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Alan Cox and the End of an Era

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In the beginning, free software was an activity conducted on the margins - using spare time on a university's computers, or the result of lonely bedroom hacking. One of the key moments in the evolution of free software was when hackers began to get jobs - often quite remunerative jobs - with one of the new open source companies that sprang up in the late 1990s. For more or less the first time, coders could make a good salary doing what they loved, and businesses could be successful paying them to write code that would be given away.

The other company that made a conscious effort to sweep up relevant hacker talent is happily not only still with us, but thriving. Red Hat has recently posted excellent financial results, and remains arguably the leading open source company. Given its focus on GNU/Linux, it naturally tended to recruit the top people there - people like David Miller, Stephen Tweedie and Alan Cox.

Cox was born in Solihull, and studied at universities in Wales. He was a keen Amiga hacker, and contemplated writing an entirely new operating system for that machine, but decided that "writing file system stuff was too hard for one person to do." So he was naturally impressed to discover that a crazy Finn had done precisely that.

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Alan Cox leaves Red Hat, suggesting company's future direction

Matt Asay: After 10 years with Red Hat as one of its highest-profile developers, Alan Cox is moving on to Intel.

I suspect the impetus for the change has much to do with Cox's interest in the "low-level stuff" that Intel needs, and Red Hat much less so. Implicit in Cox's note is an indication of where Red Hat is going: up the stack.

This shift will not happen overnight, but it very clearly has been happening.

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