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The Devil & BSD: Leaving Linux Behind

Over the last several weeks, I have to confess to doing a little soul-searching in the wake of some developments in the Linux world, and I’ve come to a decision of sorts. It’s hard to say when the actual tipping point was, but you can probably mark it around the time Sarah Sharp closed the door on any further Linux kernel work, augmented by the accompanying “lack of understanding” by some who are significantly smarter than their responses would reflect.

PC-BSD LogoReally, folks, I get it: Linus Torvalds is a great and historic man, one who changed the world for the better by developing a kernel that put a huge fast-forward on technology for all, on a far-more-level playing field than it could have been with the Linux kernel’s absence.

Yet I also completely understand this: A clear majority of FOSS folks are okay with “letting Linus be Linus,” and having the chips fall where they may. Me? I’d prefer to “let Linus be Jon ‘maddog’ Hall” or “let Linus be Bob Young.” In other words, I prefer my great and historic figures to have a high degree of grace and leadership skills, and understand and accept the gravity and responsibility the glorious burden of being a historical figure entails, and then act appropriately.

Instead, we in the wider FOSS world are hamstrung to have a great and historic figure continuously and consistently acting like a foul-mouthed, petulant child always having his way; to say nothing of the fact that the acceptability of such behavior clearly runs downstream to others in a variety of FOSS echelons because, “Hey, Linus acts like that, so it must be OK.”

It’s not OK, and personally it’s a strike issue for these attitudes to prevail, especially in an environment that places a premium of importance on community and cooperation. So after considerable thought, I’m going to rhetorically vote with my feet and go elsewhere — in the words of the immortal and beloved Snagglepuss, “Exit, stage left.”

I’m keeping Linux on the desktop box — Korora, for those of you keeping score at home — and on a couple of infrequently used old ThinkPads. However, I’ve spent the last three weeks getting up to speed on PC-BSD, which I have finally installed on the main drive of my daily workhorse ThinkPad T500.

So if you need me, I’ll be over there, on the BSD side of the FOSS street.

My only previous experience with BSD was roughly 48 hours of my life surrendered years ago to installing NetBSD on a PowerBook G3. I finally was successful and used it until I borked the entire system with an update (to be fair, at the time — the mid-aughts — I was completely out of my league in attempting anything remotely resembling updating the OS).

Several years later in 2015, PC-BSD installs just like any Linux distribution. My desktop environment — Xfce, of course — sits on top while Unix rumbles underneath the hood. With a couple of hours of adding backup files and tweaking (augmented by a variety of “oh, look” moments which could easily make me the ADHD Foundation Poster Boy), it looks exactly like my personally modified Korora 22 Xfce which graced the machine earlier.

In addition, you have to like a operating system which gives you a book — in this case, the PC-BSD Handbook — which should be the gold standard of documentation. It’s enviable, as in, “man, I wish I had written that.” Also programs like AppCafe provide a plethora of FOSS software, so there’s no shortage of programs. Side by side, there’s nothing on the Linux side of things that is lacking on the BSD side of things.

Changing teams is going to come as a relief to some (you’re welcome, Mr. Shuttleworth), and I welcome the opportunity to contribute within my skill set on the BSD side of things, if the folks there will allow me. Prevailing attitudes on the Linux side of things might suggest a final parting with the caveat that the door not hit me where the good Lord split me.

Don’t worry, it won’t.

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  1. Hunkah Hunkah November 23, 2015

    You’re just like every other fragile baby that has a keyboard and a little bit too fluffy to handle real life. Linus has passion and with passion comes love and hatred. Linus doesn’t suffer idiots and when someone is being an idiot they need to be told that they are being an idiot. If I wrote bad code, I would want to be told that I’m writing bad code. Moreso by someone that actually cares about the outcome. If people can’t handle criticism, then I’m sure Microsoft is hiring. They write crap code all the time!

    So go on… make your statement, make your point. It’s not revolutionary. Nor is it historical. I’m sure this “criticism” is going to make you cry bitter tears anyway.

    By the way, I’m cancelling my subscription to updates from this site effective immediately. I have other FOSS news that’s more important to read.

  2. stig atle steffensen stig atle steffensen November 23, 2015

    I have to say that I agree with you on this.
    There is only one thing I feel I need before I could switch like you did – and that is proper support for steam.

    Seems like all guides runs it through Wine, which is not what I prefer.
    Also – I spend a lot of time developing for android, so support for that is also something I’d need.

    But I’m still willing to give it a good try, I’ve been wanting to switch to pcbsd for a while (been using debian for many years).

    And I could live with running my android development stuff in a VM if needed.

    If all these things was supported ‘navtive’ then I’d have no reason not to switch.

  3. Eddie G. Eddie G. November 23, 2015

    I dunno, I’m of two minds on this. I see myself as an individual and not a worker bee / drone. So I don’t pay attention to what someone else is doing, nor do I base my decisions off of their actions. I use Linux for various reasons, one of them being that it has helped me to understand computers and technology in a way Microsoft never could. I have cut my teeth on installing Fedora, openSuSE, Ubuntu etc, and I have grown as a person AND as a Technical Support Analyst….so what Linus does to others is “beyond” me.
    I don’t have time to pay attention to it because: I have a 15 yr old son to concern myself with, a mother whose up in age who takes up quite a bit of my time, and bills, and past debts that I have to concentrate on eliminating. So how Linus Torvalds acts regarding the other developers is so low on my list of priorities that its a nonentity. And this is not written to insult Mr. Torvalds, but to show that sometimes, it just makes sense to ignore the nonsense. If I were someone working with Linus I would “filter” his behavior for him, how? by ignoring anything he said that didn’t help or enhance my job / duties. Its easy to do, its like when our parents would say to us “Do as I SAY, not as I DO”. Well if you can just “listen” to what he says is wrong with your code, without “hearing” the insults, colorful language et al, you’d find that things would go smoother for all parties involved. Remember as a child the kid who had the ball? well it’s Linus’ ball and if you don’t like the game you’re really not in a position to make demands now are you? Its like…..”How dare you insult the color of the ball, and then demand that you get to make the rules of the game!”.

