Linux creator Linus Torvalds took the stage today at LinuxCon Europe in Edinburgh with Intel’s Chief Linux and Open Source Technologist Dirk Hohndel to discuss the present and future of Linux and answer questions from the community. They covered a range of topics including the upcoming 3.12 kernel release, the ideal characteristics of a kernel maintainer, the issues that keep Linus up at night, gaming on the Linux desktop, and more.
Here are 10 of Linus’s best quotes, in the order that he said them, from Wednesday morning’s keynote.
1. Linus is happy with the current timing of releases every 3 months because it allows developers to take their time building new features. If they miss the merge window, it’s not very long until the next one comes so they don’t feel rushed to send in their code.
“Don’t hurry your code. Make sure it works well and is well designed. Don’t worry about timing.”
2. The rapid pace of change also allows developers to merge their code quickly and move on.
“Developers have the attention spans of slightly moronic woodland creatures.”
3. “One of the most important things for a maintainer isn’t that he’s a super engineer. It’s that you’re responsive and people can rely on you being there 24/7, 52 weeks a year.”
It’s very difficult for a young developer to become a maintainer because it takes a few years for the community to trust that you’ll be around for a while. That said, once you’ve proven you’re reliable, it’s easy to become a maintainer because it’s a hard job. You have to be there all the time.
4. Dirk: “What keeps you up at night?”
Linus: Bugs in the code and other technical problems don’t worry him as much.
“The thing with technology is if you do something stupid you can fix it.”
5. What really keeps Linus up at night are the social issues and problems with the development process.
“When tempers flare it can be really stressful for a few days. I have flare-ups and that works fine for me… Other people tend to mull over things. It eats at them for weeks on end, and those issues tend to be the painful ones.”
6. Linus takes a Darwinistic view when it comes to convincing companies to contribute to the kernel or use open source software. They either see the benefits of open source or they suffer the economic consequences.
“I do open source because it’s fun and it works… Companies who work with the kernel community will waste less time and they’ll just work better.”
7. “If you’re a company that thinks your tiny change to the kernel is what gives you a competitive edge, you’ll probably be facing economic problems. You’d be much better off worrying about making the best damn hardware for the lowest price.”
8. He had a few things to say about the state of Linux on the desktop. It’s one area that Linux could still really see some improvement. But distribution infighting has become a problem.
“I started Linux because I wanted to see it on the desktop… I do hope that the desktop people would try to work together … and work more on the technology than trying to make the login screen look really nice.”
9. Valve’s Steam for Linux is the best opportunity to help the Linux desktop, he said. They’ll do this by setting a standard for Linux distributions that want to enable gaming on their platforms.
“It’s the best model for standardization. Standards should not be people sitting in a smoky room… and writing papers. It’s being successful enough to drive the market.”
10. On diversity, Linus said he would like to see the kernel community grow to include more women and developers from different geographies.
“We have very few women. But I’m not very worried. We used to have this discussion about not having enough Japanese developers. We can solve this but it will take time.”
See the full interview, below.