Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
Open Source Operating Systems Programming Linux

Linus Torvalds Isn't Looking 10 Years Ahead For Linux and That's OK 108

darthcamaro writes: At the Linuxcon conference in Seattle today, Linus Torvalds responded to questions about Linux security and about the next 10 years of Linux. For security, Torvalds isn't too worried as he sees it just being about dealing with bugs. When it comes to having a roadmap he's not worried either as he just leaves that to others. "I'm a very plodding, pedestrian person and look only about six months ahead," Torvalds said. "I look at the current release and the next one, as I don't think planning 10 years ahead is sane."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Linus Torvalds Isn't Looking 10 Years Ahead For Linux and That's OK

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward


  • Linux and Bloat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2015 @04:18PM (#50349495)

    If you actually read TFA you see a little bit of nostalgia from Linus about how lean the kernel used to be and how modern Linux may be a little too bloated for some IoT applications. The truth is that Linux can certainly be less bloated that a full desktop Windows 10 installation, but it is nowhere near as lean as it used to be. Not much of an issue in larger hardware where even smartphones have more power than powerful desktops did 15 years ago, but there are definitely areas where the modern Linux kernel is a little too big for its own good.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      modern Linux Kernel is a little too big for its own good.............such as?

      Bloat yada bloat blah blah. I use linux for some IoT stuff. Strip the shit out of your kernel and you can get it pretty small. Maybe not XT-era-omg-20KB but yeah, pretty small.

      Remember, LInus doesn't look ahead. In 10 years, our laptops will be as powerful as current moderate-sized super clusters. Or something. The IoT world will be running a Linux 4.20 kernel because the Linux 19.23 kernel is too bloated.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Today's laptops are around four times as powerful as a decade ago. A typical cluster today is 1000 times as powerful as a current laptop.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Today's laptops are around four times as powerful as a decade ago.

          Far more than 4 times as powerful, my child. Try more like 50 times as powerful as 2005.

          • I just happen to have fairly 2 representative models handy.

            2005 laptop: 1.6 GHz Celeron. 1 core. 1GB RAM. 350GB disk. 100 Mbps Ethernet.

            2013 laptop: 2.6 GHz i7. 4 physical cores, 8 virtual. 8 GB RAM. 750 GB disk. 1 Gbps Ethernet.

            I could easily bump up the latter to 16GB RAM and add an SSD. (But I'll probably just buy a new one, as the warranty on this one expires in January/February.)

    • He's been complaining about bloat a bit more often recently. The thing is, all the features that have been added are used by someone: they're not useless.
      • Re:Linux and Bloat (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2015 @04:53PM (#50349799)

        That's the thing about bloat. It's always used by someone, somewhere.

      • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )

        He's been complaining about bloat a bit more often recently. The thing is, all the features that have been added are used by someone: they're not useless.

        But if they're useless to more than 90% of users, perhaps that should be an option for the remaining less than 10%? I'd go so far as to say that perhaps that split should be at 70/30, because I'll bet a whole lot of features falling lower than 70% usage are only used by a small subset of users.

        • Yeah, maybe eventually he'll come to that kind of solution. A lot of features can be left out at compile time, after all.
        • Re:Linux and Bloat (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2015 @07:01PM (#50350665)

          I remember a reading about metrics collected by Microsoft on features most commonly used in their Office products. What they found was that, apart from a handful of the most obvious features such as "Open", "Copy", "Paste", and "Save", the use of features flattened out very, very quickly, in terms of percentages. As such, it would really no sense to create a version of MS Word that only had the "most commonly used 70% of features", because that subset of features would tend to differ wildly from user to user.

          I have a suspicion that you'd find the same to be true of features in the Linux kernel. There are obvious features that everyone has to use, but among all the "optional" features, I wouldn't be surprised to find find that the usage curve tends to flatten out fairly quickly.

          I think there's probably a reason the most popular Linux distros are *not* the stripped down models, but the more fully-featured distros.

          • by DrXym ( 126579 )
            They've already created a version of Word with the features most people use. It's called WordPad.

            Strangely enough people don't like using WordPad. It may have the features most people use but it doesn't have the specific features that individuals need. One person might need outline mode, another might need mail merge, another might want table of contents and citations. The sum of all these needs is the bloat that is MS Word.