    Basically, your best bet is to leave Linus alone. I actually find it incredible that people actually argue, debate, and flame on someone else’s actions! I’m way too concerned with my own life to be involved like this in the life of someone whom I’ve never met, nor will likely meet in my lifetime. I appreciate everything Mr. Torvalds has done regarding Linux and the Kernel, I like to watch his videos and blurbs when he’s taunting, or making fun of MS, Nvidia, or any one else in the technology world, but I just can’t nit-pick and address his behavior, because in a roundabout way? it doesn’t even affect me.

    This is not to say that his actions or behavior should be viewed as being “Ok” either, not by a long shot. But because there’s very little one can do to change it? (aside from jumping ship, or starting a blog about it!…LoL!) then you’re best advised to move on and get past it. Since there’s no way to “force” his hand into changing, and you “leaving” a project isn’t going to affect that particular project much, since there are a million people waiting to fill your shoes, then yeah, I’d say just move on and “Have A Nice Day”. But hey….that’s just my opinion….

  4. Duncan Duncan November 23, 2015

    I am confused. While I don’t actually follow LKML personally, all the informed sources that I know of that actually do, seemed to be of the opinion that despite very specifically making no promises and no direct apologies, Linus’ actual behavior in practice seemed to have changed somewhat noticeably.

    More specifically, based on my sources anyway, since the addition of the vague, but now actually there, Linux code of conduct document in $LINUXDIR/Documentation/, Linus has refrained from former patterns of behavior such as telling people the world would be better if they’d just go commit suicide, etc.

    Based on that and the fact that in the thread where this whole thing originally came to the forefront, where Sarah Sharp originally publicly challenged Linus, she actually used the F word and etc herself, and is on record elsewhere as using it as well…

    It was my impression, at least, that things /had/ changed, and that her leaving /now/, just as they /are/ measurably changing, was pretty much a personalities clash, because in fact, she /had/ “won”, even more so than could ordinarily be expected based on real-world results when coming up against the establishment like that.

    True, Linus never directly apologized, but if the activity changed, as it seems to have done… well, let’s just say that had the US given Saddam a way to save face while backing down, a lot of lives, both US and Iraqi, would have likely been saved, and chances are we wouldn’t be dealing with ISIS today.

    IOW, sometimes the art and possibility of winning depends on one’s ability to accept the change and *NOT* demand a direct apology.

    Now I’m not going to judge Sarah too harshly either. Perhaps she had backed herself into such a corner that the only way for her to save face was now to follow thru and go elsewhere. And/or perhaps her life circumstances had simply changed and she simply took the chance and excuse offered. And/or, very likely, there was simply too much personal history there, and she just found it easier to be and work elsewhere. In reality I’d guess it’s a mix in various ratios of all these and more reasons.

    Meanwhile, in the last LKML situation that I’m aware of, while Linus definitely stated in no uncertain terms his scorn for a specific approach taken in a particular patch and made it _very_ plain he didn’t want to see similar patches from anyone else, he also, _very_ noticeably in contrast with past behavior, specifically and apparently deliberately AVOIDED making it about the PERSON not the code. No more telling people the world would be better if they committed suicide. Rather, he very specifically kept the comments aimed at the code itself, and didn’t even mention or address directly the person behind the patch, deliberately making it “all about the code, not about the person”.

    Which is a dramatic and obviously deliberate change from past behavior. As I said, Sarah really did “win”, in that regard.

    Meanwhile, apparently, despite the code of conduct specifically listing a number of contact points in case of issue, they’ve yet to actually be used… at ALL. Nobody has reported being offended, either personally or by proxy for someone else. Nobody has asked for mediation or that something be done.

    So what’s the deal here? Am I missing serious personal attacks since the introduction of the code of conduct? What’s the other side? Yes, I read both Sarah’s and Matthew’s effective public resignation notices, but while they obviously didn’t think things had gone far /enough/ no further specific instances of arguably toxic behavior were noted.

    So where are they? Am I wrong in believing things really have changed? Is there another instance since the CoC addition where Linus has effectively told someone to commit suicide or the like?

    Or is it simply that the changes, while based on evidence real, simply haven’t gone far enough — that without the demanded public apology, things may be “better” but the situation is still personally unacceptable?

    Or, as I suggested may be the case, have other events simply overtaken developments, and both these people were headed out regardless, even if Linus and others did officially and directly apologize, etc?

    As I said, I’m confused, and I’m actually asking because I’d like to know.

    More specifically for you, Larry, you said that if anything could be pointed to as the tipping point for you, this was it.

    So what would it have taken to tip it the other way? That public apology? More? Less?

    Or… were you in reality headed out anyway, maybe now, maybe in a year or two, and this was more or less just a convenient tipping point to name, perhaps accelerating the process, but probably not changing the end result?

    If it’s the latter, I at least can definitely understand it. I’ve posted on FF several times that after being on MS for a decade, that the malware line they crossed with eXPrivacy was a line I simply couldn’t cross, and that in a very real way, that’s what pushed me to Linux and the (software) land of freedom.

    But, probably about the introduction of MS Windows 98 was my high point on MS. I had done the IE4 betas, was using the active desktop extension that IE4 included, that was part of the W98 base, was active in the IE4 MS newsgroups (my intro to newsgroups, as it happened) and I was actually in line at midnight, waiting for the computer store (CompUSA IIRC, RIP) to open so I could get the upgrade and a few other upgrades/addons at the same time.

    At the time I was also programming in VB, and was thinking about whether I wanted to release as shareware (not really), sources available (I knew about Linux and FLOSS but didn’t understand the implications, the reason ESR’s Cathedral and Bazaar essays were such an epiphany for me a bit later, as it was as if somebody wrote down and expanded on my own thoughts and I was reading them again!), etc.

    But that was the peak, and while eXPrivacy was the trigger/push for me actually jumping for real to Linux, by the time it happened, I already knew enough about FLOSS and Linux to believe I wanted to be there, only all my existing knowledge and experience was on the MS side.

    So eXPrivacy did provide that big push, and while I was already leaning toward FLOSS, that /was/ the decision point for me, without which I really do NOT know if I would have ever made the jump.

