Old Linux kernels don’t necessarily die off once a new one becomes available.
Though both the Linux 2.2.x kernel and the 2.4.x kernel are far from the leading edge of kernel development, both remain supported with official kernel.org updates.
It now looks like the 2.6.16 kernel may join the list and become a long-term supported stable kernel.
The 2.6.16 kernel was originally released in March. Twenty-seven point releases were made in the 2.6.16 kernel (up to 22.214.171.124) while it was the current leading-edge kernel.org kernel.
The 2.6.17 kernel appeared on June 19, marking the end of 2.6.16 reign as the lead 2.6.x kernel.
Typically it would also have meant that no further work would be done by developers on the 2.6.16 kernel.
That’s not necessarily the case with 2.6.16.
Kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman announced on the Linux kernel mailing list that Adrian Bunk would be taking over the 2.6.16-stable kernel branch to maintain for as long as he wants to.
“He will still be following the same stable rules that are documented in the Documentation/stable_kernel_rules.txt file, but just doing this for the 2.6.16 kernel tree for a much longer time than the current stable team is willing to do (we have moved on to the 2.6.17 kernel now.),” Kroah-Hartman wrote.
Adrian Bunk noted that his rationale for maintaining 2.6.16.x is all about stability.
“A long-term maintained stable series was missing in the current development model,” Bunk wrote. “The 2.6 series itself is theoretically a stable series, but the amount of regressions is too big for some users.”
Though Kroah-Hartman offered Bunk his best wishes on maintaining 2.6.16, he did note that he had some doubts.
“Personally I don’t think it can be done for all that long of an amount of time,” Kroah-Hartman wrote “And I will be very happy to see him prove me wrong :)”
The next leading-edge Linux kernel, the 2.6.18 kernel, is currently in active development and is at release candidate 4.