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07 November 2012, 16:03

Linus Torvalds: The Android situation is improving

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Zoom Dirk Hohndel (left) and Linus Torvalds at the LinuxCon Europe panel discussion
During a panel discussion with Intel's Dirk Hohndel, Linus Torvalds discussed the latest technical advancements and problems in kernel development. The creator of Linux and Intel's Chief Linux and Open Source Technologist took the stage on day three of the LinuxCon Europe conference, which is currently taking place in Barcelona, Spain.

Responding to an audience comment about the cooperation with NVIDIA, Torvalds refused to go into detail and only noted smilingly that he had probably said enough about this. A question concerning the kernel developers' rising average age was answered in more detail. According to Torvalds, the rising age doesn't present a problem and is very natural because various major kernel developers have been contributing for a long time – some of them even since the early beginnings 21 years ago. Torvalds explained that commercial enterprises are now taking a bigger interest, and that these companies tend to hire experienced and therefore older developers. However, the Linux creator added that there are always further young developers growing into the community.

Another discussion topic was that there are hardly any women contributing to the Linux kernel. Torvalds said that there is no simple explanation for this problem and emphasised that the kernel community needs more female developers. He was also concerned that certain personalities in kernel development continue to clash. Torvalds noted that he would like to see more testers try out new and emerging kernels, particularly on non-mainstream systems that are unavailable to the kernel developers.

Linus Torvalds didn't want to provide an outlook on the improvements that are due to be integrated into the kernel after version 3.7, which is currently in preparation. The developer said that whatever is ready will be integrated, and that this has been the custom since Linux 2.6.0 was released many years ago. He added that this approach has taken the pressure out of the development process, allowing kernel hackers to fully develop their code and then integrate it into the next available kernel version. Previously, he explained, the developers tended to hectically work towards integrating their code into a specific version so that it wouldn't miss the milestone and remain in a development branch for months or even years. Torvalds pointed out that he hasn't been making any long-term kernel development plans since autumn 1991, and that he simply integrates any useful extensions that are submitted by the kernel developers.

The Linux creator said that the patent system is "just broken" but added that he thinks the situation isn't quite as bad in Europe.

When asked about the differences between the Linux kernel for Android and the mainline kernel that is being maintained by him, Torvalds replied that the situation has improved significantly over the past year. He said that the kernel developers have looked at Android-specific extensions and either integrated them or developed solutions that provide comparable functionality; however, the process is still ongoing with some features, he added. Torvalds explained that the situation isn't very different to what happened with the Red Hat and SUSE distribution kernels many years ago, when these kernels also contained extensive modifications that were not part of the Linux main development branch.

The Linux Foundation plans to release a video recording of the panel discussion in the coming few days. The main schedule of LinuxCon, and that of the Embedded Linux Conference Europe event held in parallel with it, will end later today. Next year's LinuxCon Europe is scheduled to take place in Edinburgh from 21 till 23 October. The Embedded Linux Conference Europe and the invite-only Kernel Summit will be held at the same location between 23 and 25 October; on 24 and 25 October, Edinburgh will also host an Automotive Linux Summit that revolves around the use of Linux in the automotive industry. The most important LinuxCon event, LinuxCon North America, will be held in New Orleans from 16 to 18 September.


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