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BSD, Linux, and Snarfs

Copyright (C) 1999 by Steve Litt, All rights reserved. Material provided as-is, use at your own risk. 

By Steve Litt
This article is not about BSD, Linux, or their advocates. This article does not attempt to declare either OS superior, either technically or in license. This article is simply about the nuisance actions of a few people falsely calling themselves advocates -- the snarfs.

We've all met snarfs in our social life. The snarf is the guy without the guts or social skills necessary to meet a woman. So what does he do? He pretends to be real tight with his buddies, and comes to their parties, their card games, their homes. He finds little problems in their relationships, and makes his little statements designed to sew seeds of discontent in the buddy's relationship. And if a buddies relationship gets a little shaky, the snarf is the first to provide the girlfriend a shoulder to cry on, and oh my,  he's *such* a good listener. All the while letting her know she's too good for her boyfriend. And once in a while, the snarf succeeds in busting up a relationship.

Word gets out, and the snarf is excluded from the group. So the snarf drifts from group to group, anywhere he's unknown, and peddles his sugar covered excrement.

Kind of like that minority of BSD advocates that sweet talk their way onto Linux mailing lists, then try to recruit by putting down Linux. The snarf typically trots out those silly "quotes"  made by those once important in the computer world, such as Ken Thompson's gem:

Editor's Note: This quote can be found in a Ken Thompson interview at
Or these truly profound utterances:

Editor's Note: AltaVista found only one instance of these preceding two "quotes", at Those quotes are where I believe the (possibly accurate, possibly not)  attributions come from. When I looked them up by attributed originator's name, I found a couple more.
Why isn't snarf going into M$ corporations, Windows user groups, Windows mailing lists, or even general computer groups talking about BSD's superiority to Windows? Because he lacks the necessary guts and social skills. Snarf is too wimpy to endure the taunts and rejections of the Windows crowd. So he comes as a friend and fellow Unix guy to the Linux group, then slowly starts his put-downs and recruiting.

Snarf, here's the situation. We legitimate Linux and BSD advocates are locked in a death struggle with the remainder of the Windows empire. And you come along, barking your little bark and nipping at our heels. You will not long be tolerated. We'll throw you off our lists, tell you to get out of our meetings. And if you get us mad enough, we might just send a few hundred Linux advocates to your meetings and mailing lists with messages just as meaningless and silly as yours:

Sure the preceding "quotes" are meaningless, silly, irrelevant and false. Just like the snarf's anti Linux quotes. But they pack the same misleading emotional punch. And snarfs, don't you dare copy my quotes without including this paragraph, because you know darned well they're stated as anti-snarf arguments, not supposed truths about BSD.

And note the final "Litt quote". Imagine the flame wars Linux people could start (and then get out of the way) by pretending to advocate one BSD over the other. The snarf's knife has two edges.

Snarf, if you truly care for your OS and your user group, remember that Linux is a much better ally than enemy.

BSD and Linux are killer OS'es whose advocates are determined to replace the popular crash and burn operating system with stability. Once that's done, they will almost certainly coexist and interoperate with each other. In the end, the choice of BSD or Linux will be made on a per project or even per-host basis, according to which best fits the particular needs.

So all you snarfs out there. Get some guts and social skills, and help us replace the crash and burn OS with BSD and Linux .

Snarf:  Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

Steve Litt
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