Linus Torvalds

On Linus' Return to Kernel Development

On October 23, 2018, Linus Torvalds came out of his self-imposed isolation, pulling a lot of patches from the git trees of various developers. It was his first appearance on the Linux Kernel Mailing List since September 16, 2018, when he announced he would take a break from kernel development to address his sometimes harsh behavior toward developers. On the 23rd, he announced his return, which I cover here after summarizing some of his pull activities.

When the Problem Is the Story

Linux isn't a story anymore.
 
 That's a good thing, but not an interesting one. Let me explain.
 
 Journalism's main product is the story. In newsrooms, the three words uttered most often by editors to reporters are "What's the story?"
 
 As I was taught by an editor long ago—and as I have found to be true constantly ever since—all stories are about three things:

Linus' Behavior and the Kernel Development Community

On September 16, 2018, Linus Torvalds released the 4.19-rc4 version of the kernel, and he also announced he was taking a break from Linux development in order to consider his own behavior and to come up with a better approach to kernel development. This was partly inspired by his realization that he wasn't looking forward to the Kernel Summit event, and he said that "it wasn't actually funny or a good sign that I was hoping to just skip the yearly kernel summit entirely." He also wrote that it was partly inspired when: ...people in our community confronted me about my lifetime of not understanding emotions. My flippant attacks in emails have been both unprofessional and uncalled for. Especially at times when I made it personal. In my quest for a better patch, this made sense to me. I know now this was not OK and I am truly sorry.

Good Lockdown vs. Bad

There's an ongoing series of skirmishes between corporations who want to sell products that users don't fully control and the kernel developers who want users to be the highest authority. Sometimes these skirmishes manifest in the form of security patches intended to lock down the kernel. Do they lock down the kernel against outside attackers? Or do they lock down the kernel against change from anyone at all, including the user who owns the device?

A Git Origin Story

A look at Linux kernel developers' various revision control solutions through the years, Linus Torvalds' decision to use BitKeeper and the controversy that followed, and how Git came to be created.

Minimum GCC Version Likely to Jump from 3.2 to 4.8

The question of the earliest GCC compiler version to support for building the Linux kernel comes up periodically. The ideal would be for Linux to compile under all GCC versions, because you never know what kind of system someone is running. Maybe their company's security team has to approve all software upgrades for their highly sensitive devices, and GCC is low on that list. Maybe they need to save as much space as possible, and recent versions of GCC are too big. There are all sorts of reasons why someone might be stuck with old software.

diff -u: Linus Posting Habits

A look into how, when and why Linus posts to the kernel mailing list. Linus Torvalds sometimes is criticized for bombastically cursing out kernel developers. He does do this, but it's not his default behavior, and I think the real nature of when and how he posts to the mailing list is interesting. For example, he stayed out of the whole discussion of how to replace the BitKeeper revision control system for a long time, letting various projects guess frustratingly at his desires, before he finally took a break from Linux development to design and implement git.

Linus Ditches KDE and Gnome (so what?)

Having made an earlier defection from KDE to Gnome, Linus Torvalds has now rejected both in favor of Xfce. It’s only natural that the actions of the creator of the Linux kernel would attract extra scrutiny, and I think that his decision is reflective of a wider disenchantment amongst long-term Linux users.