Interview with Bill Pedersen

Can you tell me about the Source Forge Project called VMS Ports?

VMS-Ports was the result of a series of conversations between myself and John Malmberg who has been a driving force in the Open Source on OpenVMS Community for some time.  We were looking for a way to create a focus for the effort.  We did not see that it made sense to use the GNV SourceForge Project as that was specifically focused on GNV – a DEC/Compaq/HP effort also known as “Unix Portability Environment” and to some extent ignored by the “owners” over the years.  Since GNV is based upon GNU utilities and associated enhancements to the OpenVMS C Run-Time Library (CRTL) it seemed that we could, as a Community, make progress if we worked in concert with OpenVMS Engineering and also did things to enhance the environment based upon our experience and goals.

Why did you start it and what are the goals of the project?

We felt we need a specific focal point – well exposed to the world wide web – to act as a hub for efforts in open source on OpenVMS.  There has been effort for some time prior to our creation of the project.  We started discussing how to do things in late 2011 and we create the project in early 2012.  We had ongoing discussions with OpenVMS Engineering and that lead to starting our regular conference calls with Engineering at the end of May 2012.

This project is not your “usual” open source project.  It acts as an umbrella organization to all of the efforts in dealing with Open Source on OpenVMS.  This “project” is intended as an umbrella for all open source on OpenVMS efforts.

Our goals are on the site:

  • Mirror the source for all known OpenVMS open source projects that are not already in public repositories. A directory of packages is provided.
  • Provide a sandbox for porters to collaborate
  • Encourage making ports as complete as possible and in compliance with OpenVMS standards and conventions, using PCSI/VMSINSTAL kits, help files, proper operation on DCL and GNV as appropriate.
  • Show tricks on how to use Linux/OS-X/BSD/Cygwin and other platforms to assist in building projects until they can be converted to a totally OpenVMS hosted build environment.
  • Encourage participation with the upstream source maintainers to get the OpenVMS changes into the mainstream repository. To get OpenVMS releases of updates to be simultaneous with the other platforms. Encourage the adding of OpenVMS systems to build farms.
  • In some of this we succeed, and at times we are searching for an audience.

Generally, how much interest is there in Open Source tools on OpenVMS?

We have between 8 and 20 participants on our regular conference calls.  ANYONE can join – the information is posted on the site and we actively push this information into new groups, email lists and other forums.

If you look at the visits we get on the site we have probably between 100 and 200 (and possibly more) interested parties in the OpenVMS Community.  They may not actively participate but they do come and read the notes, down load files and programs and use the tools we are working to improve.

What are some of the most popular Open Source tools in the community?

We do not track this.  We are focused on improving the GNV environment as a whole.  To date we have brought bash up to the current release that exist on ANY platform.  We were able to create update kits to correct the “shell shock” exploit with in a couple days of the release patches from the GNU community.  This is in contrast to the “vendor version which was never updated” since release and was about 10 years old…

We have also recently updated the “GNU Core Utilities”, gawk, sed, grep and the “ld tools”.  This has significantly improved the performance and reliability of GNV as a development environment.  This has meant that more open source packages can be ported with little effort – just some common redefinitions – to OpenVMS.

What does the OpenVMS Open Source Community need the most?

People!

Let’s be honest we need people who understand that Open Source is a mechanism of bringing new features and capabilities to OpenVMS.  This is not a matter of replacing DIRECTORY or SORT or COPY.  This is a matter of bringing PostgreSQL or Maria or Doxygen or other utilities or functionality to OpenVMS which would not exist without this effort.  This effort has helped bring CIFS, CSWS (aka Apache), Tomcat and other  open source tools to OpenVMS.

What we have done will help this happen faster and with less effort.  It also allows for direct builds from open source kits, not the need to create “one-off” build environments.  This will help keep open source tools current on OpenVMS.

What do you think the future of Open Source is on OpenVMS?

I think OpenVMS DEPENDS on Open Source for its survival.

Bill Pedersen is the Vice President of Engineering at Stromasys.