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Open Source Operating Systems Security Linux

Matthew Garrett Forks the Linux Kernel 688

jones_supa writes: Just like Sarah Sharp, Linux developer Matthew Garrett has gotten fed up with the unprofessional development culture surrounding the kernel. "I remember having to deal with interminable arguments over the naming of an interface because Linus has an undying hatred of BSD securelevel, or having my name forever associated with the deepthroating of Microsoft because Linus couldn't be bothered asking questions about the reasoning behind a design before trashing it," Garrett writes. He has chosen to go his own way, and has forked the Linux kernel and added patches that implement a BSD-style securelevel interface. Over time it is expected to pick up some of the power management code that Garrett is working on, and we shall see where it goes from there.
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Matthew Garrett Forks the Linux Kernel

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:08PM (#50670923)

    It is now official. Netcraft has confirmed: Linux is dying

    One more crippling bombshell hit the already beleaguered Linux community when IDC confirmed that Linux market share has dropped yet again, now down to less than a fraction of 1 percent of all servers. Coming on the heels of a recent Netcraft survey which plainly states that Linux has lost more market share, this news serves to reinforce what we've known all along. Linux is collapsing in complete disarray, as fittingly exemplified by failing dead last in the recent Sys Admin comprehensive networking test.

    You don't need to be the Amazing Kreskin to predict Linux's future. The hand writing is on the wall: Linux faces a bleak future. In fact there won't be any future at all for Linux because Linux is dying. Things are looking very bad for Linux. As many of us are already aware, Linux continues to lose market share. Red ink flows like a river of blood.

    All major surveys show that Linux has steadily declined in market share. Linux is very sick and its long term survival prospects are very dim. If Linux is to survive at all it will be among OS dilettante dabblers. Linux continues to decay. Nothing short of a miracle could save it at this point in time. For all practical purposes, LInux is dead.

  • Sincerely, good luck (Score:5, Interesting)

    by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:09PM (#50670925)
    Good on you for putting wotrk in and not just words in. I'm interested to see how many contributors will support the fork.
    • How it should be (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mveloso ( 325617 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:16PM (#50671021)

      This is how it's supposed to work. Whether he can make a functioning team or not is an open question, but at least he can see if a more polite environment gets better results.

    • Good on you for putting wotrk in and not just words in. I'm interested to see how many contributors will support the fork.

      If he succeds and develops another good variant of the kernel, great, if not, there's always the kernel as it is, no bad can come from this.

  • by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:09PM (#50670927)

    I don't actually mean to sound snide but can someone explain to me why I should care about this as an end user? TFS reads like someone got their panties in a bunch over some arcane detail and couldn't bear to not get his way. Is there some amazing benefit to users in this or is this just some developer having a snit because Linus disagreed with his preferences?

    • by HalAtWork ( 926717 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:10PM (#50670951)
      Choice? Options? These people were going to leave kernel dev anyway, now we get to see them try something new. Maybe it'll work, maybe not, but what's the harm in trying?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You get 'securelevel', an API designed to further lock down 'jails' so that compromises of root privileges within a jail cannot harm the host. Maybe that's important to you. I know this kind of thing is very important to hosting services and I'm pretty sure Matthew Garrett isn't a hobbyist doing this work for fun, so someone cares about it.

      Matthew is at least forking over specific technical differences. Maybe there is a big, pent up demand for a non-Linus controlled fork. If so, Matthew could acquire so

    • by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:35PM (#50671197) Journal

      I don't actually mean to sound snide

      Yeah you do, otherwise you wouldn't have said this:

      TFS reads like someone got their panties in a bunch over some arcane detail and couldn't bear to not get his way

      Guy gets finally fed up with dealing with insane LKML politics and decides to have his own tree with his own patches. Guy isn't some rando, guy is a long term contributor to the mailing list.

      TFA also makes note of another long term technically respected contributor leaving the kernel because of insane LKML politics.

      You should probably care because the politics driving away good people means that inevitably the quality will go down when those good people find more enjoyable places to work. And good people always have options.

      The thing is many people confuse beinf honest and technically sound with being a raging douchebag. They're not actually the same and you can in fact give honest, harsh technical feedback without being a dick about it. The LKML seems to actualely valye the "being a dick" part over even the technical parts of arguments.

      Anyway you shoudl care because the kernel maintainers are overworked and some are leaving because the remaining ones like being dicks.

    • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

      This is a snit really, but it is something where Linus doesn't like the feature, and this guy has been on the other end of a Linus blow-up and seen many others.

      I'll say this much, it is well known how Linus goes off. Some justify it as Linus only blowing up after he's annoyed constantly by something or someone. And some believe that is the same as wife-beater giving warnings before bitch-slapping his target down.

      The reality is, unless this change is groundbreaking, or extremely desired, nothing is going t

    • Are you asking about the benefit of securelevel or the benefit of a fork that doesn't have an asshole culture?

