I’ve spoken with Marek about this. We believe it’s important to clear up any misconceptions regarding members of the Qubes team working on Wildland.
We don’t want anyone to get the wrong impression or assume the worst. Some people might assume that we care more about other projects than about Qubes, that we’re bored of Qubes after working on it after so many years, or that we’re allowing ourselves to be distracted by something shiny and new rather than the boring but important “public service” work of maintaining Qubes.
None of this could be further from the truth. We still care deeply about Qubes. We’re still excited to work on it every day (well, most days ). We’re not bored of it. We’re not distracted by the shiny and new over the tried and true. It’s precisely because we understand that Qubes has become the secure bedrock of our digital lives that we’re highly motivated to maintain and improve it.
So, then, what’s the deal with Qubes and Wildland?
First, some background information: Invisible Things Lab (ITL) is a private company. Historically, ITL has donated countless developer hours to the Qubes OS Project since the very beginning. This is why many of the people on the Qubes team are paid by ITL. If this arrangement didn’t exist, Qubes wouldn’t exist. I can’t even begin to estimate the dollar value of the number of dev hours ITL has donated to Qubes over all these years. No other donor has come close.
Now, as a company, ITL has to pay its staff somehow. Obviously, Qubes is not a net income source. It’s a net expense. So where does the money used to pay these developers come from? Contracts. ITL has taken on many contracts for security work over the years. These pay the bills and keep the lights on, and they pay for most of the developers who work on Qubes. Wildland is one of those contracts!
However, Wildlind is not just any ordinary contract, because Joanna is not just any ordinary ITL client! Joanna is a founder of both ITL and Qubes. It’s only natural that those individuals on the Qubes team who are also working on Wildland hold the highest respect for Joanna and her work and like working with her.
These people are human beings with limited time who have to eat, sleep, and occasionally rest and spend time with their families, so obviously spending some time working on Wildland means some time not spent working on Qubes. But this can’t be helped. There is simply not enough funding to pay them to work on Qubes full time. While we’re immensely grateful for the donations we receive, the reality is that they don’t even come close to being able to keep the Qubes devs paid in the long run. Another source of income is required in order to keep Qubes alive, and that means contracts for ITL. (This point is not specific to Wildland. If it weren’t Wildland, it would have to be a different contract.) Finally, downsizing the team is not a realistic option, as it’s already difficult to keep everything running.
Admittedly, progress on Qubes 4.1 has been slower than we’d like, and this part of the explanation why. Nonetheless, progress is being made. For those interested in the details and in tracking this progress in real time, please see the Qubes R4.1-rc1 project in qubes-issues.