    But never-the-less, by that point my trend away from MS was clear, and while that was my decision point and had MS not jumped the malware line with eXPrivacy, I may well have /eventually/ ended up on the freedomware side of things, a year, two, five, later, but maybe not, too.

    So as you can see, I can definitely identify with a trend heading somewhere, but coming to some trigger point, without which I really don’t know if I’d have ended up in the same place or not, tho I might have, but it would have been rather later if I did…

    And I’m wondering if that’s more or less what happened to you, and tho you wouldn’t be expected to speak for them, perhaps Sarah and Mathew as well. That being, the trend was there, and this was simply the trigger, but you (they) might have or perhaps definitely would have eventually ended up there anyway. ??

    But regardless, I really /am/ confused, as from what I had believed at least, behavior really /has/ changed, Sarah really /did/ win, and tipping point or not, it does look a bit petty that she went on saying this was the reason, when it actually looks like she /did/ win.

    So if there’s evidence to the contrary, I really would like to see it, as in that case what I’ve seen really was only the one side, or possibly several viewpoints but within the same hemisphere, and a viewpoint from the other hemisphere, backed by any real evidence available would *definitely* be appreciated.

    Tho I’d certainly be interested in reading more about whether you honestly think you’d have ended up switching anyway, without this trigger, or simply don’t know, as I honestly don’t know if despite the clearly visible trend in my own life by then, without the eXPrivacy malware push by MS, I’d have actually ever jumped off them, or not.

    Meanwhile, tying up one further loose end: Because of my own limited developer experience, I really do value the freedoms guaranteed by copyleft licenses such as the GPL. Also, I really do refuse to waive my rights to, among other things, view the sources for something before I’ll consider waiving my rights to damages, etc, as required by nearly all EULAs (and FWIW, the GPL says users waive rights to damages too, but the critical difference for me is that they respect my rights as a user to see the sources and make my own decision before choosing to actually agree to waive those rights to damages). So I don’t run servantware flash, or games, or drivers, and as such, see little value in allowing those who would disrespect what I claim as my human rights, to use code I may contribute to, so again, I value the freedoms copyleft guarantees, over the freedoms to take things proprietary and disrespect user rights, that the BSD style licenses allow.

    And to me personally (tho I don’t expect others to find the same for themselves, except that I do consider it disrespectful to me as a human being, to refuse to provide sources), that’s important enough that I’ve never had much desire to do the BSD thing.

    Meanwhile, I use all sorts of tools produced by folks with different viewpoints than I, so while I may not agree with, to take an extreme example, Hans Reiser murdering his wife, that’s history I can’t change anyway, tho if I’d been in a position to do so before it happened, I certainly would have, as long as my freedom to view/modify/ship-modified code isn’t impinged and it’s not, due to the GPL, I don’t have a problem running the code, and actually I do still run reiserfs on some of my (legacy spinning rust) devices. I don’t agree with Oracle’s servantware approach either, nor with what they did to many of the FLOSS projects they got from Sun, but much of the code for the btrfs I use on my SSDs is copyright Oracle, the important thing for me being that the code is licensed under the GPL (unlike say the servantware Oracle DB, which I’d never run on my own systems), thus protecting my rights as a user and a human being.

    So again, my chance of switching to any of the BSDs in anything like the foreseeable future is effectively nil, tho unlike ever returning to MS platforms as long as they aren’t freedomware, I won’t rule it out /completely/, should something currently unforeseeable happen.

  5. tracyanne tracyanne November 23, 2015


  6. Mike Mike November 23, 2015

    Sarah Sharp is the problem, not Linus.

    @Sarah – Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

  7. Mike S. Mike S. November 23, 2015

    Sorry, Linus is the problem. Sarah Sharp herself wrote very clearly that writing obscenities about code, rejecting patches, pointing out errors and bad practices, and so forth is a requirement for a good software project.

    What she rejects – and @Larry Cafiero rejects, and I reject – is insulting the people that work with you or work under you. “This code is an f___’ing pile of steaming rat s___” – fine. “You are an f___’ing pile of steaming rat s___” – not fine, and something Linus does when the mood strikes and a lot of other prominent free software developers that look up to Linus also do.

    Me, I’m torn. I think the BSD, MIT, and Apache licenses are written in the spirit of “I give all freedom to the recipient to do whatever they want”, but in practice it means mountains of proprietary software is built on BSD/MIT/Apache cores. GPL and to a lesser extent Mozilla Public License and Eclipse Public License restricts the re-use of code, but the source remains available.

    I respect Larry’s choice, but I’m staying on the GPL side of free software operating systems.

  8. Admiral Vinogradov Admiral Vinogradov November 23, 2015

    Well – this is more proof that Torvalds is certainly divisive and toxic, by his actions but also by bringing out the worst in so many of his “supporters”. For example I stopped listening to a podcast recently after they “supported” Torvalds’ tantrums by revealing they are in fact a bunch of intolerant idiots in their own right.

    That said, deleting a two-bit podcast from my phone is one thing – but rage-quitting a whole operating system because you don’t like the founder? Could you wind up cutting off your nose to spite your face? And anyway, remember, the linux kernel is not coded by Torvalds at all these days (and hence is not “his little project he can do whatever he wants to do with”, btw) – the kernel is the work of 1000s of people, and then it’s only a component in any distro. A whole lot of work is done by Gnome, KDE, a bunch of others.

    And besides, how long before you realize some prominent BSD figure, while a competent programmer, also happens to be batshit crazy?
    And so on and on.

  9. Peter Peter November 23, 2015

    This article is a combination of trolling and beating a dead horse. Please read ESR’s article for some background information about the ongoing attacks on prominent people in the FOSS community:

  10. Tanja Tanja November 23, 2015

    I’m not going to give my opinion about who was right or wrong in any of it, but there has been too much drama around Linux the last few years, and that may be part of the reason why I have started moving to BSD too. It’s more about my preference for more traditional operating system design, though. Yes, there has been a LOT of drama about that too.

    On the other hand, prima donnas and drama are everywhere humans try to cooperate, it’s unavoidable. Some projects may be better at keeping those under control than others, but it’s difficult to tell which is which because the “good” ones may just be going through a quiet period. And least one of the BSDs is led by someone with a mean reputation, though I don’t remember the last incident that would make him deserve it. So does moving to BSD mean an escape from the drama? I don’t know.

    It does let one escape in one way: the media aren’t writing much about BSD… or at all, really. There are no articles like “This BSD developer said something rude, and you won’t believe what happened next!” or “15 nasty things random people on reddit said about BSD” or “here are three links to unrelated BSD articles written by other people” or “my proprietary product for AndroidBSD has a new point release” or “why I think feminazis should shut up about harassment at conferences and contribute code to BSD already, oh wait women can’t code so just go make me a sandwich” or “the release date of this project has been postponed again” or “top 5 cross platform applications ‘for BSD’ anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock already knows about, and I have no clue what’s good about the bottom 4 in my list” or “the new version of this desktop for BSD is sooooo broken, just like the previous ten” or… I could go on. I’m happy I haven’t seen the Linux variants of some of these for a while.

    The point is, posting a “news” article about some drama is just one way to create clickbait. It takes much more work to write a howto, or to write a useful review of a new feature, or to describe the interesting way someone might be using some software. The clickbait makes it appear there’s a lot of bad stuff happening, but if you take the facts and compare them to a typical non-software volunteer project or to office politics, I assume Linux is not THAT bad.

    None of this means we should just put up with the prima donnas.

  11. Dietrich Dietrich November 23, 2015

    I became tired very quickly of the prevailing notions and attitudes surrounding Linux development. But be forewarned, I worked around people with attitudes in IT for decades. Developers tend to be arrogant regardless of the environment. To varying degrees they can be outright demeaning, rude, unkind and think that their behavior is perfectly appropriate. I understand Sarah’s reaction and believe she is right. Arrogance is stupidity. Manners matter.

    So, dig into BSD. I’ll try to follow along as I am setting up Free-BSD in GNOME-Boxes (qemu-kvm).

    Good Luck.

  12. Aaron Aaron November 23, 2015

    Torvalds admits he is crass and that his approach can be off-putting to a lot of people, but he also admits to not really caring. If he were to soften his tone, it may attract more outside development, or it may not.

    On the BSD piece, I think PC-BSD is a really interesting operating system. The developers really have made big strides into making it a competent desktop OS. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Lumina DE turns out.

  13. Larry Cafiero Larry Cafiero Post author | November 23, 2015

    Let me address a couple of things, going backwards on this (though tracyanne’s comment is probably the most appropriate to the issue, and thank you!):

    Admiral: It’s not cutting off my nose when there is a viable FOSS alternative available in one of many BSD variants. Also, despite the fact that Linus’ behavior is the “tipping point,” there’s a difference between someone going batshit crazy and the founder/inventor of Linux going batshit crazy, to say nothing of the “nonsense creep” currently occurring in Linux (e.g., systemd is the Antichrist, etc.)

    Duncan: This goes much further than Linus (see above: unnecessary systemd battles, Ubunteros claiming ownership of everything FOSS, etc.). It’s a lot more than just bad language on the LKML, and that’s not really an issue. Sarah used bad language. I use bad language. It’s not the language, it’s the attitudes the “scoldings” on the list foster. But specifically talking about Linus, the road in the rearviews is littered with behavior that is far beneath him: Linus’ rants, not the least of which suggests an OpenSUSE developer commit suicide; flipping off NVIDIA developers in a classroom lecture; calling BSD developers focused on security “masturbating monkeys.” Add your favorite here. How to reconcile that behind a facade of community that FOSS promotes is a neat, and possibly impossible trick.

    Eddie G.: I don’t mind moving on, and chances are Linux won’t miss me. I’m certainly not egotistical enough to think it will. People justify staying or leaving a project for a variety of reasons, and this is mine. Your mileage may vary.

    Stig: Yep, you have to use the tools you need to do your work (commendable, I might add — keep it up), so switching may not be practical. But it’s good you recognize the problem.

    Hunkah: Thanks for the laugh. You know that saying, “We can disagree without being disagreeable,” don’t you? You definitely fail there. Don’t let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya!

  14. Bob W Bob W November 23, 2015

    I an very new to the Linux world but I have been an IT professional for over 35 years.

    Linus Torvalds, to me, comes across as a petulant child. I know Linux is his brainchild and it is a remarkable product. I know and understand his passion as well as his great development skills. However, he has attracted many who act just like him and that has turned away many very good, if not great, OS developer minds. And those who act like him are most likely not nearly as good as they believe they are. How do I know this? EXPERIENCE. I’m not saying they are bad developers, just not as good as they think they are. And yes, there are exceptions, there always is.

    I wish Linus would take the approach of Henry Kissinger. Look up his management style.

    Again, the problem is not directly with Linus, it is with the others who act like him, want to be like him, live vicariously through him but will never be Linus who work on the Linux kernel.

  15. Lizzi Lizzi November 23, 2015

    “Side by side, there’s nothing on the Linux side of things that is lacking on the BSD side of things.”

    Some things are lacking. Ive tried bsd and i wont say its bad but for someone without a degree or training in bsd it can be quite the learning curve. There is nothing in bsd that equates to the ease of say ubuntu or antergos or sabayon or manjaro (or even debian for that matter) in setting up a functional system. I tried it on my old laptop before and even with an ethernet connection i couldnt get internet working without help from the forums, which i did get of course but it didnt work out of the box.

    In the final analysis, quitting linux because you think Linus Torvalds is an idiot sounds to me like a lot of the rhetoric the Republicans spouted about leaving the USA if Barack Obama gets elected. He’s served two terms now and they’re still here in the USA causing trouble. lol.

    I dont know why people have to stomp their feet and yell and throw a tantrum about leaving a distro or an operating system. An operating system is a tool, a powerful tool hopefully but still a tool that runs a computer. It isnt a religion last time i checked. I wish people would stop treating it like one. Maybe that’s whats missing from people’s lives and they try to use their fave distro or OS to fill that space. Maybe that’s the problem with Linus and Sarah and you too and a whole bunch of others as well. Me? I just want to learn it because i think its kewl to know how to do and it helps people. Sadly, that isnt everyone’s motivation but i wish it were. Until it is,i’ll go right on living just as best as i can and continue to cope with everyone’s need to feel important as best i can.

