The FreeBSD 'zine
February 2000 : Company Profile

FreeBSD at Walnut Creek CDROM
by Bob Bruce <[email protected]> & Jordan Hubbard <[email protected]>

Bob writes..

In early 1993, Walnut Creek CDROM was publishing CDROMs for MS-DOS, Windows, SunOS, and Linux. We also ran a public FTP site that, at the time, was running on a Sun SparcStation. I had heard about the 386BSD Project, a group of people working on a free version of BSD Unix. Rod Grimes contacted us and asked for some space on our FTP server to make the 386BSD source code available for download. I was happy to help, and gave him the disk space. I asked him if he would be interested in helping us put the 386BSD system onto a CDROM. He agreed to do it, and came to Concord, California to work on the CDROM, which we estimated would take about five weeks.

Jordan writes..

Which is all true, though there's another wrinkle to this which involves why Rod came to you guys in the first place. There was never any intention to put 386BSD on CDROM since Bill Jolitz reserved that right for himself and Dr Dobb's Journal, a point he made very clear to everyone. The principal 386BSD reference site for Bill and us was also actually at the time, not, and the main development machine was at TFS in Oakland (, a machine administered by Julian Elischer of "SCSI support for 386BSD" fame.

The idea of a CD distribution didn't really come up as a serious option for us (Rod, Nate, DG and myself) until we had firmly decided to "fork" from 386BSD and call ourselves FreeBSD. At that point, I went to my data CD collection on the wall back in Ireland and selected what I thought was the CD with the best "production values" among them, that being the AmiNet CD from Walnut Creek CDROM (I was also a big amiga-head back in those days). I liked the artwork and the general layout, certainly a lot better than I liked the "blank CD in a clear jewel box with inserted single sheet" sort of stuff I was getting from Germany and the US, and so I called the sales number at what was probably 3am California time and, of course, Jack instantly picked up the phone.

Jack was also fortunately in one of his "up" moods and immediately seized on the idea of a BSD-on-CD distribution to go compete with BSDI and Dr Dobbs and take over the Internet. He also expressed a strong desire for someone to come out and do the compilation work rather than trying to have someone "in house" do it and "oh by the way we could really use some work done around here if you know of someone technical" was sort of how we finished up the call. I then quickly emailed Rod and Nate about the conversation, Rod expressed an interest in being "that someone", information was exchanged, more conversations with Jack were had, and the rest is history. :-)

In summary, it was already "FreeBSD" when it came to Walnut Creek CDROM and 386BSD was always Bill's baby, never for the likes of anyone but Dr Dobbs to press onto CD and sell for more money than we ever charged for FreeBSD.

Bob continues..

Rod ended up staying nearly six months. Rod not only produced the first CDROM, but also converted our FTP and fileservers over to FreeBSD. We have used FreeBSD as our Server OS ever since.

In June 1994, Jordan Hubbard moved back to the US from Ireland, and accepted a job at Walnut Creek CDROM. His job was to work on FreeBSD and do regular releases that we could publish on CDROMs.

In October of 1994, David Greenman began working for Walnut Creek CDROM as the sysadmin for our FTP server. In addition to routine maintenance, David used the server as a testbed for improvements to FreeBSD. Over the years our server has set numerous records, and is currently the busiest single CPU server on the Internet, with more than 1.2 terabytes of downloads on a typical day.

During most of 1994 we were unable to publish any FreeBSD products because of the AT&T lawsuit. Once the lawsuit was settled, we began publishing again in January 1995. Many people were interested in getting regular updates, so we began offering the FreeBSD CDROMs on a subscription plan, and we also began publishing snapshots of the current track. In 1996 we teamed up with Greg Lehey, and began publishing FreeBSD books, including "Installing and Running FreeBSD" and "The Complete FreeBSD".

FreeBSD's popularity grew steadily, and by 1997, it was our most successful product. We began publishing a FreeBSD newsletter, but we still haven't got it onto a regular update schedule. In 1999 we sponsored the first FreeBSD Conference, in Berkeley, California. It was attended by over 325 people, and 18 exhibitors, which was the maximum the conference center could accommodate.

Walnut Creek CDROM uses FreeBSD for all our servers. Most of our developers use FreeBSD, and some of our sales people and shipping crew run FreeBSD. We hope to be a Windows-free workplace soon.

Beginning in the Fall of 1999 we increased our marketing budget for FreeBSD, in an effort to get the FreeBSD story out and grow our user base. We did more advertising, more publicity, and increased our tradeshow presence. We had a positive reaction to these efforts, so we will be doing even more during 2000. You should expect to see more FreeBSD products from Walnut Creek CDROM, including new FreeBSD books and applications. We will be sponsoring and organizing BSD'Con 2000, and are planning to attract up to 600 attendees this year.

I am very enthusiastic about FreeBSD. It is great software, created by skilled and dedicated developers. At Walnut Creek CDROM, we will be doing everything we can to help it succeed.

Bob Bruce, President, Walnut Creek CDROM

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