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06 December 2010, 15:28

Linux kernel with long-term support

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KL Logo Greg Kroah-Hartman has announced plans to provide minor patches and bug fixes only for the current Stable Series of the Linux kernel. Selected older kernel versions will, in future, be maintained as "Long-term" releases. The kernel developer said he hopes that this approach will help the community and developers focus on the current versions rather than waste their time with old kernel versions. The Long-term kernels are to follow the same rules as the Stable Series kernels.

Kroah-Hartman writes that it's "back to our roots" time for the Stable Series: In March 2005, the Stable kernels were originally introduced with Linux 2.6.11 to fix minor bugs discovered after the final release of a kernel version. The "Stable" kernels have a four-digit version number – the first Stable kernel was With the release of a new kernel version, the support of the previous kernel was supposed to be discontinued.

Over time, however, the developers began to provide bug fixes for selected kernels far beyond the release of the next version; among the reasons for this was the Linux distributors' need for kernels with long-term support. This approach was first introduced with kernel version 2.6.16, which was supported with patches for more than two years; the currently supported kernel versions are 2.6.27 and 2.6.32.

From now on, the Stable kernels are to return to their original schedule: support is to be provided roughly until the next version is released. As before, Greg Kroah-Hartman plans to issue one or two Stable releases for the old version (for instance 2.6.36), even after a new version of the main development branch (for instance 2.6.37) is released, to give the new version time to stabilise and users time to switch. However, only selected kernel series will continue to be provided with patches and bug fixes.

Kroah-Hartman plans to continue the support of the current Long-term kernel version, 2.6.32; Intel developer Andi Kleen will maintain 2.6.35 as a Long-term kernel because Intel uses this version in Meego 1.1, and because the CELF, which has been taken on by the Linux Foundation, is interested in the maintenance of this version. Wind River employee Paul Gortmaker will look after 2.6.34-longterm, because some Wind River products are based on 2.6.34 and he already maintains this kernel version for these products. The series 2.6.27 kernels, which are currently still maintained by Greg Kroah-Hartman, will probably not be given further long-term support.

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