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Anatomy of a Red Hat Linux Developer

By Patrick Chalmers in Technology
Wed Jun 07, 2006 at 10:48:51 PM EST
Tags: open source software, open source, free software, linux, redhat, red hat, software libre, freedom (all tags)

Submitted under a pseudonym.

I used to think that open source software was a wonderful thing. I hate to associate myself with the fundamentalist "GNU = FREEDOM!" contingent voraciously chewing up the Internet's bandwidth with masturbatory verbal turds equating "free" software with a "free" society. But, as opposed to the stinking, polluted Linux hippies and BSD beards which infest the Internet, I had a very real, very American reason for my rampant evangelism and arrogant 'tude. One might even say that as a developer in Red Hat Linux's employ, I had a vested interest; with 93% of users of open source operating systems running Red Hat, every message board plug I made potentially translated into big bucks.

Being an only child with astigmatism, moderate short-sightedness, and congenital oral deformities, it was all but inevitable that I'd fall in with the nerd clique in elementary school. Naturally, seven year olds don't have access to computers, so we were always stuck for something to do during breaks. Maybe not so much for lunch; the majority of us were overweight, chomping towards obesity. However, in the mornings, we had ample time to discuss matters such as black holes (hold the jokes about our mouths, please), our inability to make friends with girls (or boys, I'm not picky), and awesome books we'd read. While seeking fodder for the latter, I headed off on a fateful trip to the library. You must bear in mind that this was the 1980s, when the Web was only a twinkle in the eye of a cedar-toothed British douchebag. I thumbed the shelves for material, having difficulty since I felt I'd exhausted the typical topics of cosmology, amateur electrical engineering, nuclear physics, college-level mathematics - the usual geek braincandy. So off I went to an adjacent aisle of books (similar fields of study are usually located close by) and came upon a book about compilers with a dragon on the cover.

In my circle of friends, I'd only heard about computers from those of us whose parents had a great deal of disposable income and a tendency to lavish it upon their antisocial, closeted offspring. (If you're guessing that I'm talking about the boys with high-flying mothers and fathers that had divorced acrimoniously, you win.) From them, I'd learned about Ritchie and Thompson's carefully crafted Unix Programming Environment, in scraps of information gleaned from people known, systems namedropped, home computers tinkered. I had heard of compilers, but only in reference to the C programming language, not as a general concept. (And I'd still yet to discover interpreters, assemblers, linkers, libraries, and the rest of the coding jamboree.) The dragon book pushed me into investigating computer science. Within months I had cultivated both the knowledge and the determination to implement my own Unix kernel. Sadly, the variant of Unix I spent many a night developing over one lengthy summer became an evolutionary dead end because I changed the name of the creat() system call to create(). Although this fixed a mistake to which Dennis Ritchie has publically admitted, it prevented my new OS from gaining any market share, enabling Linus Torvalds to pip me to the post with his hobby some half a decade later.

By this time, I'd earned a massive amount of credibility throughout my social sphere. If I could've outgrown it, I would've easily made the jump into the hacker scene. Unfortunately, when you're 14 years old and lacking an Internet connection, this is impossible. I made do with alienating my friends with a rapidly-inflating ego, and bemoaning my inability to procure a significant other. Or just a friendly fuck. As I believe I've previously said, I'm not picky. I found myself in an ever-decreasing spiral of reclusiveness and Unix. Upwards of eight hours a day were spent perfecting my project, even though I knew it would never make me rich, famous, or successful. I was learning, and that was all I needed.

It wasn't until college that I found an outlet for my skills at the computer lab. No way in hell could this be confused with an organised club; it was nothing but an ad-hoc agglutinisation of coders and gamers that happened every evening while students milled around waiting for documents to print. They first took notice of me when I replaced their CUPS installation with a far superior lpd and printing system of my own design, capable of handling hundreds of pages of academic puffery per day. It's a wonder the hardware didn't die under the load, the machinery choking us in a continuously replenished cloud of its own nauseous toner.

