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Theo de Raadt

Theo de Raadt, hiking
Born May 19, 1968 (1968-05-19) (age 41)
Pretoria, South Africa
Residence Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Fields computer scientist, free software developer
Institutions FSA Corporation
Alma mater University of Calgary
Known for NetBSD, OpenBSD, OpenSSH, his personality, advocacy
Notable awards Award for the Advancement of Free Software

Theo de Raadt, (English pronunciation: /ˈθiː.oʊ dɛˈrɔːt/, Dutch pronunciation: [ˈteː.o dɛˈraːt]), born May 19, 1968 in Pretoria, South Africa, is a software engineer who lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is the founder and leader of the OpenBSD and OpenSSH projects, and was a founding member of the NetBSD project.



Theo de Raadt is the eldest of four children to a Dutch father, and a South African mother, with two sisters and a brother. Concern over the mandatory two-year armed forces conscription in South Africa led the family to emigrate to Calgary, Alberta, Canada in November 1977. In 1983 the largest recession in Canada since the Great Depression sent the family to the Yukon. Prior to the move de Raadt got his first computer, a Commodore VIC-20, which he soon upgraded to an Amiga. It is with these computers that he first began to develop software.[1]

In 1992 he obtained a B.Sc in Computer Science from the University of Calgary.


The NetBSD project was founded in 1993 by Chris Demetriou, Adam Glass, Charles Hannum, and de Raadt, who collectively felt frustration at the speed and quality of Jolix, the then standard Berkeley software distribution, and believed that a more open development model would be of greater benefit to development of an operating system. Jolix, also known as 386BSD, was derived from the original University of California Berkeley's 4.3BSD release, while the new NetBSD project would merge relevant code from the Networking/2 and 386BSD releases. The new project would centre its focus on clean, portable, correct code with the goal being to produce a unified, multi-platform, production-quality, BSD-based operating system.

Because of the importance of networks such as the Internet in the distributed, collaborative nature of its development, de Raadt suggested the name "NetBSD", which the three other founders agreed upon.

The first NetBSD source code repository was established on March 21, 1993 and the initial release, NetBSD 0.8, was made in April, 1993. This was derived from 386BSD 0.1 plus the version 0.2.2 unofficial patchkit, with several programs from the Net/2 release missing from 386BSD re-integrated, and various other improvements. In August the same year, NetBSD 0.9 was released, which contained many enhancements and bug fixes. This was still a PC-platform-only release, although by this time work was underway to add support for other architectures.

NetBSD 1.0 was released in October, 1994. This was the first multi-platform release, supporting the IBM PC compatible, HP 9000 Series 300, Amiga, 68k Macintosh, Sun-4c series and PC532. Also in this release, the legally-encumbered Net/2-derived source code was replaced with equivalent code from 4.4BSD-lite, in accordance with the USL v BSDi lawsuit settlement. De Raadt played a vital role in the creation of the sparc port, as together with Chuck Cranor [3], he implemented much of the initial code.

A dispute with the NetBSD core team ultimately led to the creation of OpenBSD.[2]


In December 1994, de Raadt was asked to resign his position as a senior developer and member of the NetBSD core team, and his access to the source code repository was revoked. The reason for this is not wholly clear, although there are claims that it was due to personality clashes within the NetBSD project and on its mailing lists.[2] De Raadt has been criticized for having a somewhat abrasive personality: in his book, Free For All, Peter Wayner claims that de Raadt "began to rub some people the wrong way" before the split from NetBSD;[3] while Linus Torvalds has described him as "difficult";[4] and an interviewer admits to being "apprehensive" before meeting him.[5] Many have different feelings: the same interviewer describes de Raadt's "transformation" on founding OpenBSD and his "desire to take care of his team," some find his straightforwardness refreshing, and few deny he is a talented hacker[6] and security "guru".[7]

In October 1995, de Raadt founded OpenBSD, a new project forked from NetBSD 1.0. The initial release, OpenBSD 1.2, was made in July 1996, followed in October of the same year by OpenBSD 2.0.[8] Since then, the project has followed a schedule of a release every six months, each of which is maintained and supported for one year.


