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OpenBSD founder makes funding plea

The group calls on commercial users for financial help, decries "culture of entitlement" in open-source community.

Developers at OpenBSD have admitted that the organization is running at a loss, and they want to increase annual income to continue funding the development of the project's open-source operating system.

"OpenBSD for the past two years has turned a loss of approximately $20,000," Marco Peereboom, an OpenBSD developer, wrote in the OpenBSD Journal on Tuesday. "This is starting to seriously impede the development of OpenBSD and OpenSSH."

OpenBSD is a secure Unix-like operating system that is popular among system administrators running firewalls.

Theo de Raadt, the founder and lead developer of OpenBSD, confirmed the loss figures to ZDNet UK and said the project currently has an income of around $100,000, half of which comes from donations, with the other half coming from product sales.

The project's biggest expense are its hackathons--events where developers meet to write code--which it tries to run a few times a year and cost between $10,000 and $30,000.

Although the organization has a number of commercial users, including many Internet service providers, de Raadt said that all of its donations come from individuals rather than companies, many of whom claim they have no budget to pay for the operating system. "The culture of entitlement is starting to damage the open-source community," he said.

Many companies that work with open-source projects are motivated purely by self-interest rather a fundamental belief in the value of community-developed software, said de Raadt. "Is IBM only helping Linux to work better on IBM machines so they can sell more hardware? They're not doing it to help regular users," he said.

OpenSSH, a secure network connectivity tool project that is developed by the OpenBSD project, has received no funding from vendors, despite the fact that the tool is used by many operating systems to encrypt Internet traffic.

"OpenSSH is included in every Unix-derived operating system, yet the total amount of assistance we've ever got from vendors is zero," said de Raadt. "It's astounding. I don't know what to do about it."

One problem that Peereboom highlighted in his article for the OpenBSD Journal is that people tend to download the operating system from the Web site rather than buying CDs, which are one of the project's main sources of revenue.

"What is happening is that the CD purchase-FTP ratio is out of control. People pretty much stopped purchasing CDs in quantities they used to and use the FTP mirrors instead. This lack of sales is what is causing the project to turn a small loss for the second year in a row," Peereboom said.

Ingrid Marson reported for London-based ZDNet UK.