It was around this time that Linux started to poke its sunbeams through the clouds of hacker culture. The idea of becoming a contributor to the ages warmed my heart, and I bashed out a device driver in order to use Linux with my old computer. Online and feeling fine, I insinuated myself into the community and carved out a niche as someone who could dash off a useful hack mere hours after a request arrived in my inbox. My reputation came under attack sporadically when someone emailed me for help and their message was silently dropped (sometimes with a spurious error message) by sendmail. The consequent failure to reply was then interpreted as evasiveness and rudeness. Fed up by this, I wrote my own MTA, uploaded it to my website, and set it running on my system. I never received flame mail again, but unfortunately the requests for assistance (read: opportunities to improve my stature) also ended.

Buoyed by my success and no longer held back by interruptions, my productivity went through the roof. I spent so much time hacking on work that I worried I was withdrawing into a shell. (There's a pun in there somewhere.) I started attending conferences on usability, security, graphics, distros, anything even tangentially related to my hobby. It paid off; meeting people in person really does help make your name known. Consider this some free jobseekers' advice.

I eventually must've impressed a manager at Red Hat, because I ended up with an interview. They almost missed me, as a matter of fact, because their emails failed to reach me. Here's some more jobseekers' advice: include your phone number on your website and anywhere else you give out your contact info. I breezed through the face-to-face meeting process, impressing the interviewer with a lively discussion on the merits of Perl's ~= syntax.

An NDA forbids me from discussing in great detail the Red Hat corporate environment, but I think I can cover some pertinent points. The most striking thing is the use of traditional floor layouts, with offices for all but the temps, who share cubicles to save space and so money. Looking back, I suspect that I was probably hired straight into middle management since the other workers on my floor were temps. Turnover was comparable with our competitors! And until this year, each department got benefits including, but not limited to, free fruit and No Code Review Fridays, which was a nice break for all of us. (QA were pretty pissed off about missing out on pay on those days, though.)

In spite of numerous perks and a peaceful work situation, my proclivity for Linux and open source foundered; doing something for pay destroys any outside interest you have in it. I began seeing what was wrong with the OSS movement, whereas in my honeymoon period I'd seen solely opportunity, code galore, and clean-cut PR men promoting software libre with a happy penguin's face. Now my view gained clarity, revealing a toxic wasteland of obsolete protocols, poorly implemented utilities bound by jack-of-all-trades POSIX, and rabid advocacy spearheaded by an aging hippie with a beard untouched by water or detergent, a relentlessly self-promoting gun nut afflicted with cerebal palsy, and a Finn.

You may wonder why I stuck with it. Well, like you unwashed masses, I love convenience and I love money. Besides, I'd a hunch that if I did quit, my desire to dabble in open source would reemerge and I'd be kicking myself for throwing away a lucrative position. Looking at it logically, the sanest course of action was to hang onto my job, gradually subverting it into what I now wanted to do: expose every flaw and every problem inherent in the bazaar software development model.

I initiated a campaign of half-assing1 and slacking sabotage, reformed into an inverted mirror image of the stained-shirt-wearing Linux weenie. I signed up numerous accounts on Google Groups (#1 for your Usenet spamming needs!), Slashdot, Kuro5hin, and any other major discussion group I could use to spread FUD and descriptions of my company's dubious customer service practices.

Of course, I was partially responsible for the poor service. Even though I went nowhere near marketing or the helpdesk, I made things harder for both them and the customers by sprinkling deliberate subtle bugs into my projects (C comes in handy again!) and "forgetting" to put any identifying information into my source code. If a higher-up had ever dinged me for these antics and demanded that I placed contact details and a copyright notice on my work, I'd simply use a 'mistyped' webmail address and a thoroughly outdated copy 'n' paste of an obscure license no one understands, like the Artistic License. Seriously, who knows that shit? Meanwhile, tech support calls were on a monthly upswing.

