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Kernel Contributor Corbet Says Linux Community Is 'Intimidating'

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the what-are-you-looking-at dept.

Linux 177

An anonymous reader writes "Key Linux kernel contributor Jonathan Corbet has admitted the developer community can be intimidating and hard to break into. He highlighted the issue during his Linux.conf.au presentation on the Linux kernel. Corbet expressed concern about the exclusivity of the kernel community, but says it's doing well regardless. He said in a period of just over a year, 55,000 individual changes from 2,700 developers (representing 370 employers) were made to the kernel, equaling 2.8 million lines of code. Corbet called the process 'alive and active.'"

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Intimidating... (1)

AmericanGladiator (848223) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834340)

Job interviews are also intimidating - but highly worth it.

Re:Intimidating... (0, Troll)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835618)

Bashing Windows for code bloat are also interesting - but highly hypocritical.

Breaking into the asylum is... (1)

AthleteMusicianNerd (1633805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834346)

intimidating too.

Re:Breaking into the asylum is... (2, Funny)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834578)

an incomplete sentence

The sentence was... (2, Informative)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834966)

begun in the subject line.

So.. (0, Offtopic)

armareum (925270) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835168)

was his.

Re:So.. (1, Funny)

cheftw (996831) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835564)

what?

Re:That practice is... (4, Insightful)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836166)

really fucking annoying.

sabotage (1, Troll)

Neuroelectronic (643221) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834350)

More accessible means more vulnerable.

Re:sabotage (2, Insightful)

buswolley (591500) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834752)

Are you against opensource then?

Re:sabotage (1)

Neuroelectronic (643221) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836568)

Depends on your definition of "opensource"

Re:sabotage (2, Interesting)

HermMunster (972336) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835000)

Only one time have I read about someone inserting code that was malicious into the project. That code was automatically identified by the tools used to analyze it. As far as vulnerable, wall that's really a hype word used by neuroelectronic. What he believes is that the code just gets dumped into the kitty and is used automatically. No, it is not, it goes through a very thorough review process before it is even accepted, then it is edited to comply.

That's just FUD on your part dude.

Re:sabotage (1)

Mister Whirly (964219) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835154)

Yeah, and the SSL bug in Debian never happened, and was caught before it was released due to all the "scrutiny" of the review process. I am not claiming it happens all the time, just that it happens more than "never".

Re:sabotage (1)

HermMunster (972336) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835780)

Never was never used, hehe.

really? (4, Funny)

nomadic (141991) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834392)

Add it to the list! [brunching.com]

Re:really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30835684)

(Since that page is dead; this is what it says:)

The Twelve Least Surprising AP Headlines
by Lore Sjöberg
(All are actual AP wire headlines.)

Boy Scouts Gather for Jamboree
Teens May Be Lured by Sweet Booze
Copter Crash Victims To Be Buried
Heartache, Despair Thrive in Las Vegas
Pearl Harbor Veterans Tell Stories
Symphony to Feature Foreign Composers
Sarah Hughes Honored in Hometown
Cold Front May Break Heat Wave
Cuban Migrants Try to Reach Fla.
Study: Truck Wrecks Deadly for Kids
Colorado Lt. Gov. Has Documents
Twentysomethings Leaving Wisconsin

Kolivas knows it best (3, Informative)

recoiledsnake (879048) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834418)

He tried to break into the clique, but Linus preferred someone he knew who essential ripped off Kolivas' work instead of someone that did all the hard work.

http://apcmag.com/why_i_quit_kernel_developer_con_kolivas.htm [apcmag.com]

http://apcmag.com/why_i_quit_kernel_developer_con_kolivas.htm [apcmag.com]

please mod parent up (3, Insightful)

pikine (771084) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834942)

Flamebait, what the heck?

Re:Kolivas knows it best (1)

elloGov (1217998) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835826)

Very interesting interview, thanks for sharing. Knowing little about Kernel Development Community, Kolivas viewpoint shines light on a variety of short-comings of the community.

