Ever Wonder How the Kernel Gets Built?

Tuesday, February 03 2004 @ 05:15 PM EST

Contributed by: PJ

If you have ever wondered how the kernel is built, take a look at Infoworld. The article explains the process and tells how two bugs he found were quickly identified and fixed. The main impression you will form is that McBride's description of the process isn't even in the ballpark:

"Decisions on what features and patches are incorporated into the official kernel are generally preceded by much debate among kernel developers, but are ultimately made by the kernel maintainer, a central authority who shoulders the brunt of day-to-day maintenance, as well as the responsibility for official kernel releases. Given the size and scope of the kernel, neither the maintainers nor Linus Torvalds himself can fully know and understand every portion of the kernel. To alleviate this, several unofficial kernel subsystem maintainers are entrusted to keep a watchful eye on their chosen sections of the code and to contribute validated patch sets to the maintainer for inclusion in the next release.

New releases of the stable kernel are vetted through a release candidate process, during which kernel patches are tested by the community. In addition to release candidate kernels, patches for stable and unstable kernels are distributed by a select few core developers, such as Alan Cox and Andrew Morton. These patches usually contain experimental code that hasnít been officially introduced into the source by Torvalds, as well as bug fixes or hardware support likely to be incorporated into the next release.

While the kernel maintainers are responsible for the kernel under their care, Linus Torvalds still runs the show. Officially, Linus is the persistent maintainer of the current development kernel, and he hand picks the maintainer of the new stable kernel when release time approaches. Drawing on hundreds of developers, a few maintainers, and a QA team in the thousands, the Linux kernel keeps on rolling."

As you can see, it's organized, it's stable, and there is oversight. And Linus isn't doing it all singlehandedly, a picture McBride likes to paint so as to imply that things slip past Linus because it's too large a job for just one man. As you can see from the article, Linus isn't doing the work alone. Here is an interview with Andrew Morton, his right-hand man, but just one of his helpers.

They must be doing something right. As of today, according to Netcraft, SCO is running its new website on Linux. Ahem.

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