Theo de Raadt, ( ), born
May 19, 1968 in Pretoria, South Africa, is a software engineer who lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
is the founder and leader of the OpenBSD
projects, and was a founding member
of the NetBSD
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
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
Prior to the move de Raadt got his first
computer, a Commodore VIC-20
he soon upgraded to an Amiga
. It is with these
computers that he first began to develop software.
In 1992 he
obtained a B.Sc in Computer Science from the University of
project was founded in 1993 by
, Adam Glass
, 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
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
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
, NetBSD 0.9 was released, which
contained many enhancements and bug fixes. This was still a
-platform-only release, although by
this time work was underway to add support for other
NetBSD 1.0 was released in October, 1994
was the first multi-platform release, supporting the IBM PC compatible
Series 300, Amiga
, 68k Macintosh
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 
, he implemented much of the initial
A dispute with the NetBSD core team ultimately led to the creation
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
. 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; while
has described him as
"difficult"; and an interviewer admits to being "apprehensive"
before meeting him. 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
and security "guru".
In October 1995, de Raadt founded OpenBSD, a new project forked
from NetBSD 1.0. The
, OpenBSD 1.2, was
made in July 1996, followed in October of the same year by OpenBSD
2.0. Since then, the project has followed a schedule of a release
every six months, each of which is maintained and supported for one
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
Raadt stated his disapproval of the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq in an
April, 2003 interview 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
planned for May 8
. 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. This
resulted in criticism among some that the US military held an
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
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. 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:
[...] 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'dlike you to start contacting us to resolve the issue now" and
yourfirst 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'sjob for them. You've told the entire BSD community who
may want touse a driver for this chip later, that because of a few
GPL issues youare willing to use very strong words -- published
very widely -- todisrupt 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 notprivately 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
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:
GPL fans said the great problem we would face is that companies
wouldtake our BSD code, modify it, and not give back. Nope -- the
greatproblem we face is that people would wrap the GPL around our
code, andlock us out in the same way that these supposed companies
would lockus out. Just like the Linux community, we have many
companies givingus code back, all the time. But once the code is
GPL'd, we cannot getit back.[...]
His responses are not known for being politically correct:
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 asa
prick, only you can help yourself now.[...]
- The Age article: "Staying on the cutting edge". October 8, 2004.
Accessed April 5, 2006.
- Glass, Adam. Message to netbsd-users: Theo De Raadt(sic), December 23, 1994.
Visited January 8, 2006.
- 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.
- Forbes. Is Linux For Losers? June 16, 2005.
Visited January 8, 2006.
- NewsForge. Theo de Raadt gives it all to OpenBSD, January
30, 2001. Visited January 8, 2006.
- In this message the NetBSD core team acknowledge
de Raadt's "positive contributions" to the project despite their
problems with him.
- 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 archive.org)
- de Raadt, Theo. Mail to openbsd-announce: The OpenBSD 2.0 release, October 18, 1996.
Visited December 10, 2005.
- Globe and Mail article: "U.S. military helps fund Calgary hacker".
April 6, 2003. Accessed October 30, 2006.
- LWN.net article: "DARPA Cancels OpenBSD Funding". April 24,
2003. Accessed April 5, 2006.
- LXer article: Broadcom Driver Dispute Uglier Than Necessary. April
7, 2007. Accessed April 8, 2007.
- Thread on gmane.linux.kernel.wireless.general: OpenBSD bcw: Possible GPL license violation
issues Various dates beginning April 4, 2007. Accessed April 8,
- Thread on gmane.linux.kernel.wireless.general: Re: OpenBSD bcw: Possible GPL license violation
issues. April 4, 2007. Accessed April 15, 2007.
-  Accessed August 21, 2008.
-  Accessed October 19, 2009.