With the news that OpenBSD, which maintains and develops OpenSSH, is struggling with financial problems, it has become clear that Free Software needs more than just the support of users and developers. Free Software needs the financial contribution of corporations such as Apple that use Free Software and software licensed under the GPL.
The secure shell, or OpenSSH, has become the standard tool when one is travelling over the wires from one computer to another. It was designed to replace both telnet and ftp which transmit passwords and user names as plain text which is a security problem. OpenSSH encrytps “communications between two untrusted hosts over an insecure network” enabling computer users to safely use computing resources located anywhere in the world.
Apple provides OpenSSH because OS X is built on the BSD framework. This is very convenient and contributes to Apple’s operating system an extra layer of security, in turn further enhancing its well-deserved reputation for stability and security. Other companies, like Sun, use OpenSSH to develop various programs and functionality for their respective operating systems.
What Apple, Sun and SCO, as well as other companies, do not do is contribute resources to the OpenSSH project, and Free Software in general, proportionate to their use of Free Software. While there are several strong arguments as to why they ought to, perhaps none is more compelling than the preservation of an alternative computing infrastructure. Alternative to Microsoft, and alternative to costly proprietary solutions. An infrastructure which provides security, freedom of choice, freedom to develop and use as one sees fit. This alternative infrastructure is where Apple turned when they were seeking a new operating system.
The legacy of Next and FreeBSD saved Apple when Apple was struggling, now it is time for Apple and others to save OpenBSD by providing financial support.