In spite of this, I became the maintainer of RPM when the original author was fired (he ceased to bathe for three months, culminating in a costly evacuation when a visitor mistook his stench for a chemical leak). On my fourth day of doing nothing in my new capacity, I idly ran a Bugzilla search for outstanding bugs. There were many, and a few of them were actually rather urgent. Not that I intended to fix any!

That was the plan, anyway. Punch in at nine, sit in a chair fusing fatty acids and glycerol for eight hours, punch out at five. For a while, it worked. One bug report that came in was quite a bit of a show-stopper; some luser called sllort reported that rpm could corrupt its own database. It would take maybe 3 lines of code to fix this issue, but I wanted to beat my personal record for Most Consecutive Days During Which I Did Nothing.

Instead I chose to hone my work avoidance tricks. I tried out Deliberate Reinterpretation (thus turning sllort's reasonable request into something onerous) combined with Condescending Dismissal ("you expect me to do all that?!"). I didn't anticipate his persistence, or so many others entering the fray. It was difficult to continue feigning as if they were all talking crap, but I feel I did a pretty decent job of it.

You know, it only occurs to me now that "sllort" backwards is "trolls". I guess trolls have to use Linux too.

This back and forthing went on for months. I was enjoying the biters accumulating on my obnoxious trollpaper, but, as I soon found, my boss wasn't. A couple of complaints had actually gotten through! Under duress I fixed the code and made note of it on the Bugzilla, but the derogatory comments carried on rolling in, with one user going as far as to compare me to an autistic. Spurred on, my boss went over my records with a fine toothcomb. My festering codebases were exposed and blamed for the surge in tech support calls and emails.

This morning I was shitcanned. Right now, I write this on laptop and sofa, watching my House DVDs. (The Jewess is totally hot.) I'd like to think I learned something, but somehow I doubt it. To be frank, I'm satisfied with getting nothing more than a little story out of it. Stay in school, kids. And don't do Linux.

1 No relation to catassing.


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Anatomy of a Red Hat Linux Developer | 69 comments (37 topical, 32 editorial, 0 hidden)
Anatomy of a Red Hat Linux Developer (2.91 / 23) (#1)
by My Other Account Is A Heterosexual on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 10:15:48 AM EST

250lbs of fat

We are a nation that drinks blood, and we know that there is no blood better than the blood of Jews. - some random Muslim.
Your comments (none / 0) (#68)
by truesz1 on Tue Aug 01, 2006 at 06:11:25 AM EST

Is that realy necessary?
Online Backup - Remote Backup- On
Parent ]
+1 FP (2.71 / 7) (#3)
by t1ber on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 11:00:32 AM EST

This plays nicely in my plot to revive CPM and convince people that "bigger is better" for laptops.  Pretty soon you'll all go back to phosphorus monochrome displays, CPM, and luggables.  Just remember:  302k becomes 604k by turning the disk upside down.  All you need to do is cut the tab out.

CPM is licensed under the "The Last Developer Who Saw This Died 10 Years Ago" license.

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

TAKE A FUCKING SHOWER. (3.00 / 9) (#8)
by a brief respite on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 03:13:35 PM EST

"[in London] the wrong babes were hidden in black hijabs and long robes on the streets and in the parks."
[ Parent ]

MS-DOS was a CPM work-a-like (3.00 / 2) (#35)
by lukme on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 12:33:07 PM EST

It's awfully hard to fly with eagles when you're a turkey.
[ Parent ]
for those not in the know (none / 1) (#53)
by t1ber on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 06:03:30 PM EST

cpm emulator and software

And she said...
Durka Durka Mohammed Jihad
Sherpa Sherpa Bak Allah
Hadji girl I can't understand what you're saying.

[ Parent ]

Sweet! (none / 1) (#60)
by kjs3 on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 10:20:52 PM EST

I can break my TRS-80 4P out of the closet, jab in that Montezuma CP/M disk, and be kewl again....

