The creator of the Linux operating system, Linus Torvalds, has shocked the open source world with the news at the weekend that he is going to take a break from the project.
Torvalds acknowledged that he needed the break in order to change some of his behaviours after “flippant attacks in emails” to fellow Linux programmers and project contributors – attacks which he said was both unprofessional and uncalled for.
To some people Torvalds can be something of a controversial figure, as he often fires out obscenity-laced rants on 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 now in a shock email, Torvalds admitted he has not always acted professionally and needs to take some time away after a “look yourself in the mirror” moment.
“I am not an emotionally empathetic kind of person and that probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to anybody,” wrote Torvalds. “Least of all me. The fact that I then misread people and don’t realize (for years) how badly I’ve judged a situation and contributed to an unprofessional environment is not good.”
“This week people in our community confronted me about my lifetime of not understanding emotions,” he added. “My flippant attacks in emails have been both unprofessional and uncalled for. Especially at times when I made it personal. In my quest for a better patch, this made sense to me. I know now this was not OK and I am truly sorry.”
“The above is basically a long-winded way to get to the somewhat painful personal admission that hey, I need to change some of my behaviour, and I want to apologise to the people that my personal behaviour hurt and possibly drove away from kernel development entirely,” he wrote.
“I am going to take time off and get some assistance on how to understand people’s emotions and respond appropriately,” he said, without specifying how long a break he intends to take.
But Torvalds insisted he will come back.
“This is not some kind of ‘I’m burnt out, I need to just go away’ break,” he concluded. “I’m not feeling like I don’t want to continue maintaining Linux. Quite the reverse. I very much *do* want to continue to do this project that I’ve been working on for almost three decades.”
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