Linux in the news
All in one big page
See also: last week's Kernel page.
Linus remains out of sight as of this writing; thus, no official
kernel releases have been made in some time. Alan Cox continues to
accumulate patches in both the stable and development trees.
On the stable
side, he is up to 2.2.13pre14. This patch
contains an impressive number of patches at this point, and was considered
to be a release candidate. Now, however, the kernel hackers have to figure
out how they are going to fix the SMP IDE hanging bug that they recently
tracked down first.
On the development
side, the patches are up to 2.3.18ac10.
Should device drivers be part of the kernel source tree? This
longstanding debate flared up as the result of a seemingly innocent query
this week. Most device driver developers try to get their code distributed
as part of the mainline kernel, but there are those who think that drivers
should be kept - and distributed - separately. Arguments for this point of
On the other hand, the "keep drivers in the kernel camp" puts forward
- There is an unbelievable number of devices out there, and more every
day. Putting all those drivers into the kernel tree leads to source
bloat and a huge, unmaintainable mess.
- The lifecycle of modern hardware can be shorter than the kernel
development cycle. Separately-maintained drivers can be updated at
any time; drivers in the kernel have to wait for a stable release.
- Hardware should come with a driver diskette for Linux, just like
the ever-present Windows diskette. Users should be able to simply
insert a vendor-supplied diskette and not have to worry about things
like kernel rebuilds.
- Every driver in the kernel increases the patch-processing load on
Linus. Linus is not an infinite resource.
This is the sort of discussion that can go on for a very long time; no
serious changes in how drivers are handled are imminent.
- If drivers come with the kernel, users will simply have them.
Having to go out on the web and track down a driver, perhaps choose
between multiple variants, then integrate it into a kernel is beyond
what most users will want to do.
- Kernel updates are much easier if the updated drivers come with the
- Drivers that live with the kernel will better track changes in the
kernel. People notice right away when a kernel change breaks
something. There is also the view that drivers that are part of the
kernel are less likely to be broken by kernel changes in the first
place - developers will tend to see where particular features are used
and try to avoid causing problems. There is no such feedback when the
driver source is somewhere else.
- Device drivers in the kernel provide an important set of examples for
kernel developers. Moving this development activity elsewhere would
make the "code exploration" activity harder. Code that is in the
kernel tree will encounter more eyeballs in general, and is more
likely to be improved by people other than the maintainer.
- Drivers provided on vendor-supplied diskettes are all to likely
to support only one distribution or packaging format. Until better
standards are in place, having drivers in the kernel is the best way
to insure they work with all distributions.
What does the kernel need in the way of a project management system?
Here is the second version of a specification for
a project management system for the kernel, which would handle source code
management, bug tracking, and so on. It is an ambitious proposal, and
calls for a lot of infrastructure which seems unlikely to ever get built.
The kernel hackers, it seems, would rather be off hacking.
The first version, for what it's worth, suggested the use of Aegis in this
role. That touched off a small but intense flame war between Aegis
supporters and those of BitKeeper, which is actually supposed to be the
kernel source management system one of these days, real soon now. (It is
evidently already being used by the Merced porting project). The details
are not of much interest; until BitKeeper is released for general use there
will be no resolution to this sort of battle.
Other patches and updates released this week include:
Section Editor: Jon Corbet
September 30, 1999