In a weblog on CNet, Don Reisinger asks Is Linus Torvalds even speaking for Linux anymore?
The question reminds me of a famous retort by Charles Babbage. I’m sure you can find it, and it’s immaterial. What Mr. Reisinger said is more important:
Because although Torvalds has his own belief about what Linux is and should be going forward, the vast majority of its users disagree. Let’s face it — if it were up to Torvalds, beauty and intuition would take a backseat to functionality. But when you look at distributions like Ubuntu or OpenSuse, it looks like no one is paying attention.
As a reminder, gentle reader, almost every time someone says “face it”, you can discount the paragraph as a whole. Still, it’s occasionally important to explore why an argument is wrong.
First, I doubt that Mr. Reisinger asked most Linux users what Linux is and should be. I’m not sure that he asked any. It’s awfully dangerous to put forth such a strong postulate without evidence.
Why am I so certain that Mr. Reisinger made up that figure? Particularly with regard to the use of Linux as part of free desktop operating systems, distributions such as Ubuntu and SUSE are the users.
The question then becomes “Do distributions pull the kernels they use from Linus’s tree?” If so, then it follows that they pay attention to Linus’s views on Linux.
While many distributions do apply patches to the vanilla kernel, I can think of few patches that aren’t at least likely to go into Linus’s tree at some point in the near future. (Many patches have historically been backports from a newer version of the tree.)
Now perhaps Mr. Reisinger wants to start a conversation about the entire free software desktop stack (or more properly, stacks). I’m not sure it’s possible to do that without a fuller understanding of what exactly encompasses the free desktop stack. As you might expect from Linus’s original comments, his view of what an operating system is and does is very, very different from the assumption of certain people who don’t know what exactly Linus works on and its place in a much larger ecosystem.