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Morton Gets Googled

Aug 03, 2006, 18:00 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

Andrew Morton has started working for a new company, but his day job as the Linux 2.6 kernel maintainer will remain exactly the same.

The new company is none other than Google, the Mountain View, CA-based company that has favored Linux in its operations and lately in its software development plans. Morton started his employment on Monday, shifting into a new environment to do pretty much the same work he has been doing.

The reason for this odd statement is explained by who was funding Morton's employment to begin with. Morton was named a full-time Open Source Development Labs Fellow in July 2003, and it is a common misperception that he was directly employed the OSDL. In actuality, Morton was employed by Palo Alto-based Digeo Interactive.

"My position there was funded by OSDL so that I could work on the kernel full-time," Morton said in an interview with Linux Today.

Until recently, the arrangement worked very well for the developer, who is oft-times referred to as Linus Torvalds' right-hand man. But recently, changes began to take place.

"There were reorganizations at Digeo which would have changed my work situation in ways which were not attractive, and it was time to move on," Morton explained.

The OSDL offered to directly employ Morton while he worked from home, but Morton indicated that he preferred to work in an office with other engineers. Thus a search for a new home was underway.

So why Google? Other than the well-known perks for working in Google's Silicon Valley campus, Morton had a strong ethical attraction to working for the company.

"In my position as kernel maintainer I feel that I should not be employed by a company which has a direct interest in the kernel.org kernel because this would put me in a position of making decisions which are commercially significant to my employer's competitors," Morton explained. "As Google maintains their own kernel variant for internal use, their interests are largely decoupled from what happens in the kernel.org kernel."

Google's active use of Linux and participation in open source development was another big draw. "It is beneficial to me (and to Linux) that I be in day-to-day contact with people who use Linux for real things. Hence Google is a good all-round fit," Morton added.

Other than new digs and new co-workers, Morton's relationship with OSDL remains unchanged. He values the industry contacts the he has gained working with OSDL, and has no desire to part with that advantage.

Of more importance to the Linux community is his status as the 2.6 maintainer. The good news for them is, the status will not change a whit.

"I shall continue my maintainership role with the Linux kernel--there should be few if any visible changes in this function," Morton stated.

The new working relationship shouldn't be a bad thing for Google, either. The company's efforts to make headway as a believer and user in open source software will certainly gain some street cred with Morton's presence.

"We are pleased to confirm that Andrew Morton has joined Google as a member of our Linux development team. Andrew joins Google from the OSDL and has an unparalleled background in Linux and open source development. Andrew will continue his fine work on the Linux kernel and with organizations like OSDL. We are thrilled to welcome him to Google," said Google Open Source Program Manager Chris DiBona.

For his part, Morton is spending the week like any other first week on the job, meeting new people, adjusting to new e-mail, and the like.

"I look forward to working at Google--they have become one of the great Silicon Valley engineering companies and I expect that, as happened with Digeo, my improved understanding of the problems which engineers encounter when using the Linux kernel for real-world applications will lead to a better kernel," Morton said.

Still, the kernel developer was unhesitant in remembering how he got to this point in his career. "I thank Digeo for the opportunity to work on Linux-they permitted me to work full-time on Linus's kernel for a year prior to entering into the OSDL sponsorship arrangement, which was a considerable contribution," he said, adding "I thank OSDL for enabling me to work full-time on the Linux kernel for three years and for all the other things they have done for me and for Linux."

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