Linus Torvalds doesn’t regret any of the technical decisions he’s made over the past 23 years since he first created Linux, he said Wednesday at LinuxCon and CloudOpen Europe.
“Technical issues, even when they’re completely wrong, and they have been, you can fix them later,” said Torvalds, a Linux Foundation fellow.
He does, however, regret the times he has alienated developers and users with his use of strong language on the kernel mailing list, he said. Relationships can’t be so easily fixed.
Despite these personal issues and disagreements the community has thrived, and created the best technology they possibly can. This is, Torvalds said, the ultimate goal.
In a Q&A on stage with Dirk Hohndel, Intel’s chief Linux and open source technologist, Torvalds spoke about the state of the community, the kernel development process, what it takes to be a kernel developer, and the future of Linux. Here are some highlights of the discussion. Watch the full video, below.
1. “The speed of development has not really slowed down the last few years. We have had around 10,000 patches every release from more than 1,000 people and the end result has been very good.”
2. Dirk Hohndel: “You said you wanted subsystem maintainers to consider following the x86 model and have more than one maintainer share the role. How about applying your own advice at the top?
Torvalds: “I’ll probably have to do that someday. Right now I’m not getting a lot of complaints for not being responsive. Being responsive is one of the most important things a kernel developer at any level can be… So far, partly thanks to Git, I’ve been able to keep up.”
3. “A lot of people want to have market share numbers, lots of users, because that’s how they view their self worth. For me, one of the most important things for Linux is having a big community that is actively testing new kernels; it’s the only way to support the absolute insane amount of different hardware we deal with.”
4. Hohndel: “If you could change a single decision you’ve made in the last 23 years, what would you do differently?”
Torvalds: “From a technical standpoint, no single decision has ever been that important… The problems tend to be around alienating users or developers and I’m pretty good at that. I use strong language. But again there’s not a single instance I’d like to fix. There’s a metric shitload of those.”
5. “Most people even if though they don’t always necessarily like each other, do tend to respect the code they generate. For Linux that’s the important part. What really matters is people are very involved in generating the best technology we can.”
6. “On the internet nobody can hear you being subtle.”
7. “One of the reasons we have this culture of strong language, that admittedly many people find off-putting, is that when it comes to technical people with strong opinions and with a strong drive to do something technically superior, you end up having these opinions show up as sometimes pretty strong language.”
8. Hohndel: What will you tell a student who wants to become the next Linus?
Torvalds: “Find something that you’re passionate about and just do it.”
9. “Becoming a maintainer is easy; you just need an infinite amount of time and respond to email from random people.”
10. Hohndel: “Make a bold prediction about the future of Linux.”
Torvalds: “The boldest prediction I can say is, I will probably release rc1 in about a week.”