Ted Tso

Principal engineer, VA Linux Systems

In the middle of last year, Linus Torvalds decided new features for the Linux kernel needed more of his attention, so he handed off a major maintenance responsibility to a longtime contributor, Ted Tso.

Tso was a trusted lieutenant who had established the first North American download site for Linux, while working as a network security specialist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in September 1991.

The server "happened to be my desktop machine," he notes, a venerable Digital Equipment PDP-11.

Since July, Tso has managed the 2.4 kernels bug list, combing through 500 to 1,000 e-mail messages per day, looking for the ones that specify a problem buried in the code and sending out inquiries on who might know how to fix it.

The international group of Linux developers and beta users constitutes "a voluminous mailing list," and being responsible for identifying fixes for bugs "forced me to read almost every single message a day, which is impossible," Tso says. Some of the messages relate to bugs, and Tso has to decide whether they reflect a new problem or a known problem. Some simply reflect user misconceptions and have to be set aside.

Tso was a systems architect and one of the original developers of the Kerberos security system for Unix while at MIT, and during that time, "Linux was my hobby," he says.

Now, as a principal engineer for systems integrator VA Linux Systems, Linux is his full-time job, which continues into the late evening as he tries to catch up on messages dealing with bugs.

Since the release of the 2.4 kernel in January, Tso has taken a step back from frequent updates to the bug list to let the new kernel undergo some testing.

But hes falling behind, he readily admits, and he will soon be plunged back into combing reams of e-mail and sending out queries for fixes.