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Programming Linux

Alan Cox Quits As Linux TTY Maintainer — "I've Had Enough" 909

The Slashdolt writes "After a stern criticism from Linus, the long-time kernel hacker Alan Cox has decided to walk away as the maintainer of the TTY subsystem of the Linux Kernel, stating '...I've had enough. If you think that problem is easy to fix you fix it. Have fun. I've zapped the tty merge queue so anyone with patches for the tty layer can send them to the new maintainer.'" A response to a subsequent post on the list makes it quite clear that he is serious.
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Alan Cox Quits As Linux TTY Maintainer — "I've Had Enough"

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  • Thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hatta ( 162192 ) * on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @03:53PM (#28872131) Journal

    Thanks for all the hard work. Good luck to the next maintainer. Not much else to say.

    • by tempest69 ( 572798 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:57PM (#28873367) Journal
      The TTY code has been pretty decent to me over the years. I've never found a situation that my code could do right with the TTY. Not that Im writing editors.
      Overall I hope Alan finds a new project, I suspect that his experience could really help all sorts of userland code.
      Coders are stubborn and dislike being told how to do anything. No shame in saying shove it when its time.


    • Re:Thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Deton8 ( 522248 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @05:20PM (#28873777)
      After reading the thread on a mirror, it's important to note that after the argument, Alan and Linus continued to debate the technical merits of how to patch the bugs. The ongoing conversation was civilized and concise. Of course Linus is too much of a pompous ass to apologize to Alan for completely misunderstanding the problem and proposing dangerous and useless ways of fixing it, then arguing about it ad nauseum. Oddly, this doesn't seem to bother Alan or maybe he's just used to it. I don't personally care what happens to the linux kernel but let me suggest that any of you who depend on a stable USB stack need to take special note of whatever decision Linus finally makes.
    • Re:Thanks (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dotgain ( 630123 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @05:22PM (#28873797) Homepage Journal

      Not much else to say.

      How about "Nice work Linus, you'll have the entire kernel back to yourself any day now, I'm sure"

      Back three years ago I was sure I'd never leave. Now, I was no kernel dev, but I found out what it was like to try. In the meantime I grew up, and realised there's two sides to Linux.

      • The 'user' side, where you put up with limited, buggy and badly designed software, finding yourself grateful it even exists, and
      • The 'dev' side, where your success is proportional to the thickness of your skin. Your willingness to sit there and listen to argue with some other twit whose age you guess at 13 over something you know isn't furthering your project one bit. Oh, and telling people who post "I'm leaving" threads on the forum how wrong they are about everything, and how little their contribution was really worth anyway.

      Go and have a look at forums.gentoo.org, where you'll see both at work. I gave up too. For a long time I thought, through contributions and advocacy, I'd help Linux make some real headway in the Server and desktop market. Eventually I came to believe that it would never be big, it'd just mean more communities and more infighting and little real progress.

      So I'm sorry, Alan. I'm really sorry, but you've made the right move. Thanks for everything.

      • Re:Thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

        by abigor ( 540274 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @05:31PM (#28873945)

        Former Gentoo and Debian user here...same experience exactly, except I actually did contribute code from time to time (well, mostly bugfixes). The Gentoo maintainers were particularly rude, and you had to pretty much be rude right back to convince them that what you had done was correct. Totally draining experience.

        In an offtopic note, I remember a sort of userland breaking point: I tried to drag and drop a jpg in a browser window (Firefox) to some photo editor. It didn't work. Macs and Windows have been able to do this since at least the mid-90s. I have no idea if you can drag an image from Firefox to the Gimp nowadays, and I don't care.

        • Re:Thanks (Score:4, Informative)

          by krkhan ( 1071096 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @05:59PM (#28874367) Homepage

          I tried to drag and drop a jpg in a browser window (Firefox) to some photo editor. It didn't work. Macs and Windows have been able to do this since at least the mid-90s. I have no idea if you can drag an image from Firefox to the Gimp nowadays, and I don't care.

