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Open Source Linux

Linus' Other Gift to the World 177

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the i'm-sure-his-kids-are-great-too dept.
Glyn Moody writes "Linus is widely recognised for initiating two major developments: Linux and Git (it's an interesting discussion which of the two in the long term will be regarded as more important). But there's a third, which people tend to overlook: he also pioneered the key ideas behind what later came to be called open innovation. As more and more companies open up to embrace customer-generated ideas, and the idea spreads to other areas like open government, perhaps it's time to add open innovation to the list of Linus' achievements."
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Linus' Other Gift to the World

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Git is super amazing!!

    • Re:I love git!! (Score:4, Informative)

      by Necroman (61604) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @09:56AM (#36462234)

      I think the better comment is "DCVS is super amazing!!"

      Many people forget that there ware 2 other decent implementations of distributed source control out there (Mercurial and Bazaar), both of which function rather closely to Git. Though, from what I've seen, Git is currently the fastest and most efficient when it comes to processing various commands, but they all do everything rather quickly.

      Git I would say is popular in the open source world for 2 reasons: Linus uses it and Github. My gripes still stand with it requiring Cygwin on Windows and its weird terminology (which is backwards from many of its predecessors). It's a great tool and I'm happy that its pushing people away from CVS and SVN, but it's not perfect and it's not the only DVCS on the block.

      • by bberens (965711)
        I don't have anything against DVCS but I personally haven't switched from SVN. SVN doesn't cause me (personally) any headaches that might be solved by DVCS. For some, I can see how it's quite useful and beneficial but I suppose you could count me in the group that doesn't prefer it.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Fast, cheap topic branches. Git knocks svn out of the park in the regard, even if you never use the distributed part.

      • by DrXym (126579)
        Windows support is still a little unpolished but these days you don't need Cygwin. You install msysgit which is natively compiled and comes with a bunch of Unix tools for running scripts and so on. Then you install TortoiseGit which invokes msysgit and presents things in dialogs for pushing, pulling, cloning, diffs etc. It works much the same way as TortoiseSVN.

        There is also Eclipse Git which is implemented over JGit. So if you develop in Eclipse it's basically what you would expect of any source control

      • I think the better comment is "DCVS is super amazing!!"

        Yes it is very handy.

        Many people forget that there ware 2 other decent implementations of distributed source control out there (Mercurial and Bazaar)

        Not to mention darcs and monotone. I've never used montone, but darcs is very nice, except that it probably doesn't scale as far as git and doesn't like very large files.

        I'm happy that its pushing people away from CVS and SVN

        To be honest, in general, VCS is super amazing. Even CVS works well enough for smal

      • by xophos (517934) *

        You forgot one important point: Git is FAST. With larger Projects the other two sometimes take some time to think.

    • by DrXym (126579)
      Git is great but the Windows tools are still a bit poor with msysgit & TortoiseGit being about 95% the way but still a bit flakey compared to TortoiseSVN. Fortunately for Java development, EGit is coming along very nicely and supposedly part of Eclipse 3.7.
  • Is this a new : trend to add colons in the middle of a sentence?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Because Linus simply did not do that.

    FFS, just post a 'missed connections' in craigslist if you love the guy that deeply, don't waste space here on it.

  • by mangu (126918) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @09:45AM (#36462114)

    I think in the long run people will have forgotten both Linux and git, but the open enterprise system will go on.

    In the future when we will have abundant robotic power, corporations will have to be managed differently. People with managing ability today are people who are good at manipulating people, with automated systems managers must be people who are good at manipulating machines, i.e. programmers.

    The catch is that programmers aren't very good at manipulating people, and that include their peers. In a typical enterprise today a lot of effort is put into negotiating between the different departments and divisions. I cannot imagine a company managed by programmers doing that.

    The Linux management system will work when managers no longer have people beneath them.

  • innovation. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bobs666 (146801) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @09:46AM (#36462122)

    I thought innovation was what the Big Corporations did after the patent's ran out.

    Take the case of the X-Y-Box (the first mouse) it was patented in the 60's. and low and behold on the 80's we got GUI's with mice. makes one think. Is this kind innovation setting us back 20 or 30 years.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    They're always stealing Linus's ideas before he gets to them.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nothing against Linus, but I think it's a little silly to take a normal idea, apply "do it online", and then call it a new idea.

    Collaboration has been around long before Linus. Perhaps Linus is one of the first to collaborate online... ok, that's great. Comparing this "accomplishment" along side Linux and Git is a little silly. Linux and Git are genuine accomplishments which Linus should be very proud of.

  • in a few centuries it will be regarded as the begining of true democracy! :)
  • Linus' major achievement was popularizing and demonstrating open source and the projects it could accomplish, and Linux and Git were merely demonstrations of that. Glyn merely has caught up to us who have realized sometimes great inventors great invent things, but in software great inventors truly only invent great ideas. That is what Linus has done here. Stop thinking of Linux as a thing and start thinking of it as an idea, part of a greater idea which he has touted for a very very long time.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If what is great about Linux is the idea, then RMS deserves the credit.
      But I reject the premise. What is great about Linux is the implementation.

      • by denis-The-menace (471988) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @10:02AM (#36462310)

        I thought it was RMS, too.

        That being the case, Linus' real "other gift" is providing proof to the world that RMS' idea was valid and possible.

        • by WaywardGeek (1480513) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @11:22AM (#36463464) Journal

          RMS since 1984, when he declared the GNU free software operating system effort, has been the GNU/FSF champion. He invented the GPL license, which along with similar licenses that have been developed, are the legal cornerstone enabling software innovators around the world to collaborate on free software efforts. However, with the emacs project, RMS showed a lack of skill in encouraging innovators to go nuts with whatever development they like. Everything had to be approved to get into the official emacs release, and RMS was a single point of failure, constricting the flow of innovation from others while providing most of it himself.

          Linus, on the other hand, has the people skills needed to enable innovators to contribute while standing enough out of the way to keep from restricting innovation. That's why he's credited for this model of governance. That's the model we need to figure out how to replicate. Unfortunately, it seems to require a benevolent dictator who is brilliant, has thick skin, and good people skills. If we can figure out how to replicate that kind of success, based on how Linus did it, then we can credit him for the model, but so far it seems that Linus' model requires a very rare kind of benevolent dictator who is brilliant technically, has good people skills, and likes to enable others to innovate as much as they like to contribute themselves.

          No good model for sharing the efforts of software innovators exists today. Of all platforms, Android seems to have the most innovation at present, simply because they allow any old coding fool to publish an app with minimal red tape. However, Android more or less forbids sharing between developers. We'll never get where we need to be with the current models.

          • by Urkki (668283)

            Linus, on the other hand, has the people skills needed to enable innovators to contribute while standing enough out of the way to keep from restricting innovation. That's why he's credited for this model of governance. That's the model we need to figure out how to replicate. Unfortunately, it seems to require a benevolent dictator who is brilliant, has thick skin, and good people skills. If we can figure out how to replicate that kind of success, based on how Linus did it, then we can credit him for the model, but so far it seems that Linus' model requires a very rare kind of benevolent dictator who is brilliant technically, has good people skills, and likes to enable others to innovate as much as they like to contribute themselves.

            Biotechnology will soon solve the issue. We have our selection of BDFLs [wikipedia.org] in open source community. All we need to do is create hybrid "clones" of them, raise them as nerds, then a few decades later see which did best, and repeat the process. It won't take many generations until we have the ultimate BDFL at our disposal.

        • by DrXym (126579)

          That being the case, Linus' real "other gift" is providing proof to the world that RMS' idea was valid and possible.

          It's valid and possible if you put pragmatism before politics. This explains why Linux is everywhere and Hurd isn't.

        • by he-sk (103163)

          From what I read, the output of Stallman and Torwalds is roughly comparable. They're both awesome programmers who have the ability to create well-designed code in a short amount of time.

