So, Microsoft submits 20000 lines of code to the Linux kernel, all licensed under the GPL. Microsoft, who considers Linux a great threat, and once called the GPL a “cancer”. Opinions on this one are flying all around us, but what does Linus Torvalds, Linux’ benevolent dictator, think about all this?
Linus hasn’t actually looked at the code yet. It’s driver code, low-risk and he isn’t very interested in driver code anyway. He trusts the maintainers will do their jobs. “I’ll likely look at it when the code is actually submitted to me by the maintainers (Greg [Kroah-Hartman], in this case), just out of morbid curiosity,” Linus adds.
As most of you will be aware of, Linus is very forthright, and generally doesn’t hold back when it comes to his opinions. He’s also very pragmatic, and both of these qualities come forward quite clearly when Linus talks about Microsoft’s code drop. I’m not going to squeeze his words into running text.
I’m a big believer in “technology over politics”. I don’t care who it comes from, as long as there are solid reasons for the code, and as long as we don’t have to worry about licensing etc issues.
I may make jokes about Microsoft at times, but at the same time, I think the Microsoft hatred is a disease. I believe in open development, and that very much involves not just making the source open, but also not shutting other people and companies out.
There are ‘extremists’ in the free software world, but that’s one major reason why I don’t call what I do ‘free software’ any more. I don’t want to be associated with the people for whom it’s about exclusion and hatred.”
There is not a single word here that I can disagree with. While I think it’s perfectly acceptable to for the Free and open source community to be a little more vigilant when it comes to Microsoft’s forays into this world, the outright blind hatred is nothing but a detrimental force that holds the Free and open source community back.
Something else that many people wondered about was that Microsoft seems to have published the code for purely selfish reasons; they are drivers to make Linux work better on Microsoft’s Hyper-V technology, allowing it to compete more effectively with competing offerings. Linus’ opinion on this is a pretty clear “duh!”
I agree that it’s driven by selfish reasons, but that’s how all open source code gets written! We all “scratch our own itches”. It’s why I started Linux, it’s why I started git, and it’s why I am still involved. It’s the reason for everybody to end up in open source, to some degree.
So complaining about the fact that Microsoft picked a selfish area to work on is just silly. Of course they picked an area that helps them. That’s the point of open source – the ability to make the code better for your particular needs, whoever the ‘your’ in question happens to be.
Does anybody complain when hardware companies write drivers for the hardware they produce? No. That would be crazy. Does anybody complain when IBM funds all the POWER development, and works on enterprise features because they sell into the enterprise? No. That would be insane.
So the people who complain about Microsoft writing drivers for their own virtualization model should take a long look in the mirror and ask themselves why they are being so hypocritical.
It’s always refreshing to hear someone level-headed discuss issues like this. I guess this is also the reason why, after so many years, Linus is still the undisputed benevolent dictator of Linux.
And we wouldn’t want it any other way.