Apache Software Foundation Member Ken Coar Interview
Dec 24, 1999, 00:08 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Emmett Plant)
Re-Imagining Linux Platforms to Meet the Needs of Cloud Service Providers
By Emmett Plant
In the Open Source universe, no single product has proven the
Linux platform more than Apache, the web server used for over 50%
of all of the world's websites, including my favorite Linux news
site, LinuxToday.com. The Apache project has acted as a testament
to Open Source on all counts; scalability, portability and in the
end, volunteer support.
While I was at The Bazaar in New York, I met Ken Coar, one of
the core leaders of the Apache project. Ken is a friendly guy, with
a big beard, a big hat, and a yo-yo holster on his belt. I shared a
cab with him over to the Jacob Javits center and discovered that he
makes a wonderful interviewee.
So, after we got back from the show, I called Ken at IBM and set
up an interview. Ken was in the midst of getting over a cold and he
was extremely gracious with his time. So, without further ado,
here's my interview with Ken Coar from the Apache Software
Hey, who are you?
"Hey, you contacted me. I gave you my card! IBM pays me to
work full-time on Apache, and a lot of my time has been going to
planning the Apachecon 2000
conference in March."
You and I met in the cab line at the Hotel Empire on the first
day of The Bazaar, Earthweb's Open Source conference in New York
City. What did you think of the show?
"I thought it was good. It was a little lightly attended, I
thought, but it was the first time. I talked to the president of
Earthweb, who said they weren't expecting to turn a profit on
What panels did you participate in at the show?
"I was on the 'Open Source: Future of the Community' panel
along with Bruce Perens, Richard M. Stallman, Eric S. Raymond, and
others. I was on that, and I gave a session, 'The Apache
How did the session go?
"It went well. There was one person who came in and was
confused as to what it was about. But everybody else seemed to like
it, or else they dissembled well."
What's new with Apache?
"Well, we're girding ourselves for the 1.3.10 release; don't
know when that's going to happen, but that's what's going to come
out next. It's a pretty sure bet it's not to happen until January
What features are going in 1.3.10?
"Primarily bug fixes, but we hope to have a port to OpenVMS
in there and there's a new directive for specifying a character set
on documents; adding the ability for the Script directive to handle
HTTP methods that the server doesn't know about; a port for OS/390
and some enhancements to directory listings... I think those are
the new feature-like items."
What's planned for ApacheCon?
"Well, we've got keynotes from SUN and IBM, 41 sessions
covering E-commerce, Perl, PHP, the past and future of Apache...
Wednesday through Friday, March 8-10th in Orlando. See the Web site
What excites you about open source and/or free software?
"It's an opportunity for hobbyists to have an impact on the
technology. Someone who hacks for fun at night can have as much
impact as a wage-slave mired deep in the bowels of some giant
How long have you been a hobbyist?
"I've been a hobbyist for roughly 20 years. My first
exposure to a computer was in sixth grade in 1972, and it was to
something that wouldn't be honored with that name now. Then I moved
on to programmable calculators in high school, and then a Wang 2200
with 4k of memory and no disk. Then I cadged accounts out of the
computing center director at University of Massachusetts."
How about with Apache?
"I'd been using NCSA, and a friend asked me if I knew
anything about Apache, if I'd heard of it, and I hadn't. So, I
looked into it, tried it, wanted to know how to get it to do
something, and contacted Rob Hartill of The Apache Group for help,
and to find out if this 'Apache Group' thing was a joinable entity.
He tried to dissuade me from joining the mailing list -- there were
lots of lurkers, and he said I should stay away unless I thought I
could contribute something -- but I joined it anyway. This was in
December of 1996. In January, I started contributing to the mailing
list and in April I was nominated for write-access to the CVS
repository. In August of 1996, I was invited to join the core team.
I wrote 'Apache Server for Dummies' in 1997. In December of 1998, I
ended up being the chairman of the conference committee, and in
March I became the Vice President of Conference Planning of the
newly-incorporated Apache Software Foundation."
Are you having fun?
"When I don't have to deal with lawyers, yeah. I can only
think of two lawyers with whom it's fun to deal. Let 'em guess who
the are." [laughs]
What do you do in your offtime?
"What's that? I spend time with my family, play with our
cats, play video games, watch videos, work on genealogy, and
generally hack on code for fun. I'm also getting more into things
like writing articles and reviewing books."
What's next from Ken Coar?
"I just turned in my first column for LinuxPlanet.com, and I
contributed to 'Apache Server Unleashed,' which should be coming
out in February from Sams. As for the rest.. Who knows what the
future may hold?"
Thanks again, Ken, and we look forward to your new book and
version 1.3.10 of Apache.