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CentOS Project Administrator Goes AWOL 492

An anonymous reader writes "Lance Davis, the main project administrator for CentOS, a popular free 'rebuild' of Red Hat's Enterprise Linux, appears to have gone AWOL. In an open letter from his fellow CentOS developers, they describe the precarious situation the project has been put in. There have been attempts to contact him for some time now, as he's the sole administrator for the domain, the IRC channels, and apparently, CentOS funds. One can only hope that Lance gets in contact with them and gets things sorted out."
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CentOS Project Administrator Goes AWOL

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  • Wait a little more (Score:4, Informative)

    by chebucto ( 992517 ) * on Thursday July 30, 2009 @09:37AM (#28881083) Homepage

    This sort of open letter should really be a last-resort kind of thing, but their letter says

    When I (Russ) try to call the phone numbers for UK Linux, and for you individually, I get a telco intercept 'Lines are temporarily busy' for the last two weeks. Finally yesterday, a voicemail in your voice picked up, and I left a message urgently requesting a reply.

    If they left a vm yesterday, they should give it at least until Monday before publicly humiliating the guy. Being a few days late in answering voiemail isn't odd at all. Also, is it out of the question to try and get someone to check his house personally? A team of 10 people have got to know someone in the UK.

  • by ammorais ( 1585589 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @09:46AM (#28881201)

    You can't even guarantee that a major project isn't just going to stop without notice

    CentosOS will never die. Ultimately I will fork it and continue it. That's the guarantee you have for good projects.

  • An Alternative (Score:5, Informative)

    by DesScorp ( 410532 ) <> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @09:48AM (#28881235) Homepage Journal

    There's a danger when one guy has complete control of the project. Not even Linus has that. If the guy bolts or drops dead, you're left in limbo.

    If you need a similar compatible version of RH Enterprise Linux, I'd suggest Scientific Linux []. It's made by the staff at Fermi Labs (and CERN as well) as a uniform OS platform for all their experiments, and is basically RHEL compiled from source. Like RHEL, it can also be used as a general purpose OS (it just includes a lot of science packages, especially stuff for physics). It's supposed to be 100% compatible, or very very close, and the Fermi guys distribute the ISO's online.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 30, 2009 @09:57AM (#28881377)

    You can read a bit more there what has happened.

  • Re:An Alternative (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ritz_Just_Ritz ( 883997 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @09:59AM (#28881409)

    The problem with scientific linux is that it is not updated frequently at all. CentOS is attractive because they are usually pretty quick about folding in security fixes shortly after they are released by Redhat.

  • by beheaderaswp ( 549877 ) * on Thursday July 30, 2009 @10:01AM (#28881423)

    Replying to my own post...

    Whitebox Linux went offline due to hurricane Katrina. Everyone folded into CentOS.

  • Re:medical problems (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 30, 2009 @10:06AM (#28881495)

    I had a particularly egregious manager call me while I was in an ambulance with a suspected heart attack once. He was a complete and utter arse though.

  • Re:Peace (Score:1, Informative)

    by franoculator ( 714656 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @10:17AM (#28881705)
    Not the governor of South Carolina.
  • by rallymatte ( 707679 ) * on Thursday July 30, 2009 @10:20AM (#28881777)
    From Tim Verhoeven. It explains the issues a little more in depth.
    Read the post here. []
  • by swillden ( 191260 ) <> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @10:31AM (#28881951) Homepage Journal

    If they left a vm yesterday, they should give it at least until Monday before publicly humiliating the guy. Being a few days late in answering voiemail isn't odd at all.

    If you read the information at [], it appears to be a little worse than that.

    They say that Davis vanished from the project "some time in 2008". Given that we're more than halfway through 2009, that means he's been gone for the better part of a year, maybe more. Also, they've been asking for quite some time for him to provide a public accounting of the funds collected from contributions to CentOS, and Lance stopped answering their questions months ago. It sounds like they've recently gotten serious about trying to get some answers and discovered that he's completely inaccessible.

    It may just be that he's gone on vacation, but given that he's been refusing to answer questions for months about what has happened to what is probably a fairly large amount of money, I think their concern isn't at all unreasonable.

  • It seems that as of late, there has been a lot of public controversy around various FOSS projects and the people that run them. There's disputes between key players followed up, all too frequently, with giant personal missives about how this or that person isn't going to work on this project anymore because somebody else is too mean to them. There's guys disappearing, flame wars, all sorts of very public problems with projects. One wonders if FOSS is becoming too much of a soap opera and less of a collaborative development model. These aren't unimportant projects either. The GCC compiler, X Windows system and its underpinnings, the kernel, and certainly file systems, all have had some very famous and public spats between various egos.

    The one thing that money does, when developers actually get paid for their work, is that it forces people to put aside their differences. When there's no cash on the table, there's no logical reason for someone to take a pounding personally due to a personality conflict. But, when there is cash, people can accept quite a bit of abuse and still produce something. While personal glory is nice to have, its not nearly so nice as a check. But, in FOSS, if you take away that personal glory, there's really no incentive at all. You almost have to wonder if, personality driven politics will continue to undermine FOSS, and how much personality FOSS can stand before the whole brand is so polluted by public conflict that one would almost prefer to just write somebody a check just to avoid the soap opera.

  • Re:medical problems (Score:3, Informative)

    by WhatAmIDoingHere ( 742870 ) <> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @10:39AM (#28882069) Homepage
    From what I've read, the missing guy has had almost nothing to do with the project for quite some time. Missing meetings and not doing much, if any, work. It sounds like his going AWOL was the straw that broke the camel's back for the other devs.
  • Re:medical problems (Score:5, Informative)

    by BlackFingolfin ( 517139 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @10:39AM (#28882073)
    Wait, we are talking about somebody who has "disappeared" a year ago; only he hasn't really disappeared, he occasionally showed up for meetings, making promises, then vanished again (and didn't keep the promises). How would this be explained or justified by a hypothetical medical situation? Even if there was one, then shouldn't he have said months ago "Hey folks, I am in some sort of bad situation, somebody needs to take over my responsibilities while I try to resolve things." ? Nope, I think what they did was very reasonable; although maybe they should have done it a couple months earlier.
  • by cream wobbly ( 1102689 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @10:46AM (#28882185)

    Replying to self with this: []

    Again, emphasis mine:

    [...] First time I [Ralph Angenendt] met Lance was in 2007 at Fosdem in Brussels and then again at LinuxTag in Berlin. Everything seemed fine there. But from then on things seemed to deteriorate.

    Lance vanished from the project some time in 2008. Everybody needs time off from projects from time to time, so there was no real need to worry about that. What there was to worry about is the following: Lance is the only one, who can make active changes to the domain, as he âoeowns itâ. Nobody else in the team is able to add nameservers, for instance. Recently he put an anonymizing service on the domain, so that nobody from the outside can see who that domain belongs to.

    The third thing - and that is the one which hurts me the most - is that Lance is the one who has access to the Google AdSense and the Paypal accounts, again without a backup. We have asked for overviews of the accounts several times now and havenâ(TM)t gotten back any answers. This money was donated towards the project and could have been used for professionally made media for fairs and conventions, professionally made advertisement material for the same, hardware, community support (give out media to people who want to show off CentOS) and so on. To make it clear: Nobody in the CentOS team wants to make money off the project, we all have jobs and do CentOS in our free time.

    This means that the project depends on one person in too many ways. Add to that a person who doesnâ(TM)t answer calls, isnâ(TM)t available as meetings, doesnâ(TM)t publish things he promised to do - we have a problem. And this is unacceptable. We as a project have to be more transparent. And this is one of the things blocking this.

    As Lance hasnâ(TM)t answered requests regarding that over the last few months, the remaining team now has put a stop on that. For the moment all ads have been removed from website and wiki and we are not accepting any paypal donations anymore.

    We still want Lance to be able to answer all of that in a good fashion, so that everything can be corrected. So the step might seem a bit drastic at the moment (but this has been lingering for quite some time now). It might also seem like our reaction has come too late. It might also mean that we will lose the domain. And all the money people have donated towards the project and not to one person. I would like to offer my apologies for that.

    But either way, we will continue and get the project back on track. With your help, I hope, as I still think that CentOS is one heck of a cool project to work on.

    So it looks like CentOS is dead. Long live CentOS!

  • Re:So go take over. (Score:3, Informative)

    by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @11:37AM (#28882913)

    I haven't tried to steal a bank account but that seems pretty trivial as well.

    So tell me exactly why this is a problem for a bunch of geeks?

    I don't know about you, but having to be careful not to bend down in the shower for several years would be a real problem for me.

  • by dominux ( 731134 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @11:52AM (#28883161) Homepage
    I have an email from him dated 06/07/09 10:28 relating to some of my domains hosted at that he let expire. Took several months of calls and emails to get a response. Still trying to sort out the situation, one of my domains has been down for about a month :-(
  • LinkedIn (Score:4, Informative)

    by dave420 ( 699308 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @11:55AM (#28883203)
    LinkedIn says he's the founder of CentOS, and that he stopped working there in 2008. Oops.
  • by jabuzz ( 182671 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:25PM (#28883563) Homepage

    You could try

    Well House
    9 High Street
    Chapel en le Frith
    High Peak
    SK23 0HD

  • Re:Peace (Score:5, Informative)

    by segedunum ( 883035 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:27PM (#28883595)

    And that's why you should run RH / OEL on mission critical systems. Not trolling, just facing the reality.

    Not really. CentOS isn't going to stop working any time soon, the source code and repositories are still around and this will get sorted one way or the other even if it means new domains and changing the name of the project or something or learning from mistakes and setting up some non-profit organisation.

  • by DrgnDancer ( 137700 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @01:15PM (#28884351) Homepage

    Yeah, but.... I knew when Solaris 8, Irix, MacOS9, and Windows 2000 were going out of support and could plan accordingly. If my plan was: "Keep using it and hope for the best", then it's my fault when/if it all falls apart. Where ever this guy is, he just up and left for there without even a week's warning, let alone the months or even years companies give for products going out of support. Now he may turn up next week and everything is fine, or he may turn up long enough to turn over the reins (and everything's probably a bit rocky, but otherwise fine), or they may find his body (hopefully not, but it's possible) and nothing can be done with CentOS' resources till everything goes through probate. Or he may never resurface in any meaningful way (maybe he joined a monastery and took a vow of "no computers"), and the project will be left hanging.

    With commercial vendors, even when they go completely bankrupt, there's usually some sort of continued support, or at least some reasonable announcement of when such support will cease. Now the flip side is that if CentOS IS defunct for whatever reason, someone can just fork the project and "DollarOS" can take over where CentOS left off... but that still isn't the same as good ongoing support from a reliable vendor. Maybe the people who run DollarOS won't be as dedicated, or as competent, or maybe no one will fork it at all.

    Don't get me wrong, I've used and liked CentOS; I'm not arguing against using it, just against using it in mission critical apps where long term support might be needed. In that case you should really use RHEL, or even (if you really don't like commercial companies) something like Debian. Debian doesn't have a company behind it, but it does have a large incorporated organization that can survive the loss of any one or even several members.

  • by WuphonsReach ( 684551 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @01:16PM (#28884377)
    However, I've been worried about how out-of-date CentOS currently is, basically a snapshot of FC6.

    That's because RHEL 5 is also based off of FC6 (Linux kernel 2.6.18).

    The whole point of CentOS 5 is to track RHEL 5 closely (and in a binary compatible way). Which is great for people who want to learn RHEL, but not fork out the support cost for the real thing until they're ready and/or need Red Hat support. In fact, Red Hat loves this, because they get mindshare (people get used to working on a Red Hat style system) without the support costs. When those people are ready for commercial support, they're naturally going to turn upstream and talk to Red Hat.

    Now, Red Hat does backport a lot of security fixes into their version of the 2.6.18 kernel. I'm not sure if they also backport drivers for more modern hardware (they probably do for server hardware). And you can always compile a custom kernel straight from the kernel sources and use that instead.

    If you want more modern versions of packages and don't care about being binary compatible with Red Hat, go install RPMForge as an additional repository. I'd also recommend installing "yum-priorities" and setting it up as directed so that RPMForge packages have a higher number (thus lower priority) then the Base & Updates repositories.

    For example, in order for use to use Subversion 1.6 instead of 1.4, we added two lines to our CentOS-Base.repo file under the "[base]" section.


    Then we installed Subversion 1.6.3 from the RPMForge repositories. No muss, no fuss, no need to deal with constantly compiling from source. We've done the same for other packages like Samba, Postfix, PostgreSQL, etc.

    From what I've read in the past week or two, RHEL 6 is expected sometime in early 2010. (And by past history, that means CentOS 6 will come out about 1-2 months after that.)
  • by bill_mcgonigle ( 4333 ) * on Thursday July 30, 2009 @01:49PM (#28884857) Homepage Journal

    You do realize that technically Redhat is just skating by on the free give-aways of others, too, don't you?

    Redhat puts a ton of work/code into linux and associated projects, they're not merely aggregating.

    And, as I understand it, they are happy with the CentOS project. They used to give away Redhat and charge for RHEL. Then they switched to an all-pay model, forked the Fedora project, and CentOS fills the gap that was previously held by Redhat. Sure, there's probably some marginal drain away from paying customers, but there's also a large potential customer base that can 'upgrade' to RHEL very easily.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 30, 2009 @02:19PM (#28885385)

    There is still full support for OpenVMS; it is provided by HP.

  • by Wdomburg ( 141264 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @05:02PM (#28888173)

    Bad examples. Solaris 8 doesn't reach the end of it's service life until March 2012, legacy versions of Irix will reach end of support no sooner than December 2013 and even the oldest versions of OpenVMS for the Alpha will be supported through 2012. And of course all three platforms have new versions coming out, so there's an upgrade path on current hardware platforms.

    Really, enterprise vendors (including Red Hat) have an excellent history of supporting their paying customers for extended periods.

    Your example of RHEL not getting an update in a timely manner is wrong. They issues RHSA-2009:1162-1 nine days ago to address the Firefox vulnerabilities. That's the same day the vulnerabilities were announced by the Mozilla foundation.

  • Dev blog post (Score:2, Informative)

    by eperlman ( 200240 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @06:35PM (#28889561)

    A more in-depth blog post from one of the authors can be found here:

    Things sound pretty shady...

  • how is he gone? (Score:3, Informative)

    by perry753 ( 924813 ) on Friday July 31, 2009 @12:46AM (#28892497)
    how is he gone? He is clearly on IRC right now * [lancelan] ( Lance Davis * [lancelan] @#centos-devel @#uklinux @#lbw @#centos @#centos-mirror #centos-social @#lance * [lancelan] : * [lancelan] is identified to services * [lancelan] is signed on as account lance_cen * [lancelan] idle 01:47:07, signon: Thu Jul 30 19:55:01 * [lancelan] End of WHOIS list.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken