16 May 2005

Polarization Politics in BSDs

In a scene all to reminiscent of what passes for “rational” political discourse in governance today, Poul-Henning Kamp, ex-core of FreeBSD (1992-2000), and Theo deRaadt, founder of OpenBSD, are involved in a scuffle about Reyk Floeter’s presentation at a recent BSD-related conference. Apparently things got underway when Poul asked some pointed questions at the conference and then posted a review of the day’s events to the (private) FreeBSD developers mailing list. The review of Reyk’s OpenBSD Wireless presentation included Poul making a comparison to Red Army Faction, a terrorist group that killed at least nine and injured dozens more in the 1970s and later.

Now Poul-Henning Kamp does have some valid criticism and concerns about how well the OpenBSD Atheros HAL will hold up as being legally reverse engineered. The original BSD project had a whole barrel of intellectual property law fun with a small upstart named AT&T that took several years to settle. Being that as it may, it is very hard to take Poul seriously when he compares possible violations of intellectual property rules for interoperability to murderous terrorism. Of course Theo is never one to leave an itch of potential conflict unscratched and promptly fired a tirade right back and isn’t exactly being receptive to attempts to defuse the situation.

And now we have a public brouhaha over what most likely started out as a off-the-cuff answer as part of a developer’s presentation. It stands to reason that comparison to a terrorist group is just one short step short of falling victim to Godwin’s Rule. For my own purposes, it’s close enough. I think Theo should just stop talking, because he’s already won the debate.

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