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The 2.5 Kernel Tree And Alan Cox 247

Motor writes "It seems that (as everyone suspected), the 2.5 Linux kernel tree is close to opening. However, contrary to expectations, 2.4 will not be maintained by Alan Cox, but will instead be handled by Marcelo Tosatti. Thanks to Alan for all his hard work on 2.0 and 2.2."
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The 2.5 Kernel Tree And Alan Cox

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  • by Zach` ( 71927 ) on Friday November 02, 2001 @07:38PM (#2514756)
    Go read the linux-kernel mailing list archives; at least once every couple of months, someone tries to give Linus a 300K patch, and he rejects it. Linus wants *small* patches, which do specific things, or implement one new feature.

    Essentially, the only reason NON-platform-specific stuff gets through faster is because it all goes to Alan Cox, who then stuffs them into his own tree (the -ac* patches). When he decides they're stable enough to pass on, he breaks them up into bite-sized pieces for Linus.
    • by ekrout ( 139379 )
      Gone are the times when only unix hackers used new Linux releases.

      This means: A kernel officially released as "Release" should be VERY stable. Stable enough for anyone to put it on his most important servers, without a second thought.

      Remember the problems the 2.2 series went through.

      Maybe a new version tag is needed, additionally to the the odd numbers, and the "pre" and "ac" tags.
      Like "ea" for "early adopter". Whatever. Anything above "beta".

      The distributions would offer two kernels then: "ea" and "stable as hell".

      And "stable as hell" is what "release" should mean.

      PS: Potential deficiencies in the NT release versions are not really of interest here. Linux can do better. The people in control of the kernel dont need to care about public company quarter results.
      • A kernel officially released as "Release" should be VERY stable. Stable enough for anyone to put it on his most important servers, without a second thought.

        Whatever value the variable "stable" has for a given 2.4.x kernel, it can not be stored in a boolean type.

        A stable kernel series is one where the aim of development is to increase stability over adding new features. 2.4.0 was released to get a greater number of people testing the kernel. That testing showed cases where a kernel with worked well with the developers loads fell down under different loads. Linus took the drastic step of replacing the VM in the middle of a stable series with a different one. He had come to the conclusion that the Riel VM was too complex to fix all of these cases and it did essentially random things rather than well planned things. It looks like he made the right decision.

        I personally wouldn't recommend switching to a stable series in a production server until the next experimental series has been started.
  • by PM4RK5 ( 265536 ) on Friday November 02, 2001 @07:40PM (#2514763)
    Is this partially do to his over-zealousness [] and/or fears concerning the DMCA?

    It is a sad day, if US laws are scaring off foreign OSS coders.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'm actually quite concerned that the loss of Alan Cox will shift some of the balance in the kernel team. Alan has really done a great job for many years, and we need all sorts of different types of people doing different things in different ways in order to preserve the diversity that has really added a lot of value.

    So, who are we going to get to replace Alan Cox? It seems to me that you're going to need Eric Allman or some type of person like that to fill the same roll as Alan has.
    • Read his actual comment (like anyone on /. ever does that anymore). He's not getting out of kernel development, he's just not maintaining the stable series this time around. He says he's gonna be working on other kernel projects - a.k.a., he wants his shot at the fun in the devel tree :-)
    • To reiterate what the other reply to this parent said, he is not getting out of development. He is just going to be working under the radar a bit more.

      But is this really a bad thing? I mean, don't get me wrong; Alan has been wonderful and instrumental to Linux going where it has gone. But the beauty and power of open source is the diversity of its developers. If Alan maintained all stable trees from now on, the kernel would certainly get incredible attention and development. However, it would be Alan's tree. Again, not that this is a bad thing. Yet, sometimes you need some new blood just to get that spark going again. Just my view on the whole situation.

