Top [Expletive] Linus Torvalds Rants

Ol' Linus is at it again. Outspoken Linux creator Linus Torvalds last week, in his usual imitable style, blasted a volunteer developer for not fixing a problem and basically "fired" the guy from further contributions.

"I'm [expletive] tired of the fact that you don't fix problems in the code *you* write, so that the kernel then has to work around the problems you cause," Torvalds wrote in a message to engineer Kay Sievers on a Linux mailing list.

Torvalds then addressed another contributor:

"I will *not* be merging any code from Kay into the kernel until this constant pattern is fixed.

"This has been going on for *years*, and doesn't seem to be getting any better."

According to reports, Sievers, who works for Red Hat, was working on some code related to the Linux kernel, which Torvalds still oversees some 23 years after he created the open source OS. The code in question didn't work correctly with the kernel and Sievers was apparently remiss in correcting it. Torvalds continued:

"I am *not* willing to take patches from people who don't clean up after their problems, and don't admit that it's their problem to fix.

Kay -- one more time: you caused the problem, you need to fix it. None of this 'I can do whatever I want, others have to clean up after me' crap."

You just don't see this kind of public interaction in these days of sugar-coated management treacle. As he often has, Torvalds pretty much stands alone. In fact, this latest rant isn't even that bad. Following are some past classics from the cantankerous, curmudgeonly coder.

Nvidia, [expletive] you!

In June 2012, at a developer meeting in his native Finland, a cameraman caught Torvalds going off on the chip manufacturer Nvidia after an audience member complained about having to write a Linux driver for an Nvidia graphics card. Torvalds responded:

"Nvidia has been the single worst company we've ever dealt with."

Torvalds then turned to the camera and exclaimed, "So Nvidia, [expletive] you!" and flipped the bird. The audience loved it.

Linus Torvalds
Linus Torvalds communicating with Nvidia
(source: YouTube screenshot)

Who the [expletive] cares? Really?

In December 2011, Torvalds responded to a pull request concerning kexec, a Linux system call which has to do with loading a kernel and booting into another kernel. For those not familiar with open source software development and the Git system (which, coincidentally, Torvalds also invented), a pull request is a way to submit contributions to a project.

Torvalds declined the pull request and responded, in part, with the following:

"Quite frankly, I think it's too late for something like a kexec bugfix. Nobody cares. So kexec doesn't work -- that's not something new. This doesn't smell like a regression to me. And the kcalloc things you mention *sound* like some kind of cleanup crap.

"By now, I want fixes that either fix real regressions that people *care* about, or that help new unreleased hardware that people *will* care about and that cannot possibly mess up old users.

"kexec? Who the [expletive] cares? Really?"

Mauro, SHUT THE [EXPLETIVE] UP! Fix your [expletive] 'compliance tool'

In December 2012, Torvalds engaged in messages with a developer named Mauro about a problem with the PulseAudio cross-platform network sound server. Mauro remarked about a loop condition and said it sounded like a bug in PulseAudio. Torvalds disagreed. Some of the highlights:


"It's a bug alright -- in the kernel. How long have you been a maintainer? And you *still* haven't learnt the first rule of kernel maintenance?

"Shut up, Mauro. And I don't _ever_ want to hear that kind of obvious garbage and idiocy from a kernel maintainer again. Seriously.

Fix your [expletive] 'compliance tool,' because it is obviously broken. And fix your approach to kernel programming."

What the [EXPLETIVE], guys?

In July 2013, Torvalds responded to a developer's commit, or revision to code, this one related to "Guarantee IDT page alignment":

"What the [EXPLETIVE], guys?

"This piece-of-[expletive] commit is marked for stable, but you clearly never even test-compiled it, did you?

"And why the hell was this marked for stable even *IF* it hadn't been complete and utter tripe? It even has a comment in the commit message about how this probably doesn't matter. So it's doubly crap: it's *wrong*, and it didn't actually fix anything to begin with.

"There aren't enough swear-words in the English language, so now I'll have to call you perkeleen vittupää just to express my disgust and frustration with this crap."

Not [expletive] cool

There was much more to the discussion, and one developer finally had enough. Sarah Sharp accused Torvalds of advocating for physical intimidation and violence:

"Seriously, guys? Is this what we need in order to get improve -stable? Linus Torvalds is advocating for physical intimidation and violence. Ingo Molnar and Linus are advocating for verbal abuse.

"Not [expletive] cool. Violence, whether it be physical intimidation, verbal threats or verbal abuse is not acceptable. Keep it professional on the mailing lists."

Sharp and Torvalds then went back and forth about the issue. Sharp concluded one message thusly:

"I've been through verbal abuse before. I won't take that [expletive] from you, or any of the other Linux kernel developers. Tell me, politely, what I have done wrong, and I will fix it. You don't need to SHOUT, call me names, or tell me to SHUT THE [EXPLETIVE] UP!

"I'm not the only one that won't take verbal abuse. Stop abusing your developers."

I've had enough

Sharp was right about not being the only one who wouldn't take verbal abuse from Torvalds.

