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Why I Left OpenBSD

By Trollaxor in Technology
Sun Jun 06, 2010 at 12:17:01 AM EST
Tags: FreeBSD, OpenBSD, Theo de Raadt, Trollaxor (all tags)

I was a long-time OpenBSD user since the 3.1 days, and cut my teeth on Unix development there. I was attracted by its focus on security and conscientious coding practices. I was happy through the early 4.x days, but the more I got involved in developing for OpenBSD the more I was dissuaded from doing so.

Part of the issue was this focus on security. After I began to use OpenBSD at home and at work in earnest, I realized that it was limited in hardware support compared to other operating systems. I purchased a new workstation and portable within a year of each other, and both times came to some unhappy realizations about OpenBSD support.

I began to seriously look at Linux and FreeBSD at this point, knowing hardware support was much more robust. (I had also looked at NetBSD, but even though it booted on nearly everything, driver support was anemic.) I started to dual-boot FreeBSD on my workstation, and spent more and more time there. But it wasn't only hardware support that pushed me away from OpenBSD.


The FreeBSD development model is, to say the least, more sensible. Like I said, the more I got involved with OpenBSD development the more I was turned away, and that was mostly due to the project leader's attitude. During the run-up to OpenBSD 4.2, Theo de Raadt had been in a couple highly-publicized arguments with Linux developers, rubbing a ton of people the wrong way.

What many don't understand is that this was not an isolated incident. Try being an OpenBSD developer! These kind of scathing verbal assaults happened all of the time on the mailing lists. I was--and still am, actually--unsure whether Theo doesn't give a shit due to some philosophical stance, or can't help it due to something like Asperger syndrome.. In either case, he typically drags anyone he disagrees with over the coals, all while telling them to stop taking it personally.

I wish Theo had taken some of his own advice. I believe he has hurt the OpenBSD platform more than he has helped it, and I also firmly believe that hardware support in OpenBSD sucks not because of code auditing practices or security focus, but because Theo has either scared or purposefully chased away developers.

Long-time OpenBSD developers might migrate to FreeBSD or Darwin; newbies might try for Linux instead. Those who taste the de Raadt wrath, however, always run in the end. One time, a friend of mine incurred his ire by asking the wrong question at the wrong time, and Theo de Raadt hacked his router and remotely remapped his keyboard!

This is abuse, plain and simple, and Theo's relationship with his developers is abusive. I feel bad for anyone who has to engage him in real life, and fear something Reiser-like happening in the future. This controlling, manipulative attitude coupled with periodic violent outbursts indicates a deep-seated mental health issue that has gone unchecked for far too long. If you are an OpenBSD developer, watch your back!

After all this mess, I switched to FreeBSD 7.2 and never looked back. I upgraded to FreeBSD 7.3 and started using FreeBSD 8 as soon as it was in pre-release, and I am eagerly working on FreeBSD 8.1. I feel spoiled now, too, because of the throng of developers devoted to professionally working the FreeBSD platform into something spectacular instead of naggling over trivial matters or admonishing one another.

The thriving FreeBSD ecosystem contrasts sharply with the Jonestown-like atmosphere of OpenBSD. There is also the fact that no one person looms so largely over any other; ego is checked at the door in FreeBSD since the goal is to make a great operating system, not lord over others like David Koresh and a harem of 14-year-old girls.

Feel free to disagree with me or point out counter-examples; I would love to read them now that I have left OpenBSD. I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the little secure operating system even though it leaves me with chills. I sometimes fondly load www.openbsd.org and read the latest release notes and smile wistfully.

It's okay to smile, now that I'm free from OpenBSD.


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Related Links
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Why I Left OpenBSD | 22 comments (20 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
Entrepreneurial types always rub people (3.00 / 6) (#3)
by Harry B Otch on Thu Jun 03, 2010 at 04:05:06 PM EST

the wrong way, because they're essentially required to be self-centered bastards in order to take an idea and run with it, at least in the typical profit-centered business model.  

That's doubly true for any intellectual property related operation, and ten times truer for open-source software businesses. Think of all the nerds a player like de Raadt had to whack in order to build his empire. And you thought that 14-year-old girls were bitchy.

If you find yourself in a fair fight, your tactics suck.

This is emphatically not true in the (3.00 / 2) (#5)
by Morally Inflexible on Fri Jun 04, 2010 at 09:27:55 AM EST

open-source world.  I think Linus' leadership skills, and the fact that he's generally not an asshole have a lot to do with Linux dominating the open source *NIX world so completely.  

in the business world, willingness to fail, I think, is substitutable for irrational confidence, however, there is more tolerance for assholes at the top when you are paying underlings, though.  Of social skills and business, I've often heard "If you are going to be an asshole, you had better be right.'

[ Parent ]

Who are you kidding (3.00 / 4) (#6)
by ksandstr on Fri Jun 04, 2010 at 10:58:57 AM EST

Linus is an arsehole of gaping hallway proportions. He merely puts a smiley face on telling you to go fuck yourself, dressing it up as humour and laughing a little so that the persons at the receiving end look like the arsehole if they attempt to argue.

You shouldn't ignore Linux still being distributed GPLv2-only with islands of GPLv2-compatible licensing such as GPLv2+, BSD and so forth. From Linus' anti-GPLv3 rhetoric and the differences between GPL v2 and v3, it's quite clear that the idea is to make sure that when Linus decides to enter the (supposedly) eventually lucrative DRM market there won't be any troublesome "software freedom" to get in his way.

In short, distributing Linux under GPLv2-only-and-compatible terms ensures Linus a personal licensing backdoor for proprietarizing the Linux kernel through technical measures.