Re:Kolivas knows it best (1)

recoiledsnake (879048) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836392)

Glad you enjoyed it. The initial flamebait moderation made me think it would be buried. Thanks to your sibling poster.

And Con Kolivas didn't completely quit. He made a comeback of sorts with the Brain Fsck Scheduler. http://ck.kolivas.org/patches/bfs/bfs-faq.txt [kolivas.org]

I guess kernel development is too addictive to quit.

Re:Kolivas knows it best (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30836526)

Kolivas' complaints about the Linux kernel community regarding scheduling reminds me of Linus' complaints to Tannenbaum regarding Minix

Re:Kolivas knows it best (1)

droopycom (470921) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836634)

Yet Linus reaction was to create his own kernel.

While Kolivas reaction was to give up kernel development.

Re:Kolivas knows it best (1)

recoiledsnake (879048) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837014)

Yet Linus reaction was to create his own kernel.

While Kolivas reaction was to give up kernel development.

Wrong .He still does kernel development, with his own patches, just like Linus made his own kernel.

http://linux.slashdot.org/story/09/09/06/0433209/Con-Kolivas-Returns-With-a-Desktop-Oriented-Linux-Scheduler?from=rss [slashdot.org]

http://ck.kolivas.org/patches/bfs/bfs-faq.txt [kolivas.org]

Re:Kolivas knows it best (1)

rochberg (1444791) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837140)

...and your point would be...? Linus went on to create his own kernel while he was a graduate student in computer science . If you read the article, you'd know that Kolivas works as an anaesthetist, and did kernel hacking solely as a hobby. For an operating system that relies on volunteers and hobbyists, the Kolivas incident serves as a pretty bad precedent.

difficult? (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834426)

He is kind of right, but I would say the relative challenge of understanding the kernel code is far greater than the social challenge of getting involved. I mean, you can't expect to just sign up to lklm and say, "Hey guys, assign me a project!" Why would they even believe that you can handle it? As likely as not, you'll just make things worse. Start by understanding the code, doing some debugging, and once you are actually doing productive things, people will be more likely to believe you can do more productive things.

Re:difficult? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30834556)

I would say the relative challenge of understanding the kernel code is far greater than the social challenge of getting involved.

I'd say you're not a real nerd.

Re:difficult? (0, Redundant)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834562)

Well exactly. Just because you spent a weekend learning how, and then made your own personal changes in your spare time, doesn't mean you actually have the know-how to help on the project. The Linux Kernal has been around for some time, I'd bet a dollar or two that they have put a lot of work into making it work properly and efficiently. If they want to implement something new, they are going to go with the guys who know the ins and the outs to make things as efficient as possible. Its a slippery slope where it could be excluding people who have developed a new methodology, meaning they miss out on a great opportunity, but thats just a risk they don't want to take.

It's the same as any industry. I'm not going to grab just any old guy to build my house. He could be an excellent carpenter - and maybe he'll even show me a few chairs and tables he has built. Superb as they may be, I'll still go with the guy who has built a house from start to finish.

Re:difficult? (5, Insightful)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834862)

The larger problem here isn't that the Linux kernel group is exclusive -- though it probably does manage to deny itself (and its users) some good ideas as a result. It's that the FOSS world has developed a dominant monoculture that very definitely marginalizes alternative approaches that, both in the short term and in the long term, retards progress in other areas. Yes, there are FOSS alternatives to Linux, but we have arrived at a state where there is Linux, and then there is everything else. And that "everything else", excepting perhaps the *BSDs which are competitors in the Unix clone space rather than fundamental alternatives, generally lack maturity and application support.

That's only an acceptable state of affairs if you think Unix (and Linux's implementation of Unix) represent some kind of final end state in OS development. This is by no means a criticism of Linux in and of itself -- it's a fine OS and I'm glad to have it -- but in terms both of user choice and advancing the state of the art, it's no more healthy to have Linux as the overwhelmingly dominant player in the FOSS world than it was to have Windows as the overwhelmingly dominant player in the broader PC world.

Rather than fretting about getting into the inner sanctums of Linux development, more would be OS developers should be looking at the alternatives (or starting their own, if they have the vision for it). Most will fail, of course, but somewhere out there is a project that, like Linus Torvald's ambitious little toy *nix kernel all those years ago, will someday be a game changer. And even in failure, one learns a great deal -- perhaps enough that one might later find entry into more established circles easier.

Re:difficult? (1)

ckaminski (82854) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835506)

http://www.jnode.org/

Something I'm actually trying to work with as part of larger unified/cloud computing infrastructure.

Re:difficult? (3, Insightful)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835586)

"That's only an acceptable state of affairs if you think Unix (and Linux's implementation of Unix) represent some kind of final end state in OS development."

I agree. The problem is that geeks are too hidebound to support truly new things. Why does every successful new language have to use "C" syntax?

In the case of UNIX, there are those who think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread, but since they weren't on earth when it was created they can't differentiate between its good ideas and those that were adopted because of the limitations of that era.

It's a bit like those who believe that black-and-white movies are more artistic just because they're black-and-white. Many of those movies would have been made in color if that had been a feasible option.

Re:difficult? (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836768)

The problem is that geeks are too hidebound to support truly new things. Why does every successful new language have to use "C" syntax?

What does it have to do with geek preferences? JavaScript, Java and C# all used curly braces not for the sake of geeks - who can and do learn new things - but for the sake of monkey coders who knew the previous dominant language (C++ for Java, Java for C#, etc).

Re:difficult? (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837228)

I'm not sure there can be a distinction between geeks and "monkey coders". Most developers who think some aspects of development are beneath them don't stick around very long.

Re:difficult? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30836970)

> Why does every successful new language have to use "C" syntax?

Because C syntax is awesome. More importantly, if your language is imperative, odds are your syntax can be C-like, and choosing a C-like syntax will make it easier for people to learn the language, and this allows to language to be succesful.

The above does not really apply if you use a different programming paradigm, e.g. Haskell.

Re:difficult? (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837162)

"Because C syntax is awesome"

Sure. Do you know what "=+" is?

"More importantly, if your language is imperative, odds are your syntax can be C-like, and choosing a C-like syntax will make it easier for people to learn the language, and this allows to language to be succesful."

Which is a long way to say the developers are hidebound.

Re:difficult? (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836488)

There is also a reflexive defensiveness in the FOSS community that tends to scare aware any but the hardiest. Check out any post on /. that dares criticize GIMP's horrid UI, or points out how intimidating Linux's continued reliance on the command line is to the average user--then watch the series of flames that follow even these benign criticisms. Now imagine trying to offer contructive criticism to a group of people who are even MORE dedicated to Linux and FOSS than even the average /. user. I would rather walk into the meanest bar in Boston with a "Red Sox Suck!" t-shirt on than to post even a slight criticism of the existing kernal on lklm. It's WAY too personal for those guys.

Re:difficult? (1)

david_thornley (598059) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837320)

There is also a reflexive defensiveness in the anti-F/OSS community that tends to malign F/OSS. Check out any post on /. that discusses good things about Linux GUIs - it will provoke idiotic statements that Linux needs the command line in normal functioning. Check out any post on /. that discusses F/OSS alternatives - it will provoke complaints about the GIMP's UI, and reveal the naive belief that Microsoft Word is compatible with different versions of itself, or for that matter the same version with a different printer. Heck, check out any post that dares to criticize the MS ribbon interface, and the reactions. I would rather you walk into the meanest bar in Boston with a "Red Sox Suck!" t-shirt on than criticize Linux on the basis of ten-year-old attitudes.

Re:difficult? (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836530)

Absolutely agree, and we saw a great example of this recently.

There was a /. article about ReactOS, and I saw more than a few "OMGWTF... why work on your project? Work on Wine instead!"

I heart what Linux has become, but I love to see people do all kinds of crazy, maybe game changing stuff too.

Re:difficult? (1)

dnoyeb (547705) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835062)

I agree. You cant just jump in and write code until you prove that you know what your doing. And you may offer several patched that get rejected because the form of the change is incorrect. If your competent and really want to make a change you will keep at it and eventually get in.

I can't think of a more perfect system. I have done this on several open source projects. Typically though you are not just looking for work. You are looking to get something fixed that no one else seems to care much about. I don't know how it would work for someone just wanting to write code.

Re:difficult? (1)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835764)

He is kind of right, but I would say the relative challenge of understanding the kernel code is far greater than the social challenge of getting involved. I mean, you can't expect to just sign up to lklm and say, "Hey guys, assign me a project!" Why would they even believe that you can handle it?

So they assign you to documenting something. If you do it, it shows you at least understand what's going on, and the project has gained that rarest of open-source comoddities, documentation. If you fail, you've not broken anything so it's pretty much just your own time you've wasted.

Not news (1, Flamebait)

RemoWilliams84 (1348761) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834436)

Linux elitests are jerks, news at 11.

Re:Not news (1)

just_another_sean (919159) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834730)

Elitists are jerks, news at 11.

There, fixed that for you...

Re:Not news (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834890)

Elitists are jerks, news at 11. There, fixed that for you...

You're shouting in the wind. Yeah, they can be jerks. Now what? When a select few are the only ones who can perform a certain task, well, don't be surprised the next time you call a archetypal programmer a jerk he refuses to write that critical code section your million-dollar product so desperately needs.

Re:Not news (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835656)

"When a select few are the only ones who can perform a certain task.."

I thought we were talking about software development. Are there certain processor op codes that only a select few developers know about?

Re:Not news (1)

Goodgerster (904325) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834732)

A new study says that illiterate people overgeneralise more easily: we'll have the full story and the latest news and weather. Join Fiona Bruce and I with the News at 10.

Corbet says *Kernel* community intimidating (4, Informative)

jra (5600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834438)

hard to break into.

There, fixed that for ya.

And let's note Jon knows whereof he speaks; he's not just the Editor/Publisher of the almost-10 year old LWN, he's also a fairly well-respected device driver author.

Re:Corbet says *Kernel* community intimidating (1)

jra (5600) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834490)

FWIW, though, this is true of *all* large codebases: if you're not willing to get married to the entire 400KLOC, then if can be hard becoming a contributor just because there's often a "right" place and way add functionality, and it won't be obvious to a newbie; I'm having the problem myself with Asterisk and the associate FreePBX project just now.

And just imagine trying to get things done with Firefox.

Re:Corbet says *Kernel* community intimidating (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835702)

Well, it's certainly true of large codebases that aren't well designed. I don't think Asterisk is considered the poster boy for good structure.

Re:Corbet says *Kernel* community intimidating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30834860)

As opposed to the non-kernel Linux community?

Re:Corbet says *Kernel* community intimidating (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30834948)

What the h--- is the "kernel" community? Are we talking about popcorn farmers? No. It's the Linux (development) community, like the article says.

BTW, HTH is this marked informative?

Re:Corbet says *Kernel* community intimidating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30835490)

Not to step all over your lame attempt at humor, but if you only work on the kernel, you are part of the "kernel community". Linux development is broad and you could be working on any small part of the large Linux project. If you specifically work on the kernel, then you are a "kernel developer".

Re:Corbet says *Kernel* community intimidating (1)

recoiledsnake (879048) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835690)

What the h--- is the "kernel" community? Are we talking about popcorn farmers?

You mean GNU/Popcorn farmers.

Re:Corbet says *Kernel* community intimidating (1)

shutdown -p now (807394) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836800)

What the h--- is the "kernel" community? Are we talking about popcorn farmers?

http://kernel.org/ [kernel.org]

Note that it doesn't say "Linux" in the URL anywhere. Some things should be obvious in a given place and time - especially on Slashdot.

Re:Corbet says *Kernel* community intimidating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837152)

Linux = Kernel. If he meant anything else he would have said Ubuntu.

I fault the internet (4, Interesting)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834450)

I don't think this is necessarily a flaw in Linux kernel development, because I've seen the same sort of thing all over every internet-based community. Think about the forums, chat rooms, and even discussions on this very site. 'Good' input is secondary to both 'loud' and 'popular', to the deficit of the community.

Part of it is that the text removes a good deal of the context behind the words. To be sure...

However I think there exists a general lack of morality/ethics/whatever in terms on internet communication. Never in a town hall meeting is it considered productive to shout that your opponents are "F~ING STUPID" and yet this tactic works exceedingly well on the internet. I assume that in person this behavior is taboo, but online anything goes. At a minimum you would pretend to listen and use some form of tactful technique to move forward. Online the aggressor seems to hope the opposing voices will simply stop participating in the conversation.

Does anyone have any links to research or the like on this topic?

Further, is there anything resembling Roberts Rules of Order for an online forum, email, etc?

Back to the topic at hand, what if the Linux kernel developers held voice-based meetings on controversial topics? Or at least adopted a code of conduct that demanded civility?

Re:I fault the internet (1)

goldmaneye (1374027) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834624)

I'm not so sure it's limited to the Internet anymore ... recent footage of town hall meetings in the U.S. has convinced me that shouting "YOU ARE F~ING STUPID" is considered productive there as well.

Re:I fault the internet (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835614)

Those people were ejected, though. And their conduct was labeled 'shameful' by many.

I don't see that happen very much online.

Re:I fault the internet (1)

Rakshasa Taisab (244699) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834668)

Bollocks.

If you think you can shout down your opponents with baseless ad hominem attacks you're probably browsing /b/, not a developer oriented mailing list. In fact, I'd go as far as claiming that internet communication is _BENEFICIAL_ in that it is impersonal. as that allows people to say what they really think about an issue instead of tip-toeing around the issue. And changing your mind is easier when you're not faced with the potentially very embarrassing situation of having people gloat at you face-to-face.

Re:I fault the internet (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835270)

There are actually correct. There have been several studies showing that group decisions are markedly improved when done over the Internet rather than face to face. The charisma of the individual holding a particular position is less of an influence over the Internet as opposed to face to face. This allows people to evaluate an argument on the merits of the argument rather than on the "likability" of the person making the argument.

Re:I fault the internet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30835298)

Was that a joke? Did you really say BOLLOCKS to somebody who suggested that shouting down people sometimes happens on the internet?

Re:I fault the internet (2, Interesting)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835590)

Out of curiosity, how do you weigh your bollocks against Torvalds/Kolivas square-off?

http://linux.slashdot.org/story/07/07/28/1836247/Torvalds-Explains-Scheduler-Decision [slashdot.org]
http://linux.slashdot.org/story/07/09/24/1210236/The-Linux-Identity-Crisis [slashdot.org]
http://linux.slashdot.org/story/09/09/06/0433209/Con-Kolivas-Returns-With-a-Desktop-Oriented-Linux-Scheduler [slashdot.org]

IIRC, Torvalds behaved like a total tool in rejecting the idea, and another developer basically stole the concept and made his own implementation, which got accepted.

Sounds like the same-ol'-same-ol' to me.

Re:I fault the internet (1)

Timothy Brownawell (627747) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835432)

Further, is there anything resembling Roberts Rules of Order for an online forum, email, etc?

I know the Debian developers vote on things sometimes, so they probably have something at least vaguely similar. But how much of the rules are about collision avoidance over a shared broadcast medium (ie, people in a room not talking over eachother), which wouldn't really apply to asynchronous communications like email and forums?

Groklaw is a pioneer in clean discussions (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30835622)

PJ has at least 100 spare hands to do the kind of moderation she does.

She really is a robot :-)

Write good code? (3, Insightful)

toastar (573882) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834454)

You what's actually harder then Getting in the kernel community, Writing Good Kernel Code!

Is this a question (4, Funny)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834612)

You what's actually harder then Getting in the kernel community, Writing Good Sentences!

Re:Is this a question (1)

toastar (573882) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835866)

Bah! Without an edit post feature I have no remorse.

Re:Is this a question (1)

Tetsujin (103070) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836176)

Bah! Without an edit post feature I have no remorse.

XD Good point.

Re:Write good code? (1)

gertin (1063236) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834844)

You what's actually harder then Getting in the kernel community, Writing Good Kernel Code!

You accidentally the whole thing?

You're playing with the Big Boys, Jonathan. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30834458)

When you're playing with the Linux kernel developers, you're playing with the Big Boys, Jonathan. These guys are among the best there is. Some of them are getting paid the Big Bucks to work on the kernel, and they can't be distracted by little shits who don't know what they're doing.

You're free to try to attain and maintain their level of excellence. There are many top-notch software developers who can do this. But if you can't, then YOU WILL BE LEFT BEHIND. You will be treated like rubbish. For the professionals don't have time for the amateurs.

Now, it goes a step further when you're working with the FreeBSD, NetBSD and especially OpenBSD communities. They are meritocracies that put even the Linux kernel development community to shame. I mean, guys like Poul-Henning Kamp, Robert Watson, Theo, Wes Peters, Warner Losh are the best there are today. There are, literally less than 10 other people out of the 6 billion people on earth who can compete with them.

Microsoft (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30834596)

This is all Microsoft's fault. They've been causing this trying to bust up the F/OSS community.

And rightly so (5, Insightful)

erroneus (253617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834642)

The Linux kernel is not some hobbyist tinker toy. It is an extremely serious, mainstream and global-scale project. If it were more inclusive rather than exclusive, there would be MUCH risk in stability and security as I firmly believe that there would be attempts at installing exploitable code within the kernel. These types of problems have already occurred in F/OSS projects all over and we know that there are parties out there who are willing to to to GREAT lengths to accomplish their goals.

With all this, I have little doubt that the present condition is for the best.

Re:And rightly so (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834762)

If it were more inclusive rather than exclusive, there would be MUCH risk in stability and security as I firmly believe that there would be attempts at installing exploitable code within the kernel. These types of problems have already occurred in F/OSS projects all over and we know that there are parties out there who are willing to to to GREAT lengths to accomplish their goals.

Please cite some examples of people exposed for becoming open source developers to install clever backdoors, since it's happening "all over". I smell FUD and imagine there's lot more hidden back doors in closed source projects, thank you. If someone's willing to go to great lengths, then it's not exactly a big obstacle to become a Microsoft (or whatever) employee.

Re:And rightly so (1)

Unequivocal (155957) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835036)

I seem to remember a back door injection into the Linux codebase a few years back. But that was accomplished not by a contributor (newbie or no) but by exploiting a vulnerability in the hierarchical code repository system, which they changes afterward. So there is at least one example of folks who will go to great lengths to install backdoor vulnerabilities in F/OSS. But unfortunately the example is with the Linux kernel itself which kind of disproves GP's point..

Re:And rightly so (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835352)

I seem to remember a back door injection into the Linux codebase a few years back. But that was accomplished not by a contributor (newbie or no) but by exploiting a vulnerability in the hierarchical code repository system, which they changes afterward.

I remember that too, but then it's a different ballgame because whatever back door code is added has gone through no reviews, it's exactly the same as you could do with a closed source download server. It's probably easier with closed source in fact since they're often not signed, while Linux packages in general are so compromising a mirror won't help. Of course it won't help you if you are tricked into adding bad repositories, but that's a different threat.

Re:And rightly so (1)

ClosedSource (238333) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835756)

"The Linux kernel is not some hobbyist tinker toy."

You're right. Linus probably played with Legos rather than Tinker Toys.

At least its open at all... (1)

al3k (1638719) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834678)

At least you can metaphorically break into the linux kernel at all, even just for your own fork to mess around. I would literally have to break into somewhere to look at windows code

Re:At least its open at all... (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834982)

*You* might have to break into somewhere but there are plenty of companies and academic institutions with access to the Windows source code. I'm not sure what the procedures are for submitting fixes is, if it's even possible, but it is out there.

Re:At least its open at all... (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835128)

If you pay enough, you are allowed to improve windows. Brilliant!

A lot of changes for something that's "perfect" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30834680)

> in a period of just over a year, 55,000 individual changes

Is that new functionality or changes to existing code?

I wonder how many changes per year something like Solaris or FreeBSD kernel have.

