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LTS kernel for embedded vendors

The yearly, or thereabouts, kernel development report put out by the Linux Foundation has a couple of bits of interesting information.

One relates to the creation of a long-term support initiative to provide a stable base for embedded products.

The initiative was announced last year. Every year there will be one release of a kernel suited to embedded products; this will then be maintained for two years. It gives certainty to businesses and reduces their overall costs. It also provides a means of paying the developer who handles the maintenance.

In the Foundation's own words: "The project creates and maintains a long-term industry tree, which is expected to be stable in quality for the typical lifetime of a consumer electronics product, typically 2-3 years."

Companies like Samsung and Sony are supporters of the initiative for obvious reasons.

The report, which covers kernel releases from 2.26.32 to 3.2, has loads of other statistics that show how development progresses, its speed and how many people and companies are involved. I'll deal with these in detail separately.

An interesting statistic is that Microsoft is now among the top 20 corporate contributors to the kernel. But given the fact that it wants to play in the server and virtual spaces, Microsoft really has no option but to ensure that its products work well with Linux. The boot is now well and truly on the other foot in the server and embedded markets.

The report was earlier the work of one man, kernel developer Jonathan Corbet, who is also associated with the Foundation and runs the Linux Weekly News website.

Corbet used to present the report like clockwork at the annual Australian national Linux conference. But then the Foundation appropriated it and now that there are three people, including a marketing droid, involved in its production, it comes out when it comes out.

Asked about the fact that the last report came out in December 2010, Corbet told iTWire: "This is the third or fourth time that (kernel developer) Greg (Kroah-Hartman) and I have done this report for the Linux Foundation. We aim to put it out about every year; life usually intervenes and it tends to take a little longer than that. This time around was pretty normal, surprising given that (personal) life has intervened rather more strongly than usual.

"The Linux Foundation report was never associated with LCA in any way; it is also entirely separate from my talks. I often present that sort of information in those talks, given around the world throughout the year. I also produce this information for every kernel release."

Asked if the report was now owned by the Foundation, he responded: "The specific report published by them is, I guess, though we have never really talked about it. I guess I still own my copyrights in my part of it, since I have never assigned them to anybody else. Nothing has changed in that regard over the years.

"The information itself is not subject to ownership, of course. It is all found in the kernel repository; the software used to generate the statistics is available under GPLv2."

Corbet does the work of preparing the report gratis. "I receive no compensation from the LF in any form for the writing of this report. It is a natural outgrowth of the work I do at LWN and relatively easy for me to put together in that form."

He said he had no idea about the extent to which the Foundat dissemminated the report. "The Linux Foundation handles distribution, I don't really have any part of it. I believe (but do not really know) that it went to their members about the same time it will have gone to journalists under embargo. It is not sent directly to developers, as far as I know, but they are all certainly able to access it, the code used to generate it, or my per-release reports on LWN."


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.