Ratio Computers loves your work!

Dirk Hohndel dirk at hohndel.org
Mon May 28 11:54:32 PDT 2018

Dear Riccardo,

> On May 28, 2018, at 12:22 AM, Riccardo Brama <riccardo.b at ratio-computers.com> wrote:
>    it seems to me you felt my email as something aiming to harm either
> your work or your freedom. I'm sorry for that and be sure I was not
> meaning anything like that.

I wouldn't go that far. I read parts of your email as following a pattern we
have gone down before and I wanted to make sure that this time I avoid
misunderstandings. So my response tried to be very clear about the things
we (or... I) don't want to do. Email is an imperfect medium for communication,
so my response likely sounded much harsher than it was intended to be.
I was hoping to be "clear", not "insulting".

> What's true is exactly the opposite: we
> would love to contribute in some way in it, providing documentation,
> specification, information and our support.

That is wonderful to hear.

>    Since my time is limited I thought that writing in this ML could
> have helped me in finding someone who:
>    1. Knows the project well;
>    2. Is willing to work on it implementing some new features improving
> the support for our dive computers;
>    3. Is available to collaborate with us on such themes.

This has traditionally be extremely hard to do. The firmware upgrade code that
we have has been written by pretty much one individual (and a Google Summer
of Code student whom he mentored). And that one individual has had sadly
extremely limited time to contribute to Subsurface in the past year+

Getting someone else to understand that part of the code and understand
the requirements for your dive computer will take time and motivation and
most likely still some help from some of the core developers.

We have other areas where we have exactly the same problem and no way
to identify developers willing to work on this :-(

>    I know open source projects are usually lead and/or developed by
> people yet having a well paid job, but maybe, out there, someone is
> interested in a position taking care of developing such enhancements
> with us.

We could certainly try to help you find someone - but I'm not optimistic, TBH.

>>> We love seeing involvement from the dive computer manufacturer, it tends to
>>> make many things easier for us too.
>> No doubt that is true.
>    That was our aim: making things easier and giving people something
> they love.

Again, wonderful to hear.

>> So: I have no problem with someone else using Subsurface for whatever
>> purpose they want (as long as they comply with the license of
>> Subsurface and the components that we use - i.e. make the full source
>> code of the version that you ship available to any user, among other
>> things). But I politely request that you change the branding and that
>> you provide your own support. You can call it "Ratio-Divelog (based on
>> Subsurface)" or just "Ratio-Divelog". But please don't call the thing
>> that you ship "Subsurface". And please don't point your customers to
>> us for support. 
>    I never thought to point our customers to you for support, be sure.
> Anyway, got that: if you prefer we can start a spin-off of Subsurface
> for our customer's needs.

Sadly you would be far from the first dive computer manufacturer to point
support requests our way. That's why I was so "clear" in my statement.
I really believe that your customers are best served if you have your own
build of Subsurface that you support and for which you have done Q&A
with your different dive computer models and firmware versions. And in
that case it is simply easier for your customers if that version is marked
as such. I'm not asking you to create a different project. I'm just suggesting
that it will work much better for everyone involved if your customers can
easily tell that they are indeed using your official version.

I actually tried to help one of the dive computer makers that I mentioned 
above to do just that and gone through some effort to make it easier to
"re-brand" Subsurface. I'm sure that code has bit-rotted some in the time
since I did that, but it shouldn't be too hard to make it sufficiently obvious
to the user that they are using your version.

>> So yeah, this is where Linus and I disagree. You want firmware update
>> support? Go ahead, implement it, publish the sources (see above about
>> the license requirements), and we'll decide if we want to include
>> this. But no, we won't do this for you. 
>    Ok, sorry for having suggested that. I thought it could have been
> easier to find out some skilled people within the Subsurface developers
> community instead of starting things ground up. Nevertheless I will try
> to see how we can act to do that.

OK, reading my own words again yeah, that was too rude and negative.
My apologies.

I am happy that you want to engage with the Subsurface community.
And I certainly want you to be successful. I guess I'm just a little weary.
There's a German saying "das gebrannte Kind scheut das Feuer", or
"once bitten, twice shy".

So let's try and find a way that works for both our community and for
Ratio Computers.


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