Theo de Raadt, born May 19, 1968 in Pretoria, South Africa, is a software engineer who lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is the founder and leader of the OpenBSD and OpenSSH projects, and was a founding member of the NetBSD project. A dispute with the NetBSD core team ultimately led to the creation of OpenBSD.
The NetBSD project was founded in 1993 by Chris Demetriou, Adam Glass, Charles Hannum, 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 system.
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 upon.
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 same year, NetBSD 0.9 was released, which contained many enhancements and bug fixes. This was still a PC-platform-only release, although by this time work was underway to add support for other architectures.
NetBSD 1.0 was released in October, 1994. This was the first multi-platform release, supporting the PC, HP 9000 Series 300, Amiga, 68k Macintosh, Sun-4c 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 code.
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his position as a senior developer and member of the NetBSD core team, and his access to the source code repository was revoked.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 Linus Torvalds 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 hacker and security "guru".
In October 1995, de Raadt founded OpenBSD, a new project forked from NetBSD 1.0. The initial release, 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 year.
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.
After de 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 hackathon planned for May 8, 2003. 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 anti-free speech 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.
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 their product firmware to be redistributable freely. 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 free from licensing restrictions.
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'd like you to start contacting us to resolve the issue now" and your first 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's job for them. You've told the entire BSD community who may want to use a driver for this chip later, that because of a few GPL issues you are willing to use very strong words -- published very widely -- to disrupt 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 not privately 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 position...
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 would take our BSD code, modify it, and not give back. Nope -- the great problem we face is that people would wrap the GPL around our code, and lock us out in the same way that these supposed companies would lock us out. Just like the Linux community, we have many companies giving us code back, all the time. But once the code is GPL'd, we cannot get it back. [...]