Re: A modest proposal -- We need a patch penguin

From: Rob Landley (
Date: Mon Jan 28 2002 - 22:42:19 EST

On Monday 28 January 2002 08:37 pm, Francesco Munda wrote:
> On Mon, 28 Jan 2002 09:10:56 -0500
> Rob Landley <> wrote:
> > Patch Penguin Proposal.
> >
> > [...]
> You mean some sort of proxy/two-tier development? A "commit/rollback"
> transaction model on the kernel itself?

Think how Alan Cox's tree used to work. Just because Alan accepted a patch
didn't guarantee Linus wasn't going to come up with a reason to shoot it
down. It just meant the patch wasn't going to be ignored, and if it WAS
dropped there would probably going to be some kind of explanation.

Whether the patch penguin wants to use some kind of tool to maintain their
tree (like CVS) with a "commit/rollback" model is a seperate issue. Linus
isn't going to use it, and linus isn't going to have to see it. Linus gets
the kid of patches he likes, which have already had merge clashes and the
really obvious thinkos resolved before he sees them, and have probably even
been tested by the foolhardy individuals currently downloading the -ac, -dj,
and -aa trees.

Right now, Alan's tree is in the process of going back into circulation. He
tells me that his tree is basically a delta against marcello (2.4), and DJ is
doing a delta against linus (2.5). Over time, the need for a 2.4 delta will
probably diminish as new development shifts over to 2.5. Right now, the
patch constipation we've been seeing is, in my opinion, directing development
to occur against 2.4 that should at the very least be eyeing 2.5. (Alan is
probably NOT interested in integrating patches that Marcelo has no intention
of eventually integrating into 2.5. So he's not taking the new development
integration pressure off, that's DJ's job.)

I think DJ could definitely use a clearer mandate.

> I deeply agree with you, especially in keeping "many eyes" to look at the
> same kernel tree, and not chosing one of the many subtrees; as added bonus,
> this stuff is buzzword compliant! What we can ask more? :)
> Now, Linus' call to accept _your_ patch. Fingers crossed already.

I'm getting a lot more support off the list than on the list. People seem to
be afraid to cc: linux-kernel. I underestimated how deeply steeped in
politics this issue seems to have become. It seems a fairly straightforward
optmiziation, mainly a clarification of of the way things have been done in
the past and a formalization of a position that got a bit confused in the
transition from one officeholder to another.

Before posting here, I bounced an earlier draft off of both Alan Cox and Dave
Jones. Alan's response was, and I quote:

> I'm certainly fine with DaveJ being the victim 8)

Dave didn't seem to have any major objections but raised a lot technical
points to the effect of "I'm already doing this bit". Both of them gave me
permission to post most of our conversation to the list, but seem unwilling
to do it themselves. :)

I've gotten several other agreements, some from people trying to find an
off-list place we could discuss it (okay, so what's THIS list for again)?
And one person, who shall remain nameless (at least as long as he refuses to
speak for himself. :) brought up the subject of Linus co-designing bitkeeper
way back when to cope with exactly some of these problems.

Bitkeeper is a technical tool attempting to deal with a social problem.
Merging patches, resolving conflicts between them, testing them, and keeping
them current as the tree changes under them requires programmer work. A
human needs to do it. Whether that human uses bitkeeper, CVS, a directory
full of patch files, or manually keeps all the patches in printouts in a shoe
box is a side issue. A human can feed Linus better patches than any software
tool possibly could.

Now if the patch penguin wants to use bitkeeper for his own internal
patch-wrangling, that's a seperate issue. One you should take up with the
patch penguin, once we have one. (Of course the developer community and the
maintainers might exert some pressure on the patch penguin to use CVS, but
how is this a bad thing from Linus's perspective: it means they'e NOT bugging
HIM about using CVS anymore. And again, this is an enhancement/detail that
can be resolved later.)

As for attracting Linus's attention, there's a penguin and egg problem here:
without an integration lieutenant Linus is largely too swamped to reliably be
aware of this kind of thread on the list, so how can he get the suggestion to
anoint someone with holy penguin pee to basically act as his secretary and
clean up this mess of patches so he can properly sort through them once
they've been organized and laid out in front of him in nice neat rows. Hence
the drive to get people to agree to it so the thread grows large enough to
attract Linus's attention, and also passes his "it's been discussed enough to
find any particularly obvious holes with it" filter...

So everybody who thinks this is a good idea, please say so. Those who don't
like it, please say so too so the objection can be aired and maybe resolved.
The core idea here really is to save Linus time and effort. Everything else
is either a direct consequence of that, or a fringe benefit.

> -- FM

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