October 9, 2003 12:24 PM PDT

Torvalds starts locking down next Linux

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Linux leader Linus Torvalds has moved the development of the upcoming 2.6 kernel of the open-source operating system to a new phase aimed solely at making the heart of the OS less likely to crash.

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Torvalds released version 2.6.0-test7 of the Linux kernel Wednesday, saying he and 2.6 leader Andrew Morton now are directing programmers to focus on stability rather than cleaning up the code.

"I and Andrew are trying to calm down development, and I do not want to see patches that don't fix a real and clear bug," Torvalds said in a message. "In other words, this should calm things down so that by the end of October we can look at the state of 2.6.0 without having a lot of noise from 'not strictly necessary' stuff."

Some are taking the new priority seriously. Greg Kroah-Hartman, who leads the USB (universal serial bus) work in Linux, told programmers Thursday he'll have to postpone adding a fix for Linux's support of an infrared communication device for programmable Lego toys.

Linux began as a hobby Torvalds started in 1991 as a computer science student, but it has become serious software, key to the business strategies of some of the world's largest computing companies, including IBM, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, SAP and Sun Microsystems.

During this transformation, the Linux development process has become more formal, with specific programmers assigned to specific tasks and a stronger attempt to emphasize code stability over new features. And the Open Source Development Lab, which employs Torvalds, aligns corporate feature requests with development.

"On the other hand, it's still pretty ad hoc compared to, say, HP-UX development," observed Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff, referring to HP's version of Unix.

Torvalds confines his work to the operating system kernel, but today the term "Linux" commonly covers higher-level software components as well, including graphics software from XFree86, user interface software from KDE or GNOME, and software libraries, utilities and development tools from the Gnu's Not Unix (GNU) project to clone Unix.


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