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Red Hat Software Businesses

Alan Cox Leaves Red Hat 163

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the bet-wherever-he's-going-he'll-have-electricity-and-heat dept.
ruphus13 writes "Alan Cox — one of the lead Linux kernel developers at Red Hat — is leaving the company after 10 years and is heading to Intel, where he can focus on more low-level development tasks. Some are speculating whether this is indicative of a shift to a more 'application-centric' vision at Red Hat. From the article: 'Red Hat is integrating more application related, user- and enterprise-centric tools into its well-established "low-level," "core" development and support tools. It'd be more worrisome if Red Hat neglected to strike out in this direction. Cox was with Red Hat for ten years, and regardless of any suspected change of course within the company, that's a fair amount of time.'"
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Alan Cox Leaves Red Hat

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  • The best of luck! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by popoutman (189497) * on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @12:13PM (#26268493) Journal
    I wish Alan the best in his new position. Redhat have lost a great developer, and Intel have gained a fantastic resource. It's also great to see that the leaving was very amicable as well. This should be a win-win for Linux as a whole.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @12:17PM (#26268515)

      Did You Know? After maintaining a vow of silence for almost 10 years, Red Hat Linux founder Marc Ewing now freely admits that he named Red Hat Linux after Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst's trademark red New York Yankees baseball cap.
      Durst and Ewing met in Ewing's hometown of Raleigh, North Carolina (Durst was raised in Gastonia, NC), where they became fast friends, sharing the same passion for low-level system programming.
      Durst collaborated with Ewing on the first preview beta of Red Hat Linux before the demands of his rocketing stardom forced him to abandon his hobby and tour with his band.
      Durst's position on the development team was filled by Damien Neil, and not many know of his contribution to the popular Linux distribution; however, a google search through the source code on Redhat.com (http://www.google.com/search?q=wfd+site:redhat.com) reveals many snippets of code authored by 'wfd', Durst's initials (William Frederick Durst).
      Durst asked Ewing to keep his 'geeky' roots a secret as it would not lend itself to Durst's bad boy image, but as Ewing points out, it was "only a matter of time" before the origins of his NASDAQ-100 company's name were uncovered.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Daengbo (523424)

      Sigh ... I still (vaguely) remember when running the 2.2-ac kernel [kernel.org] on RH was basically required to get useful hardware support and modern features. It was pretty much the standard one to use.

  • by Chris_Jefferson (581445) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @12:22PM (#26268553) Homepage
    Where does there always have to be speculation, from completely uninformed people? From my little knowledge of Alan Cox, from mailing lists, he always seems like the kind of guy who likes the lower-level details, and I imagine that few companies will be more interested in tweaking and improving the low levels than Intel. If they saw his obvious talent, and offered him a better job at better pay, then why not move? Alan Cox leaving Redhat doesn't have to say anything bad about them, maybe it says something good about Intel, and the things they are getting more involved in?
    • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

      by 0xABADC0DA (867955)

      You fell victim to one of the classic blunders! The most famous is never get involved in a land war in Asia...

      The fact that there is always completely uninformed speculation is why it actually says something about Red Hat that Cox left. RH would have done a lot to keep him, but it wasn't enough.

    • by Spoke (6112) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @12:53PM (#26268849)

      Yep, that's exactly what I was thinking.

      For as long as I've been following (and been ever so slightly involved in) Linux development, oh, say from the mid-late 90s, Alan Cox has nearly always been there hacking primarily on device drivers.

      Intel has steadily picked up more Linux kernel hackers over the past 5 years or so who seem to focus on device drivers (e1000 NIC drivers) but also employ others who have very broad-based and deep knowledge of the kernel. Alan Cox seems to be a good fit with his long history of kernel development and focus on low-level drivers.

      So good for Alan for changing things up a bit, and good for Intel for hiring another full-time Linux developer! Hopefully this leaves room for Red Hat to pick up another developer in his place.

      • by mcrbids (148650) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @01:04PM (#26268957) Journal

        When you look at it, Red Hat is the wrong place to develop drivers. They should be developed by the vendors of the drivers, not the O/S packager.

        It has been necessary so far to develop drivers at Red Hat simply to bootstrap the O/S. But now, Linux is becoming more popular every year, most enterprises have plans to deploy Linux in annually increasing scopes, and the "upward spiral" that Bill Gates (ghost-)wrote about 10 years ago in "The Road Ahead" is happening for the GNU/Linux system.

        Red Hat doesn't develop devices. Device vendors develop devices, and it's their expertise in how their own devices function that makes them best qualified to write device drivers for the whatever O/S.

        This move is really more a reflection of the continuing maturity of the Linux Operating System!

        • by fnj (64210) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:09PM (#26269571)

          When you look at it, Red Hat is the wrong place to develop drivers. They should be developed by the vendors of the drivers, not the O/S packager. ... This move is really more a reflection of the continuing maturity of the Linux Operating System!

          God help us if linux gets as, ahem, MATURE as Windows. Microsoft's crappy OS code is only exceeded by the unbelievably crappy driver code turned out by OEMs.

          Tracking down (bug-ridden) drivers for everything is the single factor that makes Windows' out of box experience a living Hell (And accepting them only on floppies is the single factor that will eventually kill off XP).

          The contrast with linux is eye opening to former benighted Windows users. Not only are all your drivers right there, but all the apps you need are a (free) click away.

          Anyway, it's not OS packegers who develop linux drivers; its kernel developers - who are exactly the people with the skills to do the best job.

          • Source vs. Binary (Score:4, Informative)

            by maz2331 (1104901) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:39PM (#26269849)

            One of the nice benefits of having driver source available is that the kernel developers can fix them if they understand the device itself. The original designer of the device is always in the best position to write at least the initial driver code.

            One of the big rules in kernel development is that "if you break it, you have to fix it."

            Having a good-quality original driver from the manufacturer means that the driver will be ported to new kernel versions, and any incompatibilities introduced are fixed by the person on the kernel team who made them break.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mcrbids (148650)

            In Windows' case, the drivers are binary.

            But in the Linux world, they will be (already are) largely open source. If a vendor puts out a crappy driver, people who know better can submit patches, and people who don't know will quickly learn who to avoid.

          • by xenocide2 (231786)

            There are worse things in life then having OEM engineers writing drivers who happen to be named Alan Cox.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Chyeld (713439)

              Why do they name the drivers? And why Alan Cox? Is it one of those easter eggs where naming your file a certain way does something?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It may not be entirely uninformed speculation; Red Hat has been picking up a lot of higher level projects and companies over the past few years, and the focus of the Fedora project (which is Red Hat's official desktop strategy) is mostly on improving the userland. The acquisition of JBOSS and Metamatrix are key steps in the direction of a more application-centric focus; as a case in point, roughly half of the supported JBOSS installations worldwide are running on Windows.

      This is not to say that Red Hat
    • by greg_barton (5551)

      Where does there always have to be speculation, from completely uninformed people?

      Because if you're informed, by definition, there's no need to speculate.

      • Wrong. If you are well informed, you are in a better position to speculate [reference.com].
        • by greg_barton (5551)

          None of those definitions back up your assertion.

          • From your original post:

            "Because if you're informed, by definition, there's no need to speculate."

            I included the pointer to the definition of the word speculate because you showed that you clearly had no idea what the word speculate means. I made the assumption that, given some actual definitions, you could figure out on your own why a person who is well informed is in a better position to speculate.

            Allow me to offer an example. Definition 3 is: "to engage in any business transaction involving considerab

            • by greg_barton (5551)

              Definition 3 is the least applicable to the context in which "speculate" was used in the comments. I've written word sense disambiguation NLP software that could figure that out better than you could.

              Is Zero__Kelvin a self assessment of the activity between your ears? Or are you just a stone cold idiot?

              • One of us understood that speculate was not a synonym for guess prior to looking up the definition, and the other one still cannot grasp the fact even after it has been pointed out to them. I would leave it as an exercise to the reader to determine who is whom, but alas that reader is you, so I have no reason to believe the exercise will ever be completed successfully :-(
                • by greg_barton (5551)

                  My, my, aren't we in a snit [slashdot.org] today?

                  Back away from the keyboard, bubba.

                  • Now that I've walked you through your ignorance with regard to the word "speculate", allow me to remove some more ignorance if you will. There is no need to point to the comments of people who outsmart you [slashdot.org], as each post has a link to the commenter's personal Slashdot page, where interested parties can choose to see such posts if they actually cared, which they don't.
                    • by greg_barton (5551)

                      Do I need to point out to you that you just contradicted yourself?

                      I think I do.

                    • My GOD man, do I have to teach you the whole English language [reference.com]? Bookmark www.dictionary.com and thern use it on almost every word you use before you post , for the sake of people with a clue everywhere, si vous plait.
                    • by greg_barton (5551)

                      May I suggest Haldol?

                    • I'll allow it, since it is the closest thing to a coherent [reference.com] argument you have made yet :-)

                      Tis' better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt. I have no doubt that a response is forthcoming :-)
                    • by greg_barton (5551)

                      Of course! I love feeding paranoid agitated people. It's a hobby.

                      But I'm done for the day. Have a great 2010.

                    • Finally, we get there. The open admission that you are a Troll. Except that I plead with those who have moderator points that they NOT mod you as such, since in truth you were not trolling, and your attempt to paint yourself as one now is a (hopefully) failed "face saving" gesture. SlashID 5150^H^H^H551 is not a troll, but now that he has been totally outclassed at every turn, he now wishes to "cop out" to being a Troll to avoid the obvious conclusion that he really thought that this statement was not
                    • by greg_barton (5551)

                      You forget who I love feeding.

    • by nick_urbanik (534101) <nicku&nicku,org> on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @09:28PM (#26274655) Homepage

      It seems that this article [lxer.com] referred to by the main article [ostatic.com] speculates incorrectly, saying that:

      he explained that this move allows him to spend more time with his family

      whereas Alan actually wrote:

      I'm not going to be spending more time with the family, gardening[1] or other such wonderous things.

      a few lines below.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iabervon (1971)

      For that matter, why should Red Hat fund development on the sorts of thing that Alan Cox works on, if hardware vendors are willing to fund it? Intel can even get developers internal documentation and (most importantly) face time with hardware designers who can explain things that they didn't think to document (or that they documented in a huge specification that's too big to find the little detail in).

      There's no reason for Red Hat to have a collection of kernel developers working on stuff that Red Hat doesn

  • Alan Cox? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @12:23PM (#26268561)

    Who's he?

  • Doesn't mention what type of hardware he's going to be working with, though.

    General? Or are we going to see a jump in quality in Linux support of Intel WiFi/VGA/CPU at the exclusion of others. Anyone know how software development works at Intel?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by loftwyr (36717)

      Alan Cox decides what he works on. He'll have more access to Intel hardware and specifications but Intel has no chance on directing his work.

      There are a lot of companies that would jump to have him work for them. If Intel tells him something he doesn't like, he could leave at his whim to one of them.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by plague3106 (71849)

        I doubt Intel would be too hurt by his departure either. You greatly over-estimate how important he probably is to Intel. He'll likely do what they ask; he is being paid by them, you know? Unless you think he's some kind of unprofesional crybaby..

    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I talked to Alan about a year ago. At the time, he seemed disillusioned and sick of some parts of the linux/foss community. It wouldn't surprise me if his new work is a complete break from linux.

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by cheftw (996831)

        That's odd. I also claim to have talked to him and he said vi was better than emacs.

        It wouldn't surprise me if he decided to work for Intel's obvious troll division.

        Did I just blow your mind?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I talked to him too and he said he really likes Oreos.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by shish (588640)
          I'm looking for this "ore" operating system on google and all I can find is cookies :-S
  • Higher salary? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @12:44PM (#26268761)

    If he gets a higher salary, why not? People have been motivated for less.

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Maybe because everything isn't about money?

      • Re:Higher salary? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JCSoRocks (1142053) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @01:18PM (#26269093)
        Seriously. I've known plenty of people that have stepped out of high paid positions to go work someplace where they'll have more fun. If you're making 6 figures but you spend 10 hours a day hating everything, what's the point? There's no reason not to just make less doing something you actually enjoy.
        • by thermian (1267986)

          Seriously. I've known plenty of people that have stepped out of high paid positions to go work someplace where they'll have more fun. If you're making 6 figures but you spend 10 hours a day hating everything, what's the point? There's no reason not to just make less doing something you actually enjoy.

          I've known several people who did that, but in all but one case they did it after banking some serious coin first and buying houses. Its easy to think like that if you have the financial security to do it, most people don't.

    • I am just finishing my second ten year stint after graduation. Its as long as I can stand to be in one company. The repetition gets to you after a while. I could understand Alan wanting a change of scenery.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @12:45PM (#26268771)
    From the article:

    If the Intel position allows Cox to do more of the type of development that interests him, or simply offers a different view from the cafeteria windows...

    As an Intel employee, I have to say that if you're choosing to work at Intel for the view or the cafeteria, you have made an incredibly poor life choice.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by the_B0fh (208483)

      That's because you don't have a window view, right!!? :)

    • As an Intel employee, I have to say that if you're choosing to work at Intel for the view or the cafeteria, you have made an incredibly poor life choice.

