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PC World

What's next for Linux?

August 12, 1999
Web posted at: 12:44 p.m. EDT (1644 GMT)

by James Niccolai

Corporate doubts about Linux linger



SAN JOSE, CALIF. (IDG) -- Linus Torvalds wants more battery life from his Sony Vaio notebook, so naturally, better power management is among the improvements planned for the next version of the Linux kernel.

Apparently that's how it goes when you've been anointed "leader of the free world" by your open-source peers.

In an upbeat keynote speech at the LinuxWorld conference here Tuesday night, Torvalds, the creator of Linux, briefed a packed conference center on which technical features will be included in version 2.4 of the operating system's kernel, which he said will be pushed out the door by the end of the year.

A kernel is the central component of an operating system and provides the essential services required by other parts of the operating system.

Torvalds is ultimately responsible for how the new Linux kernel will look, although much of the work is delegated to colleagues, and the kernel incorporates suggestions from Linux enthusiasts the world over.

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Adding device support

Power management is high on Torvalds's list of improvements for the next release. "I want my Sony Vaio to stay alive a bit longer," he said.

Better support for Universal Serial Bus and Plug-and-Play capabilities will also be in the next kernel, he said. In addition, Torvalds is working on increased support for PC Cards, the credit card-size devices that slip into a notebook to add modem and other functions.

But DVD won't be included anytime soon either, thanks to trade secret restrictions. Users who want DVD in a Linux system can buy a separate hardware decoder, or just buy a DVD player, Torvalds said.

For servers and workstations, the new kernel will have better support for SMP (symmetric multiprocessing), Torvalds said. The current Linux kernel scales comfortably to four- or eight-processor systems, and 2.4 will be "much better," he explained.

Some features will wait

Since Intel's 64-bit processor, Merced, isn't due out until mid-2000, support for the IA-64 architecture won't be in the initial 2.4 kernel.

Also absent will be a journaling file system, which, after the speech, a few developers said they had hoped for. Such a file system keeps track of events in an operating system, and can permit faster recovery after a system crash, as well as less loss of data.

Go with the flow

The Linux chief followed his remarks with a question-and-answer period. In the laid-back spirit of the open-source community, Torvalds conducted the Q&A with his young daughter draped across one shoulder, and his other toddler propped against his legs.

Asked whether the involvement of big corporations like IBM and Oracle with Linux clashed with the community spirit of the open-source movement, Torvalds said he has seen no sign of trouble.

"The commercial people have a different agenda. They support the developers because they love the end result, and the developers just love it when the commercial people hand them wads of money," he said.

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