Linux 4.0 may have only bug fixes, no new features

Linux creator Linus Torvalds wants comments on a proposal for an entirely bug-fixes and stability release in about a year

Linux operating system creator Linus Torvalds has proposed that Linux 4.0, an upcoming release of the open-source software, should be dedicated to stability and bug fixing.

Although his initial reaction to a suggestion for a separate bug-fixing release from Dirk Hohndel, chief Linux and open source technologist at Intel, was to criticize it, as "I didn't see most of us having the attention span required for that," Torvalds is now asking for comments on a proposal to have Linux 4.0 as the bug-fix release in about a year's time.

Hohndel discussed a bugs fixing release at LinuxCon Europe in Edinburgh, U.K., last month. He asked Torvalds during a Q&A session whether he thought the focus of releases was too much on speed and adding new features, and maybe Linux developers should take a step back and have a release focused on bug-fixes and stability, as there was a mention that the latest stable kernel had over 4,000 known bugs.

"And the reason I mention '4.0' is that it would be a lovely time to do that," Torvalds wrote Sunday. "Roughly a years heads-up that 'ok, after 3.19 (or whatever), we're doing a release with *just* fixes, and then that becomes 4.0'" Torvalds was initially concerned that a bug-fixing and stability release alone would not be of interest to developers, who would do new features instead.

Linux is developed by a community of developers and companies who voluntarily contribute changes to the kernel under the oversight of Torvalds.

Torvalds has also proposed an easier numbering scheme for new releases with smaller and easy-to-remember point release numbers that would go up to the low teens. "We're not there yet, but I would actually prefer to not go into the twenties, so I can see it happening in a year or so, and we'll have 4.0 follow 3.19 or something like that," he wrote.

The Linux 3.12 kernel was released Sunday. Linux 3.12-rc7, which was expected to be the last release candidate for Linux 3.12, was released on Oct. 27 with the option of an rc8. Torvalds wrote that he had debated doing an rc8 but decided against it, as he is traveling with a bad Internet connection and did not want to delay 3.12 further.

"Sure, we had a number of driver reverts, and there was an annoying auto-NUMA [non-uniform memory access] memory corruption fix series, but none of it was really worth delaying 3.12 for," Torvalds wrote.

Earlier this month, Torvalds said that Apple's decision to offer free its latest desktop operating system, OS X Mavericks, will not affect the Linux operating system at all, as it is not open source and needs expensive hardware.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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