Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce FOSS misfits: Rusty Russell's take

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It is not often that people from within the free and open source software community speak frankly about the problems within.


It is even less often that a person who has the integrity of Rusty Russell does so. His comments about social misfits in the community - whom he refers to as arseholes (he used the American spelling, assholes) - has not received much attention, understandably, given the insular nature of most commentary about FOSS.

Russell is a senior kernel programmer, a good guy, very funny and a genuinely impulsive person. He is well-known as a prankster; one of the pranks he pulled in 2010 resulted in the well-known Debian developer Bdale Garbee having to sacrifice his beard at the hands of Linux creator Linus Torvalds.

Without Russell, there would be no national Australian Linux conference. He bankrolled the first conference in 1999 with his own energy and funds after having visited a conference abroad and felt that Australia was well suited to have its own shindig. The conference is now a massive event, attracting the cream of FOSS talent to Australia every year.

In other words, Russell has cred, lots of it. And when he made a statement (borrowed, he admits) like "If you didn't run code written by assholes, your machine wouldn't boot", perhaps it merited a little more attention.

The starting point for his writing about this topic was his observation of the private behaviour of a software hacker he knows - it was hypocritical and malicious. It caused an internal crisis for Russell who, until then, says he had been under the impression that all FOSS people were striving to make the world a better place.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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