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Linus Torvalds on the Google vs Oracle verdict (plus.google.com)
218 points by patrickaljord on May 23, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 82 comments

Having dealt with Oracle, it won't happen like that.

Oracle will throw marketing and lawyers around to hide as much of their failure as possible by threatening other vendors and any dissident opinion.

Oracle has a suitably large reality distortion field.

I am having trouble seeing the difference between your opinion and that of Linux, to be honest.


I'm more astounded by the fact that Linus is on a social networking site like Google+.

I'm really hoping he makes a Twitter account for his rant-I mean comments :D

Google+ seems to have been adopted by a lot of major players in the tech industry. Quite a few notable people post on it pretty regularly, possibly because it's hard to effectively tweet about technology issues in 140 characters.

I'd probably switch to it exclusively too if I could use it to export to Twitter and Facebook.

I'd probably switch to it exclusively too if I could use it to export to Twitter and Facebook.

I don't use it, but for social media you can use IFTTT:


What's the point of exporting it to twitter/facebook?

Lots of people who are not early adopters are still on FB and won't move for quite a while.

You don't need to move. You can got to _two_ websites.

And read the same things twice?

Linus also works at Google. I suspect he'd probably still be exclusive to lkml otherwise.

No, he doesn't.

> Linus also works at Google

Linus works at Google?

No he doesn't

Oops, must have seen him at a tech talk or something and didn't realize he was a guest.

>> When disagreeing, please reply to the argument instead of calling names. E.g. "That is an idiotic thing to say; 1 + 1 is 2, not 3" can be shortened to "1 + 1 is 2, not 3." [1]

HN's own style guide has sound advice for how Linus might shorten his posts to under 140 characters.

[1] http://ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

I've never seen him post here. Does he have an account?

This assumes that the "That is an idiotic thing to say;" is unimportant. On the contrary.

1) It gives a lot of pleasure to respond with it to idiotic ideas.

2) It adds emphasis and a sense of proportions to the error, ie. it's not just a simple mistake, it is an idiotic mistake.

3) It (hopefully) shames the perpetrator of the idiotic idea into thinking twice before speaking.

It's not always appropriate, but a lot of times it is just the thing.

I wonder if Google requested him and other major dignitaries to adopt their social network site. Is he on other social networking sites like Facebook?

If you follow the trending, a hugh number of trends are tech related and specific to Linux like #GIMP, #GDriveforlinux. A large number of G+ users seem to be geeks.

maybe 140 chars is just not enough for his rant - i mean comments ;)

I'm sad that the only thing I can see is this:

Mobile terms of service

By tapping 'Accept', you agree that Google will use your location in this product and accept the Mobile Terms of Service.


After reading the terms and accept...

Using iPhone (nope I'm on iPad) download our app from the store, it's more fun. (no thanks)

Or continue with the standard site. (very small)

And, that last link goes to my home in Google+, not the Linus post.

I have to searh the post again in HN and tap.

The Linus words are funny but not for so much effort.

Got this too. Closed the page in safari and reopened the link. Worked from there. I did click accept for the location and no for the google plus app.

Why the hell haven't shareholders gotten fed up with Ellison yet? These waste-of-time legal junkets he goes on from time to time must be so infuriating.


Revenue: US$ 35.6 billion (2011) Operating income: US$ 12.0 billion (2011) Net income: US$ 8.5 billion (2011)

He is a handsome guy, and right usually, oh yes, I'm straight. Snap. I agree too, I hope Larry grows some wisdom instead of the usual hair he sports. It's bad enough Oracle owns Java already, it should have been IBM IMHO.

IBM owning Java would have been even worse.

Maybe, maybe not but they are heavy users of Java, it seems to me like it would have been a good fit.

Google should've owned Java. They use it extensively at Google and they also could've had total control over the language for Android. They could've just sold off the other parts of Sun later. Oh well, maybe Oracle wants to sell it now since they realized they can't make billions off it.

With the excellent work they did with GWT you would think so.

Actually Oracle has done a lot with Java too but this latest thing just wow, at least the courts came out with a logical decision.

Oracle could pull all resources dedicated to the development of Java. Burn the forest to get the Google tree. Drastic and unrealistic, but Ellison doesn't like to lose.

Keep in mind this started because Google built their own Java implementation from scratch instead of working from the JDK. That said...

a) Java customers tend to also use Oracle DB and Solaris, two other big Oracle products. Revenge on Google can't be worth giving up owning the full stack.

b) Google (perhaps with IBM and Red Hat) would be absolutely delighted to pick up Java development were Oracle to stop working on it; quite the opposite of what Oracle would hope to accomplish.

Resulting in an improvement in Java for everyone

C/C++ doesn't seem to have done too badly since Bell labs stopped developing it!

> C/C++ doesn't seem to have done too badly since Bell labs stopped developing it!

I wouldn't be so sure about the C++ part ;)

Can Linus ever not sound like a pompous jackass?

Linus is a bit brusque on a regular basis. Many people in OS design/development tend to be that way (Theo DeRaadt being another).

It's less of someone being a jerk, and more of them being direct and to the point, coupled with a large degree of cynicism.

  > When disagreeing, please reply to the argument instead of calling names. E.g.
  > "That is an idiotic thing to say; 1 + 1 is 2, not 3" can be shortened to "1 +
  > 1 is 2, not 3." 
It's actually more "direct and to the point" to not call someone an idiot, a moron etc. Some other justification for his "brusqueness" is needed, perhaps being opinionated rather than accommodating; another instance of being blunt/pragmatic not precise/academic; a signal of willingness to defend his values for how to run linux (I've seen productive communities fail due to lack of this leadership); demonizing a common enemy to unite your side (e.g. Microsoft, Oracle).

It seems logical to me that abuse isn't necessary; but logic is a poor substitute for actual understanding.

Thankfully, it's his personal G+ page, so he can really say whatever he wants, as he isn't acting in any official capacity when he does.

And I will take that, if coupled with demonstrated competence and a solid, sensible vision, over being "nice", "accomodating" and "willing to answer questions", every time.

This attitude is not true of all OS developers, though. There are lots who are really even-tempered. But they are also very focused and not necessarily willing to accomodate everyone with a "bright idea".

While it might make the learning curve a bit steeper for mere mortals, I actually believe this is what makes a better OS.

I would be interested to see a "Linux" where Torvalds also controlled the userland. What would it be like?

If he controlled the userland, you definitely wouldn't get Gnome or Unity.

You are looking for a quicker, shorter, terser version of the unix commandline ?

Version? Not sure what you mean. Some other way to interact with the kernel, besides a "shell"?

Quicker, shorter, terser sounds good to me, whatever it is.

Or maybe you mean if he wrote his own shell?

< humor explain=verbose >

The parent post said that Linus' writing was extremely terse and "to the point" and what would happen if Linux wrote the userspace.

The joke was that Unix's typical user interface, the shell, isn't exactly overflowing with unecessary verbose "fluff"

anti-humor mode: It's terse, but not necessarily to the point. Things like "| awk '{print $1}'" or "find . -exec sh -c 'fds' \;" or ""$(echo "$x" | sed 's/a/b/')"" are a lot of characters for their respective purposes; a modern shell adhering to similar principles could do better.

I was tempted to say something similar. But this is a thread about Linus.

As for your use of find, I rarely ever use find for anything more than printing a recursive dir listing. I always gravitate toward different approaches for doing the other things it can do. Syntax is probably one of the reasons. I'm just not motivated to learn find's idiosyncratic syntax. Why not just make find use C-like syntax as does awk? If I was to redesign UNIX, every utility would, where possible, use a C-like syntax. Because then the user would naturally be learning a little bit about C right from the start.

Have you ever tried the k language?

If you like terse, it is a pleasure to use.

Generally, I like sed as an example of a terse, compact language (and sed seems a logical extension of ed, not something wildly and arbitrarily different), except when it's necessary to use -e to separate commands. Being able to use semicolons to separate commands allows more density.

I have always posited the verbosity (and the complexity) of the shell comes from the need for quoting and escaping. If you could avoid those two necessities, the command line could be more concise, and readable.

