For most of that week, Thad poked and prodded Bread OS. There was in the documentation a notice more popular applications would be ported eventually, but the basic set of workstation programs was almost complete. The desktop display was not really that different from old Windows 98, quite plain and simple. There were no toys, just tools most people used for office type work, plus a terminal emulator with many of the same tools you would expect for Unix. In other words, perfect.
He was a little angry with himself for not saving the links from the Electronic Runestones blog, but was glad to find a link to the author. It turned out the title was a play on the her name: Jennifer Runston. The name sounded familiar. He compose an email describing the nature of his project and what he discovered. He was hoping for a few more details so he could write a review. A few minutes after he sent it, the associations for her name finally surfaced in his mind.
Jennifer Runston was the belle of the ball for the older generation, a rare glamorous geek girl. It didn’t matter whom or what she represented at the various technology trade shows, with Jennifer on your PR team you never needed to hire booth babes. Best of all, she could write elegant code herself, so she could chatter with anyone. He never had a chance to make those shows while he was in the Air Force, and when he got out, things had changed. She got married, had a couple of kids and faded into the background. Thad remembered she was a few years older than he, so that meant she had to be over 60 now.
Later that day he got a reply. She thanked him for identifying another clean up task for her retirement. Retirement? She no longer worked for Brandon Breeze — another name he seemed to recall — and had been succeeded by a Peter Jimmerson. She had no comment on Bread OS, but would try to put him in touch with someone on the project. She warned him they had no interest in typical promotions, but were planning to market this in the corporate back channels. She didn’t say, but he assumed this had to do with avoiding public fights with some of the established corporate software companies.
After thinking it over, he decided it would be worth it simply to beg for a chance to keep using it himself. But regardless of their plans to slip in the backdoor of small business and local government agencies, he knew at least one old friend would really want to hear about this — Mantis Akibe.
Mantis was an old buddy from Air Force Basic Training. Thad was already in his mid-twenties, and Manny was just a kid out of high school. He came from a middle class black family, the fifth son who decided not to be a doctor or lawyer. They made fast friends during the training cycle, both having an interest in computers. After tech school, the natural course of things separated them, but they had remained in touch. Mantis completed his first term of service and switched to the Army on his next enlistment. When Thad decided he’d had enough after fifteen years, Mantis had just been promoted to Warrant Officer and was working in information management. He had picked up his degree while in uniform.
Thad knew Mantis was also working with the NSA. He was hardly permitted to discuss things, but had more than once offered Thad what amounted to a warning their communications would always be monitored. Thad was counting on that when he sent off an email describing Bread OS and how it seemed to address their shared frustrations with years of chasing Open Source.
From the Bread Project, Thad received permission to keep the system updated and to read, but not participate in, the email discussion lists. That was more than he had been hoping, so he gladly accepted their requirement he not promote the project in the typical advocacy-fanboy fashion. He did warn them he would be sharing with military technicians, to which they seemed indifferent. Over the next year, Thad became one of a handful of outsiders who actually qualified as a serious power user of Bread OS. He even played with Toast a good bit, and shared notes with his friend, Mantis, who seemed genuinely interested.