  16. Andy Cater Andy Cater November 23, 2015

    Hi Larry,

    You’ve always been a clear supporter of Ken Starks and Helios, then Reglue. Does this change of heart in any way reflect on your continued support to our mutual friend and his very worthwhile work?


  17. Dietrich Dietrich November 23, 2015

    Ok, I installed PC-BSD. I will leave it there for now.

    But, someone is going to have to ‘convince’ me as to why I should switch to BSD. I am an open book and willing to change but I am not moving from Antergos (Arch) Linux anytime soon.

    Sorry Larry. I am guessing you’ve got ‘political’ reasons for your decision, most likely. And those are not good reasons to throw the baby out with the bath water.

    — Dietrich

  18. Ron Ron November 23, 2015

    If you leave behind an OS because you have a personality conflict with someone who makes it, you’re going to find yourself back on pen and paper eventually.

    Eventually people will shout loud enough about someone on a BSD team, and then on an Illumos team, and then about someone on the Haiku team, and then Kolibri, and Menuet, and on and on until we are left with no toys to play with.

    Sometimes you just have to learn how to play nice. Even with the people who are mean, because they are out there, they are all over the place, and you can’t just avoid them.

  19. Bruce Byfield Bruce Byfield November 23, 2015

    I’m not going to argue you out of your choice, because if free software isn’t about choice, then it’s meaningless. Nor am I going to defend Linus’ rudeness; I am, after all, a citizen of a country famed for politeness.

    However, I find your view curious, because you seem to identify Linus with all of Linux. I suppose that makes a certain sense, given that it was named for him, but to me Linux long ago outgrew its founder. To me, Linux is not just Linus Torvalds; it’s Aaron Seigo at KDE, Deb Nicholson at MediaGoblin, Jos Poortvliet at OwnCloud, and dozens of others. In effect, you seem to be smearing all these fine people with Linus’ behavior, which seems more than a little unfair.

  20. Scott Dowdle Scott Dowdle November 23, 2015

    First of all… I have not read the complete thread: tl;dr

    In a nutshell… Larry… be my guest… learn all about the various BSDs. That can’t be a bad exercise.

    In the defense of Linus, he only goes off when developers have already been told over and over again… and then after being ignored… he gives them what-for.

    The negativity among the kernel developers has been grossly exaggerated… and we non-developers really don’t have any business sticking our noses into it and acting like we understand what’s going on. Let them do their thing, they are doing it just fine. Do some developers get mad and go away? Sure. That has happened over and over again in the 24+ year lifespan of Linux. It is a natural occurrence. It also happens in BSD-land. Why do you think OpenBSD exists? Ever heard of Theo de Raadt going off? He is actually quite famous for that… so much so… I think he is sometimes called Theo de Rant. 🙂 But sure, PC-BSD is different… and hey, they have that nice videocast on the Jupiter Broadcasting network… and hey, those guys seem reasonable, right?

    Regarding systemd arguments: Big changes make some people mad. That also has happened a handful of times in Linux’s history. I could point a few out but this is already too long. Anyway, same stuff happens in the BSDs. Heard of BSDNext yet? They are working on a launchd-based (from Mac OS X) init system… and BSD will have some massive changes coming over the next few years… because they too realize how they haven’t been keeping up with the times.

    But if you want to bail because life in the big city… is troubling at times… go right ahead. Moving to Canada if Trump gets elected? 🙂

  21. Mike Mike November 23, 2015


    > “flipping off NVIDIA developers in a classroom lecture;”

    You are really reaching.
    He wasn’t flipping off a roomful of NVIDIA developers, he was flipping off the company of NVIDIA via the camera. It was (and still is) ENTIRELY deserved too.

    …and your remark about him telling an OpenSUSE developer to commit suicide: Did you actually read it? He wasn’t telling a specific developer to commit suicide, he was using hyperbole to make a point about a truly stupid design decision. Here’s the original text:

    “So here’s a plea: if you have anything to do with security in a distro, and think that my kids (replace “my kids” with “sales people on the road” if you think your main customers are businesses) need to have the root password to access some wireless network, or to be able to print out a paper, or to change the date-and-time settings, please just kill yourself now. The world will be a better place. … and now I need to find a new distro that actually works on the MacBook Air.”

    If you think Linus is truly advocating suicide here, then the problem lies with you, not Linus.

    Larry, your entire article is much ado about nothing. I am in agreement with the others: Perhaps it’s time to move on to a site that actually writes decent articles about, you know, FOSS, instead of whinging about random BS. The quality of the articles here (if yours is any indicator at all) is falling off of a cliff.

    If you think BSD is any different, you have a rude awakening in your near future.

  22. W. Anderson W. Anderson November 23, 2015

    This type dilemma is always difficult to settle, if it ever can be.

    My only and greatest concern is that good programmers, especially women coders must not be driven out of the community, and every effort should be made by all clear thinking FOSS community members to first, identify the (real) reasons these people leave, and secondly, address the issues honestly and intelligently for keeping all the great programmers in the fold.

  23. John Morris John Morris November 23, 2015

    Linus should continue to do what he does. His success is all the proof we need that it is working. Sorry if a few delicate unique snowflake SJWs are having problems playing in the big leagues but the world is a better place if they go find a safe space and leave the big kids alone to do the heavy lifting on code that must be correct.

    Linux is being deployed into more situations where if it fails it is going to cause serious property damage or loss of human life. The SJWs can take their critical theory and go play in UI design or something that isn’t so important. And if derps want to take their ball and go play with BSD over it, fine too, monocultures are bad so go help em out. Just be aware their community is a closed Cathedral development structure so you won’t be doing much SJW entryism there.

  24. Mike Mike November 23, 2015

    @Nomen luni

    Funny, I remember reading Sarah’s first outburst on the LKML and I reached the exact same conclusion as the article in your first link.

