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The Scalability of Linus 239

Hugh Pickens writes "Katherine Noyes writes at LinuxInsider that it may be time for Linus Torvalds to share more of the responsibility for Linux that he's been shouldering. 'If Linux wants to keep up with the competition there is much work to do, more than even a man of Linus's skill [can] accomplish,' argues one user. The 'scalability of Linus' is the subject of a post by Jonathan Corbet wondering if there might there be a Linus scalability crunch point coming. 'The Linux kernel development process stands out in a number of ways; one of those is the fact that there is exactly one person who can commit code to the "official" repository,' Corbet writes. A problem with that scenario is the potential for repeats of what Corbet calls 'the famous "Linus burnout" episode of 1998' when everything stopped for a while until Linus rested a bit, came back, and started merging patches again. 'If Linus is to retain his central position in Linux kernel development, the community as a whole needs to ensure that the process scales and does not overwhelm him,' Corbet adds. But many don't agree. 'Don't be fooled that Linus has to scale — he has to work hard, but he is the team captain and doorman. He has thousands doing most of the work for him. He just has to open the door at the appropriate moment,' writes Robert Pogson, adding that Linus 'has had lots of practice and still has fire in his belly.'"
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The Scalability of Linus

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  • Re:Branch out (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @09:51AM (#33002352) Journal
    No. The kernel is(at this point, whether anybody likes it or not) basically GPL2 permanently. Without any "copyright assignment" requirement to some organization, there are just too many interlocking owners for any re-licensing.

    Already, most distros maintain slightly forked versions of the kernel, to suit their needs(ie. enterprise-ish ones like RedHat might do more driver backports, MontaVista introduces BSPs for a variety of oddball boards, etc.) Because novelty costs money, people don't generally go further from mainline than they have a good justification for; but there are already dozens of quiet, not-very-adversarial, slight forks floating around, mostly in the hands of the various distros, and some of the embedded engineering houses.
  • Re:Egos don't scale (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sponge Bath ( 413667 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:18AM (#33002640)

    ...he is an arrogant idealist who tell stupid people with stupid ideas to fuck off.

    Some of the people he tells to fuck off are stupid, some are not. Some of the ideas he shits on are stupid, some are not. I seen plenty of times on LKML where he is dismissive and insulting only to later actually look at the ideas in detail and then accept them. The acceptance is sometimes in the form of repackaging the idea by a different, more favored developer so that there is never a need to acknowledge the original contributor may have been right.

    He seems to function well enough, but do not pretend he is perfect.

  • Re:Egos don't scale (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cynyr ( 703126 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @10:29AM (#33002784)

    What you descibe was the way kernels were being handled in the early 2000's. The 2.5.X kernels were getting all the dev time, and the distros were back porting fixes. You are right though, if the Linus branch starts slipping, a distro or some other maintainer branch will become the "base" branch. The way it is right now there are several branches I could follow/use if i wanted to.
    [N] sys-freebsd/freebsd-sources (--): FreeBSD kernel sources
    [N] sys-kernel/cell-sources (--): Full sources including the cell/ps3 patchset for the 2.6 kernel tree
    [N] sys-kernel/ck-sources ((~)2.6.34-r1(2.6.34-r1)): Con Kolivas' high performance patchset + Gentoo patchset sources
    [N] sys-kernel/gentoo-sources (2.6.32-r11(2.6.32-r11)): Full sources including the Gentoo patchset for the 2.6 kernel tree
    [N] sys-kernel/git-sources ((~)2.6.35_rc6(2.6.35_rc6)): The very latest -git version of the Linux kernel
    [N] sys-kernel/hardened-sources ((~)2.6.34(2.6.34)): Hardened kernel sources (kernel series 2.6)
    [N] sys-kernel/mips-sources (--): Linux-Mips GIT sources for MIPS-based machines, dated 20100605
    [N] sys-kernel/mm-sources ((~)2.6.28_rc2-r1(2.6.28_rc2-r1)): Andrew Morton's kernel, mostly fixes for 2.6 vanilla, some vm stuff too
    [N] sys-kernel/openvz-sources ( Kernel sources with OpenVZ patchset
    [N] sys-kernel/sparc-sources (--): Full sources for the Gentoo Sparc Linux kernel
    [N] sys-kernel/tuxonice-sources ((~)2.6.34-r1(2.6.34-r1)): TuxOnIce + Gentoo patchset sources
    [N] sys-kernel/usermode-sources ((~)2.6.18-r2(2.6.18-r2)): Full sources for the User Mode Linux kernel
    [N] sys-kernel/vanilla-sources ((~)2.6.35_rc5(2.6.35_rc5)): Full sources for the Linux kernel
    [N] sys-kernel/vserver-sources ((~) Full sources including Gentoo and Linux-VServer patchsets for the 2.6 kernel tree.
    [N] sys-kernel/xbox-sources (--): Full sources for the Xbox Linux kernel
    [N] sys-kernel/xen-sources ((~)2.6.34(2.6.34)): Full sources for a dom0/domU Linux kernel to run under Xen
    [N] sys-kernel/zen-sources ((~)2.6.34_p1-r1(2.6.34_p1-r1)): The Zen Kernel Live Sources

