[ISN] Open-source projects grab dot-com dropouts

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Mon Feb 18 2002 - 22:50:25 PST

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    By Robert Lemos 
    Staff Writer, CNET News.com
    February 18, 2002, 3:50 PM PT
    SAN FRANCISCO -- Open-source programmers gathered this past weekend to
    share ideas and dreams about new methods for distributing encrypted
    data across the Internet and plans for a peer-to-peer wireless
    Aside from a common love of computing, the crowd gathered in the dim
    confines of a night club at the edge of Multimedia Gulch here shared
    another trait: most of them are unemployed.
    While most of the programmers here were caught up in the dot-com
    frenzy not so long ago, the collapse of the market has left many
    skilled programmers without work--and with a lot of free time to
    "Right now you are in the worst time if you are trying to do what
    programmers were doing three years ago," said Brad Templeton, chairman
    of the digital-rights advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation.
    The down economy has breathed new life into open-source software
    projects as unemployed software engineers pitch in. This weekend's
    CodeCon conference focused mainly on peer-to-peer projects, or ways to
    improve upon and expand Internet networks between groups of computer
    "Peer-to-peer is where the exciting stuff is right now," said
    conference founder and organizer Bram Cohen, who said he too is
    looking for a job. Cohen's own project, BitTorrent, focuses on how to
    create large peer-to-peer networks that don't get bogged down in
    network bandwidth bottlenecks.
    Another peer-to-peer application, called Reptile, attempts to create a
    quality barometer for Internet content. In its current incarnation,
    the program gathers stories that a user is most interested in, based
    on user recommendations and the "status," or reputation, of those who
    have recommended the stories.
    Fen Labalme, project leader for OpenPrivacy.org, believes that
    eventually the Reptile application could be expanded to become a
    security program of sorts, one that could alert software programs to
    which data is trustworthy. If viable, such a system could become a
    peer-to-peer competitor for Microsoft's Passport, a building block of
    the software giant's .Net strategy.
    "It's incredible to me how many intelligent people, who are working on
    great projects, are unemployed," said Labalme. Labalme and his
    business partner, programmer Kevin Burton, are both between jobs.
    The conference's focus on the "independent" programmer, another
    much-bandied euphemism for unemployed, helped to draw nearly 200
    "Most of the major conferences are prohibited in price to actual
    programmers and technologists," said Len Sassaman, an independent
    communications security consultant and a conference organizer. "We
    didn't want business presentations, but actual code and demos."
    While almost all of the programs are developed as open-source
    projects, the conference is less about that, said Sassaman.
    "Open source isn't as much of a central issue as a basis for a lot of
    the work being done," he said.
    Paul Baranowski, project leader for the peer-to-peer anonymous
    browsing application, Peekabooty, likened the project phenomenon to
    business man going back to school during hard times.
    "All the security guys are starting a project," said Baranowski, who
    is also newly "independent."
    "They can hone their skills, network and be better off for future
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