Linux Leaders Launch Awareness Campaign

In the midst of excitement and controversy surrounding the Linux operating system, the Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) Wednesday announced a new initiative to raise awareness about how the kernel is developed.

The campaign comes less than one month after the Beaverton, Ore.-based concern announced the release of the final Linux 2.6 production kernel. The next generation of the code is designed specifically for use on the corporate level. Among the Lab’s first steps in this new initiative is the creation of a simplified graphical model that illustrates how software code is contributed to the Linux kernel.

The group said it is taking a series of steps to increase customer confidence in using Linux in light of fear, uncertainty and doubt as well as legal threats by Lindon, Utah-based SCO Group , which claims the Linux operating system contains copyrighted material it owns.

In a prepared release, OSDL CEO Stuart Cohen responded to these claims explicitly, noting that one way to prove that open-source Linux is unique is to raise awareness about how it has been developed over time.

“We firmly believe that the Linux kernel development process has proven to be an extremely effective means to produce powerful software for more than 10 years,” Cohen said. “It is a process built on the scientific method of peer review.”

While SCO officials were not available for comment, CEO Darl McBride revealed that his firm would plan on firing off a round of legal maneuvers in the next 90 days aimed at a major user of the Linux operating systems. McBride’s comments during Jupitermedia’s inaugural Enterprise IT Week at the cdXpo Conference in Las Vegas last week sparked a whole new round of criticism by Eben Moglen, general counsel of the Free Software Foundation. The firestorm against Linux was sparked by SCO’s lawsuit against IBM last March alleging that Big Blue broke a contract and made its proprietary version of the UNIX operating system, AIX, available to the open source community.

Back in Oregon, Cohen and his colleagues scoffed at McBride’s most recent claims against the Linux community. Cohen explained that Linux operating system kernel is the result of the efforts of its creator, Linus Torvalds, and thousands of dedicated software developers from around the world. Torvalds recently left his post at chipmaker Transmeta to craft the next generation of the Linux operating system.

“Recent public criticism of the Linux development process shows a lack of understanding as to the rigor imposed by Linux himself and the development community at large,” Cohen said.

Since it was created in 1991, developers have freely contributed to the Linux system by organizing themselves into specific subsystems defined by interests and technical expertise. Each of these developer subsystems has a domain expert developer (called the subsystem maintainer) who oversees the work of others. Subsystem maintainers review the code submitted to them and orchestrate broader peer review of code to ensure its quality.

All Linux code, both the current version and versions submitted for future inclusion, also is available online for public examination. This allows literally thousands of interested parties to scrutinize submitted code in what amounts to a massive code review. Only when a subsystem maintainer accepts software code is it passed along to one of the two developers of the top of the Linux hierarchy, Torvalds himself or kernel maintainer Andrew Morton.

Among the major improvements, the new 2.6 kernel has been tested on up to 64-way systems and is ready for production use on 32-way machines. The kernel has a new CPU scheduler, memory management and file system code. It also supports up to 8Gb of memory on IA-32 systems.

The 2.6 kernel includes a new native Posix Thread Library for Linux and an enhanced driver layer so that I/O devices such as disks perform better and are easier to manage with things like Logical Volume Management (LVM), sysfs, device mapper, and reduced lock contention. The new version also supports even more embedded device applications – for example, support for uClinux.

Most dramatically for desktop support are the improvement of hot plug devices, including FireWire and USB . The Linux team also said mouse, video, and sound are smoother and perform better. The new kernel also has Advanced Linux Sound Architecture (ALSA) for professional music-studio quality audio.

While OSDL attempts to raise awareness of how Linux is made, the new production Linux 2.6 kernel is still scheduled to be released by early next year. Cohen said OSDL will accept test validation results until at least the end of November.

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