            I think bloat is okay providing it doesn't become dead weight - code which is so

      • AC posted just above - your kernel and my kernel may not have much in common. Simply compiling with the native CFLAG reduces the size by quite a bit. When I compile, I sometimes watch the screen scroll along, and one of the more common words I see is "stripping". I realize that optimizing the kernel doesn't make my computer 50x faster - but there are times when a native compiled system does seem a little faster.

        The features that you deem essential, can be stripped out by those who don't need or want them

    • but there are definitely areas where the modern Linux kernel is a little too big for its own good

      It's too big to booting off floppy disks now, but that is very rarely an issue these days.
      It's still small enough to run on an Nintendo DS FFS!

      So I'm curious - where are those areas? Don't hint, give an example or several (since there are apparently "areas") and let us see if it's as ignorable as the problem of not being able to boot it from a floppy disk anymore.

    • How much of that bloat can be disabled through kernel configuration?

  • Isn't this what everyone says is the problem with American corporations?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 19, 2015 @04:41PM (#50349705)

      Difference is:

      Corporation - We should lay off half the workforce, that would save us so much money.
      [6 months later]
      Corporation - Why is productivity so low?

      Linus - Lets get/keep things working
      [6 months later]
      Linus - Lets get/keep things working

    • by Lisias ( 447563 )

      That ones that are currently in the most rich country in the World?

      That ones that leaves the risk of ahead planning to others, and just buy who does it right?

      yep, I'm afraid it is. =/

      • FYI, per capita, the US is not the richest country in the world. Its about 10th place.

        And if you factor out the wealthiest 2%, which in the US own almost half the country, and only consider average Toms, then the US would probably rank around 25th place.

        And if you factor out how the US likes to spend tax money producing F-35 instead of reinvesting it into the neediest parts of the populace via social programs and welfare, then the US would probably rank around 30th place.

        • Its probably worth mentioning, that the US is also no longer the richest country in the world by total GDP, when measured by purchasing power parity (PPP). It has been overtaken by China this year.

          It is only the richest country in the world by total, nominal GDP.

          GDP (PPP) [wikipedia.org]

          GDP (nominal) [wikipedia.org]

    • by Shimbo ( 100005 )

      Well, not exactly. If I plant a tree on the basis that I have no idea how it will look in 100 years time, it's not really the same as short term thinking.

    • Linux isn't a corporation. Also, for something as specific as an OS kernel, I'm not sure there's much to be said for looking out in a detailed manner more than a few major iterations in advance. Sure, there are probably features being considered all the time, but that doesn't make them a focus.

    • by Your.Master ( 1088569 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2015 @06:58PM (#50350649)

      I think when people are talking about corporations being shortsighted, they aren't talking about corporations failing to plan ahead, they are talking about corporations taking actions that clearly damage their own future potential. Linus taking Linux day by day, or in 6-month sprints, or whatever, isn't really the same thing because that doesn't hinder Linux's ability to compete. At worst, it helps it sub-optimally. This as opposed to killing your most profitable product line, or laying off the people who work on your next product instead of the people who sell last year's product, etc..

      It would surprise me though if he doesn't have at least some long-term goals that take over 6 months to complete and that he's not focussed on working on right now but has in his back-pocket, but maybe he really doesn't.

      I also think the statement about corporate shortsightedness is somewhat overused, although not entirely without merit. When somebody says something like that, I sometimes click on their posting history to see if they also make claims like "big Pharma will never release cures because palliative care is more profitable" and the like to help me determine if they're logically consistent and therefore might be worth paying attention to, or just reflexively take anti-corporate positions (likewise for pro-corporate positions). And yes, I know they could believe that all corporations *except* big Pharma are short-sighted.

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        It would surprise me though if he doesn't have at least some long-term goals that take over 6 months to complete and that he's not focussed on working on right now but has in his back-pocket, but maybe he really doesn't.