Some four years earlier, a developer named Alan Cox had enough of the abuse and up and quit, telling Torvalds to fix the problem himself. Torvalds had criticized Cox for not fixing a problem. "Trying to blame kernel breakage on the app being 'buggy' is not ok," Torvalds wrote. "And arguing for almost a week against fixing it -- that's just crazy."

But Cox wasn't having any of it:

"I've been working on fixing it. I have spent a huge amount of time working on the tty stuff trying to gradually get it sane without breaking anything and fixing security holes along the way as they came up. I spent the past two evenings working on the tty regressions.

"However I've had enough. If you think that problem is easy to fix, you fix it.

"Have fun.

"I've zapped the tty merge queue so anyone with patches for the tty layer can send them to the new maintainer."

I can sympathize with Cox. I've actually walked out on more than one job because I didn't take verbal abuse from anyone (not something I'd recommend to others, by the way -- notice I used past tense). How these people keep working with Torvalds as volunteers is beyond me.

Slashdot people usually are smelly

At least Torvalds doesn't save his venom for fellow coders on the Linux project. In April 2006, he remarked that "I got slashdotted! Yay!" He went on:

"I also claim that Slashdot people usually are smelly and eat their boogers, and have an IQ slightly lower than my daughter's pet hamster (that's 'hamster' without a 'p,' btw, for any slashdot posters out there. Try to follow me, ok?).

"Furthermore, I claim that anybody that hasn't noticed by now that I'm an opinionated bastard, and that 'impolite' is my middle name, is lacking a few clues.

"Finally, it's clear that I'm not only the smartest person around, I'm also incredibly good-looking, and that my infallible charm is also second only to my becoming modesty.

"So there. Just to clarify.

"- Linus 'bow down before me, you scum' Torvalds"

Clearly Torvalds doesn't lack a sense of humor. And, reading and watching more about him, he doesn't seem to be that bad of a guy. Steve Jobs was known to have a thorny personality himself, and the Apple fanbois still revere him. And Torvalds is humorous and forthright about his personality quirks, unlike Jobs.

I actually find Torvalds kind of refreshing, in a way -- at least in contrast to that human resource-approved, politically correct, touchy-feely, managements-speak pap you find everywhere these days. Like, someone screws up, and they hear something like: "And this incident presents us with the opportunity to explore together tools and resources that can be leveraged in the future to better ensure a safe, productive and enabling work environment with a minimum of distractions, resulting in improved performance and task effectiveness going forward."

Here is Torvalds' take on the issue (part of the Sharp exchange):

Because if you want me to 'act professional,' I can tell you that I'm not interested. I'm sitting in my home office wearing a bathrobe. The same way I'm not going to start wearing ties, I'm *also* not going to buy into the fake politeness, the lying, the office politics and backstabbing, the passive aggressiveness, and the buzzwords. Because THAT is what 'acting professionally' results in: people resort to all kinds of really nasty things because they are forced to act out their normal urges in unnatural ways."

You can find a bunch more good stuff from Torvalds at Wikiquote.

What do you think of Linus Torvalds' communication style? Please comment here or drop me a line. But not you, Linus -- this is a family-oriented site.

Posted by David Ramel on April 9, 20140 comments

Cloudera, Hortonworks and MapR Fight for Hadoop Supremacy

Who's going to win, Cloudera, Hortonworks or MapR? All three are battling for Hadoop supremacy in terms of prominent customers, funding and market share.

The latest blow was figuratively struck by Cloudera as Intel yesterday announced it was quitting on its own distribution and joining forces with the Hadoop pioneer.

On the prominent customer front, Hortonworks has been quick to trumpet its own customer successes, as when it announced last September that the popular music service Spotify was coming on board by choosing the Hortonworks Data Platform. What Hortonworks didn't say was that Spotify was switching from Cloudera. Well, kinda. There was that one empty blog post on the Hortonworks site that proclaimed, "Spotify Embraces Hortonworks, Dumps Cloudera," in an apparent reference to a news article headline. A month earlier, Hortonworks touted an alliance with Linux giant Red Hat. Meanwhile, MapR this month let everyone know it landed new customer Rocket Internet. OK, maybe all the new customers weren't that prominent.

On the funding front, things have been fast and furious lately. Just this week, Hortonworks announced a $100 million round of funding, countering Cloudera's announcement the week before of a $160 million round of its own, right about the same time MapR closed on a $30 million score.

In the market share battle, the three Hadoop vendors are vying for the biggest piece of what's expected by some to be nearly a $14 billion pie by 2017. Another report predicted the total Big Data market would be some $51 billion by then.

All three were named as "leaders" in a recent Forrester Wave report, which noted that "Hadoop solution vendors face a cutthroat market." And no one can be said to be winning the war yet, according to Forrester, which stated, "We saw lots of leaders, but none dominate." All three scored the same in "global presence and installed base." In a chart, they were all closely grouped together, with Hortonworks having an edge in strategy and MapR having an edge in the strength of each vendor's "current offering," where it led all comers overall. The report can be accessed by filling out a form on the MapR site. And although MapR led in the evaluation of products, Forrester said it lagged badly in market awareness.