      Kudos to the whole team though. And thanks Alan for the great work. Good luck on the new endeavors.
  • It sounds boring to me... Adding new features should be more engaging then fixing bugs and pleasing users.
  • by strredwolf ( 532 ) on Friday November 02, 2001 @07:50PM (#2514807) Homepage Journal
    Where's the new maintainer's weblog, so we can track how he's doing?
    • Give him a chance to start, for goodness sake. The handover hasn't happened yet.
    • by iamsure ( 66666 ) on Friday November 02, 2001 @10:29PM (#2515180) Homepage
      Since you asked, and everyone else will want to know..

      Here is some info on our new maintainer..

      Marcelo works for Connectiva. He lives with "Rik". He looks like []this.

      His weblog is here. []
      His "homepage" area is here []

      And I gotta say.. impressive to get that level of responsibility at his age..
      • Haing a look at his picture there I saw a familiar face. I spoke to marcelo at - if he's the person I thought of, we had a gand old chat about Connectiva's porting of the APT software installation system to the RPM package manager. He's a good guy and quite approachable - I'm a system administrator, and although I have some coding skills (I know some ionterpreted languages and can read C, but that's about it right now) my experience with Linux is mainly as a user and maintainer rather than a developer. Marcelo (like AC, who I also met that trip) was a pleasant and approachable fellow, and it surprised me how both men were happy to converse with anyone without that occasional sense of elitism and self importance that one can get from...well, packet filtering maintainers :).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2001 @07:52PM (#2514817)
    Linux 2.4, maintenance and succession
    Posted 2 Nov 2001 by alan

    People will have been wondering about the 2.4 stable kernel progression. Various bizarre rumours in Byte seem to have generated a lot of discussion and rumour. Now that the people concerned are all agreed its time to put the entire roadmap out and make it clear.

    Linus will be releasing a 2.4.14 and probably a 2.4.15 finishing off the VM stability work and other rough corners. At that point the 2.5 kernel tree will be opened. There is a lot stuff queued for 2.5. It isn't going to be possible or sensible to throw it all into 2.5.0. One of the tasks is to put changes together in the right order.

    Marcelo Tosatti will be the head maintainer over the 2.4 stable kernel tree. This is not the giant change it may seem from the outside. The stable kernel management was and is a group effort. Marcelo and many others have been active in 2.2 and 2.4 stabilisation work. I'll be helping Marcelo with advice when he asks it, and working on feeding him the 2.4 relevant bits of the -ac tree.

    I will not be dissappearing from the scene, although I might be a little less visible at times. There are various kernel projects I will be working on as well as spending more time concentrating on Red Hat customer related needs. I'm hopeful that spending more time closer to customers will help provide more insight into where 2.5 needs to be going.

    David Weinehall did a great job on 2.0.39 when he took over 2.0 from me.I'm very confident that Marcelo will do a great job on 2.4.


    • >David Weinehall did a great job on 2.0.39 when
      >he took over 2.0 from me.I'm very confident that
      >Marcelo will do a great job on 2.4.

      I am also very glad that someone from a "third world country" takes this reponsability, that shows that Linux is really an international effort and not only dominated by rich or developed countries. It's very nice to see also that a lot of hacking in Linux is occuring in Brasil, I hope other third world countries will follow. That's why free/open source software is so nice everybody has it's chance, this is another aspect of it.
  • by BoarderPhreak ( 234086 ) on Friday November 02, 2001 @08:02PM (#2514859)
    ...and thanks for all the herring!

    - Tux

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2001 @08:15PM (#2514891)
    AC's has shown great skill in pulling together rapid/major changes. Clearly his help is needed with the 2.5 series more than 2.4. But there is also the part that people don't like to talk openly about which is: how much can other commerical GNU/Linux distributors claim that the offical kernel development is a puppet of Red hat?

    While AC has done a great job of judging the priorities of the Linux community as a whole over the priorities of Red hat, there is still the question of how much his employeement at RH effects him. Anotherwords, for example, Ext3/JBD is a kernel modification that Red hat is very much pushing. It now appears in all Red hat v7.2 kernels. Also, the Ext3/JBD modifications have appeared for a while in the AC patches. But if these modification started appearing in the 2.4 kernel, others might question if it is because it is truely ready to be in 2.4 or if Red hat is using their AC position to strong arm submittions. Clearly IBM and SGI would also like to see their file system additions in the vanilla 2.4 kernel series. Having to justify the addition of one over the other shouldn't have to be AC's job.

