Fireside Chat – Linus Torvalds and Dirk Hohndel

Anything exciting this release? So far it seems pretty calm: no new arch, no new fs, just updates to arches and drivers.
Is security of the kernel also improving (cfr. Core Infra initiative)? We could do with tools to detect some kind of patterns. The kernel is special because any bug is a potential security bug. We could do better, but we’re not doing particularly bad. Scrutiny is unlikely to be the way to go, because a human simply can’t go over the 25M lines of code in wildly different drivers and make sense of it. So rather, we need analysis tools and automated testing.
Linus is excited about hardware, so he really likes to look at the evolution in CPUs. He’s like to see an ARM laptop, because he doesn’t play with dev boards anymore.
What more can we do to find more contributors? We already get good contributors, the problem is in maintainers. It’s fairly easy (though a bit scary) to submit patches. The next step is more difficult. Succession plans, maintainer teams (adopted by e.g. ARM). Linus is probably going to push for that, e.g. it reduces the threshold to become a maintainer. A drive-by contributor is not so very useful in the long run.
Everybody is talking about containers, is that something you find interesting? No. Containers have been a huge challenge. It’s interesting as long as it is about hardware interfaces, e.g. KVM and cgoups.
The kernel should be like tarmac, it shouldn’t be something that people should need to be worried about.
Linus has been making C++ commits in other projects, is it going to happen in the kernel too? No, it’s not going to happen.
In the kernel, the basic principle is that if we break an application, we will unbreak it. In other projects (e.g. core libraries) that principle is not followed, and that is just wrong. Because of this promise, users are much more likely to update their kernels because they know they can rely on it.
Would you support something like ksplice at a mainline feature? Yes, but it’s hard so it will only be accepted if it really works. It will anyway only work for very specific changes. It’s never ever going to be possible to live patch from 4.3 to 4.4.
Is there an open source project that Linus says “I really wish someone would do it”. Nothing specific, except that projects should not break their users (see above). He would preferably not need to start another project, because he prefers if it would already have been done.
What would you like to be different in Linux’s 25th year? Considering how good we’re doing, it’s ludicrous to say it should be even better. He still enjoys all these crazy people doing crazy things that he would never have thought of. The most surprising thing in those 24 years was getting users.
There is speculation that Linus considers becoming a professional photographer. That’s not true.
Does Guinness really taste better in Dublin? It wasn’t that different because you can get fresh different in Portland.


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