I don't like C-like syntax in Unix tools, as the shell isn't C-like, and it's not clear that it's possible to make it C-like without sacrificing writing speed (lots of parentheses are hard to wrangle interactively); and awk is nice and efficient for some things the shell can't easily do, but it's its own world with a different set of variables and overlapping functionality, and you can't easily stick a pipe in the middle of an awk program. My ideal redesign would take the shell, make the syntax for iteration, pattern matching, arrays, etc. much simpler (integrating the functionality of awk), and (most importantly?) unify the ways various commands expect to receive data and take arguments representing parts of that data (fields, lines)... while still being the shell.

Dunno about sed - once I wrote a Brainfuck interpreter in it for fun, but I see it as a Turing tarpit - for things more complicated than "/a/s/a/b/" I prefer awk, though I wish awk had the succinct "s/a/b/", and I wish either of them had a quick way to extract a capture group from a match. (vi was a teenager when I was born, so I personally don't care about adhering to ed.)

I've never tried any APL-like languages and am therefore somewhat scared of them... but most of the programs I write outside of the interactive shell are non-throwaway and/or the kind of glue code that uses lots of random system functions, which decreases the value of extreme terseness. (But I prefer anything over Java and dislike the inflexibility of languages without macros, so perhaps it's only logical for me to go ahead and learn an array language.)

I too write mostly throwaway stuff. Obviously, terse languages are better suited for that than others.

Java makes me cringe. But my understanding is Java programmers use IDE's with autocomplete. They don't do much typing.

As for your pipe comment, are you a whiz with passing file descriptors? What do you think about chaining programs together in this way? Would that solve your pipe needs?

Maybe you could accomplish what you want using lex? The general paradigm is pattern-action, just like awk. Lots of flexibility in what you can create. You could create your own interpreter.

I like writing simple filters. I guess I have succombed to the UNIX voodoo. I think of everything as a stream of text.

I'd be interested to take a crack at your "capture group" problem, if you can give me an example of what it looks like.

Capture group would be something like

    /the number is ([0-9]+)/ { print $1; }
There are many ways to do this (gawk sorta supports it, perl can do it easily enough with

    perl -pe 'print "$1\n" if /the number is ([0-9]+)/'
but it's a bit cumbersome), but it would be much nicer if awk directly supported it.

Not sure what you mean about lex; if I decide to go ahead and write my ideal shell I could use it, but that's A Project, a large part of which is designing the syntax and deciding what commands to implement. And I'm lazy. :)

Can you give an example of some sample input and how you want the output to look? I'm stupid and this is the only way I can be sure I know what you're trying to do.

From the little I do know about Linus, I think it's less pomp and more a mix of some ratio between his style of playful, tongue-in-cheek impishness and anger depending on what kind of day he's having. He's a pretty nice fellow for the most part.

He's also constantly inundated with arguments/accusations/requests from idiots. If you ever read through some of his Linux newsletter arguments, you can see why he'd develop a take-no-prisoners style of communicating.

To illustrate the point here is a 'complex' email from him on the 16th: https://lkml.org/lkml/2012/5/19/97

Now here is him on an un-related issue apologising: https://lkml.org/lkml/2012/5/21/230

For linus the github 'discussion' was an everyday thing. He speaks his mind and will apologise if he is wrong, such is the order of the day on the kernel mailing list.

He could take the killfile approach to lkml... of course that would get him just as much hate. It's really a lose-lose situation, no good way of getting people to stop with the "im right and won't stop pestering you even though it's your project" stuff without pissing off one half of the internet or the other.

The oddest thing is, as I read random lkml threads that interest me, it seems that Linus isn't a jerk immediately when people bring up stuff - even well hashed stuff. When he is wrong, he admits it, and seems reasonable about patches that aren't perfect/up to snuff, particularly from newer devs who are trying to do well. It's when the threads go on and on that it seems to degrade. (or when a topic that is famous for being a no-go is brought up... but i think it's fair to at least understand the thing you are trying to contribute to, particularly as well documented as linux).

There may be cultural factors at work here.

In England when you say "Hello! How are you?" the answer is almost always "Very well thanks, how about you?", even if the person is not very well. This is considered polite. Other countries find this odd, and consider it lying.


I remember going in for a surgical procedure a few years back and just before the operation a non-British doctor told me "This is really going to hurt" - I was expecting "There may be some slight discomfort", which is the usual British way of saying "This is REALLY going to hurt".

