Lars Wirzenius: Linux, 2004


Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Linux: Linus did not write Linux

The Alexis de Tocqueville Institution is correct: Linus Torvalds did not write Linux. I feel it is my duty as an eye-witness to the events to reveal that Linus's attempt to hide behind a humorous defense is also a smoke screen: Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy also did not write Linux.

The University of Helsinki, where Linus studied in 1991 as Linux was first written, is known for its strong role playing culture. One of its more important student associations, Alter Ego, is ample proof for this. During the summer of 1991, during a week-long dice-throwing excercise camp, several people started to chant cryptic camp-fire poetry in the form of C code.

Already in the 1960's, Donald E. Knuth claimed that programming could be an art form; cf. his book series Art of Computer Programming. Later, other people have started to think similarly and these days, there is even an association to further this way of thinking: TOYS. That summer week in 1991 was the final proof that code can be poetry.

As it happened, the chanting sessions was recorded on a portable tape recorder. Afterwards, one of the participants, one Ville Vuorela, decided that it would be nifty to have the code poetry written down and gave the tape to Linus to be transcribed.

Linus, who doesn't understand poetry, confused the contents of the tape with actual program code and ran it through a compiler. Although he had to fix some syntactic problems, he was much amazed the code actually ran and in his enthusiasm he put made it available on the Internet.

That's the true story about how Linux came to be. Honest.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Linux: Kernel upgrade to 2.6.1: no hibernation, but Rhythmbox

Yesterday I upgraded the kernel on my laptop from 2.6.0-test3 to 2.6.1. I had hoped to get a working hibernation or suspend, but alas no. Swsusp will hibernate fine, but upon bootup it crashes reliably. PM_DISK doesn't even hibernate. Suspend-to-memory doesn't seem to work at all. Ah well.

On the other hand, on this new kernel Rhythmbox (and therefore GStreamer) can play music without brokenness. With the previous kernel, the music would play nicely as long as there was no CPU load, but as soon as there was, it would have stop playing until the load went away. This is nice because the Rhythmbox user interface is much nicer than that of XMMS. Hopefully I won't have to go back to XMMS, ever. XMMS is still slightly better at playing (shorter pauses between songs, and less affected by short load peaks), but the difference is small enough that it doesn't matter to me.

On the whole, this was an unusually painless kernel upgrade. The worst problem I had was when the Synaptic touchpad driver I'm using had to be upgraded. At some point they had decided to reverse the y coordinates so that up was down and down was up. But that was rather easy to do, luckily.