    Linux is better off without Sarah Sharp.

  25. Aaron B. Aaron B. November 23, 2015

    Switch to FreeBSD because it’s an excellent operating system, not because you hope it will be a safer space for passive-aggressive cry-bullies.

  26. Louis B Louis B November 23, 2015

    I think the point is: leaving a community not because it’s unsafe, but because one wouldn’t want to be a part of a community that tolerates very rude behaviours.
    Linus might be totally right on his arguments, that does not mean that he has to be so rude in the way he expresses his views. I don’t know what’s to be gained in being insulting to people. You can disagree with someone even without using the harsh language. After reading his auto-biography, it is kind of obvious that his biggest strentgh is not into social skills. Maybe a bit of coaching on that side would not be such a bad thing after all. But I think it’s a loss really if Larry leaves the boat. I found that the work he did with Reglue was really inspiring, that what he did might help other people trying to develop something alike elsewhere in the world. But if you’re leaving the boat, who’s gonna help change that bullying culture?

  27. Riyadh A Riyadh A November 24, 2015

    I am not going to stop using Linux just because Linus is an boorish, vulgar, rude and so on but I respect Larry’s decision.
    It would be good if everyone could stand up to bullies but the reality is that not all people can. Any decent person who has people they care about would be more sensitive and not do what he does. Being more caring and helpful to others would not harm the product. I think he has kids, I wonder if he treats them the same way…

  28. Michael Huff Michael Huff November 24, 2015

    Is there such a thing as an estrogen leak? Honest to God. This sounds like some people just need to toughen up. Phrases like “It’s not okay.” have become the rallying cries (and sniffles…and sobs) of the snowflake generation. Let the haters hate. That’s freedom for ya. Something the snowflakes will never understand.

  29. Nomen luni Nomen luni November 24, 2015

    Interested to know if the author plans to dissociate from Linux completely- including the Linux server I presume is hosting this website?

    P.S Aaron B wins best comment award, although I prefer to stick with the penguin.

  30. Steve Duff Steve Duff November 24, 2015

    Linus is Linux. Linux is Linus.

    And when I look a Linus, I see a toxic bully.

    When I read the comments here, I see people making excuses for him.

    I cannot help but think “Battered Wife Syndrome”

    Linus needs to be fired.

    And replaced with engineers and scientists.

    The leader set the tone for the whole organization.

    And for the “product” itself.

    Linux is a cult of personality.

    And Linus is the poster child for that personality type.

    Linus is a messy slob.

    This reflects into a messy product, a prepetually half working, half finished Linux.

    Linus needs to go.

    If you cannot see this . . .

  31. Scott Dowdle Scott Dowdle November 24, 2015

    Steve Duff, your comment is evidence that everyone has an opinion… not necessarily informed… but an opinion.

  32. Mike S. Mike S. November 24, 2015

    @Steve Duff,
    I have to wonder if you’re trolling to discredit the people who disagree with Linus’ leadership methods.

    First of all, I don’t think anyone – even the people adamantly opposed to his most obnoxious comments – is criticizing his technical skill.

    Second, it’s his project. We can’t fire him. We can fork the kernel, but we can’t kick him out of his own project. But to be fair, as Duncan pointed out waaaay up thread, Linus’ last widely publicized rant was laden with obscenities and vicious criticism but zero personal insults. By Sarah Sharp’s own standards, that’s fine. So maybe he hasn’t announced any policy change but made one nonetheless.

    ( On the other hand, Duncan noted that no contacts for filing complaints about violations of the code of conduct were contacted. I don’t think that point has any value in Dunan’s argument – it’s likely that the first person to publicly admit they contacted one of those contacts over a violation would be widely ridiculed and receive much abuse from fans of Linux and Linus. )

  33. machinebacon machinebacon November 25, 2015

    Looking forward to your input on the BSD side 😉 Good luck!

  34. Dinsdale Dinsdale November 26, 2015

    PC-BSD has been rock solid for me over the last three years. I now run it as my daily driver on an HP Envy. FreeBSD is a complete operating system including all the software you need. Some applications that aren’t as well supported can be outdated or broken, but hey, the source is there for you. Ports and Pkgng are great tools that make it seamless to get the applications you want.

    I also do all my Arm development through PC-BSD (FreeBSD current on a Hummingboard IMx6). I also stream video on my network using Serviio. I have two jails running to separate Zombie movies from my kids shows. I’ve yet to find something I can’t do with PC-BSD.

  35. paul vixie paul vixie November 26, 2015

    power is seductive, and corrupts. my personalized reason for cringing when i read a rant from linus is, i’ve done the same thing, and i despise those memories. h/t to marshall kirk mckusick, who has influenced the shape of the freebsd leadership and community such that there are no “key” people. for the last 20 years there, asshats have been removable. that doesn’t mean there aren’t arguments, but it does mean those arguments don’t end in favor of asshats.

  36. SystemD Hater SystemD Hater November 26, 2015

    Is the Linux social justice gravy train drying up for fat old white men who are perpetually outraged by the endless river of my soggy knees on the internet Larry? Is it time to look for a new group of open developers who have not been shaken down yet by diversity scam artist?

    Maybe, maybe not. But the fact is you made your bed and chose your allegiances now your going to sleep in that bed. Sarah Sharp is a social justice scam artist, passive aggressive bully and a drama queen. If thats who you want to role with then your no better. Inclusiveness aside no one has any more patients or handouts for shake down artist posing as victims of the patriarchy. Not the Linux community, Not the BSD community.

    Maybe its time you get an honest Job Larry? Or maybe retire and take up fly fishing and leave those evil programmers alone?

  37. Randal Randal November 26, 2015

    Staying out of the Linux side? So sticking to your guns, you will be losing income on reporting on Linux then?
    What about that particular BSD, makes you happy with it? I hope it doesn’t use things like OpenSSH in it, because you will find it to be developed by someone who Linus called difficult and may not like his attitude as well.
    How many and how far back did you read her or Linus’s posts in the mailing list, before making your informed decisions? That in itself would be a good story.

  38. Mike Mike November 26, 2015

    Where’re you going to go now Larry?