      Securelevel is of benefit to systems that run for a long time in the same configuration, making them more secure. This applies to many servers. Basically, it separates having the machine RUNNING from the setup process of CONFIGURING the machine. 99% of the time, the machine is in run mode (securelevel > 1) and in this state it's configuration can not be changed. To change the configuration,

      • "Configuration mode" would be securelevel less than 1. Or indeed less than zero. Theoretically, different levels could allow different levels of configuration changes - one level could allow you to add email aliases, but not allow you to set it as an open relay.

    • by ToxicBanjo ( 905105 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:55PM (#50671405)
      I don't want to speak for Matthew but when I read his post I see someone who simply didn't like the toxicity level that can or often does occur. Then he saw someone important, a maintainer, leave because of that same toxicity. He's right that he doesn't have to put up with that, it's free software. If forking the kernel is what he needs to keep his hands in the game he loves while being able to feel good about the environment then more power too him. I hope he succeeds. At the very least I can see some like-minded devs coming on board even if the project doesn't see wide-stream adoption.
  • securelevel who? (Score:5, Informative)

    by fisted ( 2295862 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:11PM (#50670959)

    Just for the people who don't know what the fuck securelevel is [] (NetBSD's flavor in this case)

    Not going back to Linux, but this really is a worthwhile addition.

    • Re:securelevel who? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:28PM (#50671125)

      Just for the people who don't know what the fuck securelevel is [] (NetBSD's flavor in this case)

      Not going back to Linux, but this really is a worthwhile addition.

      Furthermore, should something like this be omitted simply because Linus doesn't like it? Is his opinion the only one that counts? Among other things, securelevel is used to implement "jails" but the functionality can be completely disabled (securelevel = -1) -- so Linus can turn it off if he wants.

      Is the direction in which Linux is driven simply the whim of people like Linus and Lennart who dictate "my way or the highway"? They are smart, capable, talented people, but not omniscient Gods - despite what they and some others might think.

      • by Lunix Nutcase ( 1092239 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:35PM (#50671195)

        Furthermore, should something like this be omitted simply because Linus doesn't like it? Is his opinion the only one that counts?

        Since he is the repo owner, yes, his opinion is the only one that counts in the end.

        • Furthermore, should something like this be omitted simply because Linus doesn't like it? Is his opinion the only one that counts?

          Since he is the repo owner, yes, his opinion is the only one that counts in the end.

          Ya, I get that, but it doesn't really answer my question of "should". One person can have a great vision, but that doesn't mean it's the only great vision.

          • Yes, if you are the owner you *should* have the last say. That's the whole point of being the *owner*.

  • by Ruedii ( 2712279 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:15PM (#50671011)

    Hopefully he will keep his branch in sync and offer back his contributions like other developers who have done the same thing.

    Many developers felt that working on the main Linux kernel tree involved too much politics and in-fighting and chose to maintain their own dev branches for their patches. Any that keep their trees in sync have successfully continued to contribute, and left the politics for when their projects were ready for merging. Any that didn't keep in sync, well . . . at least we don't worry about those projects anymore.

  • Panic (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:16PM (#50671035)

    The ideal Linux kernel fork would panic if it detected a systemd infection.

  • If he's able to gain enough traction with former and future devs, it will be interesting to see how the major distros (aside form Gentoo) pick up the alternative kernel. If they can do it for HURD, then surely they can do it for other kernels as well.
  • Not really (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:22PM (#50671077) Homepage

    Branching happens all the time, either to develop a feature or because it's doing something that upstream won't accept. One man maintaining his own patches isn't a fork. A fork would imply that that you're planning to diverge from or replace the project you branched from, nothing in his post indicates he wants to compete with Linux or the LKML. He's just saying I'll make my own patches and provide them for those who want them, but I'm not going to bother trying to upstream them. Kinda like Debian and Ubuntu, Canonical made a lot of patches for Debian but they weren't trying to fork it. They just rebased off it every six months, being a downstream variation. He's making a downstream variation with some interface from BSD. Big whoop.

  • The last round of big attacks on Linux happened abound 2003-2004. Remember SCO, Laura DiDio, Ken Brown, Ballmer, etc ?

    Those were external attacks and it only made the community stick together even closer.

    Now a bit of astroturfing, staging some discontent inside the community. After all, nothing divides a community the way success does. Looks like a short-lived stunt.

    • Those attacks were FUD centered SCO's extortion attempts and Microsoft's tactics to stall Linux adoption not based on reality. These are not "attacks" on Linux but disagreements by kernel developers about the future of the kernel. A big difference to me.
  • Is it worth getting a large box of it and watching the fun or will it all be over by the time that I am back from the shop ?

  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @12:33PM (#50671177) Homepage Journal

    Remember that forks sometimes do succeed.

    Take Linux. It forked from OpenBSD which itself was forked from QNX with smatterings of FreeBSD code.

    QNX programmed itself from vacuum tubes and trace wires left on the ground at Quantum Software in Ottawa one evening. Dan Hildebrand (RIP) apparently had something to do with this metamorphosis.

