Kroah-Hartman Attacks Canonical

Sep 19, 2008

Greg Kroah-Hartman's keynote address at the Linux Plumbers Convention 2008 was officially about the Linux Ecosystem, but started as a direct attack on Ubuntu developer Canonical. He claims that the company contributes next to nothing to kernel development.

Kroah-Hartman complained in his keynote address that Canonical released only 100 patches to the kernel in the last three years. (At a previous Google conference he had mentioned only six patches over five years.) He went on to say that in the same timeframe, a total of 100,000 were made to the kernel, Canonical's contribution therefore amounting to a mere 0.1 percent of the total. The result, he says, is that Canonical ranks in 79th place, way behind Red Hat (first place) and Novell (second place). In subsequent slides he tried to show how little code Ubuntu contributed to the "Linux ecosystem" and then went on to the real subject of his address.

The response from Ubuntu followed promptly: Matt Zimmerman, the Ubuntu CEO, found Kroah-Harman's claims "objectionable" and that his statistical methods were not an "exact science." Zimmerman admitted that Canonical did not contribute as many patches as Red Hat and Novell, but never claimed that it did. The Ubuntu kernel consisted primarily of original Linux kernel code. Zimmerman objected primarily to Kroah-Hartman's definition of "Linux ecosystem," finding it "odd" in that he included GCC, binutils, and Glibc in with the Linux kernel. Also, "He disregards most of the desktop stack (including GNOME and KDE), all desktop and server applications, and most anything else that is recognizable to an end user as 'Linux'." Not least of all, Zimmerman accused Kroah-Hartman of failing to acknowledge his link with Novell, a key Canonical competitor. He suggested opening a dialogue on the keynote address matter in light of the fact that he had never been consulted previously on it.

Kroah-Hartman provoked further reactions in blogs and forums, such as one from Dustin Kirkland. The Linux Plumber Conference attracts developers at the Linux Kernel summit meeting in Portland, Oregon that belong to projects tightly linked to kernel development, such as X.Org and GCC.

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  • Ubuntu contributions

    It has been noted that Canonical has released very few patches to the Linux kernel. If it is not broken, why fix it? The main problem is drivers for new and old devices, not kernel patches. The argument seems spurious to me.
  • ubuntu

    I adopted Linux via Ubuntu. And I am very pleased. Thank you, Mr. Sh.
  • Kernel contributions... to GPL-Bis?

    Limiting kernel contributions may also sometimes help... and if GKH is so happy about his "GPL-Bis" contributions whose aim often seems to annoy close source driver providers (nvidia and others...), maybe he should not: It also annoy users, cause regressions when going from 2.6.X to 2.6.X+1 and this guy should accept that everything that disturb the user is bad for the ecosystem. Talk about this to Microsoft and Vista problems with drivers and applicative: It appeared clearly one time in 25 years of windows domination and costs them a lot of credibility! Linux it's several times a year because kernel interfaces are always changed with a paced that cannot be justified by hardware changes.

    So maybe kernel should not change so much in a major version live and Ubuntu is right in not adding it's name to this stupid GPL enforcement work: I call it GPL-Bis.

    Sure it would be nice if nvidia and others were publishing open source drivers... but they also have the right to protect their code if they find it's their interest... and users who want to have what they paid for (3D graphics here) and being able to use it without the stability problems caused by so many useless contributions to the kernel.
  • To change people mind is harder than code

    Canonical attempts to change user preferences, attempts to convert more people to Linux. It was the case with me, I have installed Ubuntu on my 4 year old laptop and began enjoying all of the benefits of Linux kernel, Debian repositories (their licenses do not forbid their use in other products). As the result I spend more time with my family and more cash on the holiday. I know that there are some other great distributions that do the same, but life has more to it than changing distributions on your PC. WOW, now I speak as a M$ patriot.
    It is easy to change code, because computer will do exactly what code instructs it to do. Changing people mind set and preferences is much, much harder. Canonical does a great job in PATCHING people's mind about Linux, promotes it on the market, makes sort of advertising and does not charge Linux community for that, that is a huge contribution. If he will make some money out of it, than good for him and for Linux, in this case no one will say that there is no business case for Linux on the desktop market big-smile.
    (Sorry for the English, it is not my native language).
  • Not the only measure

    Patches to the kernel shouldn't be the only measure of a company's contributions to the Linux community. Canonical has done much to popularize Linux and attract many people who would not otherwise have joined the ranks of Linux users. I, for one, stopped supporting Apple, installed Ubuntu on all my machines at home because it was the one distro that really caught my attention even after trying many others. Now I'm contributing code back to the community and it's largely due to the appeal of Ubuntu as a desktop machine. You really can't do a search on the web for a Linux-related issue without coming across the Ubuntu forums. You have to credit Canonical for creating the community that they have and being the "sales guys" for the Linux desktop to the average user. Although I really want to encourage Canonical to contribute more than 0.1% of patches to the kernel and other important components, I don't think that should be the only measure of a company's (or distribution's) contribution to the Linux community as a whole.
  • Sick of Knockers

    This is my two cents worth , the way I see it is that sure Canonical may not have contributed as much as Novell, IBM, Sun or whoever the pundits will put up there in bright lights. I feel confident that this will change progressively and at the end of the day the GNU/Linux user base will increase due to Ubuntu. This is a good thing as the more people using means the more people contributing, would any sane person knock this ? Ubuntu is attracting attention by the Non Linux world which is good, whether you use Gentoo, Suse, Mandriva or your distro of choice this is good for these users as it also shines a light from the Windows World upon GNU/Linux. I am so sick of this negativity and childish view of people saying look at what they are doing, maybe these people should become politicians. I have always been of the belief that if you are going to be negative be constructive in a positive manner, that is look at what unites us and can take GNU/Linux to its full potential and beyond any other OS. This negativity will hurt our world more than any MS or Apple campaign.
  • Ubuntu just works

    Debian is the oldest of distros and deserves much kudos. I've tried it but it failed to install on my laptop. So did Fedora Core. Several others also failed to install. Ubuntu was the first distro to install flawlessly recognizing my WUXGA screen, network card, sound card, DVD burner, and touch pad. I had a working system and I was an instant fan.