    I find it amusing that near the bottom of Sarah Sharp’s blog post that you linked to is this quote from Sarah:

    Edit 2: Please stop suggesting BSDs or Canonical/Ubuntu as “better” communities.

  39. Caesar Tjalbo Caesar Tjalbo November 29, 2015

    In the past couple of years I’ve read a few (4, 5?) times about Linus Torvalds saying something terrible and/or inapropriate. Always interested in a bit of scandal, I looked it up on the kernel mailing list and always found the reporting hyperbolic compared to what actually happened.

    I’ve read posts by Torvalds where he scolds a person for doing something braindead who should have known better. I say that’s ok. I’ve read strong language from Torvalds for a systemd developer for stupid and arrogant behavior. Ok too imho.

    In the few times that Torvalds made the news for one of his outbursts, I’ve never thought that he crossed a line or was unfair.

    The thing I can recommend here is: don’t believe what other people write/say/think about Torvalds, look it up yourself, read the thread with the follow-up messages.

  40. Richard Thornton Richard Thornton December 7, 2015

    It’s amazing. I actually agree with Mike. Guys like Larry are Users, not developers, so use it and be happy. This discussion reminds me of those who were suddenly anti-Picasso because he was mean to women. Or all the anti woody Allen movie goers.

  41. eagle eagle December 12, 2015

    I’m switching from Linux to FreeBSD because of systemd. I am a huge CentOS/RHEL fan, and have run it for many years (both personally and professionally), but have been gradually moving toward FreeBSD. systemd has finally pushed me completely in the FreeBSD camp.

    OSes are a hobby of mine (I have an ESXi lab running a few dozen various things), and I will continue to play with Linux distributions, but my real work is now done in FreeBSD.

  42. Pedro Pedro December 13, 2015

    For me it is rather amusing to read about the recent social issues in the linux world. I have always used FreeBSD and I am not aware about having lost any functionality using it instead of linux. Yes, it took some time to get but nowadays with ZFS and DTrace, FreeBSD is absolutely fun. I love the OS and I am rather proud of my small contributions here and there.

    One thing that probably stands out as different between the BSDs and linux is that, at least in FreeBSD, there is no such thing as the benevolent dictator. We do have some recognized leaders with their own technical biases but the project is organized in such a way that they work as a team. In general most of us contributing are aware that: 1) there is always someone that may know better than you and 2) you really want to keep to get the development environment sane. Having a smaller community is actually an advantage and so far the organization has scaled well.

    The systemd thing, for example is something that is pretty much not happening in FreeBSD. Yes, there is a port of launchd but we are very clearly aware on the many issues it may involve and while we want it as an option it is clearly not something that will be pushed into end users.

    There are usually so many things to be done (we take care of the kernel and userland integrally) that it doesn’t really happen that you get stepped on your toes and even if it does happen we are OK with anyone forking the code, trying their new ideas, and occasionally bringing the new stuff back in. DragonFlyBSD, PCBSD and to some extent MacOS X and the PS4 started like that.

    Finally, the license also ends up being really friendly: people that contribute back to the BSDs do so because they want to, without any pressure involving being forced by a license/lawyer to do so. A different world I guess.

  43. Mike S. Mike S. December 13, 2015

    Anything open source is great, so I wish you and all other FreeBSD users and developers nothing but success and satisfaction.

    On the issue of license, my own take on the Free Software Foundation position is that most liberal license open source software gets incorporated into proprietary products. You, a FreeBSD user, are annoyed at the restrictions of the LGPL, GPL, and AGPL. But you are undoubtedly more annoyed at the restrictions attached to software from Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle – *and they are attaching those restrictions to products that incorporate code you wrote* (!) So you have an enormous respect for the freedom of the people that receive your code, and that very noble motive gets abused and used against you and against all other people everywhere.

    I am practical, I pay my bills writing proprietary software. But I understand why the FSF recommends copyleft licenses, and I agree with them.

  44. cpt.irony cpt.irony December 13, 2015

    It’s telling from the amount of vitriol and tl;dr angry conviction in some of these comments that the author has a point. If abusing people furthered delivering a better kernel it might be all well and good, but critiquing people’s code and having violent fits of public anger over it are two different things. Behaving like a callous, petulant manchild to underscore a point is a much more about laziness and personality disorders than it is a project management strategy. Mocking people’s capacity for empathy and mutual respect, within reasonable limits, is suggestive of a deficiency in it. It doesn’t make you “tough” or “real”, it makes you socially stunted asshole who doesn’t bother to communicate.

  45. Pedro Pedro December 14, 2015

    @Mike S.

    I am honestly not annoyed by either commercial of copyleft software. People that spend time writing code have all the right to decide the license for their product. I have no problem using MacOS X and Microsoft Office, and I do depend on a couple of copyleft tools for my line of work: whatever suits my needs is fine.

    I do find annoying that people that don’t code at all may feel entitled to tell you what license you should use in your code. Libraries that use GPL instead of LGPL very much lie in a dark zone. Something that I certainly find annoying is that a company may find it better to invest millions in products like Oracle and will make your life miserable if you even mention PostgreSQL (to name just a case).

    I don’t really care much about so-called software-evangelists … I chose my fights :).

  46. Mike S. Mike S. December 14, 2015

    Again, as a practical matter I work on proprietary code. So I’ll never call someone out for picking a particular license. We all have to eat.

    But to me, copyleft is the ideal because it enforces something that I think brings the most freedom to the most people – the ability to modify and distribute the code for every program, service, and device you use.

  47. Pedro Pedro December 14, 2015


    Working on closed source one should grow an appreciatiion for permissive licenses. Does it make sense to rewrite code from scratch or to build upon something that you can use commercially?

    The llicense is not all that important: if you want to contribute to opensource you do it. Even if the software is copyleft you can sidestep upstreaming and/or it may be difficult to upstream your patches, so the idea that the license guarantees freedoms is not all that true. Not to mention China, where lthey dont read licenses.
    I like the idea of having a high quality codebase that I can re-use for my projects. I’d also argue that most end users dont care about the source code.

