Welcome!

Linux Containers Authors: Yeshim Deniz, Gordon Haff, Elizabeth White, Mehdi Daoudi, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: Linux Containers

Linux Containers: Article

Linus changed his source habits & why it doesn't matter

Developers have three options for advancing the Linux kernel.

(LinuxWorld) -- Linux is in greater demand every day. People want to run Linux on everything from wristwatches to mainframes. Thankfully, the core kernel developers aren't burdened with the responsibility of making Linux run on a wristwatch, but they do have to deal with desktop and server demands. People want the kernel to accommodate more processors, different hardware architectures, more types of I/O, more robust and complex network support and filtering, not to mention emerging hardware peripherals ranging from InfiniBand special-purpose high-speed network adapters to cheap digital cameras.

Talented programmers addressed these issues. They submited patches, which they felt were dropped into a black hole. They felt ignored, and, in some cases, they are right. Some ISVs feel as if the core kernel developers are an exclusive club that resents and rejects contributions from outside the inner circle, especially from organizations where capitalism is involved. I don't know if that's true (I doubt it), but the perception can be destructive.

Many people have offered various suggestions on how to improve the process of accepting and integrating kernel patches. I don't have space to tackle them all, and I doubt if my endorsement would make any difference. I do have a bit of advice for those who have more influence on the process. (If you're interested in reading up on all the ideas being tossed around, visit one of the many Linux kernel mailing list archives. You can find links for two of them at http://www.kernel.org/.)

Free advice for free software

Much of the discussion is politically motivated, and some of the antipathy is based on personality conflicts. Some of the suggestions are purely logistic in nature, for example, that kernel developers should use a more intelligent means of submitting and applying patches than the patch and diff utilities.

It appears Linus Torvalds is doing just that. Earlier this week he announced he started using BitKeeper, a distributed source management system. He wrote in his weekly kernel update, "...I've spent about a week trying to change my working habits and scripting bitkeeper enough to (a) import a good revision controlled tree into it from the 2.4.x and 2.5.x patch-archives and (b) try to actually accept patches directly into bitkeeper."

This is good news. BitKeeper isn't an instant panacea, however. "Quite frankly, so far it has definitely made me slower -- it took me basically a week to get about 50 patches applied, but most of that time by far was writing scripts and just getting used to the thing," Torvalds writes. "I expect to be a bit slower to react to patches for a while yet, until the scripts are better."

As great as BitKeeper might be and as wonderful as Torvalds has proven, we need to keep these two facts in mind:

  • Linus Torvalds is not God
  • The Linux kernel is open source, and it is licensed under the GPL

It is difficult for me to criticize the way Linus Torvalds folded patches into the Linux kernel in the past. Anyone who is tempted to do so should remember how much we Linux users owe to the talent and years of hard work of Torvalds.

Nevertheless, for the sake of argument, allow me to assume the worst. Suppose Linus deliberately ignores patches from some people, and in so doing occasionally works against the best interest of all Linux developers and users. Suppose Linus rejects some patches, not because the patches are without merit but because they come from IBM or HP employees, and he doesn't want those companies to have any influence on the kernel.

Or, how about this? What if BitKeeper is using the worst tool for collecting patches, evaluating them, and applying them? What if BitKeeper is perfectly fine but Torvalds uses it incorrectly? What if he never "gets used to the thing"?

I seriously doubt the situation is nearly as bad as these worst-case scenarios, but it is likely that there is an element of truth to at least some of these claims. Why? Because Linus Torvalds is not God. He has a finite ego, IQ, energy level, attention span, and suffers to some degree from all of the other human limitations you and I share. He is predisposed to handling things one way and not another. It is possible that his way was the best way when the kernel was smaller and more manageable, but it is no longer the best way. In other words, it may be true that regardless of the source management tools he uses, the Linux kernel has outgrown Linus Torvalds.

If so, there is still one more thing you can do. Remember that the Linux kernel is open source.

If you can set up a system that manages the progress of the Linux kernel better than Linus can, then go for it. Linus Torvalds may be able to stop you from calling your kernel "Linux," but he can't stop you from taking the kernel as it exists today and doing a better job advancing it. If you're worried that kernel developers simply won't cooperate with you out of a sense of loyalty to Linus, then keep reminding them that Linus Torvalds is not God. Eventually it will sink in.

Okay, now. Any takers?

If not, then I have one last bit of advice. Keep on making suggestions on how to improve the process. In the meantime, try to work with Linus the way he prefers to do things, whether you think he's right or not.

Postscript

In case you're wondering, here's how I feel about the current branches of development on the Linux kernel. I haven't been very happy with the Linus-managed 2.5 branch as of late. It usually doesn't even compile on my system. Dave Jones is aggressive about cleaning up the problems with the 2.5 branch and merging fixes and features from other branches. Jones' patches usually compile for me (although they make it difficult, but not impossible, for me to use the NVidia accelerated driver). You have to be pretty daring to mess with any of the 2.5 branches, whether they're from Linus or Dave. I run the unstable branch of Debian, so I tend to take risks in order to learn more about Linux, but I'm not comfortable running any of the 2.5 kernels yet except as a short experiment.

