February 2, 2012

A Short Q&A with New Linux Foundation Fellow Greg Kroah-Hartman

The Linux Foundation announced this week that Greg Kroah-Hartman would be joining as a fellow. Kroah-Hartman is joining a small group of developers that work with the foundation on Linux and open source projects. We conducted a short Q&A to see what this means for Kroah-Hartman and his work on the Linux kernel.

The fellow program sponsors developers working on projects that are important to advancing Linux. Right now, the foundation funds several fellows:

  • John Hawley – Works as chief system administrator for Kernel.org.
  • Till Kamppeter – Works towards making printing on Linux "just work." Organizes the OpenPrinting summits for the Collaboration Summits and the OpenPrinting project.
  • Richard Purdie – developer and maintainer of the OpenEmbedded software project. Purdie is also the architect and maintainer of the Yocto Project and Poky Build System.
  • Janina Sajka – works as the executive chair of the Linux Foundation's Accessibility Workgroup.
  • Linus Torvalds – Should need no introduction. Torvalds works full time on the Linux kernel.

So Kroah-Hartman is joining a pretty small, but illustrious, cadre of folks that are paid by the Linux Foundation to do open source work.

Greg Kroah-Hartman by Sebastian OlivaIf you've ever wondered, "how could I get a job like Greg's?" the answer is simple – if not easy. Start small. Kroah-Hartman says that he started his kernel involvement implementing a USB driver. "I was an embedded programmer implementing a USB device and needed to test on all available operating systems to verify that I got my firmware code correct. I had been a longtime user of Linux, and in my testing, noticed a few minor problems with USB things and submitted patches fixing them. They were accepted, much to my surprise. Then I wrote a driver for a device that I had which did not have any Linux support (a usb to serial device), which was eventually accepted, and then my involvement just grew from there. A while later, I was offered a job doing Linux kernel and distro development full time, and in 2000 I made the switch to that."

Previously Kroah-Hartman worked for SUSE (and before the sale to Attachmate, Novell) for seven years. He worked for SUSE as a fellow working on Linux as well, so not much has changed. Kroah-Hartman says that he'll be able to devote more time to kernel responsibilities than before. Kroah Hartman has already sent a patch to update the kernel "maintainers" file to reflect his new email and change the status of subsystems from "maintained" to "supported." (As the file notes, "maintained" means "someone actually looks after it." Whereas "supported" means "someone is actually paid to look after this.")

I also asked Kroah-Hartman if he was going to be taking on any new projects with the Linux Foundation. He says "none that I can mention at the moment," which means (of course) yes.

What about predictions for kernel developments this year, or challenges that the kernel team faces? Kroah-Hartman says "predictions? You know I don't do that."

"With kernel development, it's almost impossible to do, as who knows what is going to show up next week, be it new code, or new hardware to support. Kernel development is 'evolution, not intelligent design,' we react to things happening, and don't try to plan for futuristic things that we do not know about.

"As for challenges, all the usual, keeping our community growing, supporting new hardware, fixing bugs, scaling to bigger and bigger machines, using less and less power, supporting all the new features people want. In other words, exactly what we've been doing for the past 20 years."