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Linux LTS Kernels To Now Be Maintained For Six Years (phoronix.com) 79

An anonymous reader writes: In a bid to help Android smartphone vendors the Linux LTS (Long Term Support) kernels will now be maintained for a period of six years. The Linux LTS initiative backed by the Linux Foundation has supported annual LTS kernels for two years worth of updates, but that is being changed for Linux 4.4+ at the request of Google and their Project Treble. This means the Linux 4.4 LTS kernel will be maintained through 2022 and the upcoming Linux 4.14 LTS through 2023 for security/bug fixes in order to last a complete "device lifecycle."
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Linux LTS Kernels To Now Be Maintained For Six Years

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  • My Galaxy S7 is still on 3.18.14. That's the oldest kernel I'm running on any of my devices.

    • Was your S7 made in 2015? No OS updates?

      • they update the OS, and even the kernel (the build date is August 2017). But they stay on the 3.18 branch for some reasons, (if it's not broken, laziness)

        • IIRC 3.18 was the last of the 3-series kernels tagged as LTS. My 2017 phone also uses 3.18 (3.18.31 specifically)

    • FWIW, my S8+ is on 4.4.16. Wonder if we'll get an update to 4.9 or 4.12 within a year. Not holding my breath, but....

    • Mine is on 3.18.31. I just checked, and I had a system software update pending, so I installed it, but it didn't change kernels. A quick search indicates that 3.18.48 was the last kernel in that series, and that support has ended, so they should certainly update to .48, and probably migrate to a newer kernel.

  • Terrible practice. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iCEBaLM ( 34905 )

    Huge waste of resources backporting when it would be easier to just upgrade to the latest kernels. Either way you have to test them, so why bother backporting?

    • Because in the commercial world, there are a lot of "finished" products. (Talking about both software packages and embedded/firmware.)

      Updating the original kernel with security patches is much more likely to succeed compared to upgrading to a newer kernel. Either way it will need testing, but a new kernel is more likely to require significant developer time.

      Why the difference? Several reasons: The available documentation and expertise may be insufficient. The original devs are no longer available, so the wo

      • by mcrbids ( 148650 )

        At my company, we use Enterprise Edition OS (CentOS or RHEL) specifically because of the long, long term support. Think: a decade.

        For our product, we used RHEL 4 for its entire duration, and then jumped to EL 6, where we are now. We will probably not use EL 7 but go to EL 8 if it's available at or before the EL 6 EOL.

    • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Friday September 29, 2017 @02:31PM (#55278761) Journal
      The Linux kernel has such a strong commitment to backwards compatibility for user-land that they don't really need LTS. Upgrading the kernel should never break things.

      However, these Android manufacturers are modifying the kernel source code, and often in sloppy ways. Because of that, it's more difficult for them to upgrade to a new kernel.

      Obviously that's a poor design decision, but poor design decisions mean the code is also probably sloppy, meaning they've dug themselves into an even deeper hole.
      • The Linux kernel has such a strong commitment to backwards compatibility for user-land that they don't really need LTS. Upgrading the kernel should never break things..

        OMG, thank for the good laugh. I haven't heard something as funny as this, in a quite a while.

        • It would have been better if you'd actually given an example.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          Yeah, the stupid and ignorant usually laugh a lot. It doesn't make them any smarter or knowledgeable though. The people in the know though, knows that breaking userland is actually one of the easiest ways to incur the wrath of the Linus.

          Your retarded Nvidia drivers are not userland.

    • I think the point is that the UPGRADE has been either so expensive, or so fault-ridden that nobody is doing it in practice. ala "If it works, don't fix it."

      But, I don't know the entire corporate/political environment. Could it be a bunch of lazy companies? Maybe. Could it be the Linux foundation has no power so they're doing this because they feel screwed? Maybe... but I'd really need more data and insight into this matter before I can really condemn any party in this scenario.

    • Sure on a desktop PC or a server I'd agree with you. But Linux dominates the embedded world where a simple kernel upgrade may break an untold amount of bespoke hardware. Providing an LTS version with only critical fixes being applied makes it easier for companies of custom hardware to keep supporting that hardware.

