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Counting to four

March 1, 2012

The recent FOSS hubbub-in-a-teapot has Linus Torvalds ranting about security — again (remember the “masturbating monkeys”?). The rant deals with having to use root passwords on OpenSUSE for basic daily usage, which Linus find a bit much and says so with inspired prose.

Arguably, he has a point, or several. How he makes it, though, is a bit over-the-top.

Pot, meet kettle. I have a reputation for being quick on the proverbial draw when it comes to things that annoy me — to the point where my Santa Cruz Sentinel colleague Tony Solis has made a chart designating the “Larry Threat Level” on any particular newsroom day. And if you permit me a Captain Obvious moment, writing when you’re furious is not the best thing to do. I’ve had to backpedal on more than one occasion because the white-hot prose that flew from the keyboard here sounded great in the fury of anger, but later it paled in comparison.

So I don’t mind so much that Linus went off like a Roman candle about this incident. What I do mind a bit — and I think it’s way beneath him, no matter how annoyed he is — is this line from his “venting,” as he puts it: “So here’s a plea: if you have anything to do with security in a distro, and think that my kids (replace ‘my kids’ with ‘sales people on the road’ if you think your main customers are businesses) need to have the root password to access some wireless network, or to be able to print out a paper, or to change the date-and-time settings, please just kill yourself now. The world will be a better place.”

Calling security-obsessed programmers “masturbating monkeys” is one thing. Suggesting suicide for something that, at best, is an annoyance that can easily be fixed is akin to spraying down someone with automatic gunfire after they kick you in the shin.

Truth in advertising: I have a stake in this, sort of. Years ago, a friend of mine had a spouse who commited suicide. On a variety of levels, it was extremely traumatic for family and friends, and it’s not something you fix from the command line or by writing better code. It’s permanent.

When things annoy me — which is more often than I’d like — I go walk in the woods. Fortunately for me, I live within walking distance of Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, where I go to put things in perspective; 200-foot trees can do that. Linus, I know redwoods are native to northwestern Oregon, so a walk among the trees might be good idea before hitting the keyboard to vent. Or dive, since I know you’re a scuba diver (the Pacific is not far from Portland, if I remember correctly).

So Linus, and everyone else, it’s also good to take Mark Twain’s advice: “When angry count four; when very angry, swear.”

(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)

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Eliminate DRM!

  1. anthonyvenable110
    March 1, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    Hmm, yes that was going over the top, totally unnecessary to take it that far especially in an event with so many people that would re quote him.

  2. Paul Sams
    March 1, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Linus could at least add “I’m sorry” to his vocabulary.
    Paul Sams

  3. March 2, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    The major roadblock to the uptake of Linux is the people of Linux.

    For the past couple of years I have called myself a Linux guy.
    Not a FOSS guy because some of more visible people in FOSS
    are so repugnant . Now the Chief Linux Dude loses his class over
    a trivial issue?

    There are choices as the Free Software Guy always says, I may
    have to chose some other OS, some other platform. At least I’d
    know I was dealing with butt monkeys going into the deal.

    • March 2, 2012 at 2:40 pm

      This really isn’t new — his “masturbating monkeys” comment a few years ago was about BSD folks too hung up on security, and he’s been known to blow off steam and put coders in the crosshairs. Also, arguably I don’t blame him for blowing his stack — which of us hasn’t? My only issue, albeit minor, is that he’s asking folks to kill themselves (not that they would, but you never know), and that’s a bit harsh.

  4. oystercatcher
    June 19, 2012 at 7:15 am

    the only redwoods that I am aware of in oregon is a rather small grove near the california border. That would be south west oregon

    • June 19, 2012 at 8:56 am

      I stand corrected (though last time I was in Oregon — outside Portland — I thought I saw redwoods. Maybe I was just hoping).

  1. June 18, 2012 at 10:20 am
  2. July 16, 2013 at 10:04 am
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