Go ahead, mod me flamebait. It'll just confirm my suspicions. And ya know, sometimes the truth hurts.

Re:A lot of changes for something that's "perfect" (1)

ckaminski (82854) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834872)

Remember, a single "patch" could change 10,000 lines of code.

Re:A lot of changes for something that's "perfect" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30834998)

change != line-of-code

And as an aside, my 2.6.16 kernel has ~85K lines of code. (`cd /usr/src/linux; find . -type f | xargs wc -l`)

One change that touches 10K lines of code is touching 12% of the kernel. Yikes.

Re:A lot of changes for something that's "perfect" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30835494)

Follow up to my own post.

85K LOC is clearly wrong. find/xargs is doing something funky.

Same command on my 2.6.27 machine's kernel says >600K LOC.

Re:A lot of changes for something that's "perfect" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30835604)

A single new driver can easily add more than 10k lines. Current kernel line count (with staging included) is ~13 million.

The more lines the better (1)

lemur3 (997863) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834682)

Just think, if they have done this many lines with an intimidating atmosphere how many millions will be made with a friendly one!

"Key contributor"? (1)

diegocg (1680514) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834774)

Corbet is the editor of LWN.net and has contributed some patches to the kernel, but i doubt he would accept to be called "key contributor". IMHO his best description would be "the best linux kernel journalist".

Insane (1)

HermMunster (972336) | more than 4 years ago | (#30834964)

In a good way.

Wow that much activity from that many companies. 370 employees contributing!! Incredible the number of changes and the amount of code. This is tremendous. Open source success in this regard is truly fantastic.

Too many changes anyway. (3, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835064)

If anything, the Linux kernel changes too much. It ought to settle down into a tight little kernel that's changed only for rare bug fixes. The "monolithic kernel" concept has gotten somewhat out of hand. Arguably, no USB device driver or printer driver should be in the kernel or have any significant privileges. That alone would cut way down on kernel mods.

Re:Too many changes anyway. (1)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835706)

If anything, the Linux kernel changes too much. It ought to settle down into a tight little kernel that's changed only for rare bug fixes.

I don't understand what you mean by "changing too much". Why does it bother you that the Linux kernel changes? And why do you think that the changes take place deep in the core, and not in drivers, which can safely be ignored?

I admin a few Linux machines, and one of them runs the same kernel for over two years. I regularly get upgrades from my distribution, which I review and then decide to ignore. The stability of these machines is dear to me, thus I don't upgrade the kernel unless there's a security risk.

You're not backing up your complaints.

Re:Too many changes anyway. (1)

ckaminski (82854) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836224)

I think I agree with you. I'd be willing to give up 5% of my performance to the overhead of a microkernel if it means my systems become rock-stable and any userspace program can become a driver.

Re:Too many changes anyway. (0)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836300)

Why do you always have to drag up the same tired arguments Tanenbaum?

Just wait until you're in the community (4, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835142)

...then you can really get chewed out by Linus because you should have known better. It's not just from the outside it's a tough crowd all the way, but you also have to remember these people write the most key component of any good server. There are many places where having a developer, even if he's not the world's greatest is better than having none at all. The kernel isn't one of those places, if you can't take the heat then get out of the fire.

Think of it more like chess, the rules are simple but the most effective implementation hard. Hell, I know a couple geeks who built their own OS, but I think the scheduling was just a round robin. Well a lot of bright people have thought quite a lot about it, and the kernel performs to some level. It's like a grandmaster chess player, he can't learn anything from a player ranked below 2000, it'll only be rehashing the same simple ideas and walking into the same traps that people have walked into before.

Of course there's also the asshats that think that just because they know how to write an operating core, they're god's gift to mankind. But, I've run into those in quite a few other areas too...

Re:Just wait until you're in the community (1)

sennyk (1046330) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836196)

What is your chess rating?

