Andrew Tridgell has made his first public comments on the dispute between himself and Linux originator Linus Torvalds over source code management for the Linux kernel, describing much of the coverage and commentary on the issue as "trivial and crazy".
"I think people will look at this issue a little more clearly when the mystery is removed," Tridgell said during a keynote presentation at Linux.conf.au 2005 in Canberra. Focus on the personality dispute was "obscuring clear thought on this", he added.
A legendary figure in the open source community, Tridgell is one of the original developers of Samba and along with Torvalds, a fellow of the Open Source Development Labs.
Until recently, Torvalds has used the proprietary BitKeeper package to manage contributions to the Linux source tree, but the decision to abandon that package, in favour of a Torvalds-developed package called 'git', has been accompanied by a flurry of accusation and counter-accusation.
Tridgell particularly sought to reject claims that he had somehow violated the proprietary BitKeeper code by reverse-engineering its metadata formats for use in an open source client, thus leading BitKeeper to revoke the Linux development community's licence.
To cheers from the 500-strong audience, Tridgell demonstrated how information available from BitKeeper's own online help made gaining access to that information a trivial task.
"We have now, in a single line of shell, implemented a BitKeeper client," he said.
Tridgell noted that the talloc memory management tool used for development for the forthcoming Samba 4 had also been used in working on the open source client, but was unlikely to be taken up by kernel developers.
"We did try to sell Linus on talloc, but he didn't like it," he said.
Tridgell didn't comment in detail on the recent stand-off -- "I can't talk about it all that much," he remarked -- but said that he still believed that approaches to development in the Linux kernel had improved despite the BitKeeper incident.
"I'm constantly impressed by the software engineering techniques used in the kernel," he said, adding that a kernel version of the valgrind tool would be useful.
Other observers agree that source code management in the kernel has improved as a result of the adoption of BitKeeper, which was first used in 2002.
"The adoption of BitKeeper transformed the way kernel development was done," Jonathan Corbet from LWN.net commented in a subsequent presentation.
Reflecting the continuing heat over the issue in the Linux community, Corbet added that he had given serious thought to not mentioning the topic, but decided it was too important.
"The thing BitKeeper did was it got Linus to use a source code management system," he said.
One clear problem with the dispute has been its effect on development timetables.
"Kernel development, to a great extent, has come to a halt over the last few weeks," Corbet said.
However, despite the absence of a functional source code management tool, version 2.6.12 of the Linux kernel was released this week.