Skip the navigation

After open-source controversy, Torvalds turns to 'git'

The software will be used to quickly make changes to the Linux kernel

By Robert McMillan
April 20, 2005 12:00 PM ET

IDG News Service - A dispute between a prominent open-source developer and the maker of software used to manage Linux kernel development has forced Linux creator Linus Torvalds to embark on a new software project of his own. The new effort, called "git," began last week after a licensing dispute forced Torvalds to abandon the proprietary BitKeeper software he had used since 2002 to manage Linux kernel development.
The conflict touches on the difference between open-source developers who view Linux's open, collaborative approach as a technically superior way to build software and advocates of free software who see the ability to access and change source code as fundamental freedom.
As a result of the dispute, Torvalds is now working with other Linux developers to create software that can quickly make changes to 17,000 files that make up the Linux kernel, the central component of the Linux operating system. "Git, to some degree, was designed on the principle that everything you ever do on a daily basis should take less than a second," Torvalds said in an e-mail interview.
The Linux developers will use git to replace BitKeeper, which is developed by BitMover Inc. in South San Francisco, Calif.
Though BitMover allowed Linux developers to use a free version of its software for kernel development, the company was unhappy with efforts by developer Andrew Tridgell to develop an open-source version. In February, Tridgell wrote a tool that could work with source code stored in BitKeeper, but after several months of negotiations, BitMover decided to revoke the Linux developers' right to use the current BitKeeper software for free.
Free software advocates argue that Tridgell's code simply provided them with a way of contributing to the Linux kernel without accepting BitKeeper's proprietary software license. Because Tridgell's client could only be used to access BitKeeper data and did not replace the entire system, Torvalds now finds himself looking for a new source code management system, he said.
The most prominent free software advocate, Richard Stallman, had long called for kernel developers to abandon BitKeeper, arguing that its use was helping to convince kernel developers that the use of "nonfree" software was an acceptable practice.
That goal has now effectively been achieved because of the impasse between Tridgell and BitMover.
Torvalds is clearly unhappy about being forced off BitMover. He called Tridgell's client a "bad project," and said that the software it produced has no benefit to Linux developers, BitMover or even Tridgell himself. "It ended up hurting people that didn't agree with [Tridgell]," he said of the software. "And it doesn't actually help anybody, since it

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
Our Commenting Policies