In the name of the Japanese BeOS community, I would like to thank you for accepting our request this interview for JPBE.net. Please, start by telling us a bit about yourself.
Michael Phipps: I am from New York State. I was born and have lived here all of my 31 years. I am married with two lovely children. I graduated from the Rochester Institute of Technology in 1997 with a degree in Computer Science. I work in the telecommunications industry in Rochester, NY producing high throughput systems.
When was your first encounter with BeOS and what did you think of it?
Michael Phipps: I was an Amiga user from 1988 to 1996. I built a PC and installed Windows 95, but I hated it very much, and started sketching out a more modern AmigaOS type operating system. I showed these 20 pages or so of notes to a friend at RIT. He said "That looks just like BeOS!". He showed me their site and I started to read the BeBook. I was shocked - I didn't know if I should laugh or cry - here was my design, almost exactly! The friend who steered me to their website had a BeBox with the fresh off of the presses DR8. I have never looked back!
Let's now talk about OpenBeOS. Tell us when and how it all started. Was it an spontaneous thing or was there a grandiose plan from the very beginning? What were the biggest motivations? Was there any hesitation to start such a big project?
Michael Phipps: I have spent much of tonight looking through the old e-mails (I am a serious e-mail pack rat; if you have sent me an email, I still have it). Starting the project wasn't actually my idea, exactly. On the BeDevTalk list, on 8/17/2001 (the day of Be's announcement), there was a thread about what developers were going to do next. Cedric Degea proposed the idea and it proceded from there.
I had been working on an innovative alternative programming language that turns out to be pretty similar to Python, but simpler. I had a couple of years of time invested in it and didn't think that porting it to another OS sounded like fun. I had investigated Linux and BSD, but neither really "did it" for me.
What really strikes me is how close to the original vision we still are. From the very beginning, I realized that we should split the project into kit sized pieces. Normally, people work on a kernel first (Linus with Linux and Bill Jolitz with 386BSD, for example). I knew that that would push away all of the developers who are not into the raw 0's and 1's of working on the kernel. We are working on every kit in parallel. That has allowed us to make a lot more progress than we otherwise would have.
OK, now that we know a little bit more about the history of OpenBeOS and the motives behind it, tell us about your development team. How many developers are currently working on the project?
Michael Phipps: Another thing that really struck me from reading the old emails is how many of our original developers are still here. I will go by kit:
The Interface Kit has Erik, Darkwyrm, Gabe and Adi. Erik was the first team leader to volunteer, and Darkwyrm came along a few days later. Gabe and Adi are fairly new contributers, but have worked very hard to "catch up".
The Game Kit is mostly on hold until the Media Kit and Interface Kit are finished. We believe that this kit should be fairly easy when the time comes.
The Media Kit has always been pretty much Marcus Overhagen's baby, and what an outstanding job he has done!
Preferences Apps have been generated by a number of people. This is probably the most typical OSS model we have - people just come along and develop an app or two.
Storage Kit: Ingo and Tyler have done spectacular work on this kit; just waiting for the kernel, pretty much, before they can call it "done".
Be File System (BFS): Axel and Bruno (BGA) quietly swept in during the night and completed (except for a few bugs) BFS.
Input Server: Jason and Tony have this nearly completed.
Midi: There are a few people, Jerome and Matthijs mainly, who put together the bulk of this. Only soft_synth remains.
Printing: Ithamar was a bright star at the beginning of the project; he had a lot of free time so he poured it into the Printing Kit, finishing most of it. He is with YellowTab these days. Mike Pfeiffer has come along, added PDF and a bunch of other outstanding work.
Translation: Mike Wilber has been the driving force in Translation; this kit is in Beta. Look for a new beta and for it to be declared "done" soon.
Kernel: Axel is the star of the kernel kit. He has come along and driven it further and faster than anyone imagined.
Networking is in a state of transition, and is one of the two places we need serious help (the kernel is the other). There are no active networking people, as all of the developers had real life issues.
Screen Saver is a special kit to me. I wrote most of it, and then turned it over to Andew and Scott who are deep in the middle of finishing it.