Jon "maddog" Hall presents de Raadt with daemon horns at fisl8

De Raadt has been a vocal advocate of Free Software since the inception of OpenBSD, but he is also a strong proponent of free speech, having on occasion had rather public disputes with various groups, from Linux advocates to governments. This outspoken attitude, while sometimes the cause of conflict, has also led him to acclaim; de Raadt has given presentations at open source, free software and security conferences around the world — including FOSDEM in Brussels, Belgium, Usenix in San Antonio, Texas, U.S., AUUG Conference in Melbourne, Australia and fisl in Porto Alegre, RS, Brazil.

DARPA funding cancellation

After de Raadt stated his disapproval of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq in an April, 2003 interview[9] with Toronto's Globe and Mail, a multi-million-dollar US Department of Defense grant to the University of Pennsylvania's POSSE project was cancelled, effectively ending the project. Funding from the grant had been used in the development of OpenSSH and OpenBSD, as well as many other projects and was to be used to pay for the hackathon planned for May 8, 2003. Despite money from the grant already having been used to secure accommodations for sixty developers for a week, the money was reclaimed by the government at a loss and the hotel was told not to allow the developers to pay the reclaimed money to resecure the rooms.[10] This resulted in criticism among some that the US military held an anti-free speech attitude. The grant termination was, however, not as bad a blow as some portrayed it. The project's supporters rallied to help and the hackathon went on almost as planned. The funding was cut mere months before the end of the grant, further fueling the speculations regarding the situation surrounding the grant's termination.

Free driver advocacy

De Raadt is also well known for his advocacy of free software drivers. He has long been critical of developers of Linux and other free platforms for their tolerance of non-free drivers and acceptance of non-disclosure agreements.

In particular, de Raadt has worked to convince wireless hardware vendors to allow the firmware images of their products to be freely redistributed. These efforts have been largely successful, particularly in negotiations with Taiwanese companies, leading to many new wireless drivers. Today, de Raadt encourages wireless users to "buy Taiwanese", due to lack of willingness from US companies like Intel and Broadcom to release firmware images free from licensing restrictions.

For this de Raadt was awarded the Free Software Foundation's 2004 Award for the Advancement of Free Software.

Clash with Linux developers

In April 2007, de Raadt was involved in a controversy involving the use of GPL code from the Linux bcm43xx driver in the BSD bcw driver.[11][12] Linux developers accused the BSD community of infringing GPL code, but de Raadt denied infringement, arguing that the BSD driver was not "released". He also maintained that the conflict was not about GPL, but the way Linux developer Michael Buesch handled the situation. To Buesch's email, he responded:[13]

[...]   It will be resolved in our tree, but it is up to him which way he does it. But when you approach issues like this with comments like "We'd like you to start contacting us to resolve the issue now" and your first mail is cc'd to a couple hundred people.... in the future, please think more carefully, ok? Because right now, in that mail, you've pretty much done Broadcom's job for them. You've told the entire BSD community who may want to use a driver for this chip later, that because of a few GPL issues you are willing to use very strong words -- published very widely -- to disrupt the efforts of one guy who is trying to do things for them. And, you are going to do this using the GPL, even. You did not privately mail that developer. No, you basically went public with it. That is how about half the user and developer community will see it. They will see your widely posted mail as an overly strong position...

Another clash occurred in August 2007, when a group of Linux developers attempted to modify the license of dual-licensed ath5k driver. De Raadt summarized the issue as follows:[14]

[...]  GPL fans said the great problem we would face is that companies would take our BSD code, modify it, and not give back. Nope -- the great problem we face is that people would wrap the GPL around our code, and lock us out in the same way that these supposed companies would lock us out. Just like the Linux community, we have many companies giving us code back, all the time. But once the code is GPL'd, we cannot get it back. [...]

His responses are not known for being politically correct:[15]

[...]  You probably rape children in your spare time, and here you are, yelling at us for violating your perceived entitlement. Now, again, please leave. If you wish to stop being regarded as a prick, only you can help yourself now. [...]


