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Interview: Ask Linus Torvalds a Question 383

samzenpus writes: Linus Torvalds, the man behind the development of the Linux kernel, needs no introduction to Slashdot readers. Recently, we talked about his opinion on C++, and he talked about the future of Linux when he's gone. It's been a while since we sat down with Linus to ask him questions, so he's agreed to do it again and answer any you may have. Ask as many questions as you'd like, but please keep them to one per post.
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Interview: Ask Linus Torvalds a Question

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  • by Art Popp ( 29075 ) * on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:18PM (#49986757)

    When you've handed over the rei(g)ns for Linux, will there be other worlds worth conquering?

    [Please say AI... Please!]

  • Laptops (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:22PM (#49986807)

    Why do you think its still near-impossible to buy a laptop with Linux preinstalled?

    • by swv3752 ( 187722 )

      Really? Let's ignore the fact taht just about any modern laptop will support Linux with maybe needing to download some Video drivers (or with Optimus, changing a setting in BIOS to disable the dual Optimus setting)
      http://www.dell.com/us/p/inspi... [dell.com]

      https://www.google.com/search?... [google.com]

      Not as many Windows laptops, but plenty out there.

    • by dargaud ( 518470 )
      Get a Dell. The Linux option is well hidden on their site, but I had no problem getting an M6700 with tons of funky options (keyboard different from the country I ordered it from). We order Linux laptops from them at work, but I also did as a private customer. Yeah, I know, Dell is not sexy, but all the Linux laptop companies (System76 and others) couldn't get me what I wanted (I'm not in the US).
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Does it even matter that you can't easily buy a laptop with Linux pre-installed?

  • Productivity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:27PM (#49986865)

    You've somehow managed to originate two insanely useful pieces of software: Linux, and Git.

    Do you think there's anything in your work habits, your approach to choosing projects, etc., that have helped you achieve that level of productivity? Or is it just the traditional combination of talent, effort, and luck?

    • Do you think fit and the Linux kernel expose an underlying thought process in your internal engineering skills and processes?
    • Wait... you left out subsurface!

      What I'd like to know is... what else is up your sleeve?

    • Linus - My observation is that folks who're blindingly successful have a degree of asshole-ness to them. Jobs, Gates, Musk, Torvalds. Probably the US founding fathers, and Einstein and Edison. All the right degree of 'f em, I know what needs to be done.' Is that a correct assessment of you? do you have an external face, and one that is the more real you, or are you an asshole through and through?
    • I would also add:

      Git is wonderful for text files but horrible for (large) binary files. Will git ever be patched or re-architectured to allow it to handle large binary files better instead of them clogging up the history?

  • What are your thoughts on why it is that Linux doesn't have a higher adoption rate?
    • Re:Adoption (Score:4, Insightful)

      by hitchhacker ( 122525 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @02:34PM (#49987759) Homepage

      What are your thoughts on why it is that Linux doesn't have a higher adoption rate?

      You might want to limit that question to some subset like just "desktops". afaik, Linux still has the highest install base of any operating system: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

    • Why didn't Google package a reasonable update agent within Android, and is this having a deleterious effect upon other Linux markets?

      Would it have been possible for Google to deploy an updatable kernel with proprietary vendor modules? If so, why did they not do this?

      I am still able to use towelroot to take control of several brands of Android phones (as can any app I load - silently). Should pressure and pain be brought to bear, or should we let Google continue to bring Windows 95-era security to Linux?

      Or,

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:28PM (#49986881)

    Do you think Valve is capable of making Linux a primary choice for gamers?

  • Do you think (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:29PM (#49986897)

    Do you think Lennart Poettering is a malicious egotistical asshole, or just a misguided fool who starts things but never finishes them?

  • by nurhussein ( 864532 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:29PM (#49986899) Homepage
    According to Thomas Gleixner, the future of the realtime patchset to Linux is in doubt [1], as it is difficult to secure funding from interested parties on this functionality even though it is both useful and important:

    What are your thoughts on this, and what do you think we need to do to get more support behind the RT patchset, especially considering Linux's increasing use in embedded systems where realtime functionality is undoubtedly useful.

