Open Source

Linux 3.0: More important than you think

Linux turns 3.0 and does so with little to no fanfare. Read why Jack Wallen believes this might be one of the more significant (and fanfare-worthy) releases of the Linux kernel to date.

Ah vacation. It was a week of blissful lounging around a breezy beach side and playing in a water-filled world where I was no longer at the top of the food chain. There were no computers, no talk of networking this, security that, or anything in between. But then the hard reality of the world wormed its way back into my mind and I now find myself trying hard to get back into some sort of groove...an open source kind of groove (of course).

And although it's officially next month (the month of my forty-fourth birthday, thank you very much) Linux is about to turn 3.0. And although Linus Torvalds himself has said this is not a big deal, it is. Why? Because of the very fact it is not a big deal.

Say what?

Let me explain. The Linux kernel is about to jump from 2.6 (where it has been for a number of years) to 3.0 and do so without much fanfare at all. I remember the day when Linux jumped from 1 to 2 and one would have thought every Linux fan on the planet had just won the lottery. Yes, the change from 1 to 2 was quite a bit more significant...but any time there is a major change in release numbering, it is generally done so because of a milestone. And from my perspective, going from 2.6 to 3 in such a way is a huge milestone.

Gone are the days when users prayed to whatever God or Gods they depended upon that specific hardware support would be included in the next release. Gone are the days when a major kernel release heralded a more stable, efficient, cleaner experience. Now...those wishes are assumed. Linux (and the Linux community) has finally reached a point where things can be (and I say this daringly, I know) taken for granted. And 3.0 proves that. How?

  • We assume there are going to be new features.
  • We assume things are going to work out of the starting gate.
  • We assume there will be performance improvements.

These assumptions occur whether they are true or not — even if it has been made clear there are no deal making/deal breaking changes in the kernel. After all, look at the major feature list in the 3.0 kernel:

  • Btrfs data scrubbing and automatic defragmentation
  • XEN Dom0 support.
  • Unprivileged ICMP_ECHO.
  • Wake on WLAN.
  • Berkeley Packet Filter JIT filtering.
  • A memcached-like system for the page cache.
  • A sendmmsg() syscall that batches sendmsg() calls.
  • The setns() a syscall that allows better handling of light virtualization systems such as containers.
  • New hardware support such as Microsoft Kinect and AMD Llano Fusion APUs.

So changes like the above are now considered "minor" and "insignificant". To me, the very idea that those changes have come to be considered minor is significant.

That's right — from my perspective, Linux turning 3.0 is much more telling than most are giving it credit for. Although the 3.0 moniker, to many, is just a numbering scheme change with some minor updates, 3.0 is a major leap forward for a twenty-year old operating system. Linux kernel 3.0 tells me that Linux is truly grown up and that the old argument for or against Linux being "ready for prime time" has finally been tossed out with the last shakes of beach sand from the shoes.

To Linus Torvalds I want to say "congratulations" on your pet project coming of serious age. To the developers of the Linux kernel I want to say "congratulations" on your hard work. And to the Linux operating system, I want to say "Happy Birthday, you're all grown up!"

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

Editor's Picks