It's been about six weeks since we had anything to report about OpenMPE. We've promised not to spread any more posts unless there's news. Several directors have resigned their positions in the volunteer group. Birket Foster has returned to the chairman's spot, due to one of the resignations.
Foster said that Jack Connor, who took on the chairman responsibilities early this year, decided he'd had enough of his volunteering for the homestead community. He joined the group in 2010 and led initiatives including a salable product and a spring fundraising effort. Connor's is one of three departures from the group this fall, starting with vice-chairman Keith Wadsworth in September. (Wadsworth came on board with Connor, as well Connie Sellitto.) Tracy Johnson is also not listed among the board directors on the group's website today.
Connor, who's been the most public to responding to queries about OpenMPE, updated the finances of an entity that wanted to raise $50,000 from the community this spring. "A great deal of the current funding has come from loans and contributions from the board members," said in March, when the fundraising was fresh. "This shows their commitment to the OpenMPE concept."
That concept has changed constantly over the almost nine years of its existence. It began with the desire to get HP to open up source code and technology about a server it was discontinuing. Then the mission was the creation of a 3000 emulator. MPE/iX licensing issues, as well as necessary but overlooked HP procedures for migration, because the longest-term mission.
This fall, the group is maintaining a 3000 server at Measurement Specialties, with a DR backup at The Support Group, a pair of donated Series 9x9 3000s that host useful software for homesteaders. 2011 was the Year of the Lawsuit for this group, legal action sparked by former treasurer Matt Perdue after he was voted out over a failure to pay a bill. He named Connor and Wadsworth in his lawsuit, along with the board as a whole. The legal expenses to respond in a Texas court were significant enough to consume much of the group's energy. A settlement was arranged, but its details have been sealed. Throughout 2011, monies listed as "contributions" were coming from these volunteers, in the majority. Some were considered loans, and some of those have not been repaid to the board members.
However, OpenMPE has more than board donations and resignations, an attempt to license its own source code copy of MPE/iX for development, and legal action as its legacy to date. This is also the group that pressed for the release of that MPE source code during 2002-08. Much more significantly, these volunteers made HP see the need for an emulator license for MPE/iX in 2005. That license is now essential to making the Stromasys HPA/3000 emulator a product ready for sale in a few months.
Combined with the Measurement Specialities and Support Group contributions of maintenance, administration and rackspace/power, plus servers from Client Systems, Foster says this group has retained the advocates for its missions. "It's helped, because people do believe this organization needs to exist for advocacy," Foster said. "Our most recent objective was to get the source code released, and that worked," he added. Seven companies now have source code licenses for the portions of MPE/iX that HP was able to license.
The history of OpenMPE has shown a lot of caution and detailed debate right from its beginnings, two months after HP curtailed the vendor's 3000 futures in 2001. Looking at the online minutes, there were concerns over using "Open" as well as "MPE" from board members at the very first meeting in January, 2002. Despite the confidentiality demand HP insisted upon, "we also did the advocacy for the transfer of licenses, and to include an emulator in that license transfer" through 2008, Foster notes.
The critics of this group -- and it has had them ever since HP made OpenMPE go into nondisclosure in 2004 -- say that nothing has emerged from OpenMPE but talk and promises. But if you believe HP wanted to create an emulator license on its own, or think some indie vendor made that happen with no OpenMPE help, you may as well believe believe HP's TouchPad is going to be a big hit this Christmas.
In some isolated places among the community, there have been calls to shut OpenMPE down. These are requests for closure of an office that doesn't exist, director compensation that never emerged, as well as a treasury that couldn't report a five-figure balance at any time over the last eight years. The assets of OpenMPE today appear to be volunteers' work on those two donated servers; the liabilities, legal fees unpaid.
Within two months of Wadworth's arrival on the board, he initiated his own probe into the group's by-laws and corporate organization. "His first report back to us was that we were improperly constituted," Foster says. "In the long run it turned out we were not improperly constituted," because the state of Maryland where the group was launched permits a non-shareholding, for-profit company. Wadsworth also introduced suggestions that led to creating Corporate Structure, Mission Statement, Membership Definition and Communications sub-committees. In the spring 2010, this group had nine members on its board. By the end of summer it could count seven, after Sellitto's departure as well as Ann Howard's.
After a fall 2010 that looked busy with setups of the community servers, and a report of a $5,600 balance, the trail of activity of OpenMPE drifts into executive sessions, starting with the dismissal of Perdue. A December note reports that Texas Bexar "County declined proscecution of [Perdue,] as the amount was too small a figure." Wadsworth's Orbit Software had paid legal fees to respond to the suit, so the other board members agreed to "contribute $1,000 each to repay Orbit due to fiduciary loss."
Within two weeks of the last December, 2010 meeting, openmpe.org went offline for several weeks. The board consisted of six members at the start of 2011. A fresh bank account had been opened and the group received a new invoice from Orbit. The January 6 minutes report a "Discussion of future purpose and organization of OpenMPE," and authorized consultants to be contracted.
Later that month, the group drafted a letter notifying HP that it had lost its copy of the source code, which was sent to Purdue's offices in 2010. Connor was voted in as new chair, a ballot cast among the other five board members. By February a call for fundraising emerged at the same time that the annual election of directors was deferred "until such time as we have completed changes to our by-laws, which will allow us to define membership, goals and mitigate risks for board members."
After a final $1,000 reported contribution, this April began with the group "soliciting opinions from former members of the board regarding a business plan. Three items to be included as salable products: INVENT3K subscriptions; an HPSUSAN change tool [NoWait/iX, created by Connor]; and commisioned sales of 3000 upgrades via Client Systems, which has donated servers to the group."
None of this group's critics have made a case for how the community could benefit from a shutdown. Invent3K could count 18 subscribers in April, of which just two had paid a $99 fee. Meeting minutes for April and May don't contain any details of group actions, although executive sessions are noted during this period when Perdue's lawsuit was settled. OpenMPE's reports of minutes go dark after May 12 on its website. No volunteers have joined as directors since March of 2010. Tony Tibbenham and Alan Tibbetts remain listed on the website as directors along with Foster.