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February 21, 2011

One Source of the OpenMPE Disputes

HP sent a copy of MPE/iX source code to OpenMPE in 2010, but that asset has returned to the HP offices. Once the volunteers voted Matt Perdue off the OpenMPE island, the former treasurer eventually sent the source back to HP because he believed it wasn't safe in his own shop.

Perdue doesn't put it that way exactly. The unsafe situation he refers to was efforts to get the source code into non-exclusive hands, a goal that vice-chairman Keith Wadsworth persued for several months before Perdue's removal. (As a reminder, the volunteers had allowed check-writing, source storage, hosting duties and domain ownership to reside with Perdue. If that sounds like a single point of failure, community members might recall their IT skills in how to resolve such a flaw: redundant resources.)

But why should OpenMPE even be granted a source license? About this time last year, we sent a podcast out that advocated source for these volunteers. We even donated $500 against the $10,000 the volunteers needed. There was talk of creating patches, of having a repository to share with contractors who'd be building bridge technologies for MPE/iX. For Perdue, however, the source was in his hands -- as the OpenMPE trustee who signed for it -- to do one thing: create an emulator.

"The reason OpenMPE was granted a license to use was largely due to the plans of OpenMPE to produce an emulator," Perdue told us last month. When he emailed us in mid-January he said he'd returned the code to HP via registered mail. Board members say it's now back with Jennie Hou, the last person to hold a Business Manager title for 3000 operations; there's some dispute about when it was actually sent. Why ship it away? Perdue says, "I discussed with HP that if at any point I did not feel that HP's proprietary materials could not be adequately protected as the license agreement required, they would be returned to HP."

That emulator is well beyond the resources of OpenMPE's leadership to produce. A similar product has taken years to move along at Stromsys, which has been creating emulators since the late 1990s. Perdue charges that the project was one which the group's chairman "unilaterally cancelled without any previous discussion with the board. He simply announced that OpenMPE would not be pursuing emulator development, no discussion. Therefore, the primary reason OpenMPE had been granted a license to use the source code materials no longer exists, and OpenMPE’s license should be revoked."

Setting aside the return of the long-awaited source code, Perdue's suit against the volunteers has the potential to end the useful lifespan of OpenMPE -- it's asking for donations, in part, to pay for a defense. Suits are filed, but many settled. Perdue said a “window of negotiation has always been and remains open. Right up until the time a jury renders a verdict."

Perdue has also shared his communications with the board from the summer of 2010, including the sharpest point of his dispute with Wadsworth. The volunteers, faced with seeing their HP 3000 server locked away in a battle between Perdue and his hosting vendor CCNBI, discussed walking away from the server rather than paying legal fees to recover the 3000 -- and help Perdue win his case. One letter he shared asked

What's wrong with preserving the right to pursue the return of property belonging to OpenMPE? Have you made an undisclosed, behind the scenes deal with [CCNBI] and their attorney in the mistaken belief that the MPE/iX source code is on that machine and that's how you'll get your hands on it?

Perdue goes on to accuse Wadsworth of working to close down the group. Wadsworth offers his reply as a series of questions which need good answers -- which the volunteers still have not supplied in enough detail to sketch out a business plan.

What has been done since 2008? Why the need for a corporation if there is no business plan and no revenue stream? The only reason it stays "open" is that it has no real costs. Come on, it operates on less than $5,000 a year. This is not a viable business model. Short of a total re-org and new mission, it is time to close it.

Wadsworth explains that he proposed an outline for developing a business plan, a document that led to creating committees of volunteers. "Last year as a road map to the business plan I proposed a well-written document for sub-committees and work groups. This proposal was adopted unanimously -- but nothing came of it. The groups did not do their work. And I have not seen another such plan from anyone else."

He added that the volunteers should look at how much time was given to develop a functional contributing asset. "This is why other board members left and called for the shut down," he said. Since late in 2009, the group has taken the resignations of its vice-chair John Wolff, secretary Donna Hofmeister and Paul Edwards. (In a matter that she reports is unrelated to the debates, Connie Selitto left in mid-year, citing a time crunch.) With Perdue's dismissal, that leaves the head count of volunteers at six: Connor and Wadsworth, Birket Foster, secretary and Invent3K re-booter Tracy Johnson, former Interex chair Alan Tibbetts, and Tony Tibbenham. At this time last year, nine members were on hand.

As one of the group's newest members, Wadsworth sounds dismayed at what he saw when he arrived among the volunteers.

When I joined the board I immediately saw what former board members had previously tried to address -- there is no semblance of a business plan. OpenMPE has no operating budget -- as defined by the by-laws.  Additionally the board saw no financial statements in 2010. These hard facts lead to the simple conclusion, there is no viable business here. No staff. No office. No assets. No inventory.

OpenMPE has never operated with offices, an element that's not exactly crucial to a business entity today. It's never said that it had staff; the closest it ever came was hiring Martin Gorfinkel to negotiate with HP during 2006, but the 3000 veteran didn't get many weeks to pursue that task. The servers, and that source code, were its most tangible assets last spring. One thing that's well stocked in its inventory is debate over its existence, something that the latest plea for contributions might settle.

04:28 PM in Homesteading, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink

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The article states: "The unsafe situation he refers to was efforts to get the source code into non-exclusive hands, a goal that vice-chairman Keith Wadsworth persued for several months before Perdue's removal."

That is an intriguing allegation BUT
1. Whose non-exclusive hands was the source code allegedly being put into?
2. By whom?
3. Who had control of the source code? Who else, if anyone, had access to it?
How was this possible if Perdue had possession of the code? The following sentences in the article implies that Perdue had exclusive control of the code.
4. Who is the source of these allegations?

Posted by: Cortlandt Wilson | Feb 25, 2011 6:20:06 PM

1. Wadsworth reported that he was trying to get source placed in an escrow location -- something as simple as a safe deposit box, until it was needed.
2. These were discussions and proposals among board members, by Wadsworth's account.
3. Matt Perdue had control of the source code from the start of the affair, signing as the trustee of the source in the HP license document, according to him.
Of course, if the board had voted to move the source code out of Perdue's possession and into independent hands, then he'd have to surrender it. Indeed, he did have exclusive control of the source code. Way up in the second paragraph the story states that "As a reminder, the volunteers had allowed check-writing, source storage, hosting duties and domain ownership to reside with Perdue."
4. He is offering allegations that the source should have remained in his hands, or in a board member's, although the latter is less clear.

Posted by: Ron Seybold | Feb 25, 2011 11:15:00 PM

No Ron, I sent the source code materials back to HP because I believed it would not be safe in the hands of the remaining OpenMPE "shop". Wadsworth wanted to distribute the source code materials in violation of the source code agreement to all "members" of OpenMPE and publish it on the Internet. You have this document prepared by Wadsworth; as I said it will be evidence in the lawsuit.

Posted by: Matthew Perdue | Feb 28, 2011 10:23:52 PM

Thanks for commenting, Matt. I hadn't heard from Keith about plans to make the source available to all OpenMPE members. That's a lot of people, 40-some even if you just count voters in the 2010 election. I don't know which document refers to such a plan -- as you know, I've seen quite a few. Maybe you could share this one, or just point it out to us?

Posted by: Ron Seybold | Mar 1, 2011 11:44:17 AM

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