AOL Deal Could Cost Red Hat Cox

Alan Cox, a right-hand man to Linus Torvalds, in a posting Monday, said he was "insulted" that anyone believes he would continue working for Red Hat if AOL owned the company.

Alan Cox, an employee at Linux developer and distributor Red Hat Inc. and a right-hand man to Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux open-source operating system, implied on Monday that he would resign if AOL Time Warner Inc. acquired Red Hat, as has been much speculated over the past few days.

In a Monday posting on the Linux kernel mailing list, Cox, who works for Red Hat in Durham, N.C., and lives in Swansea, Wales, said in response to earlier postings that he had "no idea on the [sale] rumours (and if I did I wouldnt tell you!) but Im insulted that anyone believes I would continue working for [Red Hat] if AOL Time Warner owned them." He could not be immediately reached to confirm the posting or for further comment.

In an e-mail exchange with eWEEK, Torvalds on Monday also declined to say much about the alleged deal. When asked what he thought of the speculation that AOL was looking to either buy Red Hat or forge a far closer relationship between the AOL client and the Linux operating system and whether this could be good news for Linux on the desktop going forward, he said, "I have a really hard time judging that, especially since the rumors dont seem to be that strong yet. And in any case the market place stuff is just not something I try to get involved with."

Coxs and Torvalds remarks follow a wave of speculation that AOL is reportedly negotiating to acquire Red Hat. The move could give AOL significant alternatives to software made by Microsoft Corp. and is seen as the latest salvo in the battle between the competitors, who have clashed over technologies such as instant messaging and media players.

Both Red Hat and AOL Time Warner remained tight-lipped about whether or not they were negotiating a possible deal, and neither could not be reached for comment by press time.

Cox has been a significant player in the development of the Linux operating system and, while he has recently become less high profile in the maintenance of the kernel, he is still actively involved in its development.

In early November he told other kernel developers that he would not be maintaining the current 2.4 Linux kernel when Torvalds handed it over to concentrate on the 2.5 development tree, which he has since done.

In a posting on the Advogato Web site at that time, Cox said that kernel developer Marcelo Tosatti would become the head maintainer over the 2.4 stable kernel tree. In an effort to downplay the significance of the move, Cox said it was "not the giant change it may seem from the outside."

"The stable kernel management was and is a group effort. Marcelo and many others have been active in 2.2 and 2.4 stabilization work. Ill be helping Marcelo with advice when he asks it, and working on feeding him the 2.4 relevant bits of the -ac tree," he said.

While Cox said he would not be "disappearing from the scene, I might be a little less visible at times. There are various kernel projects I will be working on as well as spending more time concentrating on Red Hat customer-related needs. Im hopeful that spending more time closer to customers will help provide more insight into where 2.5 needs to be going," he said.

That decision followed a very public disagreement between Cox and Torvalds over which Virtual Memory manager would be included in the stable 2.4 kernel and the new 2.5 development tree going forward.

In October, Torvalds said he had decided to include a new Virtual Memory manager in the latest incarnations of the Linux kernel from Version 2.4.10 onward. The code was written by Andrea Arcangeli, who works for SuSE Inc., of Oakland, and lives in Italy.

Cox at that time refused to implement the new Virtual Memory manager into the separate 2.4 kernel tree he then maintained, known as the "ac tree," choosing instead to stick with the original VM, which was written by developer Rik van Riel, who works for Conectiva S.A., in Brazil. That code shipped in the final 2.4 kernel that shipped in January.

But both Torvalds and Cox then told eWEEK that they would both embrace a new Virtual Memory manager and implement it in forthcoming iterations of the operating system.