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The history of OpenPLi

The beginnings:
Around the year 2003, the former chairman of the PLi association and the eponym of image, purchased a new satellite receiver which introduced a completely new concept: the Dreambox 7000. After a very succesful period with the Nokia 9500 satellite-receivers, this new box turned out to be a very succesful successor of the technique used by Nokia. After ‘playing’ a bit with the different firmware image available at that time, he felt that those images where not introducing something really ‘new’. He checked out images like Gemini, RuDream and other alternatives, but in his view none were it. Now what?

Where to start:
With regards to programming skills, there was no problem. He was fluent in multiple programming languages, but to familiarize himself with the internals of Enigma, that was quite an undertaking! Eventually, after numerous experiments and in cooperation with other well known names in the scene, a new image emerged.

The next step was to come up with a name. Up until this point, nobody had thought about this. The first brain-farts were exactly that, nothing to be repeated. Eventually it turned out to be very simple. At his workplace, there were several people with the same first name. As login they used a three-letter code, and his was “PLi”. So the images were called after this code. To make it special, an attempt was undertaken to register this as a trademark. Unfortunately, it was already registered, other were there first. A check on the interwebs shows us that it looks a lot like “Practicing Law Institute”. So the registered mark was out of the question. Unfortunately the logo’s were already created, and PLi® was born.

Brand awareness:
To introduce his brainchild to the community it has to be distributed via the bulletinboards that were available on the internet at that time. Most of them were known mainly because of the creative or educational use of the Enigma receiver. Boards like the Dutch DuckFiles and Hutsefruts. These were well known boards, but the also Dutch board Sat4All started to grow in popularity. Soon, quite a few members of the community (and that includes me) became intrested in the Dreambox too, and wanted him to continue with his images. At times, the bootlogo was pretty odd, I can remember that at one point a view of his family members were immortalized on the bootlogo… This only increased the number of people that wanted to wor on the image too. Dream Multimedia became, in a large part due to the popularity of the DM7000 and later models like the DM500 and DM5620, a big success. A large part of that success undoubtedly because of the existence of alternative images, and the large developer population behind them.

Note from Peter Lindeman (a.k.a. PLi®):
“I actually started on what would be the first PLi image together with Ronaldd, after I got in touch with the Dreambox DM7000 via the Sat4All forum. After working on my own for a while, I got into contact with RadxNL, to try certain things. Together with him I went to a Sat4All user meeting in Breda,’ which must have been sometime 2004. At this meeting, I met Mirakels (also still active in the team), after which the first cooperation started. Not much later the well known “Hydra” team quit, after which a lot of former “Hydra” team members joined PLi. This is how it came about. What is very funny, and not known to a lot of people, is that I owned the first DM7020 in the Netherlands. I managed to get it via a contact abroad who shipped it to me. For reasons not known to me, certain people in the “Dutch scene” where “not amused”, not knowning how I managed to get hold of one.

Let’s leave it at that. ;-)”

The expansion:
When at the end of 2005 the renowned and succesful “Hydra” team was dissolved due to circumstances, part of the team joined the PLi-team, which started the success that is PLi. Initially the image, like all others of that time, was closed source. Within the team there were daily builds, but these were not available to the public, and neither was the sourcecode. About twice a year major releases were announced, with names like Amber, Beryl, Citrine, Diamond, Emerald, Flubber, Helenite, Iolite and the latest in this series, Jade. The community was always looking out for these releases, since it meant the long wait for bugfixes and new features was over. For the team this was a joyous event too. Weeks before a release there always was a huge discussion about the new name. At release time, all members gathered in an MSN chatroom, and kept each other informed of all release activities as they happened. Once released everyone watched the download counters go up, and every time we were amazed how fast that went. After the release of Jade, we stopped with the “gemstone” series, but also stopped having formal releases. From that moment, the PLi team decided they would adhere to the open source license, and publish all source code, even if all other image builders did not (and could now use PLi code). The name of the image was changed to OpenPLi to reflect this occasion. Maybe interesting to report was that the way the new images were announced was quite revolutionary within the satellite scene. When introducing Iolite, the announcement was done in the form of a Youtube video. In that time, late 2006, PLi also started with their own internet forum, to provide active support to its users. This forum was known as https://openpli.org, a domain name still owned by the team today. OpenPLi kept on growing, and in april 2008 the team decided a more formal structure was needed, with proper management to deal with the non-technical side of the team. Out of this the PLi Association was born, a not-for-profit association registered in the Netherlands. All former PLi team members became member of this new associated, and a board was selected to run it. Later, this was expanded with international developers and testers, to provide better support for the continuous growth of the userbase outside the Netherlands.

The open-source concept:
Somewhere at the end of 2008, is considered within the team whether “we” found that the sources of the image ‘should be’ public. In other words, should we really go on developing our firmware, but then in an actual “open way”? Eventually, after a test period, in which the potential of Git was tested, PLi announced that the open-source thought should be used in the right way and due to that thought, that the sources were public as from that moment. OpenPLi was a fact. Over the years, this had quite an impact. Incidentally, not only by the ‘open’ go from PLi, but also by the large increase based on Linux receivers, which were imported from Korea and China by the boatload, increased interest in this segment receivers and hence the number of ‘developers’ of firmware. A large part of them used at that time, and still are using the sources of our image..

Now, more than a decade after purchasing the original Dreambox 7000 by the eponym of image, I feel we have to think for a moment about the open source concept. When we decided to go “Open” and publish all source, we hoped other teams would follow, and in the true open source spirit Enigma would be development by a large distributed group of developers, all contributing to a common cause, like “the linux of DVB”! We regret that this hasn’t materialized. There are several well known teams that use the OpenPLi source as the basis to develop their own product, and there are many more that just take the source and can’t even bother to change the brand name. We feel that there is still a long way to go, before people can move ego’s and craving for recognition aside and start working towards a common goal. It would put an end to continuously reinventing wheels, wasting development time, and slowing down progress. But, in the end for us the most important thing is simply to enjoy what we are doing, which has been the case in the decade that now lay behind us.

On behalf of the PLi Association,
Frenske, Chairman