    Meanwhile across the ocean, FreeBSD was forked from Windows 95 which itself came from the unholy union of MS-DOS and the GEM environment. MS-DOS was bought from a company in Washington State and was a fork of CP/M. GEM was a stand alone thing and should never have been born.

    Where was I? Oh yeah, CP/M. CP/M was a copy of Apple's SOS used in the Apple /// series of super-powerful business computers. The source code was left at an airport where Gary Kildall read it when his plane was on auto-pilot.

    Apple SOS was a mix/fork of Apple ProDOS and TRS-80's OS; I forget the name, not important. Radio Shack forked their TRS-80 OS from some source code they saw in Lions' Commentary on UNIX 6th Edition.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Nice to see someone actually following through. It might not go anywhere... but I fucking hate ego-driven development so much that I would back this type of move regardless of the dspecifics. Linus (and the mentality he spreads) can die in a fire for all I care.

  • Garrett (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @01:03PM (#50671487) Homepage

    a) A fork is not the end of the original project. It can be. But usually it's not.

    b) "In October 2014, Garrett stated on his blog that he would no longer contribute Linux kernel changes relating to Intel hardware" - That's pettiness, and I'm sure the kernel came to a grinding halt that day too.

    c) If you can't get your changes past other people, to the point that you have to fork and maintain an entirely separate branch on your own, that's usually the sign of messy code or absolute loss. It means that you want only YOUR way to be the way. That kind of lack of co-operation isn't the way forward, but you are more than free to pursue that. The number of followers of that fork versus the stock kernel is likely to be tiny, and changes likely to come back in the "accepted" format into the stock kernel before you see any real usage of it outside developers and testers.

    d) "He is a recipient of the Free Software Award from the Free Software Foundation for his work on Secure Boot, UEFI, and the Linux kernel". Ah! All the bits that I *don't* want in the kernel. Did he work on systemd too?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @01:17PM (#50671627)

    It's not about "interminable arguments over the naming", the only one doing that is no else than Matthew [], in attempt to pigeonhole his agenda.

    This dates way way back to 98 []. Matthew tried to push gradual openbsd-ish "lock down everything" levels few times, while Linus and his club keeps firm stance "inherited bitmaps or gtfo" every time.

    This is ultimately BSD "give user limited but easy to use tool" vs linux "provide powerful [albeit not as intuitive] tools, let user do the job". Think pf vs iptables. I personally stand with linus on this one, as providing flexible tools (instead of easy to use, but limited) is ultimately what made Linux a winner - people can bend the system for more usecases, instead of being restricted by simple and easy to use, but often hopelessly limited tools.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @01:19PM (#50671641) Homepage [] Matt got reamed for this because it was a stupid idea, not because the environment was somehow too immature. from Linus Torvalds himself:

    Guys, this is not a dick-sucking contest. If you want to parse PE binaries, go right ahead. If Red Hat wants to deep-throat Microsoft, that's *your* issue. That has nothing what-so-ever to do with the kernel I maintain. It's trivial for you guys to have a signing machine that parses the PE binary, verifies the signatures, and signs the resulting keys with your own key. You already wrote the code, for chissake, it's in that f*cking pull request.

    By the time SCALE 11 hit, Matt was no longer working at redhat. people moved on. A Fork was always an option for Matthew...just perplexed as to why he decided to do it 2 years after...

    • by JumboMessiah ( 316083 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @02:10PM (#50672161)

      For those not wanting to read anything historical. The confrontation comes because the Secure Boot [] option of UEFI (if enabled) only ships with Microsoft keys in the firmware. Thus, Microsoft's signing service is the only practical signing service and will only sign a PE executable. The solution that Matt and company came up with was to have a module vendor wrap their keys in a PE executable, have Microsoft sign them, and then ship the signed PE executable with the signed Linux kernel module. Verification of the signed Linux module thus requires the Linux kernel to load the PE executable, verify its signature, then extract the vendor keys and continue on.

      Linus rightly called out the idea as moronic and stupid. The retorts basically came in the form of "Microsoft created the standard, and is the only viable signing service for the standard". Even though alternative options could of been had, they were deemed to complicated and involved.

      Life would of been much easier of Microsoft would just sign X.509 certificates like the rest of the world.

      Read [] more about it here.

  • The irony (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tylersoze ( 789256 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @02:24PM (#50672287)

    A guy complaining about unprofessionalism uses the term "deep throating". Ok then.

  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @02:27PM (#50672321) Homepage Journal

    That's the beauty of FOSS. If you're in a pissy, childish mood, you can take a copy of someone else's ball and go home to pout. :P

  • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Tuesday October 06, 2015 @05:43PM (#50674231)

    I've seen references to "don't get your panties in a bunch", Mr Garrett called "girly" in a negative tone, and a "pussy", in a negative tone. And people wonder why some form the opinion of developers as sexist?

    And we all talk about OpenSource as choice, yet when someone chooses to leave a project because of non-technical issues such as language choice from managers, we deride them. So, choice is good, as long as you choose to follow what I tell you...

    anyways, carry on.

Would you people stop playing these stupid games?!?!?!!!!