Control over the kernel
Posted Oct 3, 2006 9:33 UTC (Tue) by man_ls
In reply to: Let's all develop just by forking
Parent article: Busy busy busybox
Linus has no legal power to decide what goes into Linux.
In fact he does: below this same page you can read:
Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds
It is not a fine legal point; he may not use that power, but that is his prerrogative. He has de iure
control on Linux. Besides he publishes the kernel.org main kernels, so he also has de facto
He delegates "merging decisions" to subsystem maintainers and generally keeps an open mind about stuff.
to do so, sometimes. There are counter-examples like micro-kernel design
and alternative security frameworks
, as I gather from LWN.
If the Linux decision process were dictatorial then you'd sure be able to cite me at least one example of Linus arbitrarily rejecting a change?
Those mentioned above, or his unillateral decision of using a proprietary tool (BitKeeper) despite lots of people advising against it (including many kernel submaintainers like Morton
). People proposed free alternatives or even developing a new one but they were all rejected. Remember that the arguments in favour of BitKeeper were that it enabled Linus' workflow, there were no free alternatives and developing one would take years. After withdrawal of the free client, in 15 days Linus had a working replacement
. Allowing binary modules is another area where Linus' opinion is final.
Discussing these issues with a kernel developer is funny. I'm sure domain experts can suggest many more dictatorial changes in areas where there is no consensus.
GPL decision process: no-one can replace RMS, and RMS has the sole legal power to unilaterally decide what goes into the GPL. There's little outside pressure on RMS to change or adapt.
Little pressure? I don't think so. 22 years ago he had the whole industry against him; 8 years ago he confronted a pro-industry lobby (OSI) on his own. Free software (and "open source") licenses sprout every month. And still the GPL is used in 85% of free software projects. I would say that is enough pressure.
RMS plus Moglen plus the FSF decide what goes into the GPL, just as Linus decides what goes into Linux. If you don't like it you can discuss it on the GPLv3 page (or on lkml), otherwise just choose another license (or another kernel). You can fork the kernel, and you can impose additional restrictions or permissions on top of the GPL (or rewrite it and change some aspects).
Both are top-down processes; the fact that the dictators disagree on certain respects and you are friends with one of them does not change anything, Ingo. Linus listens to you, but that is because you think like he does; if you proposed a change to a micro-kernel architecture would he listen to you? If suddenly most kernel submaintainers proposed it? Would they be submaintainers for long?
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