December 30, 2005

Linus tells Merkey, "Cry me a river"

Remember Jeff Merkey, the developer that tried to hijack GPL'd code from the Linux kernel under cover of Cherokee law? He's still active on the LKML (Linux Kernel Mailing List) and still a controversial figure. During the past two weeks, he's squared off there to lecture Stallman on the evils of the GPL and Torvalds on breakage in user space. He probably should have stopped with Stallman, because he found anything but a sympathetic ear for his troubles with Torvalds.In a post to Torvalds and others regarding breakage in userspace on the LKML on December 29th, Merkey wrote:
The breakage issue is ridiculous, assinine [sic], and unnecessary. I have been
porting dsfs to the various releases over the past month,
and the breakage of user space, usb, nfs, memory management, is beyond
absurd. Instead of constantly breaking the
interfaces in Linux, why not tell people **NO** every time they try to
rewrite the memory management, etc.

Instead of creating new capabilities and features, everyone seems hell
bent on rewriting the same stale, mouldy, boring sections
of the OS over and over again. So how many times does the memory manage
and slab allocator need to get rewritten. Or how many
times does the vfs need to get broken over and over again.

This bullshit is killing Linux, it's too much work to keep up with
breakage, most of which is INTENTIONAL and NEEDLESS.

Torvalds pointed out in his response that the kernel developers didn't care about breakage caused by internal changes to the kernel, saying "We're not talking about internal kernel stuff. Internal kernel stuff
_does_ get changed, and we dont' care about breakage of out-of-kernel stuff. That's fundamental."

But Merkey continued, saying "Start caring. People spend lots of money supporting you, and what you
are doing. How about taking some responsibility for that so they don't change their minds and move back
to windows or pull their support because it's too costly or too much of a hassle to produce something stable from these
releases."

That's probably where he went too far. Torvalds replied bluntly:

Cry me a river, Jeff.

The kernel is GPL'd. That's my responsibility. Source code. Stuff that
comes to me as patches. That's my job, and that's what I get paid for. In
fact, my contract says that I _cannot_ work on anything that isn't open
source.

Stuff outside the kernel is almost always either (a) experimental stuff
that just isn't ready to be merged or (b) tries to avoid the GPL.

Neither is worth a _second_ of anybodys time trying to support, and when
you say "people spend lots of money supporting you", you're lying through
your teeth. The GPL-avoiding kind of people don't spend a dime supporting
me, they spend their money actively trying to debase and destroy what I
and thousands of others have been working our butts off for.

Whether that last shot about "GPL-avoiding people" was a shot at Merkey or not, his feet certainly seem to fit the shoe, as his most recent efforts at the Wolf Mountain Operating System Project refer to an operating system which is only partially open source, and is not covered by the GPL.

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