah, the bookkeeping would cost almost as much as the bandwidth, if not more.

      • The electical untilities were in this situation in the 70's. Small producers - perhaps people in a windy spot or someone with a creek wanted to pump electricity into the grid. Most didn't really have huge commercial interests... they just wanted to help the planet and conserve our non-renewable fossil fuels.


        They were fought - and they won. In many if not most areas - if someone wants to generate _most_ of their electricity from say a windmill, then they will pay a connect fee to the grid and when they draw from the grid they pay at retail rates. If they have surplus they feed it into the grid and THEY ARE PAID - often at full retail rates because the powers that be deem this to be a desirable thing.


        No one should decide who. It can be as simple as moniting the size of the pipe from the webservers. If the demand to your servers is handled by a 56K modem - don't expect to be paid. If the demand from your severs requires T1... then you should get a free T1 and your uplink should pay you the same as what they would pay say Sprintlink if they were to suck your content from them.


        Suppose you need T3? If your web sites are so popular that a T3 is needed - then you might get $30,000 per month. If say Sprintlink is sucking T3 from your webservers then they are feeding same to their downlinks and they are going to make a tidy profit on this. Anything they pay to their content suppliers they mark up. So if they pay say $30,000 per month for the feeds from the webservers then they will bill the aggregate consumers of that bandwidth probably at least $45,000.


        No one needs to decide - measure strictly on volumes. Then give everyone freedom to bid on who they want to have on board. If your content is really special - then let your potential uplinks bid for the connection. The market will sort itself out.


        I see no more difficulty with 50,000 web masters vieing for the attention of the surfing public than I see with 50,000 chicken farmers vieing for the opportunity to put their eggs on your breakfast plate. What I have a problem with is large vested interests typically born of a protected monopoly each telling the chicken farmer that if his eggs are so great, then pay them for the delivery service and organise your own way to send a bill to the consumer.


        Web content is a commodity. If slashdot web content is great then people will beat a path to their door and they deserve to profit from this so they can do more good work. Success and a service to the public should not be met with killer bills.


        The surfing public in good faith have paid their ISP's and the ISP's (at least mine) have been quite diligent paying the telcos (in my case it is Telus)... because they know that if they don't they'll be disconnected.


        I am certain that Telus spends millions for the access to the backbone. Here is a simple point in economics... in general the direction of the flow of money is opposite the direction of the flow of goods and services. So I will ask again: Upon what criteria does the direction of the flow of money suddenly reverse itself?


        The question posed by you, Spudnic, is upon what critera should webmasters be compensated? I will retort this way: upon what criteria should they NOT be compensated and who should decide this?



  • I remember VA used to have a page filled with developer profiles. Its not on the site any more, and I presume most of the Uber Geeks are gone too.

    I must say I snickered a bit as I watched their ranks diminish - there is nothing as nausiating as the self-aggrandizing bios people put up for themselves. I remember going to the Pyra.com site a couple of years back and had a good chuckle at how they described themselves as minor-deities. I can code XML! I read Kant! I' m unemployable!

  • LayOffs (Score:4, Informative)

    by Caballero ( 11938 ) <daryll&daryll,net> on Sunday September 16, 2001 @10:27PM (#2307499) Homepage

    VA has shut down their professional services organziation. The DRI developers (Kevin Martin, David Dawes, Brian Paul, Keith Whitwell, Jeff Hartmann, Alan Hourihane, Allen Akin, and myself) were all part of that layoff.

    VA wasn't provinding the funding for us. We were funded by a number of other projects for graphics vendors and for other graphics research organizations.

    There are efforts underway to get the team reassembled at another organization, but that is still very up in the air.

    • There are efforts underway to get the team reassembled at another organization, but that is still very up in the air

      I very much hope that that happens - you're doing great work, and I hope you can continue to do so.
    • Ooh ooh.. I have an idea, why don't you call it Precision Insight.

      All of this makes me wonder why the heck VA bought PI in the first place. Is it fair to say that VA have done nothing but damage 3D on Linux?
      • Darn good question. It seemed to make more sense at the time. VA thought they were going to make workstations, and then there might have been some synergy. They ended up pulling the plug on workstations, then all of hardware, and finally professional services. So the trend ended up being rather negative.

  • Open Source developers need to build better quality code, release useable packages that can help companies generate revenue. I gladly paid for Caucho [caucho.com]'s Resin server (i.e. for the deployment license), because it's a high-quality product. I would also pay for an Apache license, as well as for a few other Open Source projects and related consulting services, but most of the Open Source projects are still being developed with a self-righteous "if you don't like it or it doesn't work for you, fix it yourself" type of attitude, so they won't be able to feed any developers. Please, listen to the people who could use your software in a commercial environment, the hobbyist Linux hackers won't pay for your bills.

    Just my thoughts.

  • Now, now, now, that's not a troll. Let's look at this realistically.

    All the fancy new video card features, especially vertex shaders, are not supported in the only widespread open graphics library out there: OpenGL. Sure, you can use vendor-specific extensions, but that's not much of a solution. No one wants to have to write for specific makes of video card. Under Windows, DirectX just keeps advancing and, though it is still clunky and bloated, is at least keeping up--for the most part--with new developments in hardware. Under Linux, all of these features are irrelevant, as are features from the previous generation of video cards, like compressed textures (finally added to OpenGL 1.3 in the last several months). We're hopelessly behind.

    It's not just Linux that's behind, it's any system that isn't Windows. We've gotten dependent on DirectX for 3D, and even old OpenGL stalwarts are finally caving in. What we need is is a new 3D API that's designed for what we now know about 3D hardware capabilities; one that is much simpler than current incarnations of OpenGL and DirectX. But with 3D hardware being the number one compatibility problem on modern PCs, I don't see how we're going to get into a better situation.

"Mr. Spock succumbs to a powerful mating urge and nearly kills Captain Kirk." -- TV Guide, describing the Star Trek episode _Amok_Time_

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