October 7, 2015

LinuxCon 2015 Report: Dirk Hohndel Chats with Linus Torvalds

LinuxConFor many LinuxCon attendees, one of the biggest event highlights is the opportunity to rub elbows with the people who actually write the Linux code. The only thing that can top that? Hearing from Linus Torvalds himself, the man who created it 24 years ago and still writes the code to this day.

At this year’s LinuxCon 2015 fireside chat, Linus sat down with Dirk Hohndel, Chief Linux and Open Source Technologist at Intel, to talk about everything from Linux containers to Dublin bus drivers. Here are a few of his most memorable comments from the discussion.

On kernel security:

I’m sure we could do better, but we have a fair amount of tools to do static checking for common patterns--and we haven’t had anyone say this is unfixable, rewrite it all. Don’t get me wrong, security people will always be unhappy. But the kernel poses special challenges, because any bug can be a security bug. We also have to keep in mind that most of the kernel is drivers, a big chunk of the rest is architecture specific, and there are 25 million lines of code. So it’s really hard to have people go over it; we have to rely on automated testing and on tools. There are too many lines in too many obscure places for humans to really check.


On containers:

I enjoy all the buzzwords. And I enjoy not having to care.

On maintainer teams:

We’re getting lots of contributors, but we have more trouble finding maintainers. Probably because the maintainer’s job is to read emails seven days a week. Forever. That’s why we’re pushing for maintainer teams as much as possible. It lessens the steps to becoming a maintainer if you’re not the only one.

On ARM architecture:

I’m happy to see that ARM is making progress. One of these days, I will actually have a machine with ARM. They said it would be this year, but maybe it’ll be next year. 2016 will be the year of the ARM laptop.

On Dublin bus drivers:

They’re coming at you from the wrong side of the road. They’re trying to kill you! If I can survive this trip, I think I can make it a few more years.

On user space versus kernel space:

For a long time, I’ve said that user space should be the most interesting thing. The kernel is just the infrastructure, the roadway. And who’s really interested in the tarmac? It’s only odd and dysfunctional people like me. I’m perfectly happy doing infrastructure, but I’m always surprised that others are interested in it.

On the next Linus project:

I’d hate for there to have to be a next Linus project. When I created Linux and Git, I was in a situation where no one else was providing what I needed. I don’t want to be in that situation again; I’d much rather coast along and be lazy. Anytime I need to start a new project, that’s a failure for the rest of the world.

On the next 25 years of Linux:

Linux did everything I expected it to do in the first six months, everything that came after was about other people solving new and interesting problems. Linux is all these crazy people doing crazy things I never imagined. It’s going to be interesting to see what others will do with it in the next 25 years.

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