Linus Torvalds Back In Charge Of Linux Kernel Development

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Hug a coder. Month long sabbatical for Linux creator ends, amid updated ‘code of conduct’ for entire community

The self imposed exile of Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux operating system, is over after he returned to once again steer development of the Linux kernel.

Torvalds had shocked the open source community in mid September when he announced he was taking a break from the project to change some of his behaviours after “flippant attacks in emails” to fellow Linux programmers and project contributors.

His return to being in charge of the development of the Linux kernel comes after the Linux community at its recent Open Source Summit adopted an updated “Contributor Covenant Code of Conduct”, that seeks to improve behaviour of participating engineers within the project.

Time off

Essentially, the new code of conduct asks engineers to “use welcoming and inclusive language; be respectful of differing viewpoints and experiences; gracefully accept constructive criticism; focus on what is best for the community; and show empathy towards other community members.”

These behaviours were not often associated with Torvalds, who often fired out obscenity-laced rants to other developers and indeed big name companies.

In 2012 for example Torvalds launched a tirade (that was recorded) against Nvidia for its perceived lack of support for Linux.

“I know exactly what you’re talking about,” Torvalds said in answer to a question. “That is really sad because Nvidia has tried to sell a lot of chips in to the Android market, and Nvidia has been the single worst company we’ve ever dealt with, so Nvidia, [expletive] you.”

He then turned to the camera and showed his middle finger.

This year Torvalds was also highly critical of Intel and called the chip giant’s flawed Meltdown and Spectre kernel patches “pure garbage”.

Torvalds has always had a fiery temper, as he has high demands of any submitted programming code since he started the Linux operating system twenty-seven years ago in 1991.

Since that time Torvalds has overseen the kernel development, and he checks the source code submitted by tens of thousands of developers (after it has been vetted) who are responsible for various component of the open source operating system.

But he acknowledged last month that he had not always acted professionally and needed to take some time away after a “look yourself in the mirror” moment.

Torvalds return

During his exile, Greg Kroah-Hartman, who also oversees the stable branch of the kernel, was placed in temporary charge.

And with the announcement of version 4.19 of the kernel for PCs and servers, Kroah-Hartman called for more understanding and patience between the various parties involved.

“Part of learning how things work is dealing with the interaction between people, and trying to understand the basic social norms and goals that we all share,” Kroah-Hartman said in his release notes.

“By providing a document in the kernel source tree that shows that all people, developers and maintainers alike, will be treated with respect and dignity while working together, we help to create a more welcome community to those newcomers, which our very future depends on if we all wish to see this project succeed at its goals,” he added.

“These past few months has been a tough one for our community, as it is our community that is fighting from within itself, with prodding from others outside of it,” he added, before throwing in a reference to Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

“Don’t fall into the cycle of arguing about those ‘others’ in the ‘Judean People’s Front’ when we are the ‘We’re the People’s Front of Judea!’” he said.

“So here is my plea to everyone out there. Let’s take a day or two off, rest, relax with friends by sharing a meal, recharge, and then get back to work, to help continue to create a system that the world has never seen the likes of, together,” he wrote.

“And with that, Linus, I’m handing the kernel tree back to you,” wrote Kroah-Hartman. “You can have the joy of dealing with the merge window :)”

Time will tell if the time off for Torvalds has mellowed his behaviour.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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