My personal view of OpenBSD

July 13, 2015

I have nothing against OpenBSD in situations where it works well; we run it for firewalls and a few other narrow purposes which it does well at. But I have no love for it either and left to my own devices I probably wouldn't use it for anything. Certainly I can't imagine running OpenBSD on a personal machine.

Some of this is an extension of my pragmatic and technical views on FreeBSD versus Linux, with a bit of the cultural bad blood thrown in as well. Some of it is all of the sober, calm impacts of OpenBSD's culture, since I have good reasons not to run systems where I don't think I'm going to have very much fun trying to get support or help or report bugs. But that's the easy to write about and incomplete version.

The core truth is that I don't want to associate myself with the OpenBSD culture that I described. I no longer want to be anywhere near a community that is abrasive in general and hostile to newcomers (either openly or simply by being 'clever'), one where people abusing each other on mailing lists is a perfectly okay event, and so on. My hands are not clean here, because I have been one of those clever people in the past (and part of the appreciative audience of such clever people, too). But looking back at that part of my past conduct now mostly makes me wince. Today, I try to be better and do better.

(I'm not entirely consistent, given that Linux has its own issues with this. But I feel that they are less pervasive because Linux is a much more split up system; there is no one group of people that is the entire main system the way there is with OpenBSD.)

Even if I never experienced or even saw the dark side of OpenBSD, I would know that it was there. And these days I simply don't want to hang around that sort of a place; it's not something that I find pleasant any more. And in turn that taints OpenBSD itself, because it is the heart of that culture.

PS: I don't know if what I hear about OpenBSD's culture is actually true (or if it's still true). That's why I've called it folklore. But if it isn't true, well, the OpenBSD people have a problem, because it is very pervasive folklore (and does historically clearly have some basis in fact) and I'm not sure people are going to easily believe that it's false.

(Not that I expect that the people in the OpenBSD community care about this issue or my views. Rather the contrary; it would be surprising if they were not perfectly fine with the current state of their community, and maybe rather enjoy it just the way it is.)

Written on 13 July 2015.
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Last modified: Mon Jul 13 00:38:19 2015
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