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11 April 2008, 09:56

Kernel log: developer statistics on Linux 2.6.25, status report of Linux Driver Project

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Kernel log logo Last week, the Linux Foundation published a study that took a look behind the scenes at kernel development. Now, co-authors Jonathan Corbet of and Greg Kroah-Hartman from Novell SUSE Labs have published their own assessment of the developers and companies involved in Linux version 2.6.25. The article was scheduled to be made available on Thursday to people without a subscription to, but Corbet himself provided access from the Linux Foundation's Weather Forecast blog.

Their analysis of the beta version of 2.6.25 did not put the same developers at the top of the list as the Linux Foundation's study, which covered a different timeframe. For instance, Bartlomiej Zolnierkiewicz, who handles the IDE subsystem, is closer to the top – if counted in terms of the number of commits in the source code development system – thanks to a number of modifications in the IDE code in release 2.6.25 . And unlike the Linux Foundation's study, the article at contains a table of the number of lines changed in the source code. Here, less known developers such as Jesper Nilsson are at the top, far ahead of Zolnierkiewicz. In the current development cycle, Nilsson made a number of extensions in, and restructured the code for, CRIS architecture.

The ranking of companies behind the developers is similar to the one found in the Linux Foundation's study. In the table sorted by the number of commits – lines of source code modified – developers who did not receive compensation for their work on Linux made up the largest single group at around 15 per cent. Developers paid by Red Hat and those whose employer and motivation are not known, also made up a large piece of the pie. Novell, IBM, Intel and Freescale followed at a distance and in a different order than the one given by the Linux Foundation.

The article at also took a look at whose hands the patches in the official kernel passed through. Andrew Morton, David S. Miller and Ingo Molnar are reportedly the most important gateways. The second table at the end of the article shows that Red Hat employs a number of crucial kernel developers. Overall, developers employed by the Linux distributor with the greatest revenue produced almost a third of the patches that were implemented in the kernel. Google came in second thanks to the work performed by Andrew Morton. of Germany came in third, thanks to the work performed by Thomas Gleixner. As we explained with reference to the Linux Foundation's study, the numbers and their analysis at should be taken with a grain of salt. Indeed, a comment posted in the forum for the article puts it quite well, and, judging from the user name, the comment seems to have been written by a developer who actually ranks fairly high in the analysis.

Just over 14 months ago, Greg Kroah-Hartman explained that the Linux kernel community would be offering to develop Linux drivers for free for all companies as part of the Linux Driver Project (LDP). Now, the kernel developer provided by Novell for work on the LDP has published a detailed status report (see the blog and mailing list) for the project. The estimated 300 developers involved in the project have so far completed a few drivers that have been integrated in the official Linux kernel, and several other drivers that are still in development. The main problem seems to be a lack of tasks: it turns out that there is little hardware that Linux does not already support. The author of the status report says that in most cases manufacturers of new hardware develop the drivers themselves, or the Linux community help produce them. He adds that graphics cards and WLAN hardware are still problematic, though he says that intensive work is being done to improve the situation.

He writes that, with only a few exceptions, the goal for WLAN will soon be reached. He is probably referring to the large number of improvements for WLAN support implemented in Linux 2.6.24 and further optimized in Linux 2.6.25, which includes modifications of existing drivers and the WLAN stack as well as new drivers. Kroah-Hartman now says that the project's current main task is to train hardware manufacturers in collaboration with the community and support them in the integration of drivers in the official kernel. But he also says that the project is still willing to develop new drivers whenever needed, based on the experience gained over the past year.

At the new domain, Intel has published a generic WiMAX-based infrastructure (WiMAX Stack) for Linux and a driver based on it for Intel's WiMAX/WiFi Link 5050 (Echo Peak). In the FAQs, details are provided of the licensing of the still experimental parts of WiMAX support. The stack and driver are licensed under GPLv2 and should therefore in principle be acceptable for kernel developers. The firmware is licensed under the Intel Free Distribution Binary License to allow distributors that already ship Intel's WLAN firmware to implement the firmware used by the WiMAX hardware. The Intel WiMAX Network Service, which runs in userspace, is licensed under BSD. By contrast, the Intel WiMAX Supplicant based on it is not available in a compiled version, which some kernel developers and Linux distributors who only use open-source software will not be pleased about.

Kernel log staccato:

  • In the past few months, Linus Torvalds' RC and the final version of the kernel have often been released late on Monday night, but at the moment there is no sign of 2.6.25-rc9 nor of the final version of 2.6.25.
  • The HPLIP project has published version 2.8.4 of the HP Linux Imaging and Printing System (HPLIP), which contains drivers for a large number of HP printers and multi-functional units. The latest additions include support for the two variants of LaserJet M1120 and the drivers for the OfficeJet J6400, Photosmart C4340 and Photosmart Pro B8800 series.
  • Mesa-3D 7.0.3 provides a number of corrections for the graphics library that complies with the OpenGL specifications.
  • The developers of Gphoto have released version 2.4.1 of the libgphoto2 library. They use various programs to share pictures taken by cameras and other multimedia devices that communicate via PTP (Picture Transfer Protocol), MTP (Media Transfer Protocol) or proprietary camera protocols.
  • The developer branch of the driver package ati for Radeon graphics cards can now lower the power consumption of graphics cards equipped with R500 and R600 chips (Radeon X1000 and later) when the graphics chip is not running at full load, thanks to "Dynamic Clocks".

More information and background on developments in the Linux kernel and its environment can also be found in previous issues of the Kernel Log on heise Open:

Older Kernel Logs can be found under the archive or through the search function on heise Open.


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