[ZDNet] Late and slowed by feature creep, it's ... Linux?

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From: Adam L. Beberg (beberg@mithral.com)
Date: Thu May 04 2000 - 17:52:13 PDT

[Linux loses another pedestal to stand on in the "we're better then
Windows" battle. It's getting harder and harder to tell them apart, and
it's not becasue Windows is becoming more Linux-like. Old bits to those
watching, but this is the first I've seen the delays reported. Where is
my quake III for EROS? The quake secuity hole story is below this one.]


- Adam L. Beberg
  Mithral Communications & Design, Inc.
  The Cosm Project - http://cosm.mithral.com/
  beberg@mithral.com - http://www.iit.edu/~beberg/


Late and slowed by feature creep, it's ... Linux?
By Mary Jo Foley, ZDNN
May 3, 2000 5:09 AM PT

It's running a year late. But many distributors, developers and
customers say they couldn't care less.

A new version of Microsoft Windows? Not this time. It's the next version
of the Linux kernel, Version 2.4, which is about a year behind its
promised delivery date.

While the Windows world is accustomed to delays and vaporware, the Linux
camp had until recently enjoyed a fairly regular nine- to 12-month
update cycle. But at the current rate of development, Linux 2.4 may not
reach maturity until October.

The father and owner of the Linux trademark, Linus Torvalds, originally
had committed to delivering the 2.4 kernel last October. Then, this past
spring, he updated his projection to this summer. Sources in the Linux
community now say they aren't expecting gold code until late fall.

Torvalds: Don't blame Transmeta What's going on? Is Torvalds' day job at
chip maker Transmeta Corp. not leaving him enough time to oversee the
open-source process by which Linux is developed, as some have suggested?

According to Torvalds, nothing could be further from the truth.

"We didn't much have a timetable for 2.4 originally, except that
everybody knew that the two and a half years between 2.0 and 2.2 was too
painful," Torvalds said. "The original hope was to have a release
schedule between nine and 12 months, which everybody thought was
wonderful, but at the same time a lot of people wondered about how it
would work with a minimum three-month testing cycle.

"Right now it's been about 15 months since 2.2, and it's almost
certainly going to be at least three more months," Torvalds said. "Oh
well. More than I would have liked, but not surprisingly so." Torvalds
said a big reason why Version 2.4 is running behind schedule is the same
reason that Windows releases so often run late: Developers always want
to add just one more feature.

"So instead of just going to a well-threaded FS (file system) and
cleaned-up networking, we ended up having loop-back mounts, 64-bit file
systems, NFS v3, 64GB memory support, etc. -- a lot more than originally
envisioned," he said. "And it's damn hard to say 'no' when it's all so
obviously a good thing. At some point the 'no' is required just to get a
new stable version out.

"In this regard, open source is definitely not very different from any
software project -- they are notorious for always being over-budget both
fiscally and time-wise," he said. "At least we don't have the fiscal
budget issue."

Gold code still matters But what open source does have that traditional,
proprietary software projects don't are efficiency claims to defend.
Open-source leaders often tout the open-source development process as
superior to that of Windows and other closed-source code because the
input and testing by so many results in cleaner, timelier code.

Torvalds noted that some developers and users have the option of going
with nonvalidated, non-fully debugged Linux "development" kernels,
rather than waiting for the sanctioned, more stable, product-release

But for some, especially the keepers of the commercial Linux
distributions, gold code is all that matters.

"It matters to folks like us who are in charge of packaging Linux," said
Lonn Johnston, vice president of marketing at TurboLinux Inc., one of
the four primary Linux distributors. Nonetheless, he said, "It's still
not unreasonable for us to live with the uncertainties of the (Linux)
development schedule as a trade-off for leveraging the huge development
pool without the cost."

Johnston acknowledged that TurboLinux has been forced to make a choice
whether to wait for Version 2.4 or go with the interim Version 2.3
release (odd-numbered Linux releases tend to be more minor, less
mainstream upgrades). He declined to say upon which the company had
finalized its strategy but said beta testers will soon find out.

"We mostly know what's supposed to be in the 2.4 kernel and can build
around that," Johnston said. "We spend a lot of time with major hardware
partners in advance to include drivers that might not be in the kernel.
We definitely will be able to issue a build within a couple of months"
after the final kernel release is posted. "All we really need is to have
our (packaging) prebuilt and we'll be ready to go."

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