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Torvalds: "People Who Start Writing Kernel Code Get Hired Really Quickly" 130

alphadogg writes Now more than ever, the development of the Linux kernel is a matter for the professionals, as unpaid volunteer contributions to the project reached their lowest recorded levels in the latest "Who Writes Linux" report, which was released today. According to the report, which is compiled by the Linux Foundation, just 11.8% of kernel development last year was done by unpaid volunteers – a 19% downturn from the 2012 figure of 14.6%. The foundation says that the downward trend in volunteer contributions has been present for years. According to Linus Torvalds, the shift towards paid developers hasn’t changed much about kernel development on its own. “I think one reason it hasn't changed things all that much is that it's not so much unpaid volunteers are going away as people who start writing kernel code get hired really quickly,” he said.
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Torvalds: "People Who Start Writing Kernel Code Get Hired Really Quickly"

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  • by tehlinux ( 896034 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @02:01PM (#49081311)

    You can handle a little verbal abuse?! Welcome aboard!

    • by Austerity Empowers ( 669817 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @02:24PM (#49081515)

      Or, people who understand how to write good software and understand actual hardware designs & issues are very valuable. And yeah, if you can tolerate difficult personalities, that's always needed...

    • by jlockard ( 140979 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @03:05PM (#49081817) Homepage

      If you can handle a LOT of abuse, you're welcome to join the OpenBSD developers.

      Seriously, people whinging about abuse from Linus know nothing about abuse when compared to Theo.

      • If you can handle a LOT of abuse, you're welcome to join the OpenBSD developers.

        Yeah, but don't you have to strangle someone's baby or otherwise bump off some innocent party to prove your loyalty first?

        (/me ducks, runs like hell...)

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @07:05PM (#49083447)

        I really want a T-shirt that says, "I've been flamed by Theo de Raadt". My one foray into the OpenBSD mailing list resulted in that flame. I can't actually remember what it was about, but Theo was probably right ;-) Honestly, I think the infamy that both Linus and Theo have is a little bit unfair. The flames are real and often are a little bit over the top (sometimes a lot, to comical effect), but I can't really recall very many situations where the actual content of the discussion wasn't carefully considered before the flames were emitted. In fact, the fact that these projects flourish is proof that the flames are not overly counter-productive. In contrast, I remember (many, many years ago) as a newly graduated developer I took an interest in the Hurd. I had done a 4th year project on Mach and thought it would be fun to work on it. It may be hard to believe for younger people, but in those days source code for unreleased projects was not that easy to come by, so I emailed the team to ask if I could participate. I was asked to send a resume, which I dutifully did. The reply that came back was incredibly rude and essentially said, "So you're a nobody. We have absolutely no interest in you. Go away and don't ever bother us again." There is a reason that projects like Linux and OpenBSD succeeded while the Hurd did not. The projects are accommodating and welcoming to new comers. You might get flamed for saying/doing something stupid, but you aren't abused for just trying to help. In fact, it is my opinion that most of the practices that people think of as "free software development" actually originated from the successful way that Linux was developed. Definitely before that time I think it was rare to be able to contribute effectively to a project without knowing someone who knew someone.

        That's one grey-beard's perspective, anyway. Others may have had other experiences.

    • by drolli ( 522659 )

      Somthing true in that. We all have complicated colleagues, and it helps if not everybody starts shouting in a complictaed situation.

    • Fifty Shades of Kernel.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I would like to contribute to the kernel, but seriously I don't have the time and I don't think I'm alone. And the kernel is also a big project. Almost every time I run into a bug or something that I could fix, some engineer at Intel or something has already fixed it and it's not merged yet. It's not that people that write kernel code gets hired, it's that now you more or less have to be hired in order to write kernel code. Yeah I know you don't have to, but it's not 1998 anymore and anyone can write kernel

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's harsh coding. I was going to work on microkernel code once for the HPUX linux port. Just getting familiar with everything is a bit of a project. You have to really want to do it. I love low level coding, too. I, just, always find myself doing other things. That said, finding work is easy enough that I don't need to kernel hack to make money, and I have yet to run into a serious Kernel issue that stops me from doing something I want to do. Honestly, though, these guys doing the kernel hacking are
      • Is finding work an issue for anyone in IT? there seems to be an endless supply of jobs out there.

        • by casings ( 257363 )

          May not be for the average person, but for the person reading a Slashdot thread 4 levels deep, it's probably not too much of a problem.

          Unless you're addicted to Slashdot of course.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Almost every time I run into a bug or something that I could fix, some engineer at Intel or something has already fixed it and it's not merged yet.

      On one hand I'm super glad this is the case. On the other it's a testament to the parts where the Linux development process is genuinely not succeeding at communication as much as it could. After all what the parent poster is describing is wasted labour.