  1. ^ The Age article: "Staying on the cutting edge". October 8, 2004. Accessed April 5, 2006.
  2. ^ a b Glass, Adam. Message to netbsd-users: Theo De Raadt(sic), December 23, 1994. Visited January 8, 2006.
  3. ^ Wayner, Peter. Free For All: How Linux and the Free Software Movement Undercut the High Tech Titans, 18.3 Flames, Fights, and the Birth of OpenBSD, 2000. Visited January 6, 2006.
  4. ^ Forbes. Is Linux For Losers? June 16, 2005. Visited January 8, 2006.
  5. ^ NewsForge. Theo de Raadt gives it all to OpenBSD, January 30, 2001. Visited January 14, 2010.
  6. ^ In this message the NetBSD core team acknowledge de Raadt's "positive contributions" to the project despite their problems with him.
  7. ^ Tux Journal. A good morning with: Theo de Raadt, June 2, 2005. Visited April 21, 2006 (original is 404; please see a cached copy on
  8. ^ de Raadt, Theo. Mail to openbsd-announce: The OpenBSD 2.0 release, October 18, 1996. Visited December 10, 2005.
  9. ^ Globe and Mail article: "U.S. military helps fund Calgary hacker". April 6, 2003. Accessed October 30, 2006.
  10. ^ article: "DARPA Cancels OpenBSD Funding". April 24, 2003. Accessed April 5, 2006.
  11. ^ LXer article: Broadcom Driver Dispute Uglier Than Necessary. April 7, 2007. Accessed April 8, 2007.
  12. ^ Thread on gmane.linux.kernel.wireless.general: OpenBSD bcw: Possible GPL license violation issues Various dates beginning April 4, 2007. Accessed April 8, 2007.
  13. ^ Thread on gmane.linux.kernel.wireless.general: Re: OpenBSD bcw: Possible GPL license violation issues. April 4, 2007. Accessed April 15, 2007.
  14. ^ [1] Accessed August 21, 2008.
  15. ^ [2] Accessed October 19, 2009.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Theo de Raadt is a Canadian computer security expert, programmer, a founder of NetBSD and the founder of OpenBSD.



  • The world doesn't live off jam and fancy perfumes - it lives off bread and meat and potatoes. Nothing changes. All the big fancy stuff is sloppy stuff that crashes. I don't need dancing baloney - I need stuff that works. That's not as pretty, and just as hard. Sam Varghese. "OpenBSD shows the way", ITWire, 2009-12-08.
  • I actually am fairly uncomfortable about it, even if our firm stipulation was that they cannot tell us what to do. We are simply doing what we do anyways — securing software — and they have no say in the matter. I try to convince myself that our grant means a half of a cruise missile doesn't get built.
  • Low code quality keeps haunting our entire industry. That, and sloppy programmers who don't understand the frameworks they work within. They're like plumbers high on glue.
  • Hardware donations do not come from vendors who use OpenSSH on parts of their stuff. They come from individuals. The hardware vendors who use OpenSSH on all of their products have given us a total of one laptop since we developed OpenSSH five years ago. And asking them for that laptop took a year. That was IBM.
  • So the HP guy comes up to me (at the Melbourne conference) and he says, 'If you say nasty things like that to vendors you're not going to get anything'. I said 'no, in eight years of saying nothing, we've got nothing, and I'm going to start saying nasty things, in the hope that some of these vendors will start giving me money so I'll shut up'.
  • It's terrible, everyone is using it, and they don't realize how bad it is. And the Linux people will just stick with it and add to it rather than stepping back and saying, 'This is garbage and we should fix it.
    • quoted in Lyons, Daniel. "Is Linux For Losers?", Forbes, 2005-06-16. URL accessed on 2007-01-10.
    • on the quality of the code of the Linux kernel
  • Linux people do what they do because they hate Microsoft. We do what we do because we love Unix.
  • I think it is astounding that people could argue for "you just must trust someone else to fix it" instead of "you could fix it yourself, or hire someone to fix it." There is a contractor base out there that can solve these problems as well as or better than the major vendors could. But I think the major vendors are still having more luck at getting the ear of the press.
  • Well, we do not do this so that other players can make profit. We've actually been doing this for a long time and I do not know of anyone who specifically makes money off OpenBSD. They may, at best, save some money by not having to re-engineer the same software that we have already written. It is not exactly that we are letting them make a profit, but that we are doing a proper job and saving someone else from having to do the same job in a corporate setting. In our eyes, that is perhaps a waste of planet-wide engineer talents, rewriting the same thing over and over. Why can’t we just get it right once?
  • What's so exciting is to be able to just take something and polish it so much that hopefully in the future people will start borrowing things from it.
  • are being the usual slimy hypocritical asshole... You may have had value ten years ago, but people will see that you don't anymore.
  • The only way to make it clear to him that he should not come here to our lists in the future, is to teach him a hard lesson, and that is done by continually re-adding cc's back to him -- because the mails talk about him -- even when his friends come our mailing lists and delete the his address from the cc list. Like this message, which adds him back in. Richard, you are a lying cheating hypocrite.