[ Parent ]
-1 fails to mention.... (2.33 / 3) (#6)
by lamppter on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 12:06:55 PM EST


Just kidding

Naive Bayes Classification and K5 Dupes

BSD is dying (3.00 / 2) (#50)
by Patrick Chalmers on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 04:30:07 PM EST

It is official; Netcraft now confirms: *BSD is dying

One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered *BSD community when IDC confirmed that *BSD market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming close on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that *BSD has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. *BSD is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

You don't need to be a Kreskin to predict *BSD's future. The hand writing is on the wall: *BSD faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for *BSD because *BSD is dying. Things are looking very bad for *BSD. As many of us are already aware, *BSD continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.

FreeBSD is the most endangered of them all, having lost 93% of its core developers. The sudden and unpleasant departures of long time FreeBSD developers Jordan Hubbard and Mike Smith only serve to underscore the point more clearly. There can no longer be any doubt: FreeBSD is dying.

Let's keep to the facts and look at the numbers.

OpenBSD leader Theo states that there are 7000 users of OpenBSD. How many users of NetBSD are there? Let's see. The number of OpenBSD versus NetBSD posts on Usenet is roughly in ratio of 5 to 1. Therefore there are about 7000/5 = 1400 NetBSD users. BSD/OS posts on Usenet are about half of the volume of NetBSD posts. Therefore there are about 700 users of BSD/OS. A recent article put FreeBSD at about 80 percent of the *BSD market. Therefore there are (7000+1400+700)*4 = 36400 FreeBSD users. This is consistent with the number of FreeBSD Usenet posts.

Due to the troubles of Walnut Creek, abysmal sales and so on, FreeBSD went out of business and was taken over by BSDI who sell another troubled OS. Now BSDI is also dead, its corpse turned over to yet another charnel house.

All major surveys show that *BSD has steadily declined in market share. *BSD is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If *BSD is to survive at all it will be among OS dilettante dabblers. *BSD continues to decay. Nothing short of a cockeyed miracle could save *BSD from its fate at this point in time. For all practical purposes, *BSD is dead.

Fact: *BSD is dying
Holy crap, working comment search!
[ Parent ]

Ah, but (none / 1) (#64)
by itsbruce on Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 05:08:16 AM EST

They console themselves with the myth that OS X is not only keeping the flame alive but will lead to a renaissance.


It is impolite to tell a man who is carrying you on his shoulders that his head smells.
[ Parent ]
plus d' Une... (2.00 / 2) (#7)
by nostalgiphile on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 12:44:43 PM EST

I liked it. It's interesting. It will pass.

"Depending on your perspective you are an optimist or a pessimist[,] and a hopeless one too." --trhurler
Fantastico..... (2.66 / 6) (#10)
by terryfunk on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 04:01:52 PM EST

the only thing I might do is to move:

You know, it only occurs to me now that "sllort" backwards is "trolls". I guess trolls have to use Linux too.

to be the last sentence just before the link to catassing, though I am not real solid on that.

I would think about replacing "fine toothcomb" and maybe put something in that is a little less "clicheish".

I've been working with Linux since .99 or maybe it was 1.0 and believe me, this is a breath of fresh air.

+1 FP indeed.

I like you, I'll kill you last. - Killer Clown
The ScuttledMonkey: A Story Collection

cliched (none / 1) (#54)
by The Diary Section on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 06:10:12 PM EST

not "clicheish"
Spend 10 minutes in the company of an American and you end up feeling like a Keats or a Shelley: Thin, brilliant, suave, and desperate for industrial-scale quantities of opium.
[ Parent ]
+1 fp (1.66 / 3) (#11)
by circletimessquare on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 05:25:30 PM EST

and all i've ever used is microsoft technologies

someone like you would fit right in in contemporary microsoft-centric corporate culture

so come back into the fold my son, there is always room for you here in the cathedral, here on the darkside

The tigers of wrath are wiser than the horses of instruction.

microsoft workshops rock (3.00 / 9) (#12)
by thekubrix on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 06:09:54 PM EST

With one hand you can admin any server/network, while liberally fondling yourself with the other.

