LinuxWorld: Linux code maintainer allays fears about forking

Top Linux kernel developer said there are no plans to embrace GNU General Public License version 3 or change the kernel development process, and assuaged concerns that the Linux kernel will fork.

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Top Linux kernel developer said there are no plans to embrace GNU General Public License version 3 (GPLv3) or change the kernel development process, and assuaged concerns that the Linux kernel will fork.

Speaking at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo in San Francisco, Andrew Morton, who maintains the Linux 2.6 kernel for the Linux Foundation, also was critical of Sun Microsystems. Sun, he said, has fragmented the non-Windows operating system world with OpenSolaris, which is an open source version of Solaris that rivals Linux.

Acknowledging that fears of forking arise from time to time, Morton he said he did not think it was possible for it to happen, because no one organisation contributes enough to the kernel to enable a forking. The level of contributions determines how much a contributor controls.

With a forking, separate lines of the kernel would emerge, which could cause fragmentation and cripple standardisation in the platform.

"This is my little attempt to dispel those rumours. I don't see any way in which [forking] could happen," said Morton.

Intel is believed to the top contributor to the kernel and its contribution only amounts to 4%, Gordon said.

"That means no single organisation has the manpower to take the kernel, run off and fork it," said Morton. Forking would not be economically feasible. The only remote possibility of forking would be if a group of organisations controlling about 40% of the kernel joined forces and decided to fork it, Morton said. He stressed he sees no chance of that happening.

What does happen is many organisations, rather than forking the kernel, maintain a private branch to provide additional functionality to their customers, said Morton.

The kernel does endure a massive rate of change, Morton said. "We've been adding or changing 9,000 lines of code per day," during the past five years, he said.

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