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Kernel hacker Alan Cox quits Linux, Intel

Former Linus lieutenant leaving for 'family reasons'

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Top Linux kernel contributor Alan Cox has announced that he is stepping down from his position at Intel and will no longer be involved with Linux development, citing family reasons.

The British-born Cox, who makes his home in Swansea, Wales, has been one of the most active developers of the Linux kernel since the early days of the project, and at one time was often described as Linus Torvalds' "second in command."

A 2012 report by the Linux Foundation listed Cox as the 18th most active individual contributor to the kernel, having submitted 1,703 code changes over a 5.5-year period. He is perhaps best known for having written the core of the Linux networking subsystem, and for having maintained the 2.2 kernel branch.

Cox's declaration that he is "leaving the Linux world," which he posted on his Google+ page, had the Linux community scrambling to find a hidden motive behind the decision.

Many suspected frustration was to blame. Cox's relationship with Torvalds has occasionally been rocky, and in 2009 Cox quit maintaining certain kernel subsystems after Torvalds publicly castigated him for making changes that broke user programs.

Torvalds' unfiltered management style is well known to kernel developers, and such bugs are one of his pet peeves. Earlier this year, he told Red Hat's Mauro Carvalho Chehab to "shut the f**k up" over a similar issue.

Still other conspiracy theorists reckoned Cox had grown fed up with Linux itself. In an earlier Google+ post, he had called Fedora 18 "the worst Red Hat distro I've ever seen" and said he would be re-installing with a different Linux flavor.

But Cox returned to Google+ late on Thursday to rubbish such theories, saying he was not "switching to Ubuntu" and that his decision to stop working on Linux had nothing to do with any personal strife:

I'm leaving the Linux world and Intel for a bit for family reasons. 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. Far from it I've had great fun working there.

Cox did not give any specifics of his future plans, saying only that "most of the people who should know more do." He did say, however, that he planned to tie up any remaining loose ends on his current kernel development work.

Cox's Google+ page now lists his employment at Intel as having ended in 2013. Cox joined the chipmaker in 2010; previously, he spent ten years at Red Hat. Both jobs mainly involved Linux kernel development. As for whether he might return to his former occupation someday, Cox left the door open – slightly.

"I may be back at some point in the future – who knows," he wrote. "In the mean time [sic] if you'd like my job (or indeed one of a range of others) we're hiring." ®

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