[ Parent ]
well (3.00 / 2) (#58)
by the77x42 on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 11:55:04 PM EST

I personally like to admin myself while I fondle my server/network.

"We're not here to educate. We're here to point and laugh." - creature
"You have some pretty stupid ideas." - indubitable ‮

[ Parent ]
is your timeline fux0red? (2.80 / 5) (#15)
by horny smurf on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 08:45:30 PM EST

cups was released in 1999. I got a free copy of redhat 4 (the 4 CD set) in 1996 or 1997, but I had heard of linux through a local bbs as early as 1994.

L-1nux (2.87 / 8) (#16)
by buck on Mon Jun 05, 2006 at 09:39:23 PM EST

Adequacy.org called. They want their flamebait back.
“You, on the other hand, just spew forth your mental phlegmwads all over the place and don't have the goddamned courtesy to throw us a tissue afterwards.” -- kitten
Adequacy's dead, baby. [nt] (none / 0) (#24)
by Patrick Chalmers on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 04:58:06 AM EST

Holy crap, working comment search!
[ Parent ]
and gay. nt. (1.20 / 5) (#66)
by Comrade Wonderful on Thu Jul 13, 2006 at 10:21:12 AM EST

[ Parent ]
He's one of them. (3.00 / 4) (#30)
by Smothie on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 11:34:54 AM EST

Trust me, he's not calling himself.


Please visit my scoop site, Guppylog - For help with all livebearing fish.
[ Parent ]
+ 1FP (2.77 / 9) (#20)
by zenador on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 02:52:19 AM EST

That bugzilla link is priceless.

Oh. Wow. (3.00 / 5) (#45)
by mr strange on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 02:41:11 PM EST

I actually know the "Tethys" who is the reporter of that bug. He's one of the cleverest people I know. The sight of some dick at Red Hat patronisingly explaining to him that he doesn't understand the concept of a "rollback" (in "scare quotes"!!) is utterly hilarious.

I've recently had the misfortune to start using Red Hat, and I'm deeply underwhelmed by it. That bug report just finishes them off for me. The RPM maintainer stalled for two years and then quietly slipped in the patch. LOL. Debian anyone?

(I suppose he deserves a tiny bit of credit for being man enough to actually update the bug and quietly admit his mistake.)

intrigued by your idea that fascism is feminine - livus
[ Parent ]

Fedora Core 1 (3.00 / 3) (#56)
by zenador on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 09:30:30 PM EST

was the last time I tried Red Hat. RPM was still garbage, it didn't work at all. Things may have gotten better since then, I wouldn't know. That bug report leads me to believe RPM and Yum are still completely unusable though.

I've been using Debian and now Ubuntu for the last several years. I just don't see the point in trying other distros anymore.

[ Parent ]

OK, it's a troll... (2.80 / 10) (#22)
by BJH on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 04:10:47 AM EST

...but the bugzilla entry linked from the one in the article has this gem in it:

I can't give you a date, only Red Hat can. FWIW, the most important
bug was fixed last October, and the errata was queued 3/18/03.

I've done my part, complain to Red Hat, not me.

This is a reply from a developer in bugzilla.redhat.com...
Roses are red, violets are blue.
I'm schizophrenic, and so am I.
-- Oscar Levant

+1 FP, You're the coolest in my book! (1.25 / 4) (#27)
by volcari on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 10:36:14 AM EST

This was fucking brilliant and hilarious.
When you were talking about being a kid, I felt so bad!
I'm serious, I was all like,
"Aw! I wish that I would have lived next door to him..." (That sad face thing.)

Anyway, it's good to see that you won.

(or this troll...)

Good luck, I hope you make it to the FP.

omg, I am so sorry... (3.00 / 2) (#28)
by volcari on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 10:50:20 AM EST

Patrick Chalmers...
Please don't discuss any irony involved with this, I'm an idiot...

