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Days that used to be

The world of Linux has been transformed during the last twenty years. In the computing industry, on the server and on embedded devices Linux has become the norm. "The people I used to call up and say: 'This Linux thing, you should get into it. It's really interesting...' I run across them now and they tell me about their Linux credentials, and how long they've been in the industry working on Linux, and I think:

'I remember you when you were working on QNX. Who are you trying to kid?'"

"Linux is now the embedded industry. It's what you use. It's become the establishment, like a rock band that makes it big, and starts demanding payments for its downloads. Linux has become like Metallica ..."

"But the best way to see how Linux has changed is to think of the parties. LinuxWorld used to be an alternative event, the Woodstock of the computing world. You went to LinuxWorld, and everybody got boozed up and had a good time. The stories I could tell you... A lot of people had a lot of good times. LinuxWorld was the rock event of the technology world, and then slowly but surely more and more suits started turning up, and by the end of it me and a few other guys were sat there not wearing suits in a sea of PR people."

"The last one I went to was a sad affair just after the meltdown. I remember us looking at each other and wondering what the $"*? are we doing here? Nothing sadder than a bunch of old hippies in an industry that has been taken over by PR people..."

"The Linux Foundation event is where we all hang out now. That's where we all ended up going. So the Linux Foundation is like a miniature version of how LinuxWorld was in the old days, but without all the booze, or rather with as much booze as we can handle these days. Linus still turns up there, and so do a lot of the other guys. But the young turks all have job titles like software development manager, and are all terribly serious."

All bugs are shallow

Zoom Jeremy scuba diving
"The art of writing software has moved on. It isn't materially different writing open source or proprietary software code. It really isn't. Simply because you used to get away with absolute liberties."

"People were sloppy. Code was sloppy, and it can't be that any more. Again, this is the same for proprietary software. If you're writing something simple just to test something out, you can throw it together with a minimum of fuss. But as soon as you have to write something that people depend on – and Samba is in that situation, there is a massive amount of work and infrastructure that has to be in place."

"So we have a regression test suite, and every single commit has to pass a regression test or the code is failed. The goal is: if you want to write a new feature, you write the test for it first, and then you write the code and make sure it passes the test."

"But I am still a believer in free and open source software. You can create proprietary software that is as good as open source software. It's just a lot harder. The pressures to ship proprietary software are much greater, and it's harder to find the time for the care and effort you need. Proprietary developers have begun to understand that as well. The goal is for all software to get better, because these days we depend on software in ways we didn't used to."

"I still maintain that it's easier for code written as open source to hit a higher level of quality with less effort than it is to do with proprietary software, simply because you can't sweep things under the rug, and you can't hide things when the code is open source."

"There have been cases where bugs have persisted in open source code for many years, and it's been said 'doesn't that disprove the idea that many eyes make all bugs shallow', but that isn't really the case. It just shows that the code wasn't executed very often, so no-one took a look at it. The stuff that people depend on gets looked at all the time."

Next: Where we are now

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