Last fall, research firm IDC reported in a study titled "Trends in Enterprise Hadoop Deployments" that "the three leading suppliers -- Cloudera, MapR and Hortonworks -- dominate the enterprise Hadoop scene." IDC said Cloudera led in a survey asking respondents what Hadoop distribution they used. Cloudera was named by nearly 25 percent of respondents, followed by MapR at just more than 20 percent and Hortonworks at about 16 percent. The report can be accessed from the Red Hat site.

I found another statistic interesting. Last month, Hadoop contributor and software engineer Akira Ajisaka reported on "The Activities of the Apache Hadoop Community," wherein he detailed who was doing what in Hadoop code contributions. He studied project commit logs and its JIRA repository. In reporting on the number of lines of code changed in 2012 and 2013, Hortonworks was the clear leader, with more than twice the number of lines changed as the No. 2 contributor, Cloudera. MapR didn't make the list as an individual contributor, but the report did include an "others" category that totaled more than Cloudera's contribution.

So, by the looks of things, the war is heating up, and no one is sure about who will emerge on top -- or even if anyone will emerge as a clear leader. Forrester said as much in its report, offering only: "The Hadoop buying cycle is on the upswing, and the Hadoop vendors know it. Pure-play upstarts must capture market share quickly to make venture investors happy; stalwart enterprise software vendors must avoid being disintermediated; and cloud vendors must make their solutions cheaper."

It should be fun to watch things play out.

Posted by David Ramel on March 28, 20140 comments

Pat McGovern Did It Right

Forgive me, for this has nothing to do with software development--it has to do with the passing of Pat McGovern, an extraordinary man I once knew.

What made him extraordinary? Not enough room here, but following are a few personal remembrances of the multi-billionaire founder and chairman of IDG and trailblazing tech journalism visionary. Think of it as a lesson in leadership and how to do things right.

When I worked at the seminal IDG tech publication, probably the favorite time of year for me and all the others was holiday time, when "Uncle Pat" would come around and visit with each and every one of us, no matter what their rank or station. He would go from office to office, cubicle to cubicle. He would chat with each of us, bringing into the conversation our kids' names, ages, interests and other bits of personal information.

Sure, we knew he had been briefed by all the managers, and that he had an amazing photographic memory so it was easy for him to summon up these hundreds of details at will. That wasn't the point. The point was that he had billions of dollars, and in his 70s, he didn't have to do this grind anymore. But he did it. I heard he did it for every employee in every company. Now, I don't think that's physically possible with the size the IDG empire had grown to--more than 300 publications and 450 Web sites--but that's what people said.

I do know he did it for a lot of his companies, and I can't imagine the time and effort involved. The man's stamina was incredible. It would take nearly a full day just to go through our office alone. I don't think I could've done it.

Of course, the best part of those visits was at the end when we could stop sweating about saying something stupid to the man and he would shake our hands and give each of us a holiday card, with five crisp $100 bills inside.

That's one of the reasons we would've tried to run through a wall for the man and probably why so many good people stayed so long there and worked so hard.

And when you stayed, you were rewarded. Near my 10-year anniversary, he sent a limo to take me and few other veterans to dinner at a luxury hotel in Boston. He greeted us inside the lobby with flowers for the ladies and he pinned a boutineer on my lapel.

He then treated us to some of the best food and wine money could buy--and fascinating dinner conversation money could never buy.

From administrative assistants to chief editors, everybody got picked up in the limo and treated to dinner. We were given cards admitting us into membership of his exclusive club and told we could call him personally whenever we needed to. Who does that?

And his vision. That's obvious when you start from your home office and build something the size of IDG, but he was always thinking ahead, in ways large and small. He was way ahead of nearly everyone about the opportunities in China. I read today that he made over 100 trips there to pave the way for business.

Another less well-known initiative has stuck with me for years. It happened at the height of the tech crash, when the dot-com bubble burst and tech companies and media outlets that covered them were folding faster than you could track.

In the middle of this, when everyone was retrenching and cutting costs, I was picked to attend a seminar where employees were given a couple days off to think about how they could help improve things at their companies in innovative ways, no matter what their job was. Sure, I knew it was an ongoing program and managers had to periodically pick employees to attend these retreats, so I was nothing special. But, in the midst of this economic downturn, I remember that at least one attendee was flown in from Europe. Who does that?

The people running the program, instilled with his philosophy and values, were thinking ahead. He had seen ups and downs before and he knew this too would pass and he needed bright, innovative and dedicated workers to beat the competition in the next upturn of the business cycle.

He said as much in a gathering held to rally the troops when rumors were running rampant that our dinosaur publication was going to be shut down. I've seen it all before, he said. Things will get better. You people work for my very first publication--my baby, so to speak--and I'm not going to shut you down. Keep working, keep improving the product, keep flying out to cover the conferences and talk to users, keep your chins up.

Now, after yesterday's news, who will do that?

Posted by David Ramel on March 20, 20140 comments