Saturday, July 13, 2024

Linus Torvalds Tells All as Linux Hits 20

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VANCOUVER. Many people in the world consider Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, to be a visionary. Linus Torvalds himself does not.

In a session at LinuxCon with kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman, Torvalds detailed his view of what he does and what is wrong and right in the kernel world.

“I’m not really a visionary guy,” Torvalds said. “My vision extends to pragmatic issues for the next kernel release.”

He added that sometimes his vision is two or three kernel releases ahead if he’s aware of new hardware coming. Currently new Linux kernels come out every three months.

Torvalds also noted that he’s not typically concerned with user issues such as the Linux desktop. He said that when it comes to user issues, most of the things people need to worry about are not in the kernel. He stressed that the kernel is the underlying infrastructure that is the enabler for everything on top.

Kroah-Hartman noted that Linux has taken an evolutionary approach as opposed to some kind of intelligent design approach. He added that he and Linus just know what people send them.

Virtualization has been a big topic for Linux in recent years, but it’s not one that Torvalds is particularly fond off.

“I’m not a virtualization kind of guy,” Torvalds said. “I think that virtualization is evil.”

Torvalds noted that the reason why he started Linux in the first place was to play with the hardware. That said, Linux supports both KVM and Xen, with Xen being a recent entry into LInux as part of the Linux 3.0 release.

Xen’s entry into the Linux kernel was several years in the making and Torvalds provided some insights as to why it took them longer than KVM.

“I told them, look at what KVM sent and what you sent and then ask why do I like the KVM people more than I like you,” Torvalds said. “They got the point and it made it easier to work with them.”

Torvalds said that he used to dread getting requests from Xen developers but that’s no longer the case.

Overall Torvalds noted that he doesn’t get invovled in the actual development all that much.

“I have to admit I end up being far removed from the day to day development and most of the code I write ends up being in email,” Torvalds said.

As an example he noted that if there is a developer is discussing an issue on the kernel mailing list he’ll tell them to try it a a different way and provide an example.

“Very few comitts of mine make it into the kernel,” Torvalds said.

Torvalds also addressed the issue of whether he’ll continue his work on Linux in the years ahead. He joked that he’s been training to become a dive master and that he’s considered that as a career choice.

“As a career choice dive master doesn’t pay as well,” Torvalds said. “So i think Jim (Zemlin) can rest easy, knowing that as long as I have to get my kids through college and I don’t want to live under a bridge, I’ll be doing kernel work.”

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of, the network for technology professionals.

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