I assume that many of you will have been reading the recent Linux Questions thread “Donating to Slackware” and in particular Patrick Volkerding’s reply where he explains that the Slackware Store (an entity independent of Slackware with which he has a business arrangement involving a percentage of sales profit and medical insurance) has not been paying him any money for the last two years and that most likely all the PayPal donations through the Store have gone into the pockets of the Store owners. Read that thread if you have not done so yet.
Basically Pat is broke. That thread lists a PayPal address which Pat eventually shared and where donations can be sent directly to him, so that he can fix his roof, his airco, his crashing server and his wife’s car. That would be a start.
That LQ thread is also perused to discuss possible ways forward for Pat (setting up a Patreon account, or a business PayPal account, etc) so that he can support his family and continue working on Slackware. To me it looks like the Store will be a thing of the past unless they change their attitude. Switching from a business model where revenue is generated from optical media sales, to a model where supporters set up a recurring payment in exchange for the prolonged existence of their favorite distro, and possibly get Pat to write up some hands-on stories as a reward, may ultimately benefit Pat, and Slackware, more than the way things are handled at the moment. If you are doubting the financial impact of a recurring payment through Patreon or PayPal, look at it this way: if you donate one euro per month, you will probably not even notice that the money is shifted out. But with 2000 people donating one euro per month, Pat would have a basic income (pre-tax) already. Not a lot, but it’s a start. The 2000 people is a rough estimate of the people who ordered a DVD or CD through the store: the owners told Pat that the earnings of the 14.2 release were 100K (and Pat got 15K out of that, go figure!). Divide that through ~50 euro per DVD, results in 2000 people. Then there’s all these people who donated money through the Store or bought shirts, caps and stickers. I think the amounts of money even a small community (like us Slackware users) can contribute should enable Pat to shed his financial worries. The fact that the Slackware Store basically has been ripping off the hand that feeds them is enraging and inexcusable.
This is all about a community standing up to provide support for what (or who) bonds us together.
Very important to take from Pat’s reply is that he’s “never really been in this for the money” but without income, Slackware’s development is ultimately affected too. I hesitated writing this article, even after Patrick’s LQ post, because it is Patrick’s life and I won’t decide for him how to live it. But I am passionate about Slackware, and care a great deal for Pat, Andrea and Briah, and wish them nothing but the best.
So, in that LQ thread and in private talks, I guess that there will be a lot of discussions as well about the shape and form of a future Slackware. Should it shrink to a “core distro” on which others can build their repositories, for instance offering Plasma5, MATE, Cinnamon desktop environments? How to integrate these external repositories so that a new install could effortlessly be expanded with extra functionality? Should Plasma5 be included? Should PAM be included? And so forth. Lots of exciting developments in stock!
As for KDE Plasma5, I talked with Pat about the way forward and what his plans are with regard to Slackware and Plasma5. Pat indicated that he would at this moment be in favor of going with the latest and greatest instead of adopting LTS (Long Term Support) releases of KDE, because of the reports from several Slackware Plasma5 users that several usability bugs have been solved in the latest releases (part of those improvements can be attributed to the newer Qt5). If Pat decides not to adopt Plasma5 into Slackware, then as long as he provides a solid base in Slackware 15.0 I can keep providing Plasma5 as an add-on through my ‘ktown’ repository. That “solid base” would at least have to be Qt5, its supporting libraries, and recompiled/upgraded phonon, poppler, harfbuzz etc packages to add Qt5 support so that I can cut my “deps” section substantially and no longer have to provide alternate versions of packages that are also part of Slackware but lack required functionality.
And that is why my next update of ‘ktown‘ will see the removal of the LTS software versions in the ‘latest‘ sub-repository and at the same time, the bleeding edge ‘testing‘ sub-repository will be promoted to the ‘latest‘. The ‘testing’ and ‘latest’ will then contain the same packages, so that everyone will upgrade to the same July ’18 packages.
I still need to start collecting the new KDE source archives, sync my virtual machines to latest -current and start compiling. Don’t expect packages before the weekend…