        Well, the kernel runs on everything from cell phones to supercomputers and that it doesn't run on desktops has absolutely nothing to do with kernel features. I don't see any huge glaring TODOs, by far most the changes are drivers (non-CPU hardware driven), followed by architecture (CPU hardware driven), followed by high performance in kernel implementations like file systems or network filtering. The number of patches that really touch core "kernel" functionality of managing other processes seem to be rathe

  • Seems Reasonable... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2015 @04:31PM (#50349615) Journal
    As much as 'Linux' keeps being dragged into assorted rambling-think-pieces as though it were a direct analog to the OS-and-also-a-big-suite-of-hardware-software-and-'cloud'-service-offerings referred to as 'Windows' and 'Apple' or 'OSX'; 'Linux', so far as it is Linus' problem, is a kernel. It's also a kernel that has succeeded largely on the basis of being widely supported, reasonably flexible(with greater flexibility available to those willing to do additional heavy lifting themselves), and an inexpensive implementation of mostly-unix-like behavior.

    That's not a role 100% free of strategic considerations(like the current 'beating on the ARM vendors to un-fuck the current fragmented hellhole of disjointed BSPs and embrace sanity' initiative); but it is one where "ensure continued cooperation among interested users and hardware vendors, integrate promising out-of-tree developments as demand and maturity suggest" is more or less the best strategy to take. It's not as though it would even be meaningful for an OS to "Embrace a cloud services strategy", since that happens at a different level of the stack entirely; and to the degree that OS development does need, and do, blue-sky cool-new-architecture-from-the-ground-up; that isn't exactly mainline Linux's problem; and Linux probably isn't even an obvious starting point(if your bold new OS concept makes use of some sort of exotic hardware capabilities, you'll presumably be prototyping on FPGAs or the ASICs you are developing in tandem with the OS; if it is designed to work with mostly standard hardware; but do some part of being an OS differently, you can develop against a delightfully small and stable collection of 'hardware' thanks to VMs.
    • You are right on all counts. I especially agree with making a goal of fixing the BSP issues with ARM development.

      What a lot of people do not understand is that Linus does not have a 1000 person development team sitting at his corporate headquarters, churning out code and ideas. Code gets essentially given (through patches, Git pull requests, etc.) to Linus (or someone Linus trusts) and that eventually makes its way into Linus's branch of the kernel. The system is built on the idea that needs get fulfilled

  • Well, if you're building Hoover Dam or the Golden Gate Bridge, or even the Brooklyn Bridge, you might want to reconsider that thought..

    Linux, on the other hand, can get along by just 'evolving' via the natural process of bickering...

    • Indeed. I've been out of college for 15 years. In that time, I've watched so much change in the cultural landscapes of IT, CS, OSes and even general computing usage that any self-proclaimed expert who claims to be a great prognosticator for anything greater than a couple of years out is only selling so much snake oil.

    • The Linux kernel is already built. It already meets Linus's needs. Linus is no longer an architect. He's the head of maintenance. Other people create new things. He chooses which ones don't break the stability of what's already there and merges them. IBM, RedHat, RackSpace, and others do the long-term thinking. Linus provides them a stable common foundation on which to build.

  • by cant_get_a_good_nick ( 172131 ) on Wednesday August 19, 2015 @07:04PM (#50350673)

    "What I see is that security is bugs,"

    Pretty much all Outlook viruses were design issues, not bugs. They designed a mail system which, on a OS where files were executable by extension, attachments from unverifiable senders had their extension hidden so you didn't know it was an executable.

    This was baked in design. It wasn't an execution bug.

    There are entire classes of bugs you could get rid of by certain design choices. Address space layout randomization helps a lot. W ^ X, or if you can write to memory, you can't execute it. These are not infallible (there's lots of webpages on how to get past ASLR) but if we design these things as more secure, we will be more secure.

    • Many IoT devices do not have ASLR. Because of this (and other reasons) the IoT looks like a hacker's playground.
    • I completely agree. I'm afraid that was not one of the smarter things Linus -- an otherwise routinely brilliant guy -- has said. Outlook is a good example. As another example, if you look at the (continuing) evolution of mainframes and their operating systems -- and you must if you want to understand IT security fully, competently -- one interesting bit of history is that IBM had to rewrite OS/360 MVT in the early 1970s. That rewrite (OS/VS2 Version 2 MVS, later evolving through several MVS releases into OS
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Don't forget to separate the data stack from the execution stack.

      Many of C's buffer overflow exploits would be meaningless if local variables weren't stored on the same stack as return addresses. If you think about it, a return address is half of a jump instruction, yet it lies in memory that the application can write to, and so it is a violation of W ^ X.

"It's my cookie file and if I come up with something that's lame and I like it, it goes in." -- karl (Karl Lehenbauer)