Cox’ involvement diminished when he commenced a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA) but he continued to maintain the TTY subsystem of the Linux kernel – the very important component which drives any text terminal or serial port connection.
The term “tty” harks back to teletypewriters that were originally used as input to large computers of the past. Type the w command into any Linux shell and you’ll see a list of logged-in users, each connected to either a tty device or pty (pseudo tty) device.
Yet, Alan Cox has now walked away from the tty code, posting on the Linux Kernel mailing list “I’ve had enough.”
Cox posted his message in response to criticism alleging he was not fixing bugs – specifically a bug that affected the emacs editor – and he was instead blaming the application.
Cox retorted to his abuser “If you think that problem is easy to fix you fix it.”
It’s an unfortunate truism of the Internet that flame wars happen on any mailing list or forum. This one is particularly significant because of who Cox is and the crucial nature of the tty code and because the person who incensed Cox so much to quit was actually none other than Torvalds himself.
Torvalds slammed Cox in a stern posting, using phrases like “You have been CONTINUALLY arguing that emacs is buggy. Without any logic to back that up what-so-ever” and “Why are you making these outlandish claims?” and “Why did it take so long to admit that all the regressions were kernel problems?”
Linus then landed his finishing blow, “Quite frankly, I don’t understand why I should even have to bring these issues up” the same way an adult might rebuke a wayward child.
It was this which led to Cox simply replying “I’ve had enough ... you fix it” and then flushing his entire code submission queue.
It possibly didn’t help matters that the specific program affected, emacs, is almost revered in some Linux circles. It was one of the first GNU apps, created by none other than Richard Stallman himself – although there is some irony that Alan Cox prefers the same unruly beard style as Stallman.
Are you a Linux kernel hacker? Looking for a voluntary role maintaining the TTY code base? If so, there’s a position now vacant.
Perhaps new kernel submitter, Microsoft, may wish to step in.