It was 3am on November 28 2001. I was sitting in Abuja, Nigeria. I had, had a very real problem that day. I needed a [tag]cybercafe[/tag] management suite for [tag]Linux[/tag], which would coincidentally work well with the (then still very new) LTSP project. No suitable candidate had been found – so I wrote one. It was simple, but it did the job.
With my usual flair for naming things I called it ¨AJ´s [tag]internet cafe[/tag] management toolkit for LTSP¨, and with my usual love for all things free, and the realization that I had done it way past normal work hours, I released it to the world under the GPL.
It was included on the CoverDVD of LinuxFormat the following month. Which was the point where I think I first began to realize just how badly the Linux world was in need of such a program. It didn´t have the glamor of a bash-shell but it was needed – and I was the only one who had actually done anything about that need.
That first suite was made up of about 10 small commandline programs, hard to setup, and limitted to run only on LTSP systems – but it would grow.
Not long afterward it received a much nicer name – direqcafe. It would continue to be developed under that name for 5 years. It had a steady following of users over 3 major versions (with a whole bunch of small minor version in between) and I think was generally a very, very successful free software project, at least for a niche market.
In September of 2006 however, things began to change. New horizons in my life meant that I now had more and more reason to explore new horizons for my little pet project.
I began with a grounds up redesign -the purpose of which was to rid myself of the limitations of the earlier project. The design was all encompassing, it would be multiplatform, backed by an SQL server with every database action completely abstracted inside a library and it´s own user-database completely independent of the underlying operating system. It would be highly extensible and it would be so damn cool.
The new project was dubbed ¨[tag]zybacafe[/tag]¨ and had one alpha and one beta release. This however was also a time when my personal life changed. As December neared, I quit my job and began a new career as an entrepeneur.
ZybaCafe was forgotten. For a long time, nobody worked on it, users were begging for features and nobody was answering their pleas. But I had made one big mistake with ZybaCafe, I had let a third party have the copyright. Sure the main thing was [tag]GPL[/tag]´d but the addons were not.
I realise that there was only one of two futures. Either somebody would fork zybacafe, or it would be doomed, ultimately replaced by something (hopefully), and since everything else out there was badly maintained, slow-moving and generally as basic as my program had started out to be (without the five year evolution in the meantime)… this seemed tragic.
So I decided to fork it myself. Take the GPL´d part and restart the project anew, replace the proprietary bits from scratch, add the features I wanted and refuse the ones that don´t belong.
The result was [tag]OutKafe[/tag]. Now most of this history is (at least partially) known to most of you, though I don´t think I´ve ever given it all in one clear chronological timeline like this. Which must make you wonder why I felt the need to post it all today.
The reason is that today marks the release of version 5.2.0 of OutKafe – and I have a sense today of my project´s maturity that I have been aiming for, for a long time.
The newest features are all focussed on letting the users adapt it to their environments, themability and translateability making up the core of this.
It has become stable, fast and easy to use with a growing userbase and several other developers actively helping me grow it.
It has also (through paid development of specific features or grandscale customizations) become my largest source of income. My baby has grown up I guess.
Of course, it´s far from over. This version is nice, but no doubt there will be bugs discovered, people will look at these features and help me see where the next obvious gaps are. It will keep growing, evolving – and more and more cybercafe owners will start to see Linux as a viable solution in their business, ultimately a goal which I for one think has perhaps just a tiny bit of nobility to it.