    So, I believe Alan Cox is doing the best technical and *political* choice for the Linux community as a whole. :)
    • Ext3/JBD (Score:5, Informative)

      by Alan Cox ( 27532 ) on Friday November 02, 2001 @08:38PM (#2514955) Homepage
      The ext3 stuff is scheduled for merging soon. The VM is simply more important, and as of 2.4.14pre7 basically works (there are a couple of corner cases left where it fails) - and is much faster than the older Riel VM. That was a concluded experiment anyway

      RH doesn't get to decide what I feed to Linus,and Linus wouldn't listen if they did. XFS is 2.5 material certainly. JFS I don't know - Im watching it with great interest.

      • by Sir_Real ( 179104 ) on Friday November 02, 2001 @08:44PM (#2514976)
        You know your a geek when a post by Alan Cox is more exciting to you than say, meeting the President.

        • by sydb ( 176695 ) <(ku.oc.12dw) (ta) (leahcim)> on Friday November 02, 2001 @09:23PM (#2515080)
          I once met Alan, at the first Linux Expo in Olympia, 1999.

          I noticed him standing next to me and I just exclaimed "Alan Cox!" I was so overcome I couldn't say anything else. He just smiled... like I was some kind of idiot... which I suppose I was. I then drifted off to the Debian stand to buy a T-shirt.

          Yes, meeting Dubya would most certainly not have left such an imprint on my mind.
        • I can't imagine anything *less* exciting than meeting the President (President of the States, that is).
        • Re:Starstruck ;-) (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          I met the previous and current Presidents. You're right ... I'd rather have a pizza with Alan. :-)

          Alan tends to make more sense than most politicos.

          In a world where wiping out an entire village is called "servicing a target", Alan is a refreshing breath of honesty and intellect.

          Hats off to Alan ... I just fired up 2.4.13 a few hours ago and she's a beauty! :-) I don't keep track of politics of any sort (not even in Linux), but without knowing if that is an AC release or not, I know that his fingerprints are all over the code. (As are the fingerprints of a largish group of extrememly talented coders!)

          There is still room in this world for integrity and excellence. There is still room for Alan.

          Bill C. -- Detroit, MI, USA
          Linux 2.4.13 #1 Fri Nov 2 23:03:37 EDT 2001 i686 unknown

          11:03pm up 4:12, 2 users, load average: 0.00, 0.07, 0.14

          total used free shared buffers cached
          Mem: 1545296 461208 1084088 0 66020 308944
          -/+ buffers/cache: 86244 1459052
          Swap: 401584 0 401584
          Total: 1946880 461208 1485672

          BTW ... this is a desktop machine. It's strong enough to run XP ... but why would I want to?
      • The VM is simply more important, and as of 2.4.14pre7 basically works (there are a couple of corner cases left where it fails) - and is much faster than the older Riel VM. That was a concluded experiment anyway

        So the story linked to from a couple of days ago, about Linus accepting the entirely new VM code and you holding on to the old VM, is resolved, with no threat of a fork?

        Give them a round of applause! (Okay, I watch BBC too much :-P )

    • While AC has done a great job of judging the priorities of the Linux community as a whole over the priorities of Red hat, there is still the question of how much his employeement at RH effects him.

      This has absolutely nothing to do with Alan's employment at Redhat, don't be silly.
      Furthermore, it has nothing to do with politics.
      • >>>While AC has done a great job of judging the priorities of the Linux community as a whole over the priorities of Red hat, there is still the question of how much his employeement at RH effects him.

        >>This has absolutely nothing to do with Alan's employment at Redhat, don't be silly.
        Furthermore, it has nothing to do with politics.

        Are you sure about that? As a business owner, I would do whatever it takes, to have one of the top ten names of a very specific field under my employment. And if that person see's my vision then I in!

        Hell, I believe that Mr. Cox is pushed ( ever so gently ) in the Red Hat direction. He might not even know it.