[ Parent ]
Should make FP.... (2.12 / 8) (#40)
by terryfunk on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 01:43:46 PM EST

used to be that K5 was primarily a tech site, so any decent tech story should get voted up.

Technology and culture, from the trenches.

I like you, I'll kill you last. - Killer Clown
The ScuttledMonkey: A Story Collection

Missing ingredients (1.87 / 8) (#51)
by nuntius on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 04:55:50 PM EST

1) decent
2) tech

[ Parent ]
I love stallman (1.33 / 3) (#57)
by Lemon Juice on Tue Jun 06, 2006 at 11:48:27 PM EST

He trolled everyone.

Doubts Rising.... (1.66 / 3) (#59)
by kjs3 on Thu Jun 08, 2006 at 10:18:41 PM EST

An NDA forbids me from discussing in great detail the Red Hat corporate environment

So you won't discuss something a nebulous as "corporate environment" because of an NDA (a tenuous entanglement at best, depending on where you live), but you'll happily confess publicly to personal incompetence and deliberate sabotage (I made things harder for both them and the customers by sprinkling deliberate subtle bugs into my projects) without the slightest worry of repercussion.  You're either deeply, deeply st00pid or being less than honest.

I'm afraid that I must call bullshit.

lol nullo (3.00 / 2) (#61)
by a brief respite on Sat Jun 10, 2006 at 06:35:57 PM EST

"[in London] the wrong babes were hidden in black hijabs and long robes on the streets and in the parks."
[ Parent ]

Now why are we not supposed to use Linux? (none / 0) (#62)
by jmort on Wed Jun 14, 2006 at 10:50:39 PM EST

I don't quite understand the point of why we all shouldn't use Linux based on the fact that the author deliberately undermined the project.  I'm afraid I missed the point of this story.


[ Parent ]

I can't decide (1.50 / 4) (#63)
by Comrade Wonderful on Thu Jun 15, 2006 at 09:04:18 AM EST

if you are more of a weenie if this story is true or if it is false.

You call youself a developer, (3.00 / 1) (#65)
by jd on Sat Jun 17, 2006 at 10:33:20 PM EST

But your article is suggesive of probably the most pathetic biological organism to crawl out of the oceans. You call Linux users "hippies", but brag about how many days you can do nothing. You calaim people confuse "free" with "freedom", yet abuse said freedom byt not fixing bugs.

I guess it's a good thing that I don't run a company or a country - Nero had great ways of dealing with the pathetic in civilization, for all he was one of the worst.

And by what right to I say these things? I preobably maintain more packages than the entire Red Hat developement team have installed on their entire network. I've been on the bleeding-edge of IT for about as long as Bill Gates has even owned a computer.

So why aren't I rich? Because money is scraps of paper, same as certifications. Scraps of paper are what school janitors collect off the floor, NOT what those of any merit in this life get paid by. Money is the currency of fools - obtained fast, spent fast, but obtaining you NOTHING. The produce of the brain, THAT has a value beyond all the money on Earth, will retain that value through life and beyond death, and is the stuff that can build or destroy anything from a personal life to an entire civilization.

I regard the weenies who brag about how lazy and pathetic they are as dross, not worthy of any REAL culture to tolerate, but too toxic to even be used as fishfood.

Am I angry? Yes, of course I'm angry! Skiving off a three line fix, in order to brag onm K5 about how macho their laziness is? The RPM system is a pile of unadulterated crap - why? Not because it's a bad idea, but because Red Hat hasn't taken the developers who brag about their incompetence to the Aztec temples for a refresher course.

93% my ass n/t (none / 0) (#67)
by der on Fri Jul 21, 2006 at 01:54:22 AM EST

Help (none / 0) (#69)
by truesz1 on Tue Aug 01, 2006 at 06:14:59 AM EST

I wish I could understand what you are on about
Online Backup - Remote Backup - O
Anatomy of a Red Hat Linux Developer | 69 comments (37 topical, 32 editorial, 0 hidden)
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