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Apache Software Foundation Member Ken Coar Interview

Dec 24, 1999, 00:08 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Emmett Plant)

By Emmett Plant
Editor, LinuxToday

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 Foundation!

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 it."

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 Development Methodology.'"

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 at least."

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 at ApacheCon.Com."

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 company."

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.