        Business being business, he will have to cross certain lines, and a paycheck in this environment is worth a lot more than a minor code change.

        I hope I'm wrong about Mr. Cox

        • Hell, I believe that Mr. Cox is pushed ( ever so gently ) in the Red Hat direction. He might not even know it.

          Well, everyone is 'pushed gently' by his environment. That's what input is for. I think AC is able to judge for himself, which suggestions are worth considering and which are not. Also, judging from AC's bringing up the DMCA in his changelog, he's not the man to be pushed around, and if he let's himself be pushed around he probably does it for his own reasons.

          Also AC has the talent and the influence, to be able to 'push around' Red Hat, like have an influence on their list of projects/priorities. Now does that make Red-Hat a puppet of Alan Cox? I think not. Neither is it the other way round.
    • by JoeBuck ( 7947 ) on Friday November 02, 2001 @09:03PM (#2515029) Homepage

      Anyone who's followed Alan Cox for a while would laugh at the notion that Alan could be a Red Hat puppet. The day he has a falling out with Red Hat, he'll instantly get a substantial amount of money from some other company. If anything, Alan's involvement in a company that has to support users makes him a better judge of many things than someone in Linus's more isolated position.

      If Red Hat is pushing a particular technical direction for Linux, it's quite likely that the reason for the push is because of the expert opinions of the many kernel hackers that work for them as to which code is mature enough to support.

    • AC's has shown great skill in pulling together rapid/major changes

      "AC"??? We're trusting the kernel to an Anonymous Coward?
    • RH were pushing a journalling file system, because they needed one urgently for their high-end solutions to be competitive. After that, it was just down to the fight as to which was lowest risk to deploy, again RH look at the support costs.

      You can look at ext3 and regard as a hack on ext2, which means a lot less new code to check. XFS and JFS were were tested, but in other people's kernels. Reiser was already there but there were some open issues (which I know ill be resolved, but that again is a lot of code), so I respect AC's decision to use ext3 and RH's support for it.

      My issue is not so much with AC's patches but with RH's choice of kernel, even then they had to move versions inside a week. In the end, it is non-trivial to take a new stock kernel and to patch it to a level where it is compatible with the 2.4.9-7 that they currently ship. That is, it isn't currently either a pure AC kernel or one from the main-tree.

    • I'm quite confident, that Alan is not 'a puppet' of Red Hat, and i don't believe there are many people claiming that (if any). Sure there is mutual input, maybe Red-hat 'pushed' ext3, because AC suggested that. Alan Cox is far too valuable as a developer to waste his time by pushing him around and makim him do things he doesn't want to, it makes no sense. If red hat wants to take an influence on kernel development there is a simple way: submitting contributions that are too good to be ignored.

      Then, why would it necessarily be bad, if Red-Hat took some interest in kernel-development (i'm sure they do), it's not as if red-hat wanted something bad for linux or so. Finally, by being more involved with the development of 2.5 from the start, AC has far more influence on the development of future Kernels, than by maintaining the stable tree.
  • New boss (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 02, 2001 @08:15PM (#2514893)
    So Marcelo Tosatti is the new made man ? I thought the books were closed...

    -Tony Soprano
    • Re:New boss (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by istartedi ( 132515 )
      There's another fine fucking thing spoiled by terrorists. I mean, the Mafia just doesn't cut it as evil anymore. Sure they might make you wear cement overshoes, but they always had a reason. None of this fucking business of putting a hit on somebody just for the hell of it. What's up with that? They gotta no respect I tells ya.

  • Alan rules. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Forge ( 2456 ) <> on Friday November 02, 2001 @08:22PM (#2514913) Homepage Journal
    Always has. Always will (I hope).

    Most people don't know this but in the weekly kernel traphic he is usualy listed #1 in volume of messages. He also subscibes to and discuses important isues in many other places from to the kde-licensing mailing list.

    BTW: Read his diary []. That's how I found out that he is a GNU fundamentalist :). He also is a practical man in terms of software use. I.e. He still disputes Linus' edict that binary only kernel modules are alowed but at the same time he didn't force Telsa to switch to Linux right away. (She uses it now).

