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Linux Too Big to Be Properly Maintained When There's an Incentive to Sell More and More Things (Complexity and Narrow Support Window)

posted by Roy Schestowitz on Sep 25, 2023

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THE Linux kernel is vast. With Rust added, it's already harder to master or understand. Linux is not just a hobby and few hobbyists work on it. It has many developers, some maintainers, and one LTS maintainer worked for Microsoft (he more recently moved to Google).

As it turns out, or as we found out last week [1-2], the "maintainence" [sic] is "under strain" (it's all relative; as the commentary below puts it, Linux is just "[u]nderfunded by the 'Linux' Foundation, which spends money openwashing Microsoft instead of supporting Linux"), so running a stable GNU/Linux distro for a long time will become harder. Given the way IBM treats RHEL and CentOS users, and considering that Red Hat was usually maintaining very old kernels for many years, perhaps this is the next inevitable outcome of IBM being IBM. Perhaps this leaves a business opportunity for kernel specialists like Bootlin (no mention of this in the past week [3-5]) or Collabora (busy with Kernel Recipes [6]). Anyone else? Real business opportunity right here... like Freexian for Debian.

The media and the monopolistic spying companies would rather not sell "kernel" services but instead sell "clown" (cloud) for rents. Their sponsored sites (that they took over) sell complexity and add-ons [7] instead of the very basics. Kubernetes and eBPF may sound modern and exciting, but what good are they when you cannot even use the kernel you've become accustomed to after a few years?

Just like with WordPress or Drupal, they want you to upgrade and upgrade and never stop upgrading (heck, WordPress/Automattic will even remotely "upgrade" it for you). This kind of software is a nightmare to maintain. They want your money, not your peace of mind. That's a problem.

Related/contextual items from the news:

  1. Linux Kernel Faces Reduction in Long-Term Support Due to Maintenance Challenges
    The Linux kernel is undergoing major changes that will shape its future development and adoption, according to Jonathan Corbet, Linux kernel developer and executive editor of Linux Weekly News. Speaking at the Open Source Summit Europe, Corbet provided an update on the latest Linux kernel developments and a glimpse of what's to come.

    A major change on the horizon is a reduction in long-term support (LTS) for kernel versions from six years to just two years. Corbet explained that maintaining old kernel branches indefinitely is unsustainable and most users have migrated to newer versions, so there's little point in continuing six years of support. While some may grumble about shortened support lifecycles, the reality is that constantly backporting fixes to ancient kernels strains maintainers.

    This maintainer burnout poses a serious threat, as Corbet highlighted. Maintaining Linux is largely a volunteer effort, with only about 200 of the 2,000+ developers paid for their contributions. The endless demands on maintainers' time from fuzz testing, fixing minor bugs, and reviewing contributions takes a toll. Prominent maintainers have warned they need help to avoid collapse. Companies relying on Linux must realize giving back financially is in their interest to sustain this vital ecosystem. 

  2. Long-term support for Linux kernel to be cut as maintainence remains under strain [Ed: Underfunded by the 'Linux' Foundation, which spends money openwashing Microsoft instead of supporting Linux]
    The Open Source Summit provides an update on what's new in the Linux kernel​ and where it's going from here.
  3. Feedback from ELCE 2023: selection of talks #4
    As we reported in a previous blog post, almost the entire Bootlin engineering team was at the Embedded Linux Conference Europe in Prague in June.
  4. Welcome to Romain Gantois and Louis Chauvet
    We are pleased to welcome two additional engineers to our team based in Toulouse, France: Romain Gantois and Louis Chauvet.
  5. Snagboot: Designing a USB recovery process for AM335x SoCs
    A few months ago, Bootlin released Snagboot, an open-source and generic replacement to the vendor-specific, sometimes proprietary, tools used to recover and reflash embedded platforms. This has led us to design recovery processes over USB for several different SoC families.
  6. Perfecting Open Source Recipes in Paris
    The world-renowned culinary scene in The City of Light will be getting a pack of different types of chefs next week for Kernel Recipes and Embedded Recipes. Kernel Recipes kicks off on September 25, then Embedded Recipes from September 28 to 29.
  7. Not Your Grandpa’s Packet Filter: eBPF in Cloud-Native Networking

    eBPF is a versatile technology that has emerged as a transformative technology for the cloud-native ecosystem.

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