I was quite concerned (i.e. British for "terrified") until they gave me the pre-med Valium.

And yes, it did sting a bit.

In Portugal it is the same.

People don't really want to know the details how you feel, it is just a way of greeting.

My grandmother would say: "How are you (not that I give a damn)?".

Read his family blog, or even better emails on the Linux kernel mailing list, since he's sent quite a lot over the years. Apart from when he calls out someone for being stupid and ugly, he sounds very nice. You'll find many instances where he sounds neither pompous nor mean.

I think so ionforce, you are just projecting heavily. I seen a 60 minutes piece with him and in it, he sounded perfectly reasonable.

I wouldn't call it 'projection' necessarily. Linus Torvalds can seem like a pompous jackass sometimes, it's true. But it's useful to keep in mind the context of this comment of his. Linus is a guy who spent many, many years fighting an unusually and unnecessarily difficult battle to prevent something he created from being coopted and stolen by a copyright troll, SCO. So this is somewhat personal for him.

He speaks very reasonably, it's just his writing style. I think he's one of those people who's choice of written word does not always convey the tone they would have conveyed in person.

And, to be fair, he does intentionally say things in an over-the-top way to be funny, although such statements pretty much always have an element of truth.

Good point. I took a course on business communication, and remember learning that tone is often lost in writing. You may send an email to someone in a friendly, playful mood, but it can come across as sarcastic and/or rude to the recipient.

Of course he would, he's in person. It's easier to be mean on the internet than in person. Not to mention no one has perfected punching someone through the internet.

he made `git blame`

no one has perfected punching someone through the internet

I can see serious problems in the design and certification stages, but the marketing should be extremely easy.

I can accept one's arrogance and lack of social grace being proportional to their contribution. So Linus in my book can be a total jackass and it would probably still be ok.

In reality I think he is just direct and says exactly what he means.

I don't really care what Linus has to say on the Google vs Oracle verdict, a guy who created one of the worlds most useful operating systems that he doesn't even really contribute to any more who would rather sit on his computer all day ranting about Github's implementation of Git, rant about Linux becoming bloated and now ranting about the Google vs Oracle case.

I get Torvalds is a genius, but with the ending line in his G+ post, "Sometimes I really wish I wasn't always right. It's a curse, I tell you." it sounds like all of those caffeine fuelled late nights have deprived him of vital nutrients, he's nuts nowadays.

I realise everything I just said is a rant, I'm a hypocrite at times.

Side note: anyone else think Linus looks a bit like Nicholas Cage in his Google Plus profile picture?

I'm not sure why you think Linus doesn't really contribute to his operating system anymore. He doesn't really write code, but that's because he's become too busy as a project manager for it - which is a different sort of contribution. Not sure what about this makes you so angry...

Anyway, at least he earned his right to rant about git and linux, I mean, he sort of created them. And regarding Google v Oracle, he is a stakeholder in the verdict - if APIs are copyrightable, there will be people filing suits against linux on the way out of the courtroom.

What did you do to earn your right to rant?

Since when did he create an operting system? Linux is a kernel.

sigh I don't know if you're being disingenuous or just too young to remember/have encountered it:

The definition of operating system turns out to be pretty loose. The MS antitrust case had a huge side argument related to this topic (what counts as an operating system and what doesnt). Arguments range from some subset of kernel functionality all the way up to every application provided by the vendor. It is essentially one of those "how many grains of sand constitute a pile of sand" debates. Strong arguments can be made that an operating system is simply a kernel with a statically linked userland program launched at boot time (this is actually provided within linux).

The bigger question is: what does this pedantic nitpick have to do with the broader discussion? Does it change anything I said in a way that undermines the point?

This isn't about Linus not being allowed to rant. I was merely stating that Linus is starting to come across as an old bitter programmer who hates everyone and everything. It's pretty unprofessional for a guy of his stature and influence to go on these ranting tirades, professionals don't air their disdain for things publicly unless there is a valid reason, he just comes across as a jerk regardless of whether or not he's earned the right to do so, it's unprofessional.

If he's project manager for Linux, why was he surprised that that the Linux core is getting bloated? If he's a project manager, shouldn't he be managing the team to unbloat the operating system? I'd hardly call flaming your own team and operating system a contribution. Nothing about this makes me angry, Linus is a genius and he knows it which is why it frustrates me to see a guy like him resort to sometimes school yard words and ways of dealing with things.

Linux itself has already been through what Google has, remember the whole Microsoft debacle? Regardless of the verdict, pretty much every software company that has felt threatened by Linux I'm sure has tried some kind of legal action in some way, shape or form.

I earned my right to rant the day I got an internet connection, which was a very long time ago.

He's not really a project manager for Linux, to clarify what was said above; he is the coordinator of development of the Linux kernel, the very heart of the GNU/Linux operating system. For what it's worth, this is the largest software project that has ever existed by several orders of magnitude; it's seen hundreds of changes to its source code per day for the past decade. This is not a small project, and managing it is not a figurehead role.

Also, please note that Linus' way of interacting with other people online is, at least according to him, a calculated strategy which is part of his management style. For more details on this, it's instructive to read over his brief and entertaining (to me, anyway) document on kernel management style. [1] Here, he says revealingly that he doesn't think it's possible to be polite all the time, so it's better to try to criticize everyone equally "so evenly that nobody really ends up feeling like they get unfairly targeted. Make it inventive enough, and they might even be amused." He also says that politeness usually masks honesty, and that he doesn't think anybody is likely to trust you if you spend a lot of time being polite.

I think a lot of this has to do with his character, but it's worth noting that he is not oblivious to the way he comes off. He believes he's come up with an effective strategy for managing the incredibly large and important project he's in charge of, and it's hard to argue that it hasn't had some spectacular results. Even if you disagree with how he approaches it - and I emphatically would not approach any management job the way he does - you have to admit that he's conscious of what he's doing and he believes it has a purpose.

[1] http://lwn.net/Articles/105375/

> For what it's worth, this is the largest software project that has ever existed by several orders of magnitude;

Hardly. Even just talking about publicly-available open source projects, consider e.g. FreeBSD.

I can't edit any more, but I've looked around, and this clearly isn't true. For some good details on the size of the Linux project, check out the beginning of this talk by Greg Kroah-Hartmann, one of the chief kernel devs; it's from 2008, but things have only moved faster on the kernel: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L2SED6sewRw

I don't think that's true, although I'll admit I don't know the numbers. How many people are active on the FreeBSD Core Team? How many commits per day do they see?

... and how many contributors (individuals/corporations) can FreeBSD boast of?

     It's pretty unprofessional for a guy of his 
     stature and influence to go on these ranting tirades
It probably is unprofessional in the conventional sense, however if you think about what that word means, it really does not matter.

Professionals are people that provide a service in exchange for getting paid, versus amateurs (in the original meaning) that are people providing a service just for the thrills of doing it. Money is not the differentiator here btw, as amateurs are getting paid if what they do provides value to people. The difference is that of the primary purpose - professionals work for the paycheck, amateurs work regardless of that paycheck.

And the word "unprofessional" is used to refer to behavior that would lead to the absence of that paycheck. For instance, if you walked into a grocery store to buy some bacon and the seller's bad behavior would drive you away ... that's unprofessional and it is discouraged because it hurts the business, as it loses money.

In this particular case, Linux is widely popular and is getting even more so every day, in usage and in contributions. Linus not only has been doing this for the fun of it, but his driving of the project has been extremely effective as there is no other open-source project that scaled so well.

So he's not a professional. Who cares when he has done such a fantastic job?

You seem to be pretty ignorant about the subject matter. I suggest you do some reading first.

> This isn't about Linus not being allowed to rant. ... It's pretty unprofessional for a guy of his stature and influence to go on these ranting tirades

So, what you're saying is that he shouldn't be allowed to rant. Gotcha.

I would have said that in his profession, openly airing your views without self-censoring is probably a qualification.

To put it another way, discouraging geeks from ranting about what they think, can seriously damage the quality of your codebase.

I took his last statement as sarcasm with a hint of hubris.

Or maybe he is just right. Or can you point otherwise?

He was the one who said he was right, shouldn't Linus be backing up his statements and proving why he thinks he is right instead of the other way around? Haha.

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