Harvesting Sugar Trees.

John Gilmore gnu at toad.com
Tue Feb 8 18:09:15 EST 2011

> Over time, most embedded system developers have pushed their work
> upstream.  This happened gradually as system developers learned that
> it was more expensive to maintain their customizations locally then to
> work with upstream.  The tipping point was often found as system
> developers tried to rebase their customization when upstream rebased.

At Cygnus in the 1990s we were in the middle of some of that.  We were
paid to clean up the work of several big companies on the GNU
compilers, and integrate it into the master sources.  For example,
Intel had built COFF object file support as well as a GCC code
generator for the i960.  Their support of Cygnus led to BFD, which
allowed the binary utilities to support many, many file formats
simultaneously.  Wind River had their own GDB debugger interface to
their embedded operating system, and custom binary utilities.  We
merged all their stuff too.

While pitching one company on our merging and development services,
Michael Tiemann told them we'd do their job for $X this year or for
$2X next year.  He failed to close the deal.  But indeed, the company
came back a year later, and paid twice as much.  They had spent the
year trying to do their own integration and patching, while the GNU
compilers evolved furiously underneath them, and were ready to leave
that job to the professionals and go back to doing what their own
company was good at.

Our best GCC developer, Jim Wilson, often spent more than half his
time merging Cygnus's GCC changes (created by himself and dozens of
other employees) into the master GNU GCC sources, and vice verse.  It
was frustrating but necessary, to avoid forks that would lose access
to major capabilities built by other teams.


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