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Andrew Tridgell Finally Breaks Silence on Bout with Torvalds

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Linux

A RIFT over development procedures has exposed fractures at the highest level of the Linux community and raised questions about the future direction of the open-source operating system.

For the past month, the biggest topic of discussion in the tight-knit Linux world has been a major fallout between Linus Torvalds, who created the popular OS, and Andrew Tridgell, the Australian developer of Samba, a well-regarded and widely-used tool for getting Linux and Windows systems to interoperate.

While Linux enthusiasts have always engaged in technical arguments, the latest dispute is more reminiscent of the personality-driven wars often found in the commercial software industry between rival technocrats such as Microsoft's Bill Gates, Oracle's Larry Ellison and Sun's Scott McNealy.

The dispute centres on Mr Tridgell's work to develop a free software client for BitMover's BitKeeper, a commercial software package that Mr Torvalds has used since 2002 to track changes and patches to the Linux kernel.

BitKeeper acts as a source code management (SCM) tool, helping Mr Torvalds to track the contributions and code suggestions submitted from developers across the world and maintain multiple builds of the kernel.

Many in the Linux community have been uneasy about using a proprietary closed tool for such work, arguing that open source software should be developed with open source tools.

Mr Tridgell used his keynote speech at the conference to make his first public comment on the dispute. He described much of the commentary on it as "trivial and crazy". But he showed no signs of backing down.

He demonstrated how BitKeeper's online help made it relatively simple to deduce its basic data format.

Later, he released the first version of the SourcePuller code online during the conference.

In the release notes for the software, Mr Tridgell called for an end to the dispute, writing: "There have been enough flames over this issue already."

"Kernel development, to a great extent, has come to a halt over the past few weeks," said Jonathan Corbet from LWN.net, a Linux news site.

"It's only Linus who is directly affected by the BitKeeper business," Andrew Morton, the Australian co-maintainer of the kernel, said at the conference.

"Torvalds and Morton could both be hit by the same bus and we would recover somehow," Mr Corbet said. "It would hurt, but it wouldn't kill the kernel."

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