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Q&A: Linux founder Linus Torvalds talks about open-source identity

By Rodney Gedda
January 22, 2009 12:00 PM ET

What about older code in the kernel? Do you want to remove this? Some people want us to remove old code more aggressively, but I think if some people are still using it, we should keep it, as maintaining the old code is usually almost free, so we will keep maintain old code as is humanly possible. Occasionally we remove old device drivers.

There has been a lot of buzz about file systems lately, including Sun's ZFS. What would you like to see Linux adopt here? File systems are easy to get excited about. They are easy to add to the kernel, so there is almost no risk. We have something like 35 file systems supported, and a lot are not realistically used much. They are candidates for removal, but people are still using them. We add file systems easily and let history take its course.

In the development community, there are two camps: people that want stability and people that want to release often. End users will do crazy things that no amount of testing infrastructure will get, so there are competing pressures. You want file systems to be stable, but you can't be in beta forever. Btrfs is developmental, but it was merged in the main kernel to help people test it.

To some degree, Btrfs does what ZFS does. Some uni ran ZFS as a module in Linux, so using it with Linux can be done. The biggest thing Sun did with ZFS is they were good with PR and marketing. There are other projects that wanted to do what ZFS does on Linux. Sun started finding the NetApp patents, as the NetApp patents kept people from doing things they wanted to do. I hope ZFS clears the patents issue.

A few years ago, you were forced to change revision control systems for Linux development and Git was born. Now Git has a groundswell of support, just like Linux. How is the Git project going? I want all my code to be open source, but I will use the best tool for the job, and BitKeeper was the best tool, and at the time the alternatives sucked so bad. When the alternatives are so bad, I will take proprietary code. Proprietary was a downside, but what choice did I have? Hey, I usually do my presentation slides in PowerPoint.

In the end, BitKeeper was causing too many issues so I said I'm not using a version control system until another was suitable. I have used CVS in the past, and I knew enough to know that I hated it. And I won't use Subversion, as it has the same fundamental problems as CVS. In the open-source world, there were some small projects. Mercurial came about the same time as Git. So they were parallel, and there were existing ones like Bazaar. The one I liked most is a project called Monotone. I looked at it, and there are things I really liked about it and many things I disliked, and performance was one of them.

Reprinted with permission from Computerworld Australia Story copyright 2012 Computerworld New Australia. All rights reserved.
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