Is Linus Even Speaking for Linux Anymore? Uh... Yes.

by chromatic

In a weblog on CNet, Don Reisinger asks Is Linus Torvalds even speaking for Linux anymore?

The question reminds me of a famous retort by Charles Babbage. I'm sure you can find it, and it's immaterial. What Mr. Reisinger said is more important:

Because although Torvalds has his own belief about what Linux is and should be going forward, the vast majority of its users disagree. Let's face it -- if it were up to Torvalds, beauty and intuition would take a backseat to functionality. But when you look at distributions like Ubuntu or OpenSuse, it looks like no one is paying attention.

As a reminder, gentle reader, almost every time someone says "face it", you can discount the paragraph as a whole. Still, it's occasionally important to explore why an argument is wrong.

First, I doubt that Mr. Reisinger asked most Linux users what Linux is and should be. I'm not sure that he asked any. It's awfully dangerous to put forth such a strong postulate without evidence.

Why am I so certain that Mr. Reisinger made up that figure? Particularly with regard to the use of Linux as part of free desktop operating systems, distributions such as Ubuntu and SUSE are the users.

The question then becomes "Do distributions pull the kernels they use from Linus's tree?" If so, then it follows that they pay attention to Linus's views on Linux.

While many distributions do apply patches to the vanilla kernel, I can think of few patches that aren't at least likely to go into Linus's tree at some point in the near future. (Many patches have historically been backports from a newer version of the tree.)

Now perhaps Mr. Reisinger wants to start a conversation about the entire free software desktop stack (or more properly, stacks). I'm not sure it's possible to do that without a fuller understanding of what exactly encompasses the free desktop stack. As you might expect from Linus's original comments, his view of what an operating system is and does is very, very different from the assumption of certain people who don't know what exactly Linus works on and its place in a much larger ecosystem.


10 Comments

joshuadfranklin
2008-02-08 16:13:17
Fedora's goal is to run absolutely as close to upstream as possible, with Fedora 9 there is a plan to have a tool that will build and install the kernel.org as your default kernel. So yes.
Aristotle Pagaltzis
2008-02-08 18:19:25
I found it pretty darn funny the response that Linus comments got.


I mean the guy went on stage to say that yeah, MacOS#160;X is a great system, overall, but in some aspects such as the file system, it’s scarily crappy.


And everyone gets on his case about how the MacOS X desktop has much better usability than any of the Linux desktops.


Uhm.


Hello?


Isn’t that precisely what Linus said?


I can conclude only that everyone likes hearing themselves talk too much to let that get in the way of comprehension.

Johnny Hughes
2008-02-09 03:47:27
Good take
W. Anderson
2008-02-09 09:55:19
I responded to Mr.Reisinger's story on same precept, as it was clear to me that his analysis and assumptions were devoid of any facts or real technical knowledge of GNU/Linux ecosystem, particularly of the developers and users.


The unfortunate increase of articles based on false premises and unfounded (particularly unsubstantiated) criticism of Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) and model, especially by many "so-called" technology journalists is quite disturbing, which has prompted me as a concerned FOSS community participant to finally speak out against all this stupidity and veiled Microsoft FUD marketing.


Thanks for your insightful input, which hopefully will provide some common sense and technically reasonable perspective to the rhetoric forthcoming from know-nots, and divert conversation to the "concrete" and important issues of FOSS technology.


W. Anderson
wanderson@nac.net

W. Anderson
2008-02-09 10:04:23
The comment by Asistotle demonstrated his lack of knowledge about many aspects of technology, since it is not only possible but actual/factual that an "operating system", particularly it's Desktp/Graphical User Interface (GUI) can be very good, but based on a less than stellar file system - which comprises only one part of the whole. This demonstrates clearly the overall level of ignorance expressed by many more people writing technology articles as well as comments
to articles.


W. Anderson
wanderson@nac.net

Robert
2008-02-09 11:16:43
Linus criticized the file system and I can agree. I think that is probably one motivation for Apple pursuing ZFS for its file system (which I seriously hope they are doing).
chromatic
2008-02-09 11:58:36
@W. Anderson,


I think you may have misinterpreted what Aristotle wrote. You two seem to be in agreement to me.

Aristotle Pagaltzis
2008-02-10 13:16:42
Yes - I don’t know how Mr. Anderson managed to read the opposite of what I said into what I said, but be that as it may, my comment was in agreement with the post.
Robuka Kenderle
2008-02-11 18:11:15
I think that the article's comments section had about 3-4 amazing replies and that seem to have take more time to write than this.


Reisinger has cojones, I give him that. He isnt afraid to come out and speak his mind on topics but some Linuxhead at CNET should tell him honestly that the whole article was embarassing. THis wasnt a Enderle hatchet job which is carefully crafted with plenty of red herrings and other language judo. This seemed like an article based on cliches and stereotypes.


Reisinger just seemed clueless. And about so many things. Sort of like me going to Macworld and talking about their software when my last reference to their products were there horrible OS 8 and 9.
Yuo know the saying about keeping your mouth shut and people might think youre an idiot but if you open it, you confirm it?
That was Reisinger.



As for your does Linux speak for Linux?
Its a 'yes BUT'...
He does not 'speak' for this thing called Linux, he is one of the voices of the movement but not its final decider. Except for one part, the Linux kernel (if you dont undestand kernel, desktop GUI and distros, you should talk about this) where he is god and master and even he claims in that Australian video that "If Torvalds Quit Linux Would Anyone Notice?" that there are capable people like Morton and so on.
But he has very little say in the part Reisinger was getting all wet over, the user interface.
He doesnt seem to understand that Torvalds doesnt have a say in KDE, GNOME, X, Englightment, etc and even less in the distros.
He doesnt control what goes into a Tivo or in cell phones or other technologies.
That part shows a total lack of understanding the dynamics of GNU/Linux (god, if we had to explain to hims the GNU tools, I think his head would explode!)


Linux speaks for the Linux kernel and in an overall sense, his word is still important because he is the originator. But when it comes to distros, there are the flyboys from Ubuntu and other companies (Red Hat and so on) who are listened to more closely than Torvalds. Same thing with KDE, GNOME.
When Linus speaks though people could believe that this is a "l'etat c'est moi' control over all the aspects of the OS a la Jobs, where Linus gets to decide the colors of the wallpaper, or position of task bars and which eye candy from Compiz/Beryl to use to make it look 'cool'.
But Linus has left the movement stronger because of this decentralization.
Tell me, whats gonna happen to Apple when Jobs dies?
Heck, what happened to them when he left last time?
Now, what would happen if Torvalds would die? *I cant speak for the kernel work as its above much of what I know in coding but if the level of work stayed the same, I think that the answer is very little for the end user.
And that to me is his greatest legacy.


Anyways, it could be Reisinger was just following the time honoured tradition of trolling for page hits, in which case here:
http://blogs.cnet.com/8301-13506_1-9866862-17.html
I doubt any writer in his right mind would want to willingly embarass himself like this but its really worth a laugh and some replies are better than what we find in some tech blogs or rebuttals.


ikaruga
2008-02-12 06:42:24
From what I gather, Linus' complaint is about unnecessary eye candy on the desktop. This is why Vista is sucks --- lot's of useless eye candy that takes up precious system resources. Mac OS sucks for another reason according to Linus... Reisenger's mistake is that he equates user-friendliness with eye candy.