Jasper Spaans recently submitted a patch to the lkml that "changes all occurrences of 'flavour' to 'flavor' in the complete [2.6 development kernel] tree". This quickly led into a lengthy and frequently humorous discussion about the which spelling is better, and if it even matters.
Linux creator Linus Torvalds aknowledged that there are times when such consistency is beneficial, but that overall it was of little importance to him. Regarding the emails that were threatening to quickly grow into a full-fledged flame war, he noted, "I think you guys who care should have a huge free-for-all, an electronic mud-wrestling thing if you will. But not on [the] linux-kernel [mailing list]." In mock newscaster tone, he went on to describe what might happen, "I can see it now:"
".. Alan Cox gets up, and tackles Zwane, who goes down in the mud. Oops. They were on the same side. I guess Alan got caught up in the rush. Jasper tries to take advantage of the situation, but slips in the mud, and goes down in a heap with Alexander..."
Much of the discussion follows.
A recent query on the lkml asked for opinions as to what are "the most frightening pieces of the kernel". The many responses offered more humor than fright, with a handful of snippets that prove entertaining to read through. From colorful metaphors, to burning printers, to happy meals...
Rusty Russell's new module loader was recently merged into Linus' 2.5 kernel tree [story]. This new implementation aims to cleanup and reduce the amount of code in the kernel and user space required to load a kernel module. Additionally, it now removes the requirement that kernel and user space code for modutils have to be in sync.
Con Kolivas, a practicing doctor in Australia, has written a benchmarking tool called ConTest which has proven to be tremendously useful to kernel developers, having been designed to compare the performance of different versions of the Linux kernel. He was kind enough to speak with us, explaining how he got started on this project, what makes his benchmark unique, and how to interpret the resulting output. Comparing the 2.5 development kernel to the 2.4 stable kernel, Con says, "a good 2.5 kernel (and that's not all of them) feels faster than 2.4 in most ways and this bodes well for 2.6." The interesting results from his frequent benchmarks back up this statement.
Con also describes his high performance patchset for the 2.4 stable kernel, currently at version 2.4.19-ck9. This patchset adds a number of performance boosting patches ideal for a desktop environment, such as the O(1) scheduler, kernel preemption, low latency and compressed caching. Read on for the full interview...
There have been numerous flame wars and discussions on the lkml regarding the use of BitKeeper in Linux kernel development [story] [story] [story] [story] [story]. During one of these earlier wars, Linux creator Linus Torvalds explained his position, "Would I prefer to use a tool that didn't have any restrictions on it for kernel maintenance? Yes. But since no such tool exists, and since I'm personally not very interested in writing one, _and_ since I don't have any hangups about using the right tool for the job, I use BitKeeper."
BitKeeper is a source management tool provided under any of three licenses, one of which - the BKL - can make BitKeeper available for free (as in free beer). Tom Gall posted a question to the lkml when he noticed a clause in the BKL intended to prevent an individual or organization from using BitKeeper under this free license if they or their employer develops, produces, sells or resells a competing product. Yet another lengthy discussion followed.
Some contributers to this discussion seem to overlook two simple facts: First, that BitKeeper is also available under commercial (non-free) licensing, and second, that BitKeeper is and always has been primarily a commercial product (hence the sarcastic title of this article). Granted, the wording of any legal verbiage is open to interpretation, but as BitMover founder Larry McVoy [interview] has publicly interpreted this clause as "if you make or sell a competing product, you don't get to use ours for free", there seems little risk it can be used to attain other ends. In any case, for now Linus and many other Linux kernel developers have chosen to utilize BitKeeper in their efforts, and it is still possible to view the latest code (within 3 hours) without using BitKeeper via archives such as this one set up by Rik van Riel [interview].
That said, there are many interesting points raised during this discussion. Read on for the full thread...
Update (October 6 @ 9am EST): Hourly snapshots of the latest 2.5 development tree can also be found here on ftp.kernel.org. Linus sarcastically summarized complaints, "Big boo-hoo, bitkeeper is evil, and Linus doesn't manually do any more what BK plus a few scripts does better for us automatically."
Andreas Schuldei asked in lkml if there was an easy a way for BitKeeper to backport stuff from the 2.5 to the 2.4 repositories. Like so many discussions, this rapidly veered off; from keeping separate BK repositories in sync, to the limitations of BitKeeper.
Much of the resulting discussion follows.
When Linux creator Linus Torvalds began using the BitKeeper (BK) source control tool for managing the 2.5 Linux development kernel [earlier story], one of the big fears people put forward was that all Linux kernel developers would eventually be forced to use this tool. (The BK license is a major source of contention.
James Simmons announced innocently enough on the lkml, "Just to let you know I created a bitkeeper repository for the framebuffer layer." M. R. Brown replied a couple hours later, "Please tell us that primary framebuffer/input/console development will continue in the CVS drop-in tree on SourceForge? "
Linus recently returned from a two week vacation, announcing the release of "a largish 2.5.8-pre1 patch". Following the announcement, he commented on the earlier April Fool's message. He says, "PS.
Par for the course, "shocking" email hit the lkml on April 1'st attributed to Linus Torvalds. This year's email stated, "Linux needs new leadership", putting Linus' succesor up to a vote. A surprising number of people thought the email was real, expressing dismay at Linus' "choice" to abandon Linux. The contrived email follows.
Linus' earlier decision to test the BitKeeper source management tool with the 2.5 kernel tree has continued to create wakes of dissent. One group went so far as to start a petition against the usage of the tool, saying "We, the undersigned members and officers of the Open Source Club at the Ohio State University, are unhappy with the advocacy of the proprietary BitKeeper software for use in maintaining the Linux kernel." Details on the BitKeeper licenses that so many are opposed to can be found here.
The posting of this petition led to a frenzy of replies, in a thread that continues to grow. Many pointed out that the time spent protesting this tool could be much more productively invested into writing an open source alternative of at least equal caliber. All seem to agree that such an alternative does not currently exist.
Towards the end of the many samples from this thread that follow is a reply from Linus, making it clear that he is content using BK himself, but will in no way force it upon anyone else. In his email, he says, "And I personally refuse to use inferior tools because of ideology. In fact, I will go as far as saying that making excuses for bad tools due to ideology is _stupid_, and people who do that think with their gonads, not their brains".
Kerneltrap has spoken with Linux guru Alan Cox. He is perhaps the second most influential Linux kernel hacker, next only to Linus. In this interview he talks about himself, his history with computers and Linux, working for Red Hat, Marcello and the 2.4 kernel, the DMCA, the future of Linux and much more.
Dave Jones currently lives in London, employed by SuSE as a Linux kernel hacker. In the past six months since he graduated from the University of Glamorgan he has gotten involved in an impressive range of kernel related projects, including Powertweak, x86info, OProfile and the Kernel Janitors Project. Additionally, he maintains a -dj patch for the 2.5 development kernel, helping to sync it with the stable 2.4 kernel as well as offering increased stability.