"Comrades, we declare the Revolution... in a coffeehouse"

This is a cross-post from my blog on the Yocto Project web site. Please visit us there for more information about the project and our work on embedded Linux.

In a classic 1966 science fiction novel [1], some of the moon’s colonists are hiding out in a hotel room in Luna City in the year 2075, and realize that the lunar colony is headed for inevitable chaos and death. So a group of four colonists decided to declare a revolution and they began to formulate their ambitious plans to overthrow the status quo.

This was a favorite book of mine as a kid, probably one of the first I remember reading.

The history of world politics in the winter of 2011 may well be written in terms of revolutions in North Africa, much as the European revolutions of 1848 [2] changed that continent forever. But in my personal history, I will remember 2011 in terms of a much smaller revolution that was hatched by a group of four in a coffee shop in April of 2010.

To be specific, on Wednesday April 14, 2010 at 7:30AM, in a Starbucks Coffee shop on Webster Street in San Francisco, four people had a little meeting over coffee and snacks and plotted our own little out-of-the-box project.

This was the very first meeting of Paul Anderson, Dirk Hohndel, Richard Purdie and myself. We wanted to do something new and revolutionary in the world of embedded Linux. Thinking back on that day, we set out some pretty ambitious goals:

    • We planned on doing our first public release in October of 2010, in just six month's time. The features would be based on an engineering meeting that had been held the previous December. This was considered really aggressive at the time, because we only had about half of our planned engineers on board.


    • This release would have enough features contributed from LDAT (Wind River's build system) to enable Wind River to use it as their upstream for Wind River Linux.


    • We would have two releases per year in a six-month cadence, with security patches and the like in between.


    • We agreed that this had to be a totally collaborative effort equally shared amongst the major embedded silicon and software players with nobody favored.


    • Thinking really outrageously now, we thought we ought to have all of these big players (many of them arch competitors) stand up together and declare their support of the collaboration. So for example, we decided not to launch at any one company's big corporate event because we thought we needed totally neutral ground on which to declare our union.


    • We also agreed on a number of other things, like regular face-to-face meetings, weekly calls and project artifacts like a feature list and project schedule. We also agreed to have a common test framework for embedded Linux (although this one has yet to be achieved).

Looking back on this list, it’s amazing and wonderful to think about all that we accomplished since that little meeting in a coffee shop in San Francisco. We might have been calling it by some other temporary name at the time, but it is now the thing we call the Yocto Project.

Now in April of 2011 as we commemorate the first anniversary of that Starbucks revolution, we also celebrated our union with the embedded Linux world, announced our project Advisory Board and our v1.0 release of the Yocto Project.

Future celebrations will not be about what that small group did in a coffee shop, but about what the much bigger project has achieved through true collaboration, cooperation and mutual effort.

But for a moment this month, my heart is truly warmed by that cup of coffee I had a year ago.

[1] “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert A. Heinlein
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revolutions_of_1848

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