Linux systemd dev says open source is 'SICK', kernel community 'awful'

Reckons newbies should beware of hostile straight white males


Lennart Poettering, creator of the systemd system management software for Linux, says the open-source world is "quite a sick place to be in."

He also said the Linux development community is "awful" – and he pins the blame for that on Linux supremo Linus Torvalds.

"A fish rots from the head down," Poettering said in a post to his Google+ feed on Sunday.

Poettering said Torvalds' confrontational and often foul-mouthed management style is "not an efficient way to run a community" and that it sets an example that is followed by other kernel developers, creating a hostile environment for newcomers.

What's more, he said, the kernel development community is insular and the overall tone of its discourse is likely to keep it that way.

"The Linux community is dominated by western, white, straight, males in their 30s and 40s these days," Poettering wrote. "I perfectly fit in that pattern, and the rubbish they pour over me is awful. I can only imagine that it is much worse for members of minorities, or people from different cultural backgrounds, in particular ones where losing face is a major issue."

Torvalds is indeed well known for his acerbic posts to Linux kernel mailing lists. Poettering cited one particular missive in which Torvalds said some kernel developers should be "retroactively aborted" for their stupidity, and in another post he said he hoped ARM system-on-chip (SoC) developers would "all die in some incredibly painful accident."

The Linux main man has no great love for the core systemd developers, either. In April he called top systemd coder Kay Sievers a "fucking prima donna" and said he didn't want to ever work with him.

In the past, Torvalds has explained away such outbursts, saying that being grumpy is just in his nature.

"I'd like to be a nice person and curse less and encourage people to grow rather than telling them they are idiots," Torvalds said during an online chat with Finland's Aalto University in April. "I'm sorry – I tried, it's just not in me."

But Poettering isn't buying it. As a result of the behavior of Torvalds and a few other core kernel developers, he said, he hasn't posted to the Linux kernel mailing list "in years" – although he added that the systemd development community is "fantastic."

"If you are a newcomer to Linux, either grow a really thick skin. Or run away, it's not a friendly place to be in," Poettering wrote by way of advice. "It is sad that it is that way, but it certainly is." ®

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