  48. Mike S. Mike S. December 14, 2015

    “Working on closed source one should grow an appreciation for permissive licenses.” Actually, that fits my point. From Twitter, “Free software is free as in freedom. Open source is free as in labor.”

    I definitely think most end users don’t care about the source code. But that’s irrelevant to my point. You can’t protect your right to fair use or your privacy when you run software unless you have full access to the source code. It is admittedly a first world problem – someone who doesn’t have enough to eat doesn’t care about the proprietary firmware on her feature phone. But I don’t want my kids to live in a world where their only only access to media and hardware is through gateways totally controlled by corporate giants.

  49. Pedro Pedro December 15, 2015


    Nice phrase, but inaccurate. Free software is *also* free labor. I am sorry to be the one giving you this news but people don’t like to pay for software that they can get for free.

    Free software is indeed killing commercial software. The concept of buying software is either disappearing or a no-go these days: in my personal case I only bought MS-Windows because it was cheaper to buy my computer with it, so it was essentially free (as in price).

    My way if seeing it is this: FreeBSD currently does everything I need to do with it, if you manage to provide quality and/or functionality beyond what you see in FreeBSD and make money out of it, I am perfectly fine with it.

    Of course, there are companies building products on top of FreeBSD: many of them give back code or funding, or employ FreeBSD developers. Everyone generally gives back one way or the other, pretty much like other companies do for linux, but without any need for legal threats.

  50. Mike S. Mike S. December 16, 2015

    Just to be clear, there’s someone else that typically uses “Mike” on this site, so I’m careful to use “Mike S.”
    Free software is emphatically not killing commercial software. The critical bits of iOS and Android are not free. Windows still dominates consumer desktops and OS X has 90% of the remaining share. Microsoft Office, Office 365, and Google Docs dominate office suite usage. Any legal blu ray player software is proprietary. (There are open source blu ray players, but they can only play the rare unencrypted blu rays.) Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and Whatsapp are proprietary. Google search, Bing search, and Duckduckgo are proprietary. Open source games are an insignificant fraction of the gaming market.
    Proprietary software is *winning*, and it’s winning because the flow of free code is one way. Copyleft code remains copyleft, and aside from the Linux kernel it’s mostly ignored. Liberal license code gets adopted by commercial vendors when it suits them, and they give back to the community when they feel like.
    Apple made over $20 billion last year in profit, what value did they give back to the open source community in contributed code? 5% of that? 10%? Microsoft made $12 billion in profit last year, even open sourcing .NET and their Chakra javascript engine constitutes a tiny portion of their total code.

  51. Mike Mike December 16, 2015

    – other Mike here: Not Mike S.

    @Mike S.
    > “Apple made over $20 billion last year in profit, what value did they give back to the open source community in contributed code? 5%”

    I think the community would be in shock if that happened. Apple gives almost nothing back at all. They are almost completely a parasite upon open source.

    I look at it this way:

    From a privacy and security standpoint – commercial proprietary software is a danger to everyone. The GPL encourages more free software in a way the permissive licenses don’t.

    GPL means free code stays free. The only people it restricts are those who would build upon it and give nothing back. It doesn’t restrict anyone from running the code.

    BSD and so-called permissive licenses lack any protection for freedom. They are only more permissive to someone who intends to build upon the free code and give nothing back. If you never intend to help others, why should you benefit from the free labor of others?

  52. Mike S. Mike S. December 16, 2015

    Right. Apple contributes to LLVM and WebKit, but it’s rounding error in the company’s total budget. And tens of thousands of other companies take BSD/Apache/MIT license software and contribute back zero.

  53. Pedro Pedro December 16, 2015

    @both Mikes (sorry for the confusion there)

    In places where free software and commercial software compete, free software wins. Who cares about SGI, Solaris or HPUX these days? It’s also rather sad that the few small independent software shops are all dead by now.

    Apple probably needs it’s own chapter: they played with linux but they were using BSD since the NEXT days and they also liked more the license (don’t blame them glibc started on top of an older BSD libc). The attempt to force them to release ObjC, enforcing the GPL, was apparently successful but didn’t end up very well (no runtime!). OTOH, they released SWift without having the obligation to do it.

    Did they give back to FreeBSD? They hired BSD developers which is good and some of them found their way back. Rather recently I took from them a bunch of enhancements for FreeBSD libc that helps it comply with UNIX standards, and thanks to them FreeBSD supports Apple’s GCD. We could have used more of their code if they hadn’t tried to build their own copyleft-like community around Darwin. Could they have done more? Absolutely yes, but it’s understandable that they want to sell something, and I am not sure I care about having Cocoa open-sourced.

    FreeBSD will always be free, at least as long as we have the code under version control and there are sufficient mirrors to save from natural catastrophes. We don’t need a license to keep it free.

  54. Mike Mike December 16, 2015


    >”OTOH, they released SWift without having the obligation to do it.”

    That, like Microsoft’s recent .Net open source gestures, are calculated moves to bring more developers to their specific app platforms. It has nothing to do with wanting to help other people.

    They, like Microsoft, open things only where it has strategic value, and keep everything else locked tighter than Fort Knox.

  55. Mike S. Mike S. December 16, 2015

    You and I differed elsewhere, but here you’re making all of my arguments much more eloquently than I could. Thanks. I defer to the better Mike. 🙂

  56. Pedro Pedro December 16, 2015


    I agree that Microsoft and Apple have their own agendas. They are embracing opensource, very likely due to the pressure of having to compete in a truly open market. About the intentions or future plans I can’t really know, but this is a positive change wrt to the usual closed-source approach IMHO.

  57. Mike Mike December 16, 2015

    With regard to Apple and Microsoft:

    >”About the intentions or future plans I can’t really know, but this is a positive change…IMHO”

    I’m sure the people of Troy said much the same when they saw a big wooden horse outside the city gates.

  58. Mike S. Mike S. December 16, 2015

    They released programming tools as open because they want to make their platform more attractive to developers. That’s because having more software on the platform increases how attractive it is to users.

    But they still ultimately get their revenue from users based on software licenses, hardware bundled with their software, and advertising. As long as that’s true, they’ll never voluntarily release their core software as open source.

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