    Those are my 17 options in gentoo's main tree, I'm sure i can find others in some overlays. Thats not counting things like following one of the dev branches of kernel. In fact just about anyone can have a branch these days, `git branch myawesomebranch`.

  • Re:whiner (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dan Ost ( 415913 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @11:13AM (#33003312)

    Who cares? If Linus stops updating his repository tomorrow, we'll all just switch to whatever repository meets our needs.

    It's only consensus that says that Linus' repository is the "official" one.

    There are already plenty of people who track Andrew Morton's repository instead of Linus', so if Linus went away, it's not like we don't already have a tested mechanism to allow us to track "unofficial" repositories.

  • Re:Egos don't scale (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JasterBobaMereel ( 1102861 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @12:19PM (#33004112)

    Linus' Tree is *still* the official one not because of Linus, he could be replaced overnight and it would continue, it's because all the main contributors submit their patches to it, and the official kernel group analyse them before they are integrated, the all Linus actually needs to do is be the one person who actually commits patches (so there are no conflicts) and act as a final arbiter in disputes

    As the final arbiter it does not matter if he is arbitary, egotistical etc ... as long as he only acts as the final arbiter, the majority rules, he just need to decide when opinion is split ...

  • Re:Egos don't scale (Score:3, Interesting)

    by npsimons ( 32752 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:32PM (#33005010) Homepage Journal

    Interestingly, humble but smart people would end up in the same situation : they know that arrogant and power-hungry people are there and want power for the sake of their ego. I don't know if Linus is humble or arrogant, but he gave up power a long time ago when he put his OS under an open-source licence. He has never hidden the fact that he was a "benevolent dictator" (some even say the expression comes from his second surname : Benedict). If Linus is a bottleneck and slows down kernel development, there will be a fork. Right now, as much as people say he is a problem, he is still the only solution available.

    I firmly believe that Linus is in the "humble but smart" camp. In the time I spent doing kernel work and on LKML, he was nothing if gregarious and insightful. Sure, he would call people idiots, but he did that to everyone, with a smirk, and generally only when they deserved it. These people that claim Linus is some Machiavellian Bill Gates or Steve Jobs clone don't know WTF they are talking about. They probably had some hare-brained idea that they posted to LKML and someone (not necessarily Linus) told them it was stupid and why it was stupid, but all they heard was the part that bruised their fragile little feelings.

    What is good about open-source is that you can say to power-hungry people "Want to be the boss of a team ? Well go find a team that will respect your work !".

    This is the second part most of the haters don't get, and why I firmly believe Linus is still doing a good job: people still listen to Linus and track his repo. If he was truly the asshole people make him out to be, people would stop working with him

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