Key Linux contributor Alan Cox steps down

Cox takes a sabbatical from Linux for personal reasons, rather than political ones

Alan Cox, one of the chief contributors to the Linux kernel, has taken a step down from his volunteer duties, citing the need to attend to family matters.

Cox has contributed to Linux in various capacities since 1991, shortly after Linus Torvalds developed the open-source variant of the Unix operating system. Most recently, Cox worked on the kernel on behalf of Intel, where he was employed.

In a message on Google+, Cox wrote he is "stepping down for a bit" to attend to family matters.

Cox then clarified that "I'm aware that 'family reasons' is usually management speak for 'I think the boss is an asshole' but I'd like to assure everyone that while I frequently think Linus is an asshole (and therefore very good as kernel dictator) I am departing quite genuinely for family reasons and not because I've fallen out with Linus or Intel or anyone else."

He also stated that he "may be back at some point in the future."

As the sole arbitrator of what changes ultimately go into Linux, Torvalds' cantankerous attitude is well-known, and perhaps even an effective tool for keeping Linux on a rapid release schedule. In December, he publicly chastised a Red Hat kernel maintainer with great vigor about buggy code. Cox is also not one to temper his displeasure in public. Earlier this month, he slammed the recently released Fedora 18 for being "buggy" and "unusable" in places.

"We applaud Alan's contribution to the Linux kernel and wish him the best for the future. He is one of the best software developers in the world and his contributions to Linux have been many and should not be underestimated," said Amanda McPherson, the Linux Foundation's vice president of marketing and developer programs, in a statement.

Cox is often considered to be one of the most important developers and maintainers of Linux, alongside Torvalds, Andrew Morton, Greg Kroah-Hartman and a handful of others. He did quite a bit of work fixing and updating the kernel's networking stack in the early days. He also maintained the kernel's TTY computer terminal interface until 2009. Most recently, he maintained the version 2.2 tree of Linux releases, and his own version of the 2.4 kernel.

"There is no doubt that his departure is a loss, but luckily, the kernel community has a robust and deep pool of maintainers and developers numbering in the thousands who will ensure that his work is continued. We also hope to welcome him back in the future," McPherson wrote.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

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