The great open source bounty experiment

Like Joel Atwood, I am a huge fan of paying for software, especially donating to OSS projects. I am also a fan of contributing patches to open source projects I use. Usually, my monetary donations are for projects I’ve used for years as a thank you for the value rendered to me by them. I have also offered money in the past in exchange for the implementation of feature requests. Sometimes my features were implemented, but my money has never been accepted. I am conducting an experiment that will hopefully change this. However, first some backstory.

The Backstory

When I began my current position as a “backend developer” for a Madison Avenue ad firm, I found myself one of two de-facto sysadmins for a Windows 2008 colo server. This server had a comercial software product installed on it called WinSSHD. We mainly used this product for its SFTP capabilities to publish websites to the server. However, WinSSHD is a fully featured ssh daemon, so I can ssh to my Windows box with putty and get a command prompt. From there, I can execute windows shell commands, or run vim, sqlcmd or powershell. In other words, I can administer my windows box in a civilized manner, or at least in a manner that my unix tendencies consider civilized.

However, all was not perfect, as is always the case with software.  I found an obscure bug that was quickly fixed, then I found two bugs that were actually protocol limitations. The first was you had to hit escape twice to enter command mode in my beloved vim, and the second was that function keys would not work, rendering my beloved farmanager useless.

BitVise, the makers of WinSSHD, offers a solution to this problem. That solution is to use their ssh client, Tunnlier. It implements a propietary terminal protocol they included in WinSSHD called bvterm. However, I want to use my beloved putty as the client. So I talked to bitvise and I talked to Simon Tatham, the maintainer of putty. Bitvise published bvterm on the spec page, and Simon took a look at the protocol. Simon said it would take some work, but he was supportive of someone else doing that work.

The Experiment

So the next step seemed obvious to me , setup a bounty, put up some money, and promote the hell out of it. I selected FossFactory as my bounty host. I made an account, registered my project, and put up $200. Simon has been very gracious in reviewing my bounty proposal, and clarifying his requirements for accepting this feature into putty.

So consider this blog post step one of promoting the hell out of it. I’ll be promoting it through as many channels as I think effective, and updating the justaprogrammer readership on the progress of my experiment.