[ Parent ]

People seem to generally like Linus. (3.00 / 2) (#7)
by Morally Inflexible on Fri Jun 04, 2010 at 11:36:48 AM EST

this is not true of Theo.   I remember once I interviewed at a place with a whole lot of NetBSD developers who were there for the NetBSD/OpenBSD split.   At the time, I mentioned OpenBSD on my resume.  God damn, I think 25% of the interview consisted of various NetBSD greybeards complaining about what an asshole Theo was to work with.

I think Dan Bernstein is another example;  because of his prickly demeanour, his (often excellent) software has an extremely limited following.

Saying mean things in a nice way is the essence of social skills, 'cause, well, sometimes mean things need to be said.  

[ Parent ]

Linus (none / 0) (#20)
by Spendocrat on Tue Jun 08, 2010 at 05:19:28 PM EST

Users like Linus. Developer opinions are a lot more ambivalent.

[ Parent ]
if you don't like licences that allow unrestricted (3.00 / 2) (#8)
by Morally Inflexible on Fri Jun 04, 2010 at 11:40:24 AM EST

commercial use, keep in mind that the *BSDs have much more open licence that allows you to do anything you want with the code,  including using it in a closed-source product.

[ Parent ]
please do UBUNTU next (2.75 / 4) (#9)
by nostalgiphile on Fri Jun 04, 2010 at 11:50:31 AM EST

gave up on it after it crashed my Netbook with a huge update--9.04 to 9.10--or get big5 chinese working on it. Would like to get a stable vers. for my home pc, but not sure if it's worth the headache.

"Depending on your perspective you are an optimist or a pessimist[,] and a hopeless one too." --trhurler
karma (3.00 / 3) (#11)
by donnalee on Fri Jun 04, 2010 at 10:17:36 PM EST

for this comment.

[ Parent ]
re: please do UBUNTU next (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by Trollaxor on Fri Jun 04, 2010 at 10:56:28 PM EST

See here (or here).

[ Parent ]
newer versions...? (3.00 / 2) (#13)
by nostalgiphile on Sat Jun 05, 2010 at 01:27:32 AM EST

isn't it up to like Vers 12.04 now?

"Depending on your perspective you are an optimist or a pessimist[,] and a hopeless one too." --trhurler
[ Parent ]
10.04 (3.00 / 2) (#14)
by Trollaxor on Sat Jun 05, 2010 at 07:46:14 AM EST

Since it's 2010 and it's been April already but not October yet.

[ Parent ]
chinese? (none / 0) (#17)
by /dev/trash on Sun Jun 06, 2010 at 04:21:47 PM EST

are you some kinda commie?

Updated 02/20/2004
New Site
[ Parent ]
OpenBSD has horrible Chinese support. (none / 0) (#23)
by Trollaxor on Thu Jun 10, 2010 at 11:37:13 AM EST

[ Parent ]
Steve Jobs (3.00 / 3) (#10)
by Ruston Rustov on Fri Jun 04, 2010 at 05:37:31 PM EST

Hans Reiser
Terry Childs
Bill Gates

I had had incurable open sores all over my feet for sixteen years. The doctors were powerless to do anything about it. I told my psychiatrist that they were psychosomatic Stigmata - the Stigmata are the wounds Jesus suffered when he was nailed to the cross. Three days later all my sores were gone. -- Michael Crawford
Maybe tomorrow. -- Michael Crawford
As soon as she has her first period, fuck your daughter. -- localroger

This is an excellent article. (3.00 / 2) (#15)
by lostincali on Sat Jun 05, 2010 at 12:17:13 PM EST

Good work!

"The least busy day [at McDonalds] is Monday, and then sales increase throughout the week, I guess as enthusiasm for life dwindles."

I just have one question (none / 0) (#18)
by OriginalGTT on Sun Jun 06, 2010 at 09:18:54 PM EST

After this well reasoned and obviously passionate piece.

What is openbsd?

I'm NOT on your level. Stay there, and I will stay up here where morals are high, and the air is sweet

FreeBSD - inferior engineering (none / 0) (#19)
by iggymanz on Mon Jun 07, 2010 at 10:38:26 AM EST

FreeBSD thought it would jump on the "fine-grained" smp bandwagon, but came up with a haphazard unordered locking system that can seize up tighter than a great  grandma on a brick cheese diet.  In its release notes, FreeBSD even states this is the case: "unstable under heavy load with SMP is active".  Not to mention all the woes introduced with the extremely buggy 6.x release that are still having to be stomped in 8.x

I believe a synopsis of this article would be "I Troxallor am  psychologically a limp noodle needing handling with kid gloves, and seeing normal adult debate and confrontation by the likes of those such as Theo de Raadt terrifies me. The mutual cocksucking and coddling of the FreeBSD team as they push half-baked poorly engineered crap releases on the world gives me soothing comfort"

Ah, another openbsd troll (none / 0) (#21)
by softweyr on Wed Jun 09, 2010 at 02:27:14 PM EST

Keep telling yourself that, whatever gets you through those long, cold nights of abuse from your beloved fuhrer.  The rest of us will live out here in the real adult world where IDEAS can be exchanged without adolescent personal attacks, threats, and insults.  Oh, and at least some semblance of working SMP support, and running on chipsets newer than 2008.
Where am I, and what am I doing in this handbaskeet?
[ Parent ]
Not to mention proper English. (none / 0) (#22)
by Trollaxor on Thu Jun 10, 2010 at 11:36:49 AM EST

[ Parent ]
How about that FBI ipsec snafu? (none / 0) (#24)
by Del Griffith on Tue Dec 14, 2010 at 09:12:28 PM EST


I...I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. Because I'm the real article. What you see is what you get. - Me

Why I Left OpenBSD | 22 comments (20 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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