      Did you at least submit some test cases which you used to either develop your own solution, or conceptualize th

    • by Anonymous Coward

      As a person with software development skills, I could:

      1) spend time writing kernel code, and get a sense of fulfillment from it.
      2) spend time writing some other code, and get a sense of fulfillment from it, and get paid too!
      3) Play WoW.

      The incentives speak for themselves.

  • by toonces33 ( 841696 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @02:12PM (#49081395)

    Many years ago I worked on several parts of the kernel. But I got hired by a start-up and simply had no time, so I had to step away.

    But I still fondly remember meeting all of the people involved. When I was doing things, I don't recall Linus being verbally abusive. Maybe it happened and I don't remember.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      When I was doing things, I don't recall Linus being verbally abusive.

      Linus is only verbally "abusive" when people who should know better screw up.

      • by earthminion ( 3873967 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @03:23PM (#49081931)
        @"Linus is only verbally "abusive" when people who should know better screw up." ... and Torvalds:"Writing Kernel Code Get Hired Really Quickly"

        Maybe Linus Torvalds (as a Kernel Coder himself), has got fired and is looking for a job.
  • People who are qualified to modify or create code for the Linux kernel are going to be pretty damn good coders. If they weren't, well they wouldn't be contributing for long. So basically this is saying unpaid, good coders find jobs quickly because companies are completely fucking stupid.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @02:19PM (#49081461)

    I frequently work with people who are terrified to touch anything related to kernel. Many are "professional" Linux-developers, but to them, all they know is user-space code.

    I am the go-to guy with anything kernel related at my work, as I'm not only not afraid of the kernel, but I embrace the opportunity to dig deeper. I've learned that this is a rare and valuable skill in some technology circles. People seem to regard me as some kind of wizard (because I maintain tool chains and do all the integration stuff and similar). I did not exactly actively seek this position. The only real difference is that I've never been afraid to learn. Now I'm quickly becoming the in-house expert and I don't care. I can leverage that to death when looking for other jobs.

    • I've done a little kernel work, it's very different from user space. In user space I don't need to know the difference between soft and hard interrupts, and if I keep a mutex locked for a few extra instructions the performance implications aren't as bad as keeping a spinlock too long. That's not to say people shouldn't learn these things, but it makes kernel code look pretty foreign, even for a C developer.
    • by rdnetto ( 955205 )

      I frequently work with people who are terrified to touch anything related to kernel.

      It's more than that - people (inexperienced developers in particular) are terrified to break outside of their encapsulated environment. They instinctively assume the standard libraries are flawless and bug-free, and that they don't have to worry about how they work, which is a useful approximation until that's no longer the case. The idea of looking at the source for said library to understand it better simply doesn't occur to them, or they overestimate its complexity. (To be fair, this is a view strongly e

  • Community developers write useful things then get hired by the WMF to work on stuff nobody wants.

    So wait, I guess not like MediaWiki.

  • by Art Challenor ( 2621733 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @02:30PM (#49081569)
    Despite 2015 not being the year of Linux on the Desktop, it IS the year of Linux in just about every embedded device, board and SOC on the market. This means that there are more developers being paid to work on Linux, presumably including the Linux kernel.

    The summary is full of percentages. 11.8% seems to be about 19% less than 14.6% but that just serves to obfuscate. I'm not willing to dig into the "fill-in-the-form-to-read" article, but would assume that the total number of paid developers has increased accounting for the change in percentages.
    • I'm really impressed with how effectively you analyzed and got to the bottom of all the bugs in that text. Would you be available to come write Linux kernel documentation for us? If you've already been doing that as a volunteer, then subsequently gotten hired elsewhere, then...well...never mind, we understand, thanks anyway.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by nicholas22 ( 1945330 )
      Remember, some years ago, when Microsoft was spewing that Linux is cancer? It's the best kind of benevolent growth to hit our industry, for quite a while. Thank you, Linus & Richard! :)
      • Did they really say that? I must have missed it but I'm not surprised if it's bozo who said it.

      • by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @03:40PM (#49082047)

        Yep, that wasn't too long ago []. Ballmer was, of course, actually talking more about the GPL license and it's "viral" nature, as they viewed it. Microsoft has previously been forced to release source code when GPU code was found in one of it's products.

        Interestingly, it's a very different Microsoft today, having realized that iOS and Android have destroyed them in the mobile space, and with Linux as a very strong competitor in the server market. You see them now even porting some of their most important properties (Office, Outlook, .NET, etc) to competing platforms, which would have seemed unbelievable just six or seven years ago. Competition is a good thing.

        • Oops, that's "GPL code", not "GPU code", of course.

        • by dbIII ( 701233 )

          Microsoft has previously been forced to release source code when GPL code was found in one of it's products.

          I remember an MS developers disk with gcc on it, and the GPL in a text file. I don't see why that's a big deal because they used to have the Berkley copyright text in their hosts file as well.

    • Comes down to saying: Using the right tool for the right job. I think this is where Linux shines.

