BSD logo

Chad Perrin perrin at
Sun Jul 25 17:27:32 UTC 2010

On Sun, Jul 25, 2010 at 11:54:37AM -0400, Alejandro Imass wrote:
> Suppose for a moment that BSD would have forked to FBSD first in the
> East, say by a group of Indian Buddhist computer science students, and
> their choice of logo was a funny cartoon of a smiling Buddha holding a
> Swastika above it's head. The intention here would matter little to
> the common Jew, as he would probably feel immediately uncomfortable
> regardless if he knew what the Buddha was, or that the Swastika is a
> sacred Buddhist symbol. He would just see a semi-naked fat Nazi. Even
> if he knew all these things it would still make him somewhat
> uncomfortable of using this great technology.

Here's the thing . . .

The "jesus fish" (or "holy mackerel" or "Ichthys" or whatever you want to
call it) has no variance of meaning across cultures, when it contains the
Greek letters ΙΧΘΥΣ -- because it really only exists within one extended
cultural family.  Its meaning is clear.  I'm not aware of any other
meaning for the mere intersecting-arcs fish symbol itself, without the
Greek letters, either -- but I wouldn't necessarily jump to any
conclusions about it without trying to look it up and, failing that,
asking about it (with clear reference to the fact that I tried and failed
to look up any meanings aside from the obvious).

Meanwhile, swastikas have many meanings, in many cultures.  They have
different meanings from the Nazi usage in parts of Asia, North America,
and even in Germany itself.  The Nazis got it *somewhere* you know; they
didn't invent it.  Context matters.

I'd think a devout Christian would have much more reason to complain
about a Flying Spaghetti Monster (whose only purpose is to mock mystical
belief systems) than a Daemon, and that an Orthodox Jew would have much
more reason to complain about SS lightning bolts than a non-diagonal
swastika held aloft by a smiling Buddha.  Considering we now have the
Internet at our disposal, I'm not terribly inclined to give a lot of
leeway to people who ask for symbols like a Buddhist swastika to be
changed without having gone to the minimal trouble to look it up on

In truth, even the Hakenkreuz (the swastika variant the Nazis use) is not
strictly negative in meaning; it was a Germanic folk symbol before it was
misappropriated by the Nazis, and it has not *lost* that previous meaning
just because it has gained strong negative associations to those who do
not know its full history.  Place it in a white circle on a red field,
though, and as far as I'm concerned you have every right to be disturbed
to see it associated with something you might otherwise like -- because
that is quite clearly a Nazi-specific context.  The same goes for the
Nazi Party's parteiadler, depicting a stylized eagle atop a wreathed

> Again, my intention to butt in here was just to point out that many
> times we find things hilarious, a simple analogy can help us better
> understand that it may very serious to others, such is life though,
> and the 'others' should also make an effort to understand us. Sadly,
> our judgements almost always get in the way of seeing beyond each
> other's myopic viewpoint.

The fact that someone misunderstands something that can be double-checked
with trivial effort (far less effort than complaining on this mailing
list), and uses that misunderstanding to justify complaints and trying to
convince someone to change a mascot with years of history, seems in no
way justified to me.  For me, the key difference is not anyone's biases,
per se -- it's willful ignorance, which I am never inclined to justify or
excuse, in principle.

> Back to the issue at hand (and actually on-topic), I personally don't
> like the circle with cones and don't think that FBSD should move away
> from the little red Devil or Daemon or whatever you wanna call it
> (does he have a name?). In _my_ judgment, for example, the circle with
> cones looks like some sort of sexual fetish, but then again we're all
> free to interpret it as we like, and who am I, as a relative newcomer
> to FBSD to form an opinion anyway :)

The mascot's name is Beastie (roughly homonymous with BSD).  Of course,
Beastie is *not* actually a FreeBSD symbol, per se: he's a BSD Unix
symbol in general.  The first sentence of the Wikipedia page for "Beastie
(Mascot)" says "The BSD daemon, nicknamed Beastie, is the generic mascot
of BSD operating systems."[1]  The sex toy logo doesn't do anything for
me, but it is at least a FreeBSD-specific symbol, and I guess I'm willing
to suffer the indignity of having a kind of dumb, largely meaningless
symbol, if it means FreeBSD actually gets a symbol at all.

My biggest complaint with the sex toy symbol is that it doesn't lend
itself easily to simplification a logo really should.  Basically, if it
isn't easily well-represented in a 16px monochrome presentation, it
should be rethought, in my opinion.  It has been made official, though,
and I'm not sure the problems I've identified are sufficient to overturn
the apple cart at this point.  I'll live with it.



Chad Perrin [ original content licensed OWL: ]
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