Home Business IT Open Source Torvalds pours scorn on De Icaza's desktop claims

Linux creator Linus Torvalds has poured scorn on claims made by the co-founder of the GNOME Desktop project, Miguel de Icaza, that he (Torvalds) was in any way to blame for the lack of development in Linux desktop initiatives.

De Icaza made the claim in his personal blog on August 29 when he wrote: "Linus, despite being a low-level kernel guy, set the tone for our community years ago when he dismissed binary compatibility for device drivers. The kernel people might have some valid reasons for it, and might have forced the industry to play by their rules, but the Desktop people did not have the power that the kernel people did. But we did keep the attitude."

A few days before this, De Icaza had claimed that OSX had stifled the growth of the Linux desktop.

When iTWire contacted Torvalds to find out his point of view, he pointed to a discussion on Intel engineer Sriram Ramkrishna's Google+ page, saying, "I actually answered this to some degree when Sriram talked about it on G+ and I don't really feel like rehashing that answer very much..

"The gnome people have their problems. They do seem to like to blame pretty much anything but themselves."

In his post on Ramkrishna's G+ page, Torvalds wrote: "The gnome people claiming that I set the 'attitude' that causes them problems is laughable.

"One of the core kernel rules has always been that we never ever break any external interfaces. That rule has been there since day one, although it's gotten much more explicit only in the last few years. The fact that we break internal interfaces that are not visible to userland is totally irrelevant, and a total red herring.

"I wish the gnome people had understood the real rules inside the kernel. Like "you never break external interfaces" - and 'we need to do that to improve things'" is not an excuse.

"Or 'different users have different needs'. The kernel was - and is - happy to support both the SGI style thousand-CPU machines and the embedded vendors with cellphones and routers. The fact that they have different needs is very obvious.

"I personally think that one reason that the Linux kernel has been so successful was the fact that I didn't have a huge vision of where I wanted to force people to go. Sure, I wanted 'unix', and there are some very high-level concepts that go with that (fork,exec,files etc), but I didn't want to enforce any particular world-view outside of that very generic pattern.

"In fact, Linux pretty much did what I envisioned back in 1991 when I first released it. Pretty much all subsequent development was driven by outside ideas of what other people needed or wanted to do. Not by some internal vision of where things 'should' go.

"That's exactly the reverse of the gnome 'we know better' mentality, and "We will force Corba/.NET down your throat whether you like it or not, and if you complain, you're against progress, and cannot handle the change'.

"Some gnome people seem to be in total denial about what their problem really is. They'll wildly blame everybody except themselves. This article seems to be a perfect example of that."


Prior to this post, senior kernel developer Alan Cox responded to another part of De Icaza's post which ran this way: "The second dimension to the problem is that no two Linux distributions agreed on which core components the system should use."

"That made me laugh," Cox wrote on Ramkrishna's G+ page. "There was KDE and Miguel then came along and created the very confusion he's ranting about. He was also core to ramming CORBA down peoples throats which then had to be extracted slowly back out of the resulting mess that blighted Gnome 2.x and occupied vast amounts of developer time.

"He's dead right about the way the Gnome people keep breaking their compatibility every (sic) time not just with the apps but with the UI, with the config (which is still worse now than in Gnome 1.x !) and so on.

"However it's not an Open Source disease its certain projects like Gnome disease - my 3.6rc kernel will still run a Rogue binary built in 1992. X is back compatible to apps far older than Linux.

"As for his ranting about the audio I blame Lennart Poettering... - the kernel audio hasn't broken compatibility, it even has OSS compat layers back to the beginning of Linux audio support. Actually blaming Pulseaudio is mean too (but it's fun blaming Lennart and that's what he exists for) - it also has compat stuff designed to make ancient apps just work...

"Gnome isn't really a desktop anyway - it's a research project."

De Icaza made a couple of posts on Ramkrishna's page, reiterating the views in his blog post.



Download an in-depth guide to managing a healthy, motivated and energetic workforce without breaking the bank.


Sam Varghese

website statistics

A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.






Join the iTWire Community and be part of the latest news, invites to exclusive events, whitepapers and educational materials and oppertunities.
Why do I want to receive this daily update?
  • The latest features from iTWire
  • Free whitepaper downloads
  • Industry opportunities