Updated According to six concerned CentOS developers, the Red Hat Enterprise Linux clone is poised on the edge of the abyss.
In an open letter posted to the CentOS website and the project mailing list, six fellow developers accuse project co-founder Lance Davis of putting the entire project at risk by disappearing from everyday involvement without ceding control to others.
"You seem to have crawled into a hole...and this is not acceptable," the letter reads. "Please do not kill CentOS through your fear of shared management of the project."
According to the letter, Davis has seemingly disappeared while still maintaining sole control of the CentOS domain and sole "Founders" rights in the project's IRC channels. "This is not proper," the letter says - twice.
It also says that Davis hasn't followed through on a promise to provide an update on the project's financial situation, complaining that phone calls to him have gone unanswered for two weeks. And according to one blog post, Davis hasn't been involved in the project since sometime last year.
"Clearly the project dies if all the developers walk away," says the letter, penned by fellow co-founder and developer Russ Herrold. "Please contact me, or any other signer of this letter at once, to arrange for the required information to keep the project alive at the 'centos.org' domain."
Efforts to contact Lance Davis were unsuccessful. Herrold tells The Reg that the open letter was a "last resort, not a first resort."
Herrold co-founded the CentOS project with Davis and others around 2003. "The CentOS project is something I helped found a million years ago," he tells us. "If you're going to engage and not go forward with promises you make, you have to step aside. That's the way the world works. It's particularly the way free and open source works."
Some of the six have also discussed the situation on their personal blogs. According to one post, Davis also maintains control over the PayPal and Google AdSense accounts used by the CentOS websites.
"This basically means that all money that comes in through those channels went directly to him, not to the project" the post reads. "We again have no control over it. We repeatably asked Lance for a overview of the finances of the project, but he never showed that to the rest. We have no idea how much money flowed into the project."
If the developers are unable to resolve their differences with Davis, the post continues, they will move the project to a new domain. "The project depends too much on one person and a lot of things are invisible for the project and the community. And this is unacceptable. We need to be transparent and Lance is preventing this," it says.
"We still like to make things right and give Lance the change to correct all this and open up. If not we will continue without him and get the project back on track. And yes, this might potentially mean that we loose the centos.org domain and all the money already received by the project through the ads and PayPal. This is also what I regret the most, that money that people have donated, thinking they are helping the project, flowed to 1 person. I sincerely apologize to everyone for this."
According to another post, Davis "vanished" from the project sometime last year. And it too says Davis has sole access to the project's PayPal and Google AdSense accounts.
The project released the latest version of its RHEL clone, version 5.3, in April of this year.
Red Hat Enterprise Linux is a commercial distro, available through a RedHat paid subscription, but the source code is publicly available, and this is the basis for CentOS, available free of charge. Technical support is provided by the community, with the project relying entirely on donations for cash.
Update: This story has been updated with comments from Russ Herrold