    Speaking of Telsa. Her site "The more accurate diary. Really. []" should be requird reading for anyone dateing a Linux geek with serius intentions towards that geek.
    • by Keju ( 82514 )
      He also didn't force her to switch her name to Tesla, which I'm sure other geeks would have requested.
    • Yes, Alan Rules! Put Linux realpolitik aside. Alan is an amazing asset to not only the Linux community, but to humanity itself. Alan is a fulcrum, a catalyst. His work benefits millions. This is not hyperbole, but fact.

      Alan can do what he wants. And we should be so happy that he does. Anyone who thinks otherwise should take a vacation.

      I apologize for riding the coattails of a high-ranking post, but I just had to gush.
  • by gallir ( 171727 ) on Friday November 02, 2001 @08:34PM (#2514948) Homepage
    Curious we discussed this issue in our LUG web page [] (in Spanish) three days ago. We were surprised Alan seems not to want the job, and Marcelo Tosatti didn't answer publically.

    OTH, Linus continues assuming is Alan the responsible [] (Spanish too).

    • I don't see anything in the second post [] (or the links that it references) that have anything to do with "Alan the responsible".

      No mention of Alan or Marcelo. There is -- if you dig deeply -- a mention [] of the 2.4.13-ac4 kernel not having a problem with mmapping in certain situations.

      But I don't see anything at all about Alan still being responsible.

      It is quite possible that due to my rusty Spanish (and the fact that I'm a BSDite) that I've missed some subtle indicators, but I don't think so.
  • Time Off?? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by HamNRye ( 20218 ) on Friday November 02, 2001 @08:48PM (#2514989) Homepage
    A tip for the Newbies, this is not the first time... Alan has left the project before, generally around the same time in the development cycle. I think Alan is really into the "Cutting edge" features, and once kernel development slows to the quibbling about minutae, as it has now, I really think it takes alot out of him.

    Alan also seems to work on HIS kernel, and then let everybody use it. He never intended to be such a dominant voice, no matter how strong his opinions. I think when good technical discussions between he and Linus get publicized as being interminable rifts (which believe me they are not) he tends to step back, being the less media visible member and wanting to avoid the appearance of a disastrous controversy.

    And quite frankly, how many of us work 6 months on our hobby and then take some time off?? I sure do...

    Wait until the Kernel gets exciting again, AC'll be back.

    WindowsXP was crashing like a monkey driving a Pinto.
  • All I've read this far was Linus mentioning handing over the 2.4-tree to Alan, I've never heard Linus talk about handing 2.4-stuff over to other people. Last thing I read was that he said it was up to Alan which VM he'd use for 2.4 after he got it.
    • by Alan Cox ( 27532 ) on Friday November 02, 2001 @10:02PM (#2515137) Homepage
      I wanted to work more on other stuff. We both felt Marcelo was a great choice and Marcelo wanted to be 2.4 maintainer

      • I don't get it. I'm laying in bed, on my laptop with wireless lan. i'm very drunk, and linus torvalds [] is laying next to me. He gets fed pouches (of food) rather than patches from alan. alan is another cat but ive lost his picture hehe...
        linus just seems to want to sleep! How is he supposed to hack VM being just a cat?
        On a more sane note - I think Alan has done a wonderful job. I use -ac kernels almost exclusively, apart from my main machine where I use LVM [] which doesn't apply very well to the -ac kernels.
        I read alan's diary regularly, if only for the british humour that american's just don't get :)
        I personally would love a job where I could rise after mid-day and hack on kernels all night and eat lots of fish fingers.
        I am however quite glad that Alan will be able to concentrate on other things - from what I've seen of his diary, he seems more suited to hacking around, trying new things for the hell of it, rather than just keeping something working.
        Best of luck to Marcelo, I am sure you have Interesting Times ahead!
  • D'Oh!!! (Score:3, Funny)

    by VFVTHUNTER ( 66253 ) on Friday November 02, 2001 @10:13PM (#2515155) Homepage
    2.4-AC stands for Alan Cox!!! And all this time I'd thought that it was a 2.4 kernel based on submissions from anonymous cowards...
  • Wow! 2.5... (Score:1, Interesting)

