Meet the 'bad boys' of open source

The open source world's most notorious characters.

When most people think of "open source," the word "nerd" comes to mind pretty quickly (followed by "neck beard"). And that doesn't, exactly, make you think "bad boy."

But that impression is dead wrong. In fact, I'd say people who work in open source tend to be more deserving of the "bad boy" moniker than any other group in the technology world. Let's take a stroll through some of the baddest of these bad boys.

Linus Torvalds

Linus Torvalds has... let's just call it a "reputation" for being blunt. Submit a code change to the Linux Kernel that he doesn't care for? You're going to hear about it, possibly in some pretty colorful language. Here are some quotes to give you a taste of his style (the more colorful quotes have been left out so as not to offend...everyone).

"I hope I won't end up having to hunt you all down and kill you in your sleep."

"Standards are paper. I use paper to wipe my butt every day. That's how much that paper is worth."

"If you want me to 'act professional,' I can tell you that I'm not interested. I'm sitting in my home office wearing a bathrobe."

Andrew Tanenbaum

Back before Linux was a gleam in Linus's eye, there was a UNIX-like system called MINIX. Created by Andrew Tanenbaum, MINIX was a micro-kernel based system that was built for the purpose of learning about operating system design in universities. In fact, MINIX is one of the original reasons that Linux was first created. In those early days, Tanenbaum and Torvalds had some great, no-holds-barred exchanges, resulting in some of the following quotes from the MINIX creator.

"LINUX is obsolete."

"Be thankful you are not my student. You would not get a high grade for such a design :-) ... Writing a new OS only for the 386 in 1991 gets you your second F for this term."

Richard Stallman

You didn't think we'd forget Richard M. Stallman, the man behind the Free Software Foundation and the GNU project, did you? Stallman (aka "RMS") may be the original "Open Source Bad Boy." He has a global network of people that will make you think twice about crossing him. He has said far too many things to list here, so I'll present to you two quotes that best sum up RMS:

"Writing non-free software is not an ethically legitimate activity, so if people who do this run into trouble, that's good! All businesses based on non-free software ought to fail, and the sooner the better."

"Odious ideas are not entitled to hide from criticism behind the human shield of their believers' feelings."

Theo de Raadt

Theo de Raadt, the rather outspoken developer with a knack for ruffling feathers, founded OpenBSD and OpenSSH.

"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."

About Linux: "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.’"

About Richard Stallman: "...you are being the usual slimy hypocritical [CENSORED]... You may have had value ten years ago, but people will see that you don't anymore."

"Difficult." - Linus Torvalds on Theo de Raadt, Forbes, June 16, 2005

Miguel de Icaza

Miguel de Icaza founded the GNOME project, then created the Mono project, an open source implementation of Microsoft's .Net framework that drew its fair share of criticism from Linux users. That earned him his "Bad Boy" status. But Miguel wasn't content to be any-old bad boy! The man went on to leave the Linux world completely, and publicly switch over the Apple products...slamming Linux along the way.

"Even during all of my dogfooding and Linux advocacy days, whenever I had to recommend a computer to a single new user, I recommended a Mac. And whenever I gave away computer gifts to friends and family, it was always a Mac. Linux just never managed to cross the desktop chasm."

Eric Raymond

Author of "The Cathedral and the Bazaar," one of the most influential pieces of writing in the open source world, Eric Raymond is often regarded as a sort of honorary figurehead for open source. He also worked on NetHack, one of the highest-regarded video games of all time. But that's not quite enough to earn him a "Bad Boy" badge. Did I mention he's also the editor of the Jargon File (aka "The Hackers Dictionary") and is an ardent gun rights advocate? There we go. All of that together = Bad Boy.

"When I hear the words 'social responsibility,' I want to reach for my gun."

More quotes can be found here.

Mark Shuttleworth

Publicly, the man behind Ubuntu, Mark Shuttleworth comes across as a very reasonable chap. But don't let that fool you into believing Shuttleworth is just your average, run-of-the-mill nerd. This man may very well be the biggest bad boy of them all. I'll leave you with these facts so you can make up your mind for yourself.

1) He is the only man on this list who has traveled into space.

2) He is on a quest for world domination - pushing Ubuntu into every aspect of computing, including server, TV and mobile phones.

3) He is responsible for the "Unity" project, Ubuntu's new user interface.

He may not look much like Hugo Drax but, otherwise, there are an awful lot of parallels to Moonraker.

Bruce Perens

Bruce Perens is the founder (with Eric Raymond) of the Open Source Initiative, writer of the Open Source Definition, and spoke at a United Nations conference on open source. He also created the Linux Standard Base and BusyBox. Plus, when he started writing the Open Source Definition it was known as the Debian Free Software Guidelines. He then went on to promote the Red Hat Package format within the Linux Standard Base, which tells you one thing - this man cannot be contained.

"The strategic marketing paradigm of open source is a massively-parallel drunkard's walk filtered by a Darwinistic process."

Steve Ballmer

We end our journey into the world of Open Source Bad Boys with someone... a little different. Steve Ballmer, the current head of Microsoft (for a bit longer, at any rate). Yes, Microsoft does open source, on occasion. And, let's be honest, in terms of "Open Source," who would be a bigger "Bad Boy" than Ballmer? I leave you with two choice quotes.

"Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches. That's the way that the license works."

"I would love to see all open-source innovation happen on top of Windows."