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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, 2014