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Update on the open-source gripe from yesterday: I decided to test the waters on paid support for open source software.


From the samba U.S. commercial support page, I found LinuxCare. They advertise being the first 24x7 support option for Linux and other open-source projects, and their web site is impressive (it turns out I’ve been reading Kernel Traffic and the samba Kernel Cousin on their site for a while now), so I gave them a call. A sales agent, Scott, explained the pricing to me — they do either email or phone support, with the email option running $40 per email, and with the phone option running $150 per hour, during normal business hours only. Once they get into source code authoring (“engineering time”), the prices escalate to $200 per hour.

(Scott also told be that, in matters related to samba, they end up going directly to Andrew Tridgell, the primary author of the software.)

I told him that it wasn’t easy to justify those prices for me — for 2 hours of engineering time, I could buy a copy of Windows NT to replace the samba box — he agreed, recommended that we try this out as an email support case, and see how things go. So away we went.

I spent a little while composing a long, detailed email (as was recommended by Scott, seeing as I was paying by the email), and I emailed it off at around 7:00 PM Eastern time.

Contact, and a Patch!

Late last night, around 1 or 2 AM Eastern time, I got email back from Andrew Tridgell that said that we did indeed find a bug; he included a patch for the source code to boot. (Andrew is in Australia; it was only a god-awful time of day for me to be checking my email, not him.)

After getting my land legs back on patching and installing samba, I got the new binaries compiled and installed, and voila!, no more bug. Andrew also mentioned in his email that they made some other changes to the general architecture of samba, for release in v3.0, that will make the specific network configuration that I run easier to configure.

The State of Things

So, I think that LinuxCare did a really good job on this — they asked for a detailed incident report, which I provided, and then they got it to the right person to fix the problem. When I originally called, I was forced to leave voicemail; Scott called me back within half an hour, and we got started immediately.

In addition, the network configuration that we run (and that brought the samba bug out of hiding) is a pretty rare configuration — I imagine that this bug wasn’t found earlier simply because not many people have implemented NetBIOS scope IDs on their heterogeneous Windows NT and samba networks. But when Andrew got my bug report, he never recommended to us that we change configurations, or do things differently, or anything like that — he fixed the bug, and in addition, told me about other developments that he had implemented for network configurations like ours. I really liked this, and he has gone a long way towards turning me into an evangelist for his software.

The only question that remains in all of this is how much I’m going to be charged by LinuxCare. I sent them one email, and up front, I told them that I knew that there would have to be source code rewriting to be done (I know enough C to read the samba source, and I was able to pinpoint the exact place in the code where the bug was occurring); that being said, we agreed that they wouldn’t contract out for anything beyond the email support without explicitly talking about it. So we’ll see — I’ll keep you posted.