    [1] https://lwn.net/Articles/604695/
  • by Endloser ( 1170279 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:34PM (#49986953)
    So you've mentioned the Linux project should be fine should you choose to go. How long do think you'll be in the game for? Is this a hint that something is coming?
  • systemd (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Major Blud ( 789630 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:36PM (#49986991) Homepage

    systemd.....why?

    • by Zan Lynx ( 87672 )

      I'm sure Linus has systemd opinions but I doubt he can answer "Why" because he didn't write it. Linux the kernel doesn't care what you run as init. It can run /bin/sh as init (sort of).

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Major Blud ( 789630 )

        Maybe, but when you have something that prevents you from properly debugging said kernel, it may be a problem:

        https://bugs.freedesktop.org/s... [freedesktop.org]

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        The full question is, "Linus, why haven't you spoken out against systemd now that it's obvious that it has some serious flaws that will likely never be fixed, that it's tearing apart the Linux community, and that it is destroying the trust that so many people have in Linux distributions?"

        Linus has a lot of clout and influence within the greater Linux community. Yet when this community is facing its greatest existential threats ever, even worse than any threat that Microsoft or SCO may have posed, we've hear

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Linus, how will you handle it when systemd comes into eventual direct conflict with the Linux kernel?

  • by Michael Battaglia ( 3411373 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:39PM (#49987029)
    Star Trek Original Series or The Next Generation?
  • Systemd (Score:5, Funny)

    by PvtVoid ( 1252388 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:39PM (#49987035)

    Systemd: as bad as Hitler, or as bad as killing puppies?

  • State of GUI (Score:2, Interesting)

    by toopok4k3 ( 809683 )
    Since you apparently still use just mail, text editor and git from command line for work, did we get graphical user interfaces completely wrong? Is there something fundamentally broken in GUI systems(or their design(ers))?
  • by Wattos ( 2268108 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:42PM (#49987075)

    If you were to build linux again, what would be the one most important thing you would do differently

  • Systemd (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ThatsNotPudding ( 1045640 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:44PM (#49987113)
    Why have you been so passive and uncaring about the obvious Trojan Horse of systemd? No concern about the increasing domination by one company (Red Hat)? Seriously?
  • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:45PM (#49987135)
    The most complex program running on a machine is arguably its OS, especially the kernel. Linux (kernel) reached the top level in terms of performance, reliability and versatility. You have been criticized quite a few times for some virulent mails addressed to developers. Do you think Linux would be where it is without managing the project with an iron fist? To go further, do you think some other main OSS project would beneficiate from a more rigorous management approach?
  • by EmeraldBot ( 3513925 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:47PM (#49987155)

    While historically you've been a C and Assembly guy (and the odd shell scripting and such), what do you think of functional languages such as Lisp, Closure, Haskell, etc? Do you see any advantages to them, or do you view them as frivolous and impractical?

    If you decide to do so, thanks for taking the time to answer my question! You're a legend at what you do, and I think it's awesome that the significantly less interesting me can ask you a question like this.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      I'm surprised there are not more programming questions.

      Q: Is sizeof() *really* a function?

      Also, was defining tabs as 8 spaces just an attempt to drive adoption of widescreen monitor technology?

    • This is close enough to the question I had in mind that I've decided to comment on this thread instead. My question would have been phrased as: Do you ever see yourself wanting to do kernel programming in something other than C and assembly?

      Particularly I'm wondering if he has any interest in Rust or Go, since they are actually targeting themselves at lower levels. I doubt he'd want to put Haskell in the kernel; whereas he might have different opinions about it outside that domain. Of course hopefully h

  • init system (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lorinc ( 2470890 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:48PM (#49987175) Homepage Journal

    There wasn't a decent unix-like kernel, you wrote one which ultimately became the most used.

    There wasn't a decent version control software, you wrote one which ultimately became the most love.

    Do you think we already have a decent init system, or do you have plan to write one that will ultimately settle the world on that hot topic?

  • Nvidia (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lorinc ( 2470890 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:53PM (#49987223) Homepage Journal

    Did your "fuck you" opinion on Nvidia changed lately? (and why)

  • by psergiu ( 67614 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:53PM (#49987225)
    Please release a updated version of the "Hello, this is Linus Torvalds, and I pronounce Linux as Linux" audio file.

    cat torvalds-says-linux.au > /dev/audio no longer works correctly with the latest Linux kernel.

