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22 September 2009, 10:08

Linux "Bloated and Huge" says Linus

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LinuxCon 2009 logo In a round table discussion at LinuxCon 2009, Linus Torvalds said the Linux kernel has become "bloated and huge". The comments came in response to questions about whether Linux kernel features were being pushed out too fast. The moderator of the discussion, Novell engineer James Bottomley, pointed to an Intel study which had found Linux performance dropping by two percent every release. This added up to a 12 per cent drop over the last ten releases.

Torvalds said it was "a bit sad that we are definitely not the streamlined, small, hyper-efficient kernel that I envisioned fifteen years ago". There was "no question" about whether the kernel was "huge and bloated" and had a "scary" icache (instruction cache) footprint, but Torvalds said that at least the kernel has been "pretty stable" in terms of bugs; "We are finding bugs as fast as we're adding them, even though we're adding more code".

There is no grand plan, currently, to address the "bloated and huge" issue; the nature of Linux kernel development has always been driven by the kernel hackers personal plans. Part of the problem is that the success of Linux has meant it runs on many platforms and has features and device support for all of them. Asked if the bloat was acceptable, Torvalds said "No, I'm not saying that. Acceptable and avoidable are two different things. It's unacceptable but it's also probably unavoidable".

Torvalds did say that the development model for the kernel is working better after he "beat up a lot of people over how they did things because it made it more difficult for me". The reduction in management workload has allowed him to actually find the time to do some coding.


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