          However, whereas Stallman started out with a clear agenda, an extreme sense of perseverance and tried to build a free Unix system no what, Torwalds basically got lucky. If there hadn't been a nearly-complete GNU system (written by Stallman and others) at the time he wrote his terminal emulator^W^Wkernel, Linux would very li

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Linus popularized it. Before Linus if you asked the average person what free software was they would have told you it was.
          a. A copy from a friend.
          b. That public domain junk like lemon aid stand.
          c. What I can download from the Pirate Chest BBS.

          I actually remember hearing about GNU Unix way back then. I was so excited and could hardly wait for it to show up. Even giving RMS the credit for coming up with the idea of free software is a big stretch. People had been passing around the source for programs for a ve

      • by Xtifr (1323)

        Not just RMS (and the GNU project), but to some extent, the BSD, X11, TeX and Perl projects as well, as long as we're talking historically. As for implementation, Linus is a clean coder and good at organizing people, and I admire him for both attributes, but the overall implementation of the Linux kernel has a lot of warts, IMO. Regressions are far too common. If it weren't for the much broader hardware support in Linux, I would probably prefer to run a GNU/BSD system. (I may still if Debian GNU/kFreeBSD

        • by Urkki (668283)

          I think it's quite possible that if not for the legal battles [wikipedia.org] back when Linux was still little more than an interesting toy, BSD would be the dominant free OS today.

          I believe the reason Linux rules over BSD is license. BSD license allows companies to "just take", and in short term this is so much more tempting, that rate of "giving back" isn't as high as it could be. There are manager level people in companies using BSD software, who abhor the idea of giving away company secrets built on top of BSD licenesed technology, even when they're not really secrets. They're, perhaps justifiably, afraid the their competitors will just "take" and not reciprocate, and gain advanta

  • Um no. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @09:53AM (#36462196)

    Linus Torvalds has done well with Linux and now Git, but I don't really seeing him deserving the title of pioneer of "open innovation". At least not in the way the author is using the word "pioneer". Linux being the most popular open source project makes the project itself the catalyst for this so called "open innovation". There is a difference between taking advantage of open source methodologies and creating methodologies. The author has seems to lost the grasp of that difference in his zeal for idol worship.

    I think RMS deserves the title of the creator (or pioneer) of "open innovation", and that says a lot since I don't always agree with his philosophy. RMS is the one that really stuck his neck out and preached the gospel. Even today he is either loved or hated by the software community.

    Then there are all the advocates that came and went during the lifespan of Linux. They wrote manuscripts, sold the idea to their employer, or invested their own money in open source development. During all this time Linus focused on his vision of the kernel, and having a take it or leave it attitude towards advocacy. His main concern was making a quality kernel and rightly so.

    If we used the word pioneer correctly then we would consider Linus one of many pioneers in this open source crusade. There are a lot of them with the scars from all the arrows in their backs. Sorry for the slight negative tone, but the idol worship in that article irritated me this early in the morning. More coffee!

    • by sgt scrub (869860)

      I would agree with you but RMS contributes more philosophically where Linus contributes more physically. For example, Louis and Clark were pioneers. They didn't come up with the whole manifest destiny "god said we could have the land if we explore it" attitude. The concept came from some politician. That isn't to say I would equate open innovation with manifest destiny.

      • What about gcc and emacs? They both existed longer than Linux and enjoy a much larger install base.

        I don't really understand your point. You seem to have completely disregarded the fact that not only did RMS delivered "physical" software, he did it before Linus.

        • by sgt scrub (869860)

          The word "more" is important in my post. And yes, without gcc most FOSS applications wouldn't exist including the linux kernel and git. However, I was pointing out that Stallman's contributions were not just physical but philosophical. Also that his philosophical contributions were "more" as in greater than his physical contributions. To simply say Stallman contributed gcc and emacs in comparison to Linus' kernel and git would leave out the philosophical contribution by Stallman. Thus. One was "more"

          • Understood.

            Let me use a sort of car analogy, it's Slashdot after all and I haven't made a terrible one in a while.

            There was a need to have a paved road to connect the east coast with the west coast of the US. Before the road existed, groups of early pioneers travelled westward for a better life and many of them were never heard from again. It took a bold pioneer to not only see the need for a paved road but make an effort to build the roads and bridges over rough terrain. He had to sell the feasibility of

    • by Dog-Cow (21281)

      I guess you didn't read the article, or your comprehension is very poor, as he very clearly states the differences between what Linus and RMS did. And he didn't say that Linus pioneered open development or open/free software. He says that Linus pioneered the approach of asking potential users and developers for feature requests, while RMS wanted people to work on his stuff.

      • I did read the article and didn't buy into his comparison of the two. The top down structure versus asking for volunteers on the internet over simplifies a lot. For instance, RMS has been doing this much longer and part of that time he couldn't take advantage of the internet. When I first started using GNU software my first access to the products was via floppy disks through the mail. Creating a unix like kernel using floppy disk or BBS distribution is significantly harder than downloading from USENET or ke

    • but the idol worship in that article irritated me this early in the morning

      Thank you for your wisdom, oh wise one!

    • Well, in fact Linus Torvalds was used as counter example to FSF in the "Cathedral and the Bazaar". Most open source projects prior to Linux was either horribly fragmented or horribly centralized by requiring copyright assignment to FSF or some other organization. In that way the manner in which Linus let others contribute to and influence Linux, he actually demonstrated another model of development (which inspired to the "Cathedral and Bazaar" text, read it if you haven't). People seem to think that Linus
    • Well, now we have the Holy Open Spirit and the Son so who's the daddy?

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      RMS doesn't exactly deserve that title either.

      What RMS was doing was exactly what most of the mathematical and scientific community was doing already, namely sharing ideas like crazy and giving everybody who knew what they were doing a way to contribute. And it had been what was going on in Unix-land before it became heavily commercial, most notably in BSD Unix.

      As much as RMS is portrayed as a radical, the real radical position is the idea that software source code should be hidden from users and protected

      • What RMS was doing was exactly what most of the mathematical and scientific community was doing already, namely sharing ideas like crazy and giving everybody who knew what they were doing a way to contribute.

        That is not my experience with the mathematical and scientific community. It is true they are open and peered review, but they are definitely not that way from the very beginning. It's very competitive and they hold on to key pieces of data that they worked on so they can be the first to publish. It's n

    • `Linus Torvalds has done well with Linux and now Git, but I don't really seeing him deserving the title of pioneer of "open innovation". At least not in the way the author is using the word "pioneer"'

      That might be true but first one would have to redefine the meaning of 'pioneer', 'creating', 'taking advantage of', "open innovation" and "open source methodologies"

      "I'm doing a (free) operating system .. and I'd like to know what features most people would want. Any suggestions are welcome, but I won't promi

    • Ill second this, I respect Linus as an engineer first and foremost. This is ofcourse extended to all of the kernel hackers.
      Technical advice from any of these carries weight.

      RMS I respect as a visionary with quite extraordinary consistency and patience, again extended to all GNUs.
      He gets a lot of flak from short-sighted people for an uncompromising stance, this is unfair.
      Its his role to be clear and firm, so that stuff moves in the right direction instead of stagnating in details.

      They have overlapping sphere

  • Linux vs Git? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dr_tube (115121) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @09:54AM (#36462210)

    Can someone explain, or point to a discussion, of how it is argued that Git could be more important in the long term than Linux? Isn't Git small fish compared to Linux?

    • Linux is an OS kernel. Kernels come and go over the years; Linux has been around for a long time already. Eventually, its development will hit a wall created by some ancient design oversight and someone else will make something new to resolve it.

      Version control systems have more staying power. The popular SVN was developed as a better CVS, which dates back to 1986 (according to Wikipedia), which itself was an improvement over something else from the 70's. Linux is roughly analogous to SVN's place in the cha

      • It's ridiculous to assert that Git is anywhere near as important as Linux just because "version control systems have more staying power" and "someone else would've created a UNIX-like system for the PC". Git is quite nice but its impact is miniscule compared to Linux. Moreover, the revolutionary thing about Linux was its development model (which BSD didn't have) which is precisely what led to those revolutionary ideas in Git.

        • by Urkki (668283)

          Git is quite nice but its impact is miniscule compared to Linux.

          Git allows places like gitorious.org, github.org. While seemingly like eg. sourceforge, I think git makes a huge difference here. It's a game changer (which is kinda orthogonal to being "nice" or not).

          • You are massively understating the impact Linux has had on the computing world.

            • by Urkki (668283)

              Oh I agree Linux has significantly bigger impact, especially today. But impact of git is just happening. And I think git will "win" over eg. Mercurial for a few reasons. First of all there's modularity vs. monolitic, which allows git to have much wider range of uses, and also allows more directions for open development, enabling innovation, inviting innovators, increasing developer base, speeding development. The impact doesn't have to be big to accumulate over the years. Then of course there's the... for l

    • Re:Linux vs Git? (Score:4, Informative)

      by doti (966971) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @10:13AM (#36462446) Homepage

      There is nothing special about Linux, apart from being a successful FLOSS operating system.
      There were no great genius work from Linus there, he "just" wrote an ordinary OS and made the source public.

      Git, in the other hand, is a work of a genius. It's not merely one more version control system.
      It made branching, merging and atomic commits so acessible that it changed the way people code.

      ps: no idea why you were modded down, it was a completely reasonable question.

      • by Xtifr (1323)

        It's not merely one more version control system. It made branching, merging and atomic commits so acessible that it changed the way people code.

        Are you sure? I never used Bitkeeper, but I know that Git was heavily inspired by it. Also, while I admit that Git is an incomparable improvement over SVN, I'm not convinced its as much of an improvement over other DVCSes like Arch, Bzr or Mercurial. Mercurial in particular is a very close match in features and flexibility (though I admit to a mild preference for Git myself), and is arguably more accessible (in the sense of easy to learn and get up-to-speed with) than Git.

      • by tbird20d (600059)
        Oh for crying out loud. Linus is smart, but git started as just an opensource rehash of bitkeeper. Should we credit Larry McVoy with genius?
        • Linus imitated Monotone more than he imitated BitKeeper. BitKeeper is a DVCS, alright, but it is based on an SCCS (!) underpinning. Git is based on a content-addressable hash model, which Monotone introduced into the version control space way back when.
      • by iggymanz (596061)

        not special? getting so many companies and people to *contribute* is the outstanding thing about Linux compared to the others. Why do the open source alternatives lag in device support? (and yes, I prefer some of the alternatives to Linux but still that mindshare thing is formidable)

  • by Blakey Rat (99501) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @09:59AM (#36462274)

    Let's claim he won WWII, too. What the hey. It's not like anybody will actually check.

    / Godwin

    • Lets claim that Hitler was killed by a bad Git Merge.

      THAT is a godwin.

      As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1 (100%).

  • I remember when DDJ published the BSD i386 source, that was pre-Linux. It's said that Linus wanted a better Minix, but before that were the Berkeley Software Distribution and the GNU Toolset.

    It's not at all clear why Linus is singled out for credit.

    • Re:Why credit Linus (Score:5, Interesting)

      by a_n_d_e_r_s (136412) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @10:24AM (#36462594) Homepage Journal

      Linux wanted have his own UNIX-like computor. Buying a VAX to run Berkeley Software Distribution was at that time not afforable for a mere student and you also had to have an AT&T license for them.
      The 386 BSD was released after Linux was started; Linux was started in '91 and BSD 386 came out '92.

      Also you had the large lawsuit regarding BSD in '92 which slowed the development for BSD versions for 2 years.
      Since then BSD systems more or less has been playing catch up with the more capable Linux system.

      Had the BSD for 386 been released earlier and has not the big lawsuit stopped the distribution of BSD for 2 years
      that Linux would probably not been much more then a hobby project that become abandoned when something
      better came along. But instead Linux become the #1 UNIX-like operating system of choice.

      • Yeah, Linus didn't really do anything special here. The BSD folks were doing open contributions long before Linux did. BSD just wasn't available for 386 at the time. So Linus's contribution was making software that was able to bring that ethos available to more people while BSD was being ported and going through legal troubles.

        The people who really deserve the credit are the BSD and ATT folks. Sorry.

  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @10:04AM (#36462334)
    So he argues that Linus "invented" some development model that is somehow different than Stallman had in GNU. He even quotes from the original GNU announcement where RMS ask for code contributions. Yes, GNU was managed in a top-down way, where Linux *could* be claimed as bottom-up with Linus having the last word. That's the only distinction he seems to make. Openness and public participation were present in both, but because FSF was hiring people and paying them to do work doesn't mean they didn't have the same model. When you're a completely public project, you can reject contributions and turn them into wasted effort. When you're paying people to do work, you tell them what those decisions are going to be from the start so you don't waste money. I give Linus a lot of credit. Who wouldn't want to have his practical achievement under their belt? I give Stallman even more credit. Who wouldn't want to have his philosophical AND practical achievements under their belt? OK, that's a loaded question around here...
    • by nomadic (141991)
      At least the OSI guys haven't shown up on this thread to accuse everyone of ignoring that they were the first to invent open source development in 1998.
  • I actually think CVS did more for "open innovation". Together with Sun sponsoring the various SunSites.

    CVS was the first (at least widely used) free server based version control system, and it made it very easy for anyone with a server to setup a free software project. The SunSites were probably the most common hosting platform until SourceForge. Before CVS you either gave collaborators login access so they could work locally on your machine (GNU did that), or relied on sending patches, which Linus did f

  • by Exitar (809068)

    Charlie Brown's best friend?
    I believed his gift to the World was The Great Pumpkin! (more than 50 years before the Flying Spaghetti Monster)

  • SHARE (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wandazulu (265281) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @10:31AM (#36462680)

    Considering it's IBM's 100th birthday, it should be pointed out that a lot of the concepts TFA talks about were being done by groups like SHARE [wikipedia.org] long before Linus was even born.

  • All Linus did was write a kernel and all of the things that the article credits him with inventing, were already part of the free software landscape prior to his posting to the minix group.

    How do I know? BECAUSE I WAS THERE. I remember the posting on the minix group and I remember the first versions of Linux being passed around University of Maryland when I was going there. This so called "Open Innovation" is an emergent property of Free Software. So, please, get your facts straight, and stop your hero worship.

    GC

    • by Urkki (668283)

      All Linus did was write a kernel and all of the things that the article credits him with inventing, were already part of the free software landscape prior to his posting to the minix group.

      How do I know? BECAUSE I WAS THERE. I remember the posting on the minix group and I remember the first versions of Linux being passed around University of Maryland when I was going there. This so called "Open Innovation" is an emergent property of Free Software. So, please, get your facts straight, and stop your hero worship.

      It's emergent same way as democracy is emergent in human society. It's bound to happen, yet it's not automatic, and often it takes blood, sweat and tears to make it happen. Anybody who can pull it off and become "hero" needs luck of course, but luck alone will not make it happen. Minix didn't take over the world, it was left in the dust of history while Linux made history.

  • by Zoxed (676559) on Thursday June 16, 2011 @03:39PM (#36467234) Homepage

    I think if you take a longer historical perspective then "Open Innovation" is what humans have normally have engaged in. It is only quite recently that patents and copyright etc. came on the scene to create "closed" environments.
    Imagine what would have happened if someone had patented fire, metallurgy, selective breeding (plants and animals) or copyrighted the musical scales !. Instead ideas travelled around openly, anyone could experiment, copy ideas etc.

  • by zhub (1877842) on Friday June 17, 2011 @12:36PM (#36476180)
    Maybe everyone will be happy when we just start calling it GNU/FOSS.

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