          Just tried it, GIMP connected to the server and pulled the image from there. Not sure if that's how you want it to work though.

        • Drag'n'drop (Score:4, Interesting)

          by HomelessInLaJolla ( 1026842 ) <lajollahomeless@hotmail.com> on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @06:04PM (#28874455) Homepage Journal

          Drag and drop is quite convenient. It is also a security chasm. Once you can drag and drop one thing then you want to be able to drag and drop anything. In the case of arbitrary file formats not only must you implement code to check the incoming data stream (thus exposing yourself to all of the security considerations of "how many different ways can someone try to wax my process of checking the incoming data stream?") but you must consider that a data stream which is valid using one codec algorithm may cause a fault using another codec algorithm. Competing algorithms exist for many data format structures and the presumed same data format may have three or four codecs at use between X, the WM, a monolithic app like a web browser, and a devoted data editor (eg. GIMP), and even a devoted data viewer (eg. a multiformat display application). It isn't the simplest consideration.

          With so much of the problem and criticism with the reigning proprietary OS being security related the open source community has tried to remain a little more focused on security related issues. Combine that with the difference in conceptual organization--F/OSS guys don't get paid to go to in house meetings together--and it is completely logical that something as "simple" as drag and drop is not implemented across largely unrelated application development groups.

          Within a particular desktop environment using apps which were written specifically for that desktop environment (often referred to as a desktop suite) there is probably a more consistent end user experience.

          It is the culmination of (years of) similar situations which has brought many rifts in major F/OSS development groups.

          I find myself personally familiar with the situation which caused Alan to leave. The difference is that Alan has enough financial backing and social connections behind him that he likely will not end up living on the streets.

          Can you imagine a headline,"Major developer sick and tired of political crap, leaves development group, will take up a section of cardboard on the sidewalk just down the block from Slashdot's HomelessinLaJolla"?

          • Re:Drag'n'drop (Score:5, Insightful)

            by lennier ( 44736 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @10:14PM (#28876757) Homepage

            "Once you can drag and drop one thing then you want to be able to drag and drop anything. In the case of arbitrary file formats not only must you implement code to check the incoming data stream (thus exposing yourself to all of the security considerations of "how many different ways can someone try to wax my process of checking the incoming data stream?") but you must consider that a data stream which is valid using one codec algorithm may cause a fault using another codec algorithm."

            But isn't that precisely what object orientation was invented to solve? To find a way of unifying data transfer between absolutely everything, everywhere, by sending not raw data but objects which could then be queried to ask things like 'what kind of thing are you?' and 'give me your data in Format X, Y or Z which I can read'.

            Drag and drop to me is one of the acid tests of 'do you actually have a functioning object model?' And pretty much every GUI OS, including Windows and OSX, fails this: drag and drop works in many places, if the developers have jumped through hoops to but not all; there's no way to universally query ANY object and do stuff with it. The only exception I can think of is, perhaps, Smalltalk/Squeak (the original OO system) with its direct-object-manipulation interface.

            Why didn't the promise of OO happen? We got COM objects instead which seem to do almost precisely the opposite: be very brittle, add a whole layer of complexity, and only make sense inside huge frameworks which can't be split up into objects. C++ seems to be the anti-Smalltalk in almsot every way and yet it still gets to be called 'object oriented'. How did we allow such confusion of language?

            I don't agree that the answer is 'drag and drop is far too complicated and you shouldn't be trying to do that'. We should say 'hey, this poses interesting questions about why our fundamental operating system models are, in 2009, still broken even by 1979 standards.'

            • Re:Drag'n'drop (Score:5, Insightful)

              by dubl-u ( 51156 ) * <2523987012@NOSpaM.pota.to> on Thursday July 30, 2009 @01:12AM (#28877841)

              Why didn't the promise of OO happen?