    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )

      It maybe the year of the Linux Desktop. The thing is that the the distro could end up being ChromeOS.

  • by erice ( 13380 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @02:58PM (#49081755) Homepage

    Linus comment is out of context, I hope.

    Getting hired really quickly changes nothing. You are still an unpaid volunteer unless the new job pays you to contribute to the kernel. Lots of people contribute to open source projects on their own time while drawing income from other work. That does not make them paid developers in the context of the open source project.

    • My interpretation of the comment was that 88.2% of Linux kernel developers have Linux kernel development in their job description.

    • No, you're out of context, not Linus.

      You stated your own answer, just take out the "unless" and believe that Linus understands things like, how linux kernel devs get paid. "The new job pays you to contribute to the kernel." Mystery solved, there was no mystery!

  • Not in Germany (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @03:25PM (#49081945)

    I look back on many years of writing assembly code for 680x0 and PPC, Strong knowledge in Hardware and System development of certain architectures as well as C programming. I even have written an hobbyist Kernel and an Action Replay like software (WinIce for Windows guys). Sadly I am not able to find a job offer here in germany. Most of the time I deal with mid management people who know shite about programming at all. They see you as a toy who can be hired cheaply.

    Over the years I found a company named CSC (Computer Sciences Corporation) who hired me as an application developer for surface and subsurface realtime systems (Military services). At least that's what's written on the paper. The reality ended up that I did normal consultancy shite like building up PC's, lot of travelling, systems integrations and other things NOT RELATED to my job description. After 6 years I quit the job because it wasn't satisfying. I wanted to leave earlier but unfortunately the current economic situation didn't allow me to quit the job and become unemployed.

    After a while they started treating me with all kind of dirty company stuff like warnings and other things only to enforce me to continue the way "they" saw me. This ended up in me resigning from the job.

    After that I wasn't able to find another job anymore because over the 6 years I did so many different tasks, that I ended up doing everything half or on a broad ranger rather than staying the expert that I was before I joined the company.

    Now 5 years have passed where I resigned from my job and from then on depend on germans wellfare system.

    I wasn't hired anymore. No one want's my knowledge and no one wants to hire a "foreigner" (my parents are migrants).

    So far mr. Linus Torvalds. I respect you but you are wrong. The indepth skills one have are worth nothing. The only thing matters is a) you are young, b) you are cheap and c) you are no fucking migrant.

    • by TheSync ( 5291 )

      Now 5 years have passed where I resigned from my job and from then on depend on germans wellfare system.

      I wasn't hired anymore. No one want's my knowledge and no one wants to hire a "foreigner" (my parents are migrants).

      Too bad it is so hard to immigrate to the USA! We are all migrants here.

    • by RoKlein ( 13606 )

      Germany _is_ different from the USA. Germans - both native and migrant - have a different mindset. Including me :)

      Do you also do systems administration?

  • by Pax681 ( 1002592 ) on Wednesday February 18, 2015 @03:43PM (#49082073)
    Ars has an article about 2000 new developers []

    Linux has 2,000 new developers and gets 10,000 patches for each version Linux recently saw "busiest development cycle" in its history.
    The new developers are helping fuel an ever-bigger Linux community, according to the latest Linux Kernel Development report, which will
    be released today by the Linux Foundation. The report is expected to be available at THIS LINK [] .

  • And where is the Dice link ?

  • For those of you in the know, I have a question. I understand that some companies do pay their people to work on the Linux kernel on company time.

    Why do they do this? On the one hand, they may have some profitable use for the Linux kernel, but on the other hand, Linux is GPL'ed, so they are effectively giving away the work to the world at large. That may be fine for Joe Average volunteer kernel developer, but why would a company want to contribute to a public project like so?

    • They don't have to give the work to the world at large. They have offer to give the code to the people who are running the code. If some company hires me to build a widget for them to use in their fleet vehicles, then I need to give them the code (if they ask)... I don't have to publish it on the intarwebs.
    • Because your system runs on Linux, and fixing a bug solves a problem in your system? Once you have the fix contributing it back saves you the hassle of maintaining it as a patch as new kernel work is done. Also hardware companies want their equipment to work on Linux for everyone. Also what nblender said.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      In the case of my workplace we've got some obscure embedded hardware for digital sampling of analog signals that needed some drivers that hadn't been written yet, so a couple of guys spent a few months on and off writing a little bit of the kernel. That is one of the reasons why a company would want to contribute. It's not as if we are in the business of selling the hardware or software so it's no skin off our nose to give a tiny bit back after being given a lot.
    • The question is whether a company is better off having a better free OS available to everybody or a better proprietary OS. Writing and maintaining a proprietary OS as good as Linux is a major project, so the company would have to make a lot of money on its own OS for that to make sense. (Of the personal computing devices I see, only Google, Apple, and Microsoft maintain their own OSes, and Microsoft is the only one to be proprietary all the way down.) Lots of companies would like a good free OS, and don

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