    And another packet handler!!!!! You had fun learning a completely new firewall, from 2.0 to 2.2, and again from 2.2. to 2.4? Well, the fun never ends with the linux kernel! That's right, folks, get ready for (cue the drums)... packethole! (cue the 2001 theme music). Also, in a related story, the .plan file for 2.8 includes an even newer and completely different firewall tool, chunkywall. One can only wonder, if they can keep this streak going through the 3.x series.

    *Note* I'm not a troll, really. I do love linux, and I'll even admit that iptables is much nicer than ipchains. But please.... let me catch up, for crying out loud. I guess it could be worse, microshit marketdriods could invade, and it would be renamed Kernel 2002. *barf*
  • I think Alan did an excelent job maintaining 2.2. Now that he has officially left/declined the role of 2.4 maintainer, the question arrises to what/who is maintaining 2.2 (I am assumming Alan is looking to avoid all kernel maintenance for awhile)? My suspision is that it will soon "lay fallow" but I believe most distributions have not yet made the full leap to 2.4 yet. What I am curious about is how much longer will Alan maintain it? It would be ironic if 2.0.x had a maintainer but 2.2.x had none!
  • As Jeff said, many thanks to Alan for his contribution of countless hours of time on kernel maintenance.

    One thing we always have to remember in volunteer projects is that people come and go. The only respectful thing that can be done at times like this is to be supportive of our contributors' choices and let them pursue their own courses in life.

    The Linux kernel is riding on more than enough popularity that it's not in any danger of failing to find new contributors. But for smaller Open Source projects, this kind of thing is why you'd want to always recruit new volunteers and try to build up a core of leaders in your projects. Then you're able to get through the inevitable times when volunteers need to take a break or go do something else.

  • His own words. (Score:2, Informative)

    by voz ( 47319 )
    If you're not familiar with Marcelo Tosatti and feel that you want to "read up" on him. Here's a good way. Follow the link below and you'll find over a 1000 posts made by him in different linux mailing lists, particularly the kernel list. Marcelo Tosatti in the MARC archives []
  • The FOLK [] kernel, to name but one, is probably way more "advanced", already, than the 2.5.x tree will be for a long time.

    FOLK merges in the -ac stuff, much of the -aa stuff, LOTS of real-time code (RTHAL, RTSCHED, RTNET), scheduler plug-ins, much of SGI's debug code, JFS and XFS, support for compressed & buggy memory, software suspend, the VAX architecture, VME support, PPSCSI, ISCSI, CBM64 device support, support for assorted low-budget network controllers, COMEDI and all sorts of other wonderfully insane stuff.

    More significantly, most of the "newer" features in the -ac code were in FOLK first - compressed ISO images, e3fs, PPC64 support, plug-in network protocols, etc.

    This is not to say that Alan Cox is slack -- I didn't wait for stability before adding stuff into FOLK. What it =IS= saying is that the FOLK series is one of the most advanced Linux kernels out there. There are not many "custom" kernels out there with nearly the scope. (Although it has to be said that most of them beat FOLK hands-down on reliability.)

    IMHO, we have all waited far too long for 2.5.0 to be released, and 2.4.x has proven to be too experimental, due to pressures to finish the 2.3.x development series too soon.

    If nobody takes me up on my suggestion on using an existing custom kernel as a "2.5.0-wannabe", then at the very very least, ply Linus with virtual beer until he agrees to ensure that the REAL 2.5.0 is not hampered by being kept in sync with 2.4.x, but is the Dream Kernel.

    Look, development is very easy. It's easy, because you can build on something that's there. But you can't so easily build on something that isn't. It's also easier to take components out than add them in.

    The only logical conclusion is to stuff 2.5.0 silly, and see what survives.

"Paul Lynde to block..." -- a contestant on "Hollywood Squares"