              I wasn't around for it. But I'd say it's just another example of cargo cult programming [wikipedia.org].

              It's much easier to say you're doing something, and maybe to observe some of the rituals, than to actually do the work. A lot of people working in OO languages don't even know what constitutes real OO. And I don't blame them; most intro Java books, for example, just give little snippets of procedural code with an occasional OO gloss.

              You can see the same pattern happening today with Agile development. Some people get great results by deeply changing how they work. Others hear about it, adopt a fraction of it, and still see improvement. Then a lot of other people jump on the bandwagon, watering it down to the point where it's worthless, but in the meantime turning a big profit on certification, training, and consulting.

          • Re:Drag'n'drop (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Coward Anonymous ( 110649 ) on Thursday July 30, 2009 @12:33AM (#28877643)

            What drivel. Drag'n'Drop is the shortcut equivalent of 'Save File' in program 1, 'Open File' in program 2. It's a bunch of o' bytes. It makes absolutely no difference if the bytes come through the Drag'n'Drop route or through a file.

      • Re:Thanks (Score:5, Insightful)

        by KangKong ( 937247 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @07:53PM (#28875631)

        I switched to *BSD 5-6 years ago, the reason being that the community was more relaxed and there was less politics. I've been really happy, the users are more informed and the developers are more eager to help out and less elitist. The best technical solution is chosen and there is way less "not invented here" attitude among the developers. The development is more structured and is not based on the opinions/goals of a single person.

  • Linus (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:00PM (#28872243) Homepage Journal

    Linus is brilliant. He is funny. Most days I really agree with anything he has to say.

    However, he has butted heads with people in the past. Perhaps this is just human nature and unavoidable from time to time. Linus isn't perfect, nor always right. I thought he was really unfair to Con Kolivas when he drove Con away.

  • Interesting... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wandazulu ( 265281 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:02PM (#28872289)

    I'm curious about how projects, in general, fare after someone with rather intimate knowledge leaves for whatever reason. I'm not being specific to Linux; you gotta think some of the kernel developers of Windows have left over the years. That's gotta be hard on the next person regardless of project; "here's his code, all three million lines of it. Oh, he seemed to like Pascal syntax so he wrote all these macros to make his C++ code look like Pascal. Good luck!"

  • No gratitude? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by isd.bz ( 1260658 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:03PM (#28872321)
    I see the tags 'butthurt' and 'whaaaaaaaaa', but no 'thanksforyourtime'. Why won't anyone show any gratitude for the years of work he's generously offered to the project?
  • On slashdotting... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nweaver ( 113078 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:04PM (#28872343) Homepage

    WHY can't lkml.org's mailing list retriever handle a slashdotting?

    Its not like the flashcrowds are all THAT big.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:04PM (#28872357)

    In before the Karma-Whores.

    "stern criticism" ->

    "decided to walk away" ->

    "quite clear that he is serious" ->

  • *It happens (Score:5, Informative)

    by stox ( 131684 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:07PM (#28872399) Homepage

    Time for all to give Alan a sound round of applause and thanks! The TTY subsystem is a gem thanks to his work.

  • Not diplomatic (Score:4, Insightful)

    by rlp ( 11898 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:11PM (#28872479)

    This could have been handled much better via a private message (or phone call) than in a public forum.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:22PM (#28872667)

      Yes, indeed it could have been. But unfortunately that's Linus' modus operandi and we all know from long experience that while a great programmer, his ego is far too big to allow him to apologize publicly in the same fashion in which he slammed Alan. Quite unfortunate really since both are quite talented individuals.

      You can't expect to publicly berate people and have them bow to your every demand and not have it backfire on you at some point.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:16PM (#28872559)

    Alan Cox announces he will maintain Slashcode: "After this, it will be bloody easy to maintain the Slashcode codebase."

