"Back when people sent patches directly to Linus and he just released tarballs, was he violating the GPL?"It's important to remember that there is a clear distinction between upstream, and a modified version or fork.
Tarballs are a perfectly sane way for upstream releases to happen.
But I think that every competent open source developer, when they're not trying to twist things to make a point, will agree: When releasing a modified code base which is based on some upstream project, it is definitely preferable to release that in the form of original + patches, rather than as a monolithic tarball of the whole damn mess.
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