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Torvalds: Real quality means taking it personally

Oct 27, 2008 — by Eric Brown — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 7 views

The Linux Foundation (LF) has posted a ten-minute video interview with kernel coordinator Linus Torvalds. Held during the Linux Foundation's recent Linux Kernel Summit, the interview reveals the Linux founder speaking out on issues ranging from kernel/userland interactions to why Linux has so many interfaces.

Much of the interview with Torvalds (pictured) has the kernel project's chief coordinator discussing issues related to the LF's recent Kernel Summit held in September in Portland, Ore. The interview was held only a few weeks before the release of the 2.6.27 kernel, which added a number of changes of interest to the embedded community, including “Ftrace” and “Sysprof” trace tools, a new “UBIFS” flash filesystem, and support for network drivers with multiple transmit queues.

Linus Torvalds, on the Linux Kernel Summit
(Click any photo to enlarge)

Here are a few slightly edited excerpts from the interview:

  • On the value of the Kernel Summit: “No real work gets done here, and a lot of it is rehashing issues that probably would be better off done via email. But at the same time, from a social standpoint it's nice for people to meet each other, even if you're just sitting and having beers together. It's part of the community thing.”

    Linus Torvalds, on Linux Kernel Summit
    (Click any photo to enlarge)

  • On the focus at this year's summit on quality: “This is probably because we haven't had a lot of huge pressing technical issues, so people have been worrying about how we do development, not about particular issues so much. I do very little development, so for me, process issues like release cycle issues and quality issues are really what I come looking for.”
  • On the extensive discussion at the summit about regression: Torvalds said he had expected that about a quarter of the kernel developers at the show had been following the weekly regression emails, but he was surprised and “kind of disturbed” by the fact that it seemed to be “much less than that.” However, when asked if the regression group should be doing a lot more than sending emails, Torvalds seemed to disagree. “Real quality means making sure that people are proud of the code they write, that they're involved and taking it personally,” he said.
  • On potential changes to the release cycle: Torvalds seemed to suggest the current cycle could last awhile. “We have been so successful trying to shrink the cycle that I would try to shrink it a bit more, although in arguments against it, they [kernel developers] have convinced me that I don't think we can,” he said. “No one's really unhappy with the current cycle.”
  • On the “tools” people at the conference, and userland vs kernel issues: According to Torvalds, the debates on userland vs kernel layer changes “are always so painful.” In general, he added, he thinks it's best when “we can keep something in the kernel and don't have to worry about userland interactions and tools and especially graphical GUIs, which kernel people really aren't that great at,” he said. Added Torvalds, “We are much better when we have don't have to try to integrate with a group that doesn't share our values and where we really don't know each others' issues.”
  • On whether all the recent activity around Linux surprised him: “I'm so out of it, I don't even care,” said Torvalds. “I concentrate on certain parts of the kernel, and everything else to me is just fluff. When stuff around the kernel comes up, most of the time it just irritates me because I have to work outside my main area, and I have to make decisions on whether to merge stuff based on issues that I'm not comfortable with. That's one of the reasons why we end up having these tens of different interfaces just because we're not very good at that.”


The full ten-minute video with Torvalds, in QuickTime format, should be available here.

Other videos

Other videos taken at the Kernel summit, and now available from the Linux Foundation, include:

  • Rafael Wysoki of Novell
  • Chris Mason of Oracle
  • Greg Kroah-Hartman of Novell
  • Mathieu Desnoyers of École Polytechnique de Montréal
  • Paul Mackerras of IBM
  • John Linville of Red Hat
  • Stephen Rothwell of IBM
  • Kristen Accardi of Intel
  • Dirk Hohndel of Intel
  • Dave Jones of Red Hat
  • David Miller of Red Hat
  • Len Brown of Intel
  • Jon Corbet of
  • Frank Eigler of Red Hat
  • Ted Ts'o of The Linux Foundation/IBM

They can be found here.

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