  • Buttons are for idiots.
    • /usr/src/usr.bin/mg/theo.c
  • A solid systems's approach should not be based on "but it works". Yet, time and time again, we see that for most people this is the case. They don't care about good software, only about "good enough" software. So the programmers can continue to make such mistakes.
    • Slashdot, December 11, 2000
  • Why are you guys so fork paranoid? Do you want everyone to vote for the same political party, too?
    • Slashdot, December 11, 2000
  • I think your computer science teachers are still teaching you from books written in the 80's, when the word "micro-kernel" was associated with a future utopia.
    •, December 11, 2000
  • But software which OpenBSD uses and redistributes must be free to all (be they people or companies), for any purpose they wish to use it, including modification, use, peeing on, or even integration into baby mulching machines or atomic bombs to be dropped on Australia.
    • mailing list, May 29, 2001
  • Do you trust glibc? OK, perhaps that snide remark is overstating things a bit, but secure software only happens when all the pieces have 100% correct behavior.
    •, November 26, 2001
  • I say things as they are. Slackers are called slackers, people who can't read manual pages are called losers, and in general, calling things what they are results in developers wasting less time.
    • KernelTrap, November 26, 2001
  • You did not create these mailing lists, so you can take your opinions about why these lists were created and shove them up your ass.
    •, June 15, 2002
  • We don't normally recommend that you use it over another operating system. Or even under, or beside, or even near. "Instead of " -- that describes how we use it ;)
    • in response to "Why would I want to use OpenBSD over another operating system?"
    •, April 19, 2004
  • It's the little things that make Freedom become Not Freedom.
    •, June 6, 2004
  • I am simply astounded at some of the things people keep repeating. I don't mean this applies to everyone, but is there a high quantity of attention deficit disorder in our user community? Or retards? Or is it just the same old trolling? OpenBSD does not incorporate non-free software.
    • when asked to include binary files to support Atheros' 802.11g wireless technology
    • mailing list, September 14, 2004
  • They may want to use some GPL'd build tools but if they start putting GPL parts directly into X, then that is going to cause another X split. I promise.
    •, November 3, 2004
  • Scaling isn't really our concern; I barely know what the word means. There is one group of people who we do know scales. Whiners. They scale really well.
    • mailing list, April 30, 2005
  • I am very easy to get along with, but I don't have time to waste being nice to people who are being stupid.
    •, May 2, 2006
  • In the Unix system view, anything which needs to talk to raw devices INSTEAD OF THE KERNEL DOING SO is broken. There are no apologies to be made. Period. If you want X to talk to IO devices, what next? ls?
    • on the poor design of X
    •, May 13, 2006
  • Hardly surprising. Apple. They build crap and make you pay extra.
    • on Apple's busted keyboard handling at device level and within ROM
    •, January 6, 2007
  • Complexity does not avert risk. Ever. Period.
    •, July 16, 2007
  • You are absolutely deluded, if not stupid, if you think that a worldwide collection of software engineers who can't write operating systems or applications without security holes, can then turn around and suddenly write virtualization layers without security holes.
    • on the statement "Virtualization seems to have a lot of security benefits"
    •, October 23, 2007
  • Shut up and hack. [1]

Quotes from others about Theo de Raadt

  • On December 20 [1994], Theo de Raadt was asked to resign from the NetBSD Project by the remaining members of 'core'. This was a very difficult decision to make, and resulted from Theo's long history of rudeness towards and abuse of users and developers of NetBSD.
    • Adam Glass, NetBSD mailing list, December 23, 1994 [2]
  • Admittedly, I was apprehensive about interviewing Theo de Raadt.
    • Julie Bresnick, Newsforge, January 30, 2001
  • Difficult.
    • Linus Torvalds, Forbes, June 16, 2005
  • What I do know is Theo is the kind of security genius that various state secret-service organizations would love to have on their side. If he were to waltz into the Department of Defense and promise to be a good boy, I think Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet would probably jizz all over himself.
  • It's widely claimed that I'm "the one" who ejected Theo from the NetBSD community. That is false. At that time in NetBSD's history, Chris G. Demetriou was playing the role of alpha male, and I wasn't even given a choice. I was certain it was going to bite us in the ass. I think the question for historians is not whether it did bite us in the ass, but how many times and how hard.

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