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Interview with Theo deRaadt

By Chris Silva <csilva@daemonnews.org>

CDS> Theo - allow me to introduce myself. Chris Silva with Daemon News. I'm a new contributing Editor for the Ezine. Theo, may I ask you a few questions for publication?

Theo> I will give it a shot.

CDS> Can you explain why the artwork changes from release to release?

Theo> Every release we place "Puffy" (our mascot) in a different thematic situation based on issues which we see are being faced (or ignored) by the free/open source community. Most of these issues have been about where a freedom is being impinged by some vendor, or sometimes even more sadly, some hypocritical open source project.

We try to always use some sort of well known story which we can allegorically twist to be like the situations that we feel we are facing.

Ever since 3.0, we have also been lucky to have some local Calgarian musician Ty Semaka (and his gang of friends) to also set music to each of the stories. Readers can go visit http://www.openbsd.org/lyrics.html to see the cartoon and the lyrics that accompany each release. But more importantly the left column comments on the reason for the theme, and the issue we feel the larger community needs to be aware of, and face head on.

CDS> Can you explain why you use "Puffy" as the image for the OS?

Theo> Early on we had the daemon with a halo over his head. Back then, though, FreeBSD started using the daemon imagery so very successfully (mostly because Walnut Creek's visibility), so we felt that it would be a good move to try to use some other artwork to express ourselves.

Niels Provos and David Mazieres had built the excellent 'bcrypt' algorithm for our passwd file, which derives it's strength from the flaw in the blowfish algorithm (that flaw being that the algorithm has an excessively expensive key schedule setup function). Back then, shipping good crypto was a very big problem for the US-based projects (and still is today, because crypto export out of the US is not declared legal, it is simply federal policy for now to ignore the problem).

A graphic artist I know drew the first blowfish for me (for a sticker) and voila, we liked it so much that we decided to use it to represent the project.

CDS> What are your thoughts on both NetBSD and FreeBSD's new logos?

Theo> I really like how they make absolutely no statement at all.

CDS> What are your thoughts on DragonFly BSD?

Theo> Besides Dillon, it seems to be a very small group of developers. I check in their tree once in a while to see if there is anything that OpenBSD can use, but thus far I have found nothing. Almost everything seems to be tied to the stuff Dillon is working on, but that stuff really is not the type of thing one can seperate out.

And it gets harder when much of it is would collide so roughly with our multiplatform support. (We would need a large group of developers to go down that road).

CDS> Can you please give me some tid-bits on the upcoming release of 3.9?

Theo> It is very difficult to know what people might be interested in. The best thing is for people to look specifically at http://www.openbsd.org/39.html, and if they want more details, the much more detailed list at http://www.openbsd.org/plus39.html

CDS> What new things are planned for future release? Mainly 4.0

Theo> I've often said about our project, that we believe in evolution not revolution. So quite frankly, I have no idea what we will manage to pull off. Say we have a goal, but we realise it is not ready for release yet. Well, then we leave the code in, but turned off. So something will be enabled when it is ready, not before. Thus, the planning part does not matter that much.

It comes down to if we succeed, because some things can even get disabled weeks before a release.

CDS> With the tenth anniversary of "The Complete FreeBSD" and as popular as that has become, do you see yourself penning such a thing for OpenBSD?

Theo> Well, I don't see myself as a writer of something like that. Especially writing something which is just a system administrator book. That is just not something I could do. It has no interest for me.

CDS> OpenBSD is geared more towards servers however, a fair amount of users prefer it as the desktop environment. When you first started developing OBSD, did you envision this happening?

Theo> I don't think there is anything different between a server and a non-server machine. If there has started to be -- and by that I mean that we secure our desktop machines less -- then we have got a serious problem. We must try better then.

CDS> What are some of the recurring expenses the project has that are fundamental to it's existence so that we can emphasize how important it is for users to contribute to the project.

Theo> The electric bill is about $100 USD per week. We have occasional hardware replacement costs, but it is hard to judge those. The best thing for people to realize there is that if we did not upgrade, our developer community could not increase.

Large hackathons (once a year) cost at least $20,000 USD, but I would like to get another $5,000 a year to be able to fly more poor developers to Calgary. Small hackathons might cost about $8,000 but we would also like to have some travel expense money for people too. In the coming year we are hoping to hold 3 mini-hackathons. This is very exciting -- for instance, one of them will put all developers who work on IPSEC in one place for a week. Just imagine what will happen.

I also have to have a minimal salary because I work full time to coordinate developers (and make the releases). Finally, I am also saving some money for a rainy day, perhaps when the basement machine room floods or something ;)

CDS> Theo, what are the reasons you and the project have for not creating ISOs for download?

Do you feel that doing so reduce some of the funding for the project?

Theo> Yes, it would definately cut even further into our funding. Doing so would probably be the most stupid move the project could do. The lack of ISO images has not slowed our growth.

CDS> In earlier years you could be found on IRC - do you still partake and if so, where might users find you?

Theo> No. I don't have any particular reason to want to be hand-holding users, which is what IRC would be all about. Back then, I was on IRC because it was the early OpenBSD days, and that is where I communicated with the security auditing people that I knew.

CDS> Theo in jest, if you absolutely had to use Linux, what distro might that be - of course, "No Comment" would be acceptable.

Theo> Well, I have never had to, and I don't expect that I will have to.

CDS> And lastly Theo, here's your chance to pitch to users and potential users; what would you like to let the BSD community know about you and or the project that they don't already?

Theo> Nothing in particular.

Many thanks Theo for taking the time to indulge me.

OpenBSD is the creation of Theo de Raadt and many developers over the years.

The OpenBSD project's website is http://www.openbsd.org/

If you would like to contribute to the project, you can do so here: http://www.openbsd.org/donations.html

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