Rob Savoye

Rob Savoye explains his dedication to open source software like this: "I'm a very community-minded person. I've done a lot of community volunteer stuff."

Self-Employed Computer Consultant

Rob Savoye explains his dedication to open source software like this: "Im a very community-minded person. Ive done a lot of community volunteer stuff."

Sharing source code with other users is a big part of the open source movement. While some cynics see it as a way to rope users into doing the debugging and development for free, Savoye is more idealistic.

Savoye said he was attracted to open source because ". . . people were giving me stuff. They were helping me make my deadlines. I was paying them back by writing other software and giving that away for free. I kind of liked the community, were-all-in-this-together kind of thing."

Savoye has been writing open source software for the past 10 years and, unlike most open source contributors, has been able to make a living off his efforts.

He has written or helped write major projects like the DejaGnu, Nilo and other gritty but important parts of the network infrastructure. He was also involved with Cygnus Solutions, one of the most influential start-ups, which made its name by developing open source compilers.

Today, Savoye is working closely with Interact-TV, a Boulder, Colo., start-up aiming to dominate the market for television set-top boxes with an open source solution. The company has quickly assembled a competitive platform by linking a number of open source tool kits.

"Theyre a handful of people and they realized that if they used Linux, GUI [graphical user interface] tool kits, [Motion Picture Experts Group] encoders and other things, [they] could put together a TiVo-like box in under a year," he explained.

The company hopes it will be able to unify the various set-top box manufacturers by providing an open platform. Proprietary solutions often run into deeper political problems when companies get into arguments over who owns what.

Savoye has made the bulk of his hard-earned money by working on software for embedded systems. In many cases, the companies make their money from the hardware they sell, so they dont object to sharing the code with others.

"A lot of companies I talk to, they dont really care," he said. "I tell them, Ill do this application for you, but I would like to open source it. I dont think it affects them very much."

Still, choosing to follow an open source path is not always easy. While many hardware manufacturers have no problem open sourcing the tools he develops, software developers cant always simply give away their bread and butter.

"Theres a limited number of people who can get paid doing open source software these days," he warned, adding that people should "follow their heart. If theyre really dedicated and they can live cheap, then go open source."

Then he ended the interview because he had to go to the Mountain Peoples Co-op for his weekly volunteer shift.