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Can Linux beat the bloat

Maybe it's impossible to build something that works on any machine, that works clean, that's scrubbed regularly for bugs, that has enormous amounts of functionality, and doesn't get bloated. A modular architecture can only get you so far.

Linus Torvalds shocked the crowd (well, the group) at LinuxCon this week with three words.

"Linux is bloated." He added it's even gotten "huge and scary."

(This fat penguin, by Squiggums at DeviantArt, can likely be licensed by the Linux Foundation for a reasonable fee. Just change the fish in the thought bubble to a Microsoft Windows logo.)

Part of the problem here may be just how close Linus himself is to the project. He was there at the beginning, and here he is with something bigger than any conglomerate's Unix ever got. The whole world depends on Linux -- servers, clients, phones. That's got to weigh on a person.

Or it could be nostalgia. I get this way some days driving around Atlanta. I remember when that mall was an empty lot, I see the store where that skyscraper now stands. I remember when the Peachtree Road Race course had just a half-dozen skyscrapers on it, before Elton John and Jane Fonda and the Olympics, back in the 20th century.

Imagine if Bill Gates managed the original Windows project 25 years ago and were still managing that architecture today, with every fix or improvement coming personally past his desk. I get tired just thinking about it.

On the other hand, maybe Linus is right. He's the doctor. Maybe it's impossible to build something that works on any machine, that works clean, that's scrubbed regularly for bugs, that has enormous amounts of functionality, and doesn't get bloated. A modular architecture can only get you so far.

Now it's true that, as our Matt Asay notes, there's Linux and then there's Linux. The Linux that loads onto a Moblin phone bears little resemblance to, say, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5. What they have in common is compatibility, a common way of looking at the world, so they can work seamlessly together.

As Linus' personal blog notes, he does take vacations and has a good, happy family life. But has he thought of, like, a sabbatical? Take six months off and chill, do something else, travel, really get away from it for a while? This project is too big to depend on one man at the center -- maybe that's the problem.

So I want to hear from the real Linux geeks out there. Is Linux bloated? Are there things that can be done, from an architectural or development standpoint, to make it less bloated?

Linus sounds tired. Why don't you be the boss for a while?