Linus Torvalds rarely appears in public these days, and has little to say when he does.
"There’s nothing interesting about me,” Torvalds asked, when asked along with his fellow panelists to name something interesting about himself that no one knows. “I’m in a bathrobe reading email. I read email and answers and merge code written by others.”
His appearance at LinuxCon 2012 in San Diego yesterday was no different, but he did reveal a few interesting factoids after being questioned by the audience.
The Linux 4.X kernel probably won’t appear for another three years.
“We are definitely not going to go to the mid 30s ... we’ll do 4.0 in three years when sub numbers have grown into the 20s and our feeble brains can’t handle it."
What makes the Linux founder and top maintainer the happiest about Linux’s progress over the past year or so?
The progress of ARM and power management.
“Over the last year, ARM has gone from a constant headache every merge window to an outstanding citizen in the Linux community,” Torvalds said during the live webcast yesterday, quipping that he'll do just about anything -- including instant messaging if it simplifies his merge tasks. “It sounds sad but true. I’ll ignore every merge windows rule and if you remove 6,000 lines of code, I’ll do IRC.”
“Power management took us a long time in general ... all power management we mostly do correctly,” he said, noting that power issues started in the embedded world and have become paramount in the corporate data center. “Now all the server people are talking about it.”
He acknowledged some of the ongoing challenges getting Linux to run on cell phones – especially with the current cast of dual and quad-core phones – but noted that both platforms are evolving in step.
“It runs better on cell phones today than it did 10 years ago,” he said in response to one question from the audience about the issues. “Cell phones grew up to where they needed a real operating system ... cell phones forced us to do things in different ways.”
Torvalds is also proud of the processes the Linux kernel community has in place to resolve problems. Manufacturers still try to push kernel maintainers around but they never get him to budge.
And Linux, he said, is still the most special open source project in the world.
“The biggest problem is politics, where different companies hope they could push whomever is a new maintainers in different directions and they’re getting used to the fact that I’m hard to push around,” he said during a panel yesterday afternoon at the annual kernel summit .
“So there’s some politics going on [but] the kernel project is of all the open source projects very, very special. I’ve talked to other project maintainers andthere’s groups of 4 people or groups of 20 ... we have 3,000 people.”