Ask a penguin to see which way Linux wind blows

Linux Foundation's Linux Weather Forecast site tracks work in the Linux developer community

The nonprofit Linux Foundation has unveiled the Linux Weather Forecast, a Web site aimed at giving people a better sense of the status of specific Linux kernel projects.

The foundation created the Forecast site by teaming up with Jonathan Corbet, a Linux kernel developer and writer, who's also executive editor of the LWN.net Linux and free software news site.

The Forecast, which will be officially announced on Wednesday, is already live and tracks work in the Linux developer community likely to be included in the operating system's kernel and in major distributions of the open-source software, or both.

The Linux Foundation was formed earlier this year through the merger of the two leading evangelizers of the operating system, the Open Source Development Labs and the Free Standards Group consortiums. The organization has two main tasks: to build on Linux's existing strengths and to buttress its weaknesses, according to Jim Zemlin, executive director at the Linux Foundation. "Now that everyone gets that open source works and it's a mainstream technology, how do we up our game?," he said.

As Linux looks to compete more and more on equal terms with proprietary operating systems like Microsoft's Windows, the open-source software has to have equally rich support mechanisms in place. Already, the foundation offers the Linux Developer Network, a resource site for programmers, similar in thinking to the Microsoft Developer Network.

The creation of the Linux Weather Forecast is a way to improve on one of the operating system's key strengths -- its open-source development model, which allows many people to both contribute to and refine Linux, leading to rapid development, Zemlin said. He estimates that every day developers add 2,300 lines of code to the Linux kernel. On average, a new version of the Linux kernel appears every three months, while fresh desktop distributions of the operating system debut every six months and corporate distributions become available every 18 months.

The downside of all that rapid development is that it's been no easy task for Linux users, vendors and developers to get a handle on what's going on, Zemlin said. Previously, trying to get status updates on the plethora of kernel development projects involved pouring over many mailing lists. "A lot of developer support for Linux is Google," he added, as people cut and paste lines of code into the search engine in the hopes of finding answers to their software problems.

The goal of the Linux Weather Forecast is to provide a central repository of accurate information presented in an easily understandable format. Over time, the foundation may look to incorporate graphics as a way of making the data more simpler to process and digest, Zemlin said. A typical user of the Forecast would be the technical lead at an embedded systems company, he added.

The Forecast provides summaries on work in areas, including core Linux kernel development, virtualization and containers, file systems, security, networking and support for hardware.

In keeping with the analogy of a weather report, each summary is split up into current conditions reflecting the technology that's available now as well as short- and long-range forecasts for the release of upcoming development work. Looking further out, the summary has a climatological time frame segment to examine what developments may appear beyond 2007 as well as a list of "weather events that may never occur," indicating previously announced technologies that might not see the light of day.

The Forecast also includes a discussion page for suggestions on existing information and additional development tracks to keep tabs on.

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China Martens

IDG News Service/Boston Bureau
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