The present system is 'we release the code, the distros have to make it work'. Quality can't be retrofit; if it wasn't there to begin with, it can't be added later, especially not by other people. Having a stable kernel will not, in and of itself, make the code better, but one would hope the new emphasis on stability just might.
As far as vanilla 2.6 goes.... 2.6.14 broke _traceroute_. I mean, come on.
2.6.15 as distributed by Debian is completely unusable on the Intel i865 machines I've tested it on; it crashes randomly, within an hour, light or heavy load. Every time, without fail. And because the machines are remote, I can't easily troubleshoot. And it's not like the 865 chipset is, you know, rare.
All versions of 2.6 since 2.6.9 or so have been unstable on my (one, personal) KT333-based board... this particular error cost me several hundred dollars, as I replaced a drive that didn't need replacement. It was actually APIC errors that were introduced around that time. I ended up just replacing the motherboard. (I may end up replacing the OS, too.)
The fact that the patches to 2.6.16 are so trivial just means that the code wasn't properly reviewed before released as 'stable'. And it does not change the fact that I've had to reboot my Debian servers ten times or so in the last month. (Before you start laying into me for using 'unstable'....I can't use the stable kernel, because it doesn't support all the hardware properly, and 2.6.15 in testing crashes after an hour, so the unstable kernel is all I can use.)
Owning words may not be their responsibility, but it's certainly in their self-interest. The existence of OSDL and Linus' present job are a direct outcome of that word ownership. If they lose it, then there will be fewer paid kernel dev jobs created in the future. The more central Linux becomes, the more people trust it and need it in their daily lives, the more jobs to work on it there will be. So it's rather foolish of them _not_ to think about it.
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