I miss the frequency with which Alan Cox improved and experimented with the 2.4 branch, so I was very happy to see Alan post some patches to the 2.4.18-pre tree. I'm currently running 2.4.18-pre7-ac2, which has been working great.

Whenever Linus reaches a reasonably stable point in his kernel branch, I usually find myself going back to one of his versions. Whether I do so in the future is uncertain, which is as it should be. It all depends on who does it best.

More Stories By Nicholas Petreley

Nicholas Petreley is a computer consultant and author in Asheville, NC.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform and how we integrate our thinking to solve complicated problems. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and sh...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm.
Big Data, cloud, analytics, contextual information, wearable tech, sensors, mobility, and WebRTC: together, these advances have created a perfect storm of technologies that are disrupting and transforming classic communications models and ecosystems. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Erik Perotti, Senior Manager of New Ventures on Plantronics’ Innovation team, provided an overview of this technological shift, including associated business and consumer communications impacts, and opportunities it m...
WebRTC is about the data channel as much as about video and audio conferencing. However, basically all commercial WebRTC applications have been built with a focus on audio and video. The handling of “data” has been limited to text chat and file download – all other data sharing seems to end with screensharing. What is holding back a more intensive use of peer-to-peer data? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Dr Silvia Pfeiffer, WebRTC Applications Team Lead at National ICT Australia, looked at differ...
With major technology companies and startups seriously embracing IoT strategies, now is the perfect time to attend @ThingsExpo 2016 in New York. Learn what is going on, contribute to the discussions, and ensure that your enterprise is as "IoT-Ready" as it can be! Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, New York, is co-located with 20th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry p...
SYS-CON Events announced today that IoT Now has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 6–8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. IoT Now explores the evolving opportunities and challenges facing CSPs, and it passes on some lessons learned from those who have taken the first steps in next-gen IoT services.
SYS-CON Events announced today that WineSOFT will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Based in Seoul and Irvine, WineSOFT is an innovative software house focusing on internet infrastructure solutions. The venture started as a bootstrap start-up in 2010 by focusing on making the internet faster and more powerful. WineSOFT’s knowledge is based on the expertise of TCP/IP, VPN, SSL, peer-to-peer, mob...
The Internet of Things can drive efficiency for airlines and airports. In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect with GE, and Sudip Majumder, senior director of development at Oracle, discussed the technical details of the connected airline baggage and related social media solutions. These IoT applications will enhance travelers' journey experience and drive efficiency for the airlines and the airports.
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, whic...
WebRTC sits at the intersection between VoIP and the Web. As such, it poses some interesting challenges for those developing services on top of it, but also for those who need to test and monitor these services. In his session at WebRTC Summit, Tsahi Levent-Levi, co-founder of testRTC, reviewed the various challenges posed by WebRTC when it comes to testing and monitoring and on ways to overcome them.
SYS-CON Events announced today that CA Technologies has been named “Platinum Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, and the 21st International Cloud Expo®, which will take place October 31-November 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. CA Technologies helps customers succeed in a future where every business – from apparel to energy – is being rewritten by software. From ...
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Steve Wilkes, CTO and founder of Striim, will delve into four enterprise-scale, business-critical case studies where streaming analytics serves as the key to enabling real-time data integration and right-time insights in hybrid cloud, IoT, and fog computing environments. As part of this discussion, he will also present a demo based on its partnership with Fujitsu, highlighting their technologies in a healthcare IoT use-case. The demo showcases the tracking of patie...
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
The explosion of new web/cloud/IoT-based applications and the data they generate are transforming our world right before our eyes. In this rush to adopt these new technologies, organizations are often ignoring fundamental questions concerning who owns the data and failing to ask for permission to conduct invasive surveillance of their customers. Organizations that are not transparent about how their systems gather data telemetry without offering shared data ownership risk product rejection, regu...
The best way to leverage your Cloud Expo presence as a sponsor and exhibitor is to plan your news announcements around our events. The press covering Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo will have access to these releases and will amplify your news announcements. More than two dozen Cloud companies either set deals at our shows or have announced their mergers and acquisitions at Cloud Expo. Product announcements during our show provide your company with the most reach through our targeted audiences.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Academy will exhibit at SYS-CON's 20th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Cloud Academy is the industry’s most innovative, vendor-neutral cloud technology training platform. Cloud Academy provides continuous learning solutions for individuals and enterprise teams for Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and the most popular cloud computing technologies. Ge...
20th Cloud Expo, taking place June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy.
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
Have you ever noticed how some IT people seem to lead successful, rewarding, and satisfying lives and careers, while others struggle? IT author and speaker Don Crawley uncovered the five principles that successful IT people use to build satisfying lives and careers and he shares them in this fast-paced, thought-provoking webinar. You'll learn the importance of striking a balance with technical skills and people skills, challenge your pre-existing ideas about IT customer service, and gain new in...
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and shared the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the develop...