  • by Lisandro ( 799651 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:24PM (#28872713)
    ...about the details of this argument? I know Linus might not be the easiest person to work with, but he seems to make some sense here.
    • by cryptoluddite ( 658517 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @06:52PM (#28875027)

      The details are that TTYs in general on any *nix are a huge mess with lots of complicated interactions and weird historical behavior that doesn't make sense. The linux tty stack for a long time was a huge clusterfuck. Now thanks to Alan it's just a normal clusterfuck. That's the context for this incident, which basically happened like this...

      Some dudes: there's a bug in the ttys
      Alan: ok lets fix it
      Some dudes: here's a patch
      Alan: that patch breaks a dozen other things
      Some dudes, Alan reject a bunch of solutions
      Alan: we can fix it with a hack, but it breaks emacs. Emacs is relying on unspecified behavior, so it can go suck an egg.
      Linus: well it SHOULD (sic) work like this, and emacs is too holy to break. This problem is easy, are you a retard?
      Alan: look we can hack it and break emacs, or do a huge rewrite
      Linus: hacks suck, linux should be awesome in every way. Also, your code smells
      Alan: it's going to take forever to get this right
      Linus: then revert the patch that introduced the bug
      Alan: that patch was applied years ago and removing it would break a dozen other things. You didn't think I'd think of that? Who's the tty maintainer anyway, jackass?!
      Linus: I don't like your attitude
      Alan: Then fuck off I quit!
      Linus: Oh yeah did I mention your code smells?
      Linus: and let me quote you something you said earlier, so I can show what a bad attitude you have.

      The TTY and serial line code is basically a huge Rube Goldberg machine and Linus was telling Alan to tweak something somewhere in the middle of this huge contraption. Having followed the TTY code a fair bit, I totally side with Alan on this. It's a miracle that it even works, and not something you can just stick your head in and give advice about how to fix. Also, if Linus is so concerned about proper behavior for user space programs maybe he should take a look at ioctl... because it's completely screwed up in linux.

  • Thank You (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dburkland ( 1526971 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:52PM (#28873281)
    Alan thank you for your contribution to the open source community!
  • by clickety6 ( 141178 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:58PM (#28873397)

    "You claim that emacs sh*ts itself when it gets EAGAIN, and you think
    that's an emacs bug. And I think you're full of crap..."

    I'm sure there's a job waiting in the diplomatic corps for Mr Torvalds...

  • I knew it (Score:5, Funny)

    by oldhack ( 1037484 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @04:59PM (#28873411)
    The true point of contention? Emacs vs. Vi. Loons.
  • by FudRucker ( 866063 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @05:00PM (#28873425)
    Linus: Hey Alan finger my tty

    Alan: No Way! i quit!
  • Linus was right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by microbee ( 682094 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @05:18PM (#28873731)

    As always.

    The argument started when someone found the tty layer had a regression. Linus cares about regression deeply. His basic philosophy is old bug is better than new bug. If a fix introduces a new bug that breaks a real world application, then the fix should be reverted and a better fix should be worked out.

    This ensures predictable behavior of an OS that you can actually rely on, and better release management.

    Alan didn't think so. He thought his fix was too important to be backed out, although it introduced a regression. Linus was frustrated that he had to explain to Alan, a long time Linux hacker, about the rules. And that's where Alan got impatient too.

  • by tyrione ( 134248 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @05:57PM (#28874341) Homepage


    A recent kernel change broke kdesu (from KDE 4.2) on my test boxes. ISTR a
    discussion about that, but I can't find it right now. Any clues?


    Seriously? KDESU is broken, in the first place.


  • both wrong (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buddyglass ( 925859 ) on Wednesday July 29, 2009 @07:07PM (#28875189)

    Assuming what Linus said is true, about Alan blaming user land code for problems he was responsible for, then Alan was clearly in the wrong. However, Linus is wrong to have taken him to task in such a public forum. If he had any sense, he'd have done it privately, and Alan Cox would probably still be the maintainer. There's more to managing people than simply "being right".

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger