Superstitious users and the FreeBSD logo

Beastie the BSD daemonAn amusing story from the FreeBSD mailing list:


I just got a call from the owner of a hotel for which we provide hotspot service. She says that a guest spotted the “Powered by FreeBSD” logo at the bottom of the login page, and was offended; the guest was convinced that either we or the hotel management “worshipped the Devil” and refused to stay at the hotel unless the logo was removed. The owner could make no headway by explaining that the besneakered mascot was a cartoon character and was a daemon, not the Devil. And she feared upsetting the guest even more if she said that large portions of the same software are inside every Mac and iPad. The hotel stands to lose more than $1000 if the guest, who had originally planned to stay for a long period, moves out.

One of our tech support people also got a call directly from the hotel guest, who claimed that having the logo on the page constituted “abuse.” The guest also claimed to be “losing money” because she wouldn’t use the hotspot if there was a “devil” on the splash page. He didn’t even realize what she was talking about at first…. He couldn’t imagine why on Earth this person was calling him and going on about devils.

Attempts at misguided religious censorship notwithstanding, I don’t want to see one of my ISP’s customers lose business. And I’d like to keep a FreeBSD logo on our hotspot page. Is there artwork that doesn’t include horned creatures that might offend the ignorant or superstitious?

–Brett Glass

There are some amusing follow up comments too:

>Ask the guest if it is not also true cow’s have horns so that means that all cattle are Satan worshipers?

You’re being rational. Alas, ignorant and/or superstitious people are not.


There actually is a more recent FreeBSD logo, that still has the horns but probably wouldn’t have caused any concern.

FreeBSD logo


7 thoughts on “Superstitious users and the FreeBSD logo

  1. Pingback: Superstitious users and the FreeBSD logo | | BSD - Vše o BSD

  2. The new FreeBSD logo is still cause for concern. There is cause for concern until demonic (literally “of demons”) attributions are removed from Unix-like systems. Windows also offends people with their “Wizards”.

    I wouldn’t let “demons” drag you down; If that’s not what you stand for, then there should be no problem changing the logo, etc. Plus, the Unix community is such you don’t need to ask permission before implementing your own new logo, right?

    • I don’t speak for – or even knowingly use – FreeBSD. However:

      I like your point about not using a logo that’s essentially irrelevant to the product and offensive to some users. Starbucks wasn’t in the mermaid nipple business, so they changed their logo to make it less offensive to the prudish.

      Still, it’s worth noting that FreeBSD is using a daemon (not a demon), which has some metaphorical relevance:

      Many people equate the word “daemon” with the word “demon”, implying some kind of satanic connection between UNIX and the underworld. This is an egregious misunderstanding. “Daemon” is actually a much older form of “demon”; daemons have no particular bias towards good or evil, but rather serve to help define a person’s character or personality.

  3. etymology from
    daemon: alternative spelling (in specialized senses) of demon (q.v.). Related: Daemonic.

    egregious? as in markedly bad? really? is the term daemon not from “Maxwell’s demon”, and was Maxwell really thinking of a “neutral daemon” (as if one exists), and even if so, from a christian perspective, there is no such thing as a neutral spirit. there is only for, and against yhwh. so at the end of the day, still offensive.

    the fact that people relentlessly stick up for the term and the logo makes it worse. not to mention the names getting thrown around because everyone is getting offended. Unix developers are getting offended because they might not have been trying to be in solidarity with demons, and religious groups being offended because they just don’t want to have anything to do with demons, however it’s spelled.

    and the chasm seems set up to widen. if a Unix developer is accused of being “demonic”, that might make them want to perpetuate the problem, just to retaliate.

    ignorant? how am i ignorant?

    superstitious? saying that a person is superstitious is akin to saying that their religion is wrong. especially in this case, as that’s exactly what it would imply.

    alas, there is a FreeBSD logo that isn’t offensive.

    …but until the problem is cleaned up from the source: daemon processes being renamed, comments in source code being removed – then i would prefer the “beastie” logo, just so there is transparency about the whole system. i hate dirt swept under the rug.

    • I want to be super clear here, because I don’t think you’re paying much attention: The word ‘egregious‘ was taken from the Wikipedia entry I linked to, which in turn was taken from the Unix System Administration Handbook by Evi Nemeth. The word ‘ignorant was used by the original poster in the FreeBSD mailing list. I’m not interested in defending the use of those particular words.

      I don’t believe for one second that there is any malicious intent behind the use of these ‘demonic’ terms. The fact that some people are offended is likely an unintended and unforeseen consequence. The only outstanding question is what to do now?

      There’s probably a version of Linux that has been purged of all these terms … dipped in holy water, so to speak. Perhaps or Organising or joining a campaign to promote such a cause might be a good use of your time.

      For my part, I am not offended. I am not even really that interested. If you want to continue to be offended, then please redirect your energies elsewhere.

  4. A Private Message, sent to the moderator who locked down the “daemon” issue forum thread, after all the posts, and after he locked it down:

    This is a genuine issue with software. The term “daemon” is a controversial term that is prevalent in the Unix world. Here is an excerpt of source code from GRUB 1.99, in the texinfo.tex file:

    % #1 is the page number.
    % The following is kludged to not output a line of dots in the index if
    % there are no page numbers. The next person who breaks this will be
    % cursed by a Unix daemon.
    \setbox\boxA = \hbox{#1}%
    \ifdim\wd\boxA = 0pt
    \ %

    I understand the puns, but for a lot of people the above code is beyond controversial – it’s unacceptable. In addition, there is also a foul language problem in the Linux kernel (see So if there is an effort to clean things up, then all the inappropriate words might as well be addressed. Software, after all, is usually developed in such a way that the user often has no idea what is in the code – but there is an expectation that it’s just code. It’s meeting this expectation that’s important.

    I’m not sure what I could have done to keep my thread on-topic. It seems that the same reason this is an issue is also the same reason that people didn’t respond appropriately.

    Since it’s unrealistic for me to go through everyone else’s code and clean it up, it seems like the best way to solve this issue is with a new standard for clean code. I think I might continue my efforts by seeing if clean code can be a part of the next POSIX standard, or, if it applies, the Linux Standard Base standard – both of which Debian strives to comply with.

    Any ideas or support for this initiative from the Debian community are welcome.

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