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Nikolai Bezroukov. Portraits of Open Source Pioneers
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Phil: How much of the code in the kernel is still yours?
Linus: Umm.. Very little when it comes to the number of lines. What's still ``mine'' is the mm/*.c, kernel/*.c, fs/*.c (only the BVFS code, not the specific filesystem stuff) and parts of the x86 and alpha-specific low-level architecture files.
Even those parts have much of the code contributed by others, but the basic stuff is still pretty closely under my control. It's essentially all of the really basic stuff---things that everything else depends on.
There are lots of things I haven't really even touched: most of the device drivers are totally written by others, and while they sometimes are based on stuff I have written they really aren't mine any more. Same goes for a lot of the filesystem code.
The networking has been completely written by others, although I've touched some of it.
In lines of code, I probably am responsible for about 10% these days. That's just a rough guess, I haven't really taken a look.
Phil: How (or maybe why) does project management work? That is, Linux is a huge effort and it continues to progress very well. How is this cooperation possible?
Linus: Most of it happens automatically---people who are doing things for fun do things the right way by themselves. That said, I do work 8 hours a day (and that's just about minimum) on Linux, and most of the time goes to administrative things, mostly email. And it's not as if I'm the only ``manager''---there are others who manage their own subsystems and then send me already cleaned-up patches (notably when it comes to networking).
Phil: Is there any expertise lacking? Is there something or someone that, if available, would make development go better?
Linus:I think we're doing pretty well. I need longer days (and nights!), but there isn't anything specific we really need. Lots of areas needing work, and lots of developers that don't have enough time, but we can't really complain.
Phil: We asked this before, but the answer may have changed. What, if anything, did you do wrong in Linux development. (When Ken Thompson was asked this about Unix he said he left the ``e'' off the ``creat'' system call. Is there something that you would do different?
Linus: I'll be arrogant and say ``nothing''. I think that's the same answer as last time. I've made lots of mistakes, but that's okay and normal, and the kernel is the better for it---it tends to only help make the corrected version more robust. And I've obviously conned a lot of people to work for free on this project!
Gena: What keeps you motivated (i.e., why do you keep on doin' what you do)?
Linus: It's a very interesting project, and I get to sit there like a spider in its web, looking at the poor new users struggling with it. Mwbhahahhaaahaaa..
No, seriously, what kept me going initially after I had ``completed'' my first test-versions of Linux back in '91 was the enthusiasm of people, and knowing people find my work interesting and fun, and that there are people out there depending on me. That's still true today.
And it really is technically interesting too---still, after these five years. New challenges, new things people need or find interesting. But the community is really what keeps me going.
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Last modified: January 11, 2013