Windows kernel community intimidating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30835162)

In other news, "Lead Windows developer admits that the Windows kernel is an intimidating team to join at Microsoft. Among other challenges, contributors must go through a rigorous process where their academic and professional background is evaluated followed by an in-person grilling but top Windows engineers. Afterwards, the contributor must sign various legal papers before spending perhaps 3-4 years doing bug work and very simple tasks before being given the privilege of writing any significant portion of code."

Seriously, the kernel is an important piece of code. If you want something to be added to it, it's going to be challenging both technically and professionally. It's not a bad thing. In most other areas, people would consider a highly selective screening criteria as part of the QA process for a product.

And why is that? (1)

Jodka (520060) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835210)

the developer community can be intimidating and hard to break into.

Well.. duh. Because you have to learn to program the Linux kernel to join.

It is a "best of the best" club for programmers. Obviously that requires a lot of brains and effort. It should be hard to join, otherwise there would be a lot of crappy code in the kernel and Linux would suck.

The Fark version of the headline (1)

AP31R0N (723649) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835628)

Kernel Contributor Corbet Says Linux Community Is 'Intimidating, Smelly'

It's part of the quality control (4, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835694)

The arrogance is intentional and deliberate. These people aren't getting paid for this, and simply don't have time to deal with noobs. Nor do they have time to screen patches from everyone who is trying to be helpful. Some intimidation is necessary to weed out those who aren't really serious and haven't made a concerted effort to fully understand the problem before contacting the kernel developers.

Unix developers have always had an attitude, but in my experience they have been far more tolerant than Microsoft Developers (who insisted we rewrite all the Winsock2 code Intel was doing for them for free to better suit their revision control system) or that paragon of arrogance, the original SCO. When I worked for Amdahl UTS, one of my coworkers got the comment in his annual review that he "has little tolerance for mediocrity". Problem is, he thought this was a GOOD thing, while his manager was using it as a negative to justify a bare cost of living raise. Yes, they don't suffer fools easily, so make sure you do your homework first and get your facts straight before talking to them. Really, they are a lot like slashdot posters who rush to point out even the most minor mistakes in a post.

Re:It's part of the quality control (2, Insightful)

domatic (1128127) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836420)

These days many *ARE* getting paid and answer to their bosses for the results of their work. But that is even more reason to have little patience for newbies who don't quite understand what is going on.

Anyone anytime can modify Linux (1)

MarkH (8415) | more than 4 years ago | (#30835910)

Only problem is getting your changes into the trunk.

For that I am glad they are very picky.

Exclusivity not exclusive to kernel devs. (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 4 years ago | (#30836496)

He can paint with a much broader brush than that, because the insular mindset extends well beyond just the kernel developers. I encounter it constantly in the Ubuntu and similar user forums as well. Groupthink is viral and highly contagious.

The Loop... (2, Insightful)

PSandusky (740962) | more than 4 years ago | (#30837130)

Something that I've always found interesting is the whole social structure that permeates different internet projects. In particular -- and I qualify this with nothing but my own paltry observations -- it's exceedingly difficult to break into anything that involves skill (particularly the programming sort) because not only is the existing structure built on skill, but it is also built on familiarity. If, say, Bob is well known for doing 'foo,' and you step in one day after cobbling around your own for a while and demonstrate that you're not half bad at 'foo' yourself, there's an exceedingly good chance that you'll fade into the noise unless Bob (or someone who speaks to Bob quite a bit about 'foo') notices what you've done and says something about it.

At that point (absent of any response), the prospective developer has a few choices -- keep cobbling and work up some more 'foo,' and bring that into the light once it develops, seek out Bob to talk shop that he might let you in on some of the nuances that you may not have seen in development wishlists/buglists/etc., start clamoring over what he/she's already done in (erroneous) hope of getting recognition, or move on to developing 'bar.'

Granted, I haven't done any Linux development yet, but that's what I've been seeing in other things. That whole breaking in process is difficult because those insecurities about people responding underwhelmingly (or negatively) to your work don't really go away, whether you're coding or doing scientific research. It may well benefit the Linux development community only to work with those who have the drive to continue despite those discouraging possibilities, but it won't necessarily be a huge recruitment tool to get people into developing in the first place.

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30837186)

What the fuck does he know?

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