Aegis and Cook: what happens when an open source developer dies?

By sheer accident, while I was looking for something else online, I came across a Web site for Aegis, a distributed version control system I used at work back in 1995-1997. I was surprised this software was still alive after twenty years. A lot of software has a very short life span, and since I had not heard anything about Aegis all this time, I would have guessed that it had died.

I remembered that we had used this software along with another tool the author developed, called Cook, which was a replacement for Make. I was unsuccessful in locating any official Web site for Cook, so I assume it is more or less dead.

Meanwhile, I found by coincidence that actually, the author, Peter Miller, died less than a year ago (July 2014). There was enough memory of him that someone wrote that Wikipedia page on his contributions to open source software. However, his Web site , sadly, has died with him, and with that, the site he had on Cook.

But we know that the Web is “forever”, right? Let’s see.

I found this old photo, for example.

Peter Miller, 1993

Wayback Machine

Basically, I checked the Wayback Machine, and it has some snapshots of his site. The last working snapshot was from 2009.

Here is his old software page. Yes, it includes a link to a Cook site, but it leads to a nonexistent snapshot.

I stopped because I am not that interested in reliving the early history of Cook. I never met the guy, although I believe I exchanged email with him when it was just his personal project and he was “tech support”.

I wonder how historians fifty years from now will be working. So much is no longer on paper, but stored in random archives on hard drives somewhere.


Software dies, people die. It was just weird for me to accidentally do a bit of sleuthing to find more information about someone whose software I once used a lot.

I haven’t made a “will” for my code. I suppose I should have a plan in place for whatever I value.

Do you have a plan for your Web site or code or writings? Or do you expect them to disappear? How do you feel about leaving something behind?

(Update of 2015-06-29)

By accident, while reading an old blog post by Graydon Hoare about bors, which is used for continuous integration for the Rust project, I noticed his shoutout to Peter Miller for Aegis. It’s great that Peter Miller’s work inspired others to build systems that are used today. One random person’s ideas and software made a lasting difference in the world!

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