    ( http://www.paul.sladen.org/pro... [sladen.org] for whoever wanders )

    Also we would not mind of a re-shot of the 1990 "beer" photos :)

  • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:54PM (#49987251)
    Mr. Torvalds,

    For many uses of Linux such as on the desktop, other software beyond the kernel and the base GNU tools are required. What other projects would you like to see given priority, and what would you like to see implemented or improved?

    Admittedly I thought most about X-Windows when asking this question; but I don't doubt that other daemons or systems can be just as important to the user experience.

    Thank you for your efforts all these years.
  • by Zan Lynx ( 87672 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @01:57PM (#49987265) Homepage

    What big new feature or driver do you want to see added to Linux next?

  • With the removal of very old hardware support, and the reduction in the number of interfaces - we're really down to SATA, USB, and HDMI - do you see the size of the kernel starting to go down in a significant way at some point?
  • by mlts ( 1038732 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @02:07PM (#49987393)

    During the early days of Linux, UMSDOSfs was a quite useful tool, being able to superimpose UNIX file names and ACLs on top of a vanilla FAT filesystem.

    With devices that might need to restrict access, but still require FAT32 because of interoperability concerns, would a variant of UMSDOS that works on this filesystem ever be feasible? Take Android for instance. The only way to keep app "A" and app "B" separated when they are granted access to an external SD card is by using SELinux rules (which the default pretty much denies access.) Having the ability to enforce permissions while still preserving interoperability of SD cards would be very useful.

  • Linus,

    If you were pressed against a wall and absolutely forced to name an operating environment that has potential to succeed today's Linux systems in terms of adaptability, flexibility, and popularity -- what project(s) would you name? Alternatively, if you cannot think of anything that is presently deprecated, in development, or in production... would you be able to articulate a broad set of standards that may facilitate the creation of a viable competitor?

    The question is as broad-based as it sounds, with

  • by jones_supa ( 887896 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @02:13PM (#49987477)
    Especially now that Steam is on Linux, are there any big cool games that you play or at least have tried?
  • by staalmannen ( 1705340 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @02:15PM (#49987499)
    What do you think about the "anykernel" concept (invented by another Finn btw) used in NetBSD? Basically, they have modularized the code so that a driver can be built either in a monolithic kernel or for user space without source code changes ( rumpkernel.org ). The drivers are highly portable and used in Genode os (L4 type kernels), minix etc... Would this be possible or desirable for Linux? Apparently there is one attempt called "libos"...
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      L4.X2 implementor here -- I regard "anykernel" drivers as wack shit because they introduce a rigid API between driver and operating system. Furthermore driver portability is generally nowhere near as big an issue as the per-driver runtime environment, and it is in this area that tiny microkernels excel: aside from states related to the IPC mechanism (e.g. leaving an interrupt unacknowledged and therefore plugged), there are very few special modes of execution in microkernel userspace beyond those that softw

  • Now that minix has seen some proper development and its latest versions have a useful amount of netbsd packages, where would you like to see it in a few years? Do you consider it an old friend or foe and what do you think its targets should be? And finally, if, in the long run, minix proves to be THE better option for everything, will you turn into an old grumpy fart or do you see yourself as somebody who could possibly even contribute code?

  • by Jon Abbott ( 723 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @02:26PM (#49987651) Homepage

    I don't have a question for Linus Torvalds, but I do have a story about asking Linus Torvalds a question. Back when I first started using Linux in 1995, I couldn't get the 'top' utility to run after a kernel update. I was only a kid at the time, and for whatever reason I figured the best approach was to just email Linus Torvalds himself to ask how to fix it. Little did I realize that would have been like emailing Bill Gates for help because a driver didn't install correctly on Windows. Surprisingly, Linus wrote back and explained that I needed to update my version of procps (or whatever it was called at the time). Linus, if you are reading this comment, I'd like to say thanks again for the tech support. ;^)

  • by allquixotic ( 1659805 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @02:33PM (#49987743)

    In the 20th century, humanity took a transformational step forward when it "went interplanetary". This impacted billions of lives and changed everyone's perspective about our role in the universe.

    A lot of bad stuff happened, too -- weaponization of nuclear energy; oppressive governments; new tools like computers being twisted to serve repressive governments rather than the common man; continual and destructive wars; accelerating destruction of the environment and natural resources; etc.

    If there's one objective -- one imperative with a positive end-goal that will transform humanity, or at least the way we think about ourselves, in a good way -- that the current and next generation should focus on, what objective do you think that should be?

    In short, what should be our next moonshot as a global society? I say global because I believe any objective worth achieving at this scale cannot be accomplished even by a small cadre of very powerful advanced industrial nations. We would need truly global support for any initiative on the scale I'm talking about.

  • by nullchar ( 446050 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @02:36PM (#49987789)

    You post publicly on both Google+ [google.com] and the LKML [lkml.org]. Some of your posts get a lot of attention on G+ like naming the next version 3.20 or 4.0 [google.com], which is a different audience than the Linux Kernel mailing list.

    What do you like and dislike about communicating on either platform, Google+ or the LKML? How do you feel about their respective audiences? Do you enjoy the tools you use to participate in public discussions on Google+ and the LKML?

  • by swv3752 ( 187722 ) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <2573vws>> on Thursday June 25, 2015 @02:40PM (#49987829) Homepage Journal

    Several years ago, you were employed by Transmeta designing the Crusoe processor. I understand you are quite knowledgeable about cpu architecture. What are your thoughts on the Current Intel and AMD x86 CPUs particularly in comparison with ARM and IBM's Power8 CPUs? Where do you see the advantages of each one?

  • by NaCh0 ( 6124 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @02:46PM (#49987925)

    Aside from adding drivers and refactoring algorithms when performance limits are discovered, is there anything left for the kernel?

    Maybe it's a failure of tech journalism but we never hear about the next big thing in kernel land anymore.

  • Since you have become a naturalized U.S. Citizen, you must like living in America. What do you miss about Finland? What are some thing the U.S. does better than Finland?

  • by Tenebrousedge ( 1226584 ) <tenebrousedge@nOSpaM.gmail.com> on Thursday June 25, 2015 @03:14PM (#49988333)

    Hi Linus!

    So I've read you live somewhere near Portland, and as shocking as it is to consider you amongst the flesh-and-blood mortals that I might encounter in this life, I believe I might just be able to keep from frothing and gibbering were it to happen. No promises. But in any case I'd be nice to know if there were any social or tech events in the area that you might attend. Also, breaking the rules about multiple questions, but possibly relevant to the above: what sort of beer do you drink?

    - J. Random Linuxuser

  • Will there be anything next as big as Linux in your "compsci" future?
  • What's your setup? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Dimwit ( 36756 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @03:26PM (#49988489)

    Obviously, you use Linux every day. What distribution do you use? Do you have a preferred desktop environment or window manager? A preferred text editor?

  • Your Usenet post describing the first public version of the Linux kernel compared and contrasted it with GNU, which itself was designed to be very Unix-like. Did you have a "final vision" for Linux in your head in the early days? I mean that as, did you see Linux getting to be a suitable Unix replacement that was still very Unix-like and then stopping, or did you have some sort of vision of a radically different operating system built on top of your kernel?

  • What do you really think about systemd?

    • by faway ( 4112407 )
      he answered that question at the Debian conference last year.
    • What do you really think about systemd?

      He has answered that many times. I want a slight variation.

      Last year he gave several mentions about it to several key groups. He expressed that "I don't actually have any particularly strong opinions on systemd itself. I've had issues with some of the core developers that I think are much too cavalier about bugs and compatibility, and I think some of the design details are insane, but those are details, not big issues".

      He's mentioned in several interviews that he has needed to deal with fallout from the

  • by SgtKeeling ( 717065 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @03:39PM (#49988655) Journal
    How do you stay up to date with tech news? Do you read Slashdot on a regular basis, or where else do you get your news from?
  • Some computer experts like Marvin Minsky, Larry Page, Ray Kuzweil think A.I. will be a great gift to Mankind. Others like Bill Joy and Elon Musk are fearful of potential danger. Where do you stand, Linus?
  • by randalware ( 720317 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @04:12PM (#49989109) Journal

    What do you think of the newer computer languages ?

    Rust, Swift,Go,Haskell,D,etc

    Keep up the good work, the world needs fewer meglomaniacs building evil empires.

    P.S. What do think of the idea of a VM sandbox safe area to run a systems internet facing programs in ?
                    This would be to limit malware/virus/etc access.

  • Linux has now become the most popular operating system in the world through Android. Yet the fact that binary drivers are somehow allowed, makes it impossible for users to upgrade their systems and create cyanogenmod-like alternatives. Is it not time to change the stance with respect to binary drivers, or to give a timeframe to device makers for how much longer this will be allowed? Nvidia is moving slowly into the right direction now, but in the ARM arch, it remains a mess. HW manufacturers aren't interest
  • Did you ever check out Microsoft Research's Singularity OS [microsoft.com], which implemented a new OS kernel from scratch in a dialect of C#. It has no traditional processes and relies on software/compiler enforced isolation instead of VMM/page tables. It has some other rather interesting ideas in it too, like contract based IPC channels. Relatedly, there was some work done a while ago to allow better integration between garbage collected heaps and the kernel swap system (bookmarking collectors), but the patches were neve

  • After 20 years of your debate with Andrew Tanenbaum about kernel architectures, what are your thoughts about such debate ?
  • A second question of mine. There used to be many different varieties of chips that were commonly used (SPARC, Power, RISC, etc.), and nowadays there;s mostly two (x86 and ARM). You've worked on the kernel for many, many years, and I understand that you once had a job related to working with them. So, I ask you this: did you have a favorite architecture that wasn't x86? Did you ever see any advantages working with these other chips? And, do you think it would be better if today's market had a wider variety o
  • It seems like NVIDIA have decided to become more "open" as of late releasing various pieces of documentation and header files as well as NVIDIA guys participating in the Nouveau mailing list. They are also working on the best way to make the firmware for their cards available for the Nouveau developers to use and distribute.

    Do you see this as a sign that NVIDIA have genuinely changed their attitude towards Open Source or do you think this is just the actions of a company desperate to get more companies to u

  • What are your thoughts on apple's GrandCentral? It seems that a central kernel managed queuing system would be less overhead than having 10 apps each launching 10x num-cpu's threads and all over-subscribing.
  • GPU kernels (Score:5, Interesting)

    by maraist ( 68387 ) * < ... mail.n0spam.com>> on Thursday June 25, 2015 @07:30PM (#49990961) Homepage
    Is there any inspiration that a GPU based kernel / scheduler has for you? How might Linux be improved to better take advantage of GPU-type batch execution models. Given that you worked transmeta and JIT compiled host-targetted runtimes. GPUs 1,000-thread schedulers seem like the next great paradigm for the exact type of machines that Linux does best on.
  • Have you ever considered a network-transparent OS-layer? If not why? I once saw QNX and and how the command line made little differentiation of which server you were physically on. (run X on node 3, ps (across all nodes)). You ran commands pretty much on any node of consequence.. I've ALWAYS wanted this capability in Linux... cluster-ssh is about as close as I've ever gotten. These days hadoop/storm/etc give a half-assed approximation.
  • by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Thursday June 25, 2015 @11:51PM (#49992303)

    Whatever happened to your Granddad's VIC-20, and what was your high score on Avenger? Radar Rat Race?

  • I've tried to get myself around to learning C++ since the early 90ies and really never made it just yet. I find your comments on C++ interesting and wouldn't be suprised if they had a grain of truth, if not more. To be honest, I've been second-guessing my C++ ambitions since I've read your comments on it.

    Which brings me to my question:
    I know you're a plain-ol C guy, but do you see a point in recent attempts to build a new Systems language, particularly the Go project from Google and the Rust project from Mozilla? Do you think this is just a fad or do these projects have potential? Are they adressing real problems and doing something useful or are they just a waste of time in your opinion?

    And if you would differntiate, what do you think in particular about Go and what about Rust?

    Can you picture yourself using a different language than C for programming a thing such as Linux or Git?

    That's more than one question, but since they're related, I believe you can answer them in one reply.

    All that aside:
    Thank you very much for your and the Kernel teams great contribution to society. Very much appreciated. Your straight-forward approach to things at times serves as a concrete role model for me in my daily work as an IT person.

Remember the good old days, when CPU was singular?

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