    • Huge waste of resources backporting when it would be easier to just upgrade to the latest kernels. Either way you have to test them, so why bother backporting?

      Because it's not easier to upgrade, obviously. You don't think this was done lightly, without serious analysis of the options, do you?

      It's possible that it's easier to upgrade than backport in terms of total effort... but it's equally possible that it's not, because of the large number of non-mainlined patches applied to Android kernels. There's a tradeoff between porting the patches to every new kernel version or backporting security fixes. There are more fixes, but they tend to be small, so the tradeoff

  • by RhettLivingston ( 544140 ) on Friday September 29, 2017 @01:40PM (#55278257) Journal

    Most of my life, I've received 20 to 30 years of service out of appliance-class products such as televisions, refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, washing machines, and dryers. I have noticed a steep downtrend in those lifecycles, particularly in televisions, washing machines and dryers. But that reduction has been due to engineering choices in the machinery.

    Now I'm interpreting this as an indication that devices with Android are targeting a six-year lifecycle!!! No way.

    Android is in all of the above device types today and even in our cars. Android needs to be thinking in terms of how to at least maintain security updates for 30 years. Perhaps that may have to involve some standard pluggable module so that the hardware can be upgraded too, but it has to happen. The ever falling device lifetimes are soaking up both the piddling economic growth of the middle class and our resources.

    • Android is in all of the above device types today and even in our cars. Android needs to be thinking in terms of how to at least maintain security updates for 30 years.

      Instead, the industry is thinking about ways to replace your car after only ten years.

      If they make cars last longer then sooner or later they'll make it easier to replace all that infotainment stuff. Then there will be an upgrade path, albeit an expensive one.

      • My current vehicle is 11 years old and with only 90K miles likely has another 10 on it. The infotainment unit is indeed one of the most dating elements. I am looking to replace the vehicle now because it is not mainstream enough and has high maintenance costs. My next choice will be in the Camry / Accord / Prius type class just to get into a higher volume solution in hopes that it can be my last car.

        But, I am used to replacing cars after 10-12 years. They are one of the few things that seem to have made an

    • Agreed.

      Sounds like Google is using this as an excuse to limit support on otherwise perfectly good hardware to an arbitrary six-year limit as defined by a vendor. Never mind that fact that devices can very easily be upgraded to newer linux versions.

      They've already ended product support for their "Do no evil" mantra.

      • Sounds like Google is using this as an excuse to limit support on otherwise perfectly good hardware to an arbitrary six-year limit as defined by a vendor.

        Well, given that no vendor out there provides six years now, that's an improvement.

        Never mind that fact that devices can very easily be upgraded to newer linux versions.

        "easily". Heh. You don't know what you're talking about.

        They've already ended product support for their "Do no evil" mantra.

        It was "Don't be evil", and it's still used as a guiding principle.

    • Now I'm interpreting this as an indication that devices with Android are targeting a six-year lifecycle!!! No way.

      Software updates, which are primarily required for security, are only essential for network-connected devices. If your fridge is going to sit quietly in your kitchen and not talk to anybody else, it doesn't really matter if it's running decades-old code.

      The ever falling device lifetimes are soaking up both the piddling economic growth of the middle class and our resources.

      Smart devices (of any kind) put you on the network-connected upgrade treadmill. As long as compute capacity continues to grow, very few people and businesses will be interested in designing and maintaining long-lived smart devices; everything will become inc

      • by amorsen ( 7485 )

        Samsung advertised TVs with an "Evolution Kit" slot, making it possible to upgrade the smart functions of the TV year after year.

        Certain TVs had upgrades come out for two years, but most only managed one. Then they cancelled the whole thing.

        Luckily upgrading through plugging in various devices in the HDMI slots works absolutely fine, of course.

    • I love how you feel, but I think on a practical level that's impossible. LONGER, sure. But 20-30 years is impossible:

      Most companies that write the software we use don't even last 30 years. Who takes it over after they die? Even Chrysler and GM tried to weasel out of their warranty claims and "killed by daughter" ignition switch lawsuits by saying "that was the old version of the company! ...even though we still make the exact same car..." /