Linus and the Art of the Kernel Release


In case you missed it, something of truly global importance happened last week. No, not the collapse of capitalism as we know it, something much more profound: Linus started a blog. His first post suggested that it won't be of much interest to the enterprise open source world, since it's really a *personal* blog:

So, having avoided the whole blogging thing so far, yesterday Alan DeClerck sent a pointer to his family blog with pictures of the kids friends, and I decided that maybe it's actually worth having a place for our family too that we can do the same on.

Of course, I'll need to see what Tove wants to do, but in the meantime, here's a trial blog.

(Tove is Mrs Torvalds, and a former Finnish national champion of Karate, so you wouldn't want to mess with her *or* her husband.)

But blogs are funny things; they have a life of their own that often takes posts in quite unexpected directions. And so, despite Linus' protestations to the contrary, this family blog has started sprouting stuff like this about the Art of the Kernel Release:

So in a very real way, a release is just a starting point for further work, but very little of that "further work" is actually things I have anything to do with what-so-ever or much interest in. Yes, I see the patches that are queued up for the stable kernels, but mostly as an observer. And the distributions do their own thing.

So what makes a release anti-climactic is that from a development standpoint - at least as far as I'm concerned - it is inevitably at the end of a gradual slowing down of interest. So to me a release is not so much of a birth of a new kernel version, it's more of a laying-to-rest of an old one. It's also an end to a fairly quiet period.

So I tagged the release five hours ago, and during the few days before that I had barely a score of commits to merge. But now that I have cut the release, my mailbox is starting to come alive with merge requests for the next version - with thousands of commits queuing up for merging in just a few hours, as opposed to the slow trickle in the days that went before.

This is all exactly as it should be, of course, but it still feels bass-ackwards, in that people always talk about the death-march to a release, and how you're supposed to take a well-deserved vacation after the release.

I have a feeling that this blog is going to provide us with many more insights into the making of Linux – and the mind of Linus – and that the open source world will be all the richer for it.

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