    If you do have a problem or a question, the solution is almost always easily found using Google and the Ubuntu forums. You don't see too many "RTFM" responses like with other distros. So I'd say that Ubuntu has contributed a lot in terms on documentation and ease of use.
  • re:

    I don't care what did Canonical do with Debian (but last time I checked, Debian didn't even offer me to install nVidia drivers automatically. Sitting without Compiz or any opengl definitely was fun).

    They did however make A place for newbies to ask a question about Linux... and actually have it answered in a decent manner. This seemingly extremely simple thing is one of a kind - if you ask the same thing on Debian forums, you'll be told "RTFM; Go use Ubuntu; Debian isn't for newbs; you don't know how to compile? you aren't allowed near your computer;".

    Really, Debian has zero intention of being the most popular desktop distro - at least they show zero signs of such - so I fail to see their anger of ubuntu taking that spot. At all.
  • ufuntu

    if you ask me, Mark is a rich boy doing the right thing for the wrong reason. Having said that, linux fanboys are all immature geeks that need to get outside and play some sport for a change Pathetic. Sitting in the dark on their computers not even trying to get out there into the real world. Pathetic really.
  • Ubuntu --> Debian

    I discovered Debian (ok, I knew of its existence for a long time) via the path of trying Ubuntu first. After a few Ubuntu server installs and minimal text installs, I figured why not try Debian. So I would have to agree that there is a mindshare benefit that comes from Ubuntu. I actually don't think it is necessarily all that great of a distro (not saying it is bad, it just isn't skies above many of the others at least for my needs; though it has lots of packages -- thanks Debian!! Actually, I like it as a minimal install because I can I have access to a pretty up-to-date Debian-esqe repo, though running Debian testing works for me pretty good as well). But again, it seems to me that is has increased mindshare that may not have happened otherwise. You all can make the call whether that is a good or bad thing...
  • Of Grandads (and Grandmas) and Soccer Mums

    quote::If you ask me, the Ubuntu-haters are just losers who are ticked off that their l33t status-symbol is being used by grandads and soccer moms.

    Actually all my Grandads (and Grandmas) and Soccer Mums - the people I set up with and convert to Linux - use Mandriva Linux, and they seem very happy with it, and think it is very easy to use.
  • Mud slinging will never win me

    I would have to agree that just Ubuntu's user base to Linux is a huge deal.

    I appreciate anyone who spends there time hacking Linux and making it better, but since when did Novell start bashing other linux distros? This tactic seems all to Microsoft to me.

    I think Google trends explains it all
  • All hype?

    I use about half Debian (usually on servers) and half Ubuntu (usually on desktops or terminal servers). If you can't recognize the qualitative difference between the two, you are either a moron or someone blinded by envy or "distro-love".

    I appreciate the fact that the kernel is improving all the time, but other than support for newer hardware I can't think of a single new kernel feature since I started using Linux in 2003 that has impacted my Linux experience significantly. OTOH, improvements to the desktop and install process have been significant.

    Take a look at the relative size and revenues of Novell, RedHat, and Canonical. Take a look at their ages. Take a look at how many people each employs. Then tell me why you expect Canonical to have contributed the same amount as the other two.

    If you ask me, the Ubuntu-haters are just losers who are ticked off that their l33t status-symbol is being used by grandads and soccer moms.
  • Canonical is all hype

    Get real. It was the Debian developers who actually made Ubuntu. All Canonical did was repackage Debian's developmental branch, and then heap a whole lot of hype on their "distribution". They hyped it as linux "for humans", and set up a webpage spouting that hype, and handed out free CDs, and got a bunch of college-aged fanbois to help overhype it. Big deal. Canonical has been feeding off of the linux community for years, and has gotten way, way more press than it ever deserves. It's about time that people started pointing out that this emporer has no clothes. We need Debian, Redhat, and Novell. Canonical, we don't need.
  • Reality check?

    I personally think that Canonical contributed enormously by nearly doubling Linux desktop install base.

    And the "Linux desktop install base" is important bit.

    Anybody who had to deal with kernel development in last five years would found that contributing something to kernel what provides gains on desktop is nearly impossible: if it hurts servers (forte of RH & Novell) it will be immediately blocked by their people. Just recall Kon Colivas "goodbye letter." It's all there.

    The conflicts on LKML still happening all the time. Linux as kernel heavily server oriented - because companies who keep most developers on payroll are server companies. And they choose server market because it is possible to make a profit in server market, while in desktop market you face up hill battle against M$ and Apple.

    RH and Novell (SUSE) choose easy target where they can compete - Canonical choose much much harder target and yet is delivering good results. So who is coward then??

    P.S. And frankly, 95% of kernel contributions of RH and Novell can be filed under category "improved Oracle performance by 0.0001%." To me personally most of their contribution for past years were pretty useless.
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