Why Linus Torvalds would rather code than make money

LXF: Right, but we imagine you having some understanding of what it's going to do.

LT: In most cases, I don't even care. When I get a merge from a sub-system maintainer for an area that I'm not that into, I mean especially if the sub-system maintainer is a good one.

I mean I used to care deeply about networking, 15 years ago. I don't anymore because David Miller, I trust him and he does a really good job, and networking, to some degree, is not something I'm fundamentally interested in.

It's not like the VM layer, or the MM layer, where it's really my kind of thing. So I don't get excited about those.

I don't have to think about it, I look at what he's doing because I want to have a high-level view of the changes, so two weeks from now when someone sends me a bug report... it's not that I remember that line, but I remember there's something changed in this area, kind of thing.

So most of the stuff, once I've found a maintainer who works well, I don't have to do that much (other) than have an overview idea of what's going on.

LXF: And that's enough?

LT: That's enough for most of the code. I get more excited about the... I mean when I get really upset about something, it's when someone does something stupid.

Especially from a developer standpoint. It's seldom even from a code standpoint anymore.

It's like sometimes I send out these emails saying "this code really sucks, don't ever send me code again because you're too stupid to live", but the things that tend to worry me most are things like... somebody sends me big changes outside the merge window and clearly didn't think the impact outside the code thing through at all.

I mean the code is important, but realistically what I maintain these days is not the code but the workflow for people.

And that sometimes gets my goat in a big way when somebody does something stupid in a big way, and then I get really excited, and by excited I mean I curse at people.

LXF: What happens when Google drops a big Android [update], as it did early this year after being separate, do you get a heads up on this?

LT: That was surprising, I expected it to be much more contentious.

We discussed this before it happened, and I mean a lot of Google Android issues were not so much Google issues as kernel developer issues.

That was one of the big things we discussed at the last kernel summit, it was 'what should we do about Android?'.

And the consensus, and maybe I pushed it through but there were other people who agreed with me, was that hey, the people who didn't like some of the Android approaches were wrong, and you were proven wrong by acclamation.

Android is doing really well and it's working, and nobody actually had alternative working code that was really something Google would accept, because they had issues that nobody else was solving for them.

Linus Torvalds

LXF: Was there any pressure on Google to remerge the Android kernel they were working on?

LT: Kernel developers inside Google hated the fact they had their own patches. I mean, they hated it because they don't like being outside the kernel in the first place, and they hated (it) because it's extra work, too.

Every time they update, it was a huge pain for them to bring their patches forward. So there was a huge pressure on Google to merge their changes back.