In a recent newsgroup posting Linus Torvalds was quoted as saying voices in his head disliked ever lengthening version 2.x numbers, and now we have a new kernel 3. What, if anything, does this mean for Linux users?
Linus Torvalds is a Finnish born hacker and software engineer best known for the initial creation of the Linux kernel. The Linux kernel is the foundation of the popular Unix-like Linux OS (operating system) family, one of the best examples of free and open source software. Thanks to the massive development community, Linux, and the kernel it is based on, still thrive some 20 years later.
While initially the use of Linux was exclusive to hackers, computer-geeks, and developers, many Linux distributions (Ubuntu and Fedora for example) have made major strides in bringing Linux closer to the forefront of mainstream operating systems. Large corporations such as Dell and HP have also shown their support for Linux in recent years, offering a limited number of their desktop and laptop systems with Linux pre-installed.
Why the Jump to Version 3?
After 20 years at the forefront of the Linux community, Linus Torvalds still calls the shots. In a recent newsgroup posting he was quoted as saying "The voices in my head are telling me that the numbers are getting too big;" and not a week later Torvalds was rallying for a 3.0 release of the Linux kernel. Aside from the above mentioned reason Torvalds also thought it made sense to move to a third (3.0) version of the kernel as Linux was entering it's third decade of existence.
Linus Torvalds is a bit of a unique character, and in the tradition of the prototypical computer-geek, oftentimes acts on instinct with very little explanation. Being the Linux god that he is though, who is going to argue with him? If the voices in his head are telling him that the Linux kernel is ready for version 3.0... the Linux kernel is ready for version 3.0.
What Does This Mean for the Average User?
The average user will notice little to no changes with the Linux kernel as a result of the jump to version 3. While major number changes usually signify a major change within a kernel: that is not the case here. The Linux kernel's development will continue at a normal pace and you will see no major improvements to it when version 3 hits. This is not to say that version 3 will not have some improvements, Torvalds has made it clear that he wants the third version of his kernel to be a solid release, but in the end the improvements will be minor compared to other major version jumps that have taken place.
In the end there is still plenty of work to be done on the third version of the Linux kernel but there are a few notable items ready for inclusion in the kernel. These items include a Microsoft kinect driver, optimized code for AMD's Fusion and Intel's Ivy/Sandy Bridge and a few other updated graphics drivers. While these are all nice additions to the Linux kernel, Torvalds is quick to point out that the move to version 3 of the kernel was time based and not about making any huge changes to the operating system.
The Quick and Dirty Version History
- Version 1.0 of the Linux kernel was released on March 14, 1994 and only supported single processor i386 computers. Portability quickly became a concern and about a year later support for the Alpha, SPARC and MIPS processors was implemented (Version 1.2).
- Version 2.0 was released on June 9, 1996 with the major addition in this series of releases being the addition of support for more processors including SMP processors. Support for multi-processor systems was a major stepping stone enabling future development of the kernel.
- Version 2.2 was released on January 26, 1999 and saw improved SMP support, PowerPC support and read-only support for Microsoft's NTFS filesystem.
- Version 2.4 was released on January 4, 2001 and this series (2.4x) of kernels saw the addition of many major improvements to the kernel, including but not limited to USB support, PC Card support, Bluetooth support, Logical Volume Management (LVM) support, RAID support and support for the new ext3 filesystem.
- Version 2.6 was released on December 18, 2003 and the 2.6x series of kernels is still the active stable release of the Linux kernel today. Some of the major additions to the 2.6x series of kernels have been PAE support, support for several new processors, the inclusion of ALSA in the kernel, SELinux integration into the kernel sources and support for many new filesystems (FUSE, XFS, JFS, ext4).
- Version 3, according to current plans, is set to launch in approximately 6 weeks bringing us close to the first of August, 2011. Changes as mentioned above will include a Microsoft kinect driver, optimized code for the upcoming AMD and Intel processors and improvements in support for various graphics drivers.