      Alan Cox in two weeks? [ytmnd.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by 1_brown_mouse (160511)

      Doesn't Cox "work from home?"

      Home being in the UK somewhere.

    • What good is a window in a basement anyway? Watch the worms?
    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      As a former Intel employee, I have to echo this sentiment. Intel buildings are notoriously bland and ugly, as they refuse to spend any money on architecture, and the cafeterias have mediocre food for outrageous prices. My current employer has a cafeteria with mediocre food as well, but at least the prices are normal.

      Intel has some nice things about it as an employer, but the cafeteria isn't one of them, especially with Intel's typically mediocre (or less) pay. This may have changed since I left though, s

    • by McPierce (259936) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @07:05PM (#26273359) Homepage

      And as a Red Hat employee, I can say that Alan's leaving isn't a signal that anything's amiss at Red Hat. Quite the contrary, actually. Alan's not going to leave behind Linux: he's going to continue that with someone else signing his pay check. And by working for Intel he's going to get to work on future hardware sooner.

      For my job I deal with some upcoming hardware that requires someone like Alan getting to it before I even touch it, since a working kernel would make my job easier.

  • by bogaboga (793279) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @01:08PM (#26268985)

    Could anyone speculate about what his compensation was like?

    I always wondered how much folks like Allan Cox are paid.

    I mean...they do low level coding that I will never be able to do.

    So what is the salary like in jobs like these?

    • by timeOday (582209) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @01:17PM (#26269071)
      My guess is, a bit north of $100K. The top of the engineering ladder is not all that high, and gurus don't make all that much more than bumblers with equal years of experience. (I'm not talking about RedHat in particular, just my observations of engineering in general.)
      • by bogaboga (793279)

        That's good money in this economy. I work in the health-care field; the money is not all that bad but one has to "learn" to live with all kinds of crap.

        Back stabbing by fellow employees and the fact that you are not appreciated are quite common. Members of the public appreciate the doctors more.

        It is the case although nurses and those close to patients know more about the patient than the doctors, and doctors normally go by nurse's opinions. I guess it comes with the territory.

        I would assume that because ve

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Grishnakh (216268)

          That's good money in this economy.

          It's decent money (well, until inflation rears its ugly head soon, which it may or may not do), but it's not great. But the bad thing about it, as the previous poster noted, is that it's not much more than the average bumbler gets. In engineering, it's pretty easy to get $80-90k with relatively little experience, or with a not-so-great track record of performance, just by moving around a little. If you're a star performer, in fact, you'd be lucky to get raises sufficient

          • by renoX (11677)

            I don't know how much Alan Cox will earn, but I guess it'll be a very decent pay for someones living in California and he'll work at home at Swansa, which makes the pay quite good indeed.

            Of course he deserves it.

          • by swb (14022)

            What from I read and hear from family who used to be in the health-care field, nurses have so much trouble with being underappreciated and underpaid and overworked (such as being ordered to lift 300lb patients), that there aren't that many people willing to go into that field any more (just like engineering). As a result, hospitals are desperate to hire nurses, but of course they're not willing to raise their pay.

            Which IMHO is a major contributor to healthcare costs.

            Highly, and in many cases, over-educated

          • So what, exactly, is the incentive to be a star performer? There is none. You can be a total slacker instead, just change jobs every few years, and do just as well as the guys putting in 90 hours/week and doing the work of several lesser engineers.

            Work ethic comes to mind.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              by Grishnakh (216268)

              So you think it's ethical to work really hard for no extra compensation?

              If so, I've got a lot of work I could assign you. I don't have any money to pay you, but if your work ethic is high, you should be happy to take on this work for no pay. Please let me know what your skills are, so I can provide you with suitable work.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Apocros (6119)

            In engineering, it's pretty easy to get $80-90k with relatively little experience, or with a not-so-great track record of performance, just by moving around a little. If you're a star performer, in fact, you'd be lucky to get raises sufficient to make much more than new hires who left their previous job because they didn't get any raises (i.e. not great performers), and the new company wants to pay them "market rate". Typically, you'll only match the new hires with your raises. So what, exactly, is the incentive to be a star performer? There is none. You can be a total slacker instead, just change jobs every few years, and do just as well as the guys putting in 90 hours/week and doing the work of several lesser engineers.

            This is absolutely true... where I work, the pay ranges that I know of for all north american sites, as of last year, were:

            MTS: 103k-168k
            SMTS: 115k-187k

            I'd say roughly MTS means 7+ years of experience, and SMTS means 9+ years, give or take.

            Of the people that were brought in at their current level, most (say around 80%) are around the median of those ranges, tending to be a bit higher. Of the people that were promoted to those levels, most are in the bottom 25% of the salary range.

            Now, there is certainly

            • by Grishnakh (216268)

              Thank you for that bit of data and your perspective which confirms my own experiences.

              And you're right, there's no incentive to be a top performer really, other than having a better shot at escaping the layoff axe when it comes around...

              Even that's not much of an incentive, really. If your company is doing so badly they're laying off people (other than the very worst performers), do you really want to stick around? They probably have serious management problems, making working there a miserable experience

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by JumpDrive (1437895)
        For the CS engineering ladder maybe. But I know of quite a few that have topped over 200k. They work for chip manufacturers.
      • He's got quite a bit of notoriety and he's among the top echelon of linux developers. He's also got unique skills and experience that's extremely difficult to replace. I know a few people with fewer qualifications at around 150k-175k. He'd have to be well into 200k range. I'd imagine 225-275k.
  • by sadtrev (61519) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @01:10PM (#26269005) Homepage

    I first stumbled on Slashdot ten years ago when Alan Cox mentioned in his online diary (a novelty in those days) that it was nice that even Slashdot were carrying it as a story.

    I knew Alan from my uni days when I heard the outrageous rumour that SUCS (the comp.soc.) were trying to put real Unix onto a PC.

    • Outrageous eh? : ) (Score:2, Informative)

      by Sits (117492)

      Hey some of us young 'uns in SUCS [sucs.org] would like to hear more about the old days of the 90s. If you've got a moment hop on by to the SUCS@20 [sucs.org] site or drop by Milliways...

  • by Sponge Bath (413667) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @01:12PM (#26269035)

    What I have observed about Alan Cox in the lkml:
    1. Does not buy into hero worship of kernel developers no matter how senior.
    2. Does not get nasty when outsiders address him in the mailing list.
    3. Is a champion of 'perfect is the enemy of the good' principle.
    4. Does not froth at the mouth when someone mentions business reasons for needing a particular addition or change.

    There are many on that list with big names that stumble on one or more of the above.

    • by Limburgher (523006) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:49PM (#26269973) Homepage Journal
      +1. He's also really helpful and insightful on the Fedora lists, too, and not just on kernel stuff. Alan, if you're reading this, please keep hanging around there. :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Marcus Green (34723)

      He is also very polite when hero worshippers (me) come up to him in public (The Green Man Music Festival), just to say hello.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I submitted a bug a few years ago and was surprised to get an email from Alan Cox requesting more information. He did end up fixing the problem (some sound issue, iirc) and acted as if I was some high-level customer and he was just a random coder. Super down-to-earth guy.

    • Alan's always been the adult in the room, especially in the olden days. He helped me once on a client's craptastic non-AT-standard Dell RTC that was crashing the kernel and analyzed the situation perfectly. We all owe him at least a debt of gratitude.

  • by heroine (1220) on Tuesday December 30, 2008 @02:13PM (#26269593) Homepage

    He was writing his diary as a redhat employee since 1997. Too bad he got caught up with that welsh fad & then the business school fad of the early 2000's. Hopefully he realizes the value of low level programming again.

  • Not unless they've based themselves somewhere near Mumbles is my bet.

    Working for them, maybe.

    This lovely, ugly joke is brought to you by the Laugharne Stout Drinkers Forum.

  • I wonder if he would put his MBA in good use by founding his own startup and what products we could expect from such a startup.

    • by tehcyder (746570)
      There is only a vague correlation between entrepreneurship and getting an MBA (or any other type of formal education).
      Most entrepreneurs aren't particularly well educated, although I know the US is different from the UK in terms of the percentage of people with post-graduate degrees.
  • I don't know for sure but one of the things I read about Intel is that it has a very rigid suit&tie corporate culture, similar or stricter than at IBM.

    I met Alan Cox once at a conference and he didn't quite look the type to work in a tightly controlled cubicle - so why choose Intel? OTOH he did look reasonable and adjustable.

    Maybe the pay raise is nice...

  • I'm curious to see if he stops wearing the red hat all the time and starts wearing something like a Stetson with "Intel Inside" embroidered on it.

  • I'm surprised that we haven't seen Alan chime in himself on his plans and reasons for the move. He does tend to lurk around here a bit ;)

  • Kick ass open source Larrabee drivers would rock...

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