Linux development slows

The Linux kernel could be nearing completion but Linus Torvalds is worried about burn-out

Linus Torvalds' deputy has claimed that the development of the Linux kernel is slowing down, with noticeably less features and bug fixes planned for a future version.

Andrew Morton, the lead maintainer of the Linux production kernel, said last week that although the next version of the kernel is due for final release soon, few features have been planned for the subsequent release.

"There doesn't seem to be much happening out there wrt 2.6.15," said Morton in a mailing list posting. "We're at rc2 [the second release candidate of 2.6.14] and I only have only maybe 100 patches tagged for 2.6.15 at this time. The number of actual major features lined up for 2.6.15 looks relatively small too," he said in a later posting.

He suggested this may indicate that the kernel is nearing completion. "Famous last words, but the actual patch volume _has_ to drop off one day," said Morton. "We have to finish this thing one day."

In the same mailing list thread, Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux and the maintainer of the development kernel, expressed concerns that the kernel development process may need to be changed to make sure that Morton is not overworked.

At present, all patches are first merged with a code branch maintained by Morton, called the -mm tree, before they reach the main code branch. This means that Morton is responsible for initially testing and stabilising all patches, which Torvalds was concerned could be too heavy a workload.

"One issue is that I actually worry that Andrew will at some point be where I was a couple of years ago — overworked and stressed out by just tons and tons of patches," said Torvalds. "If Andrew burns out, we'll all suffer hugely."

But Morton said that the number of patches is not so much of a problem as resolving bugs. "Bugs are a big problem — it takes 4 hours minimum to get a -mm out the door and a single bug can cause it to slip to the next day in which case I have to start again," said Morton. "I'd like to release -mm's more often and I'd like -mm to have less of a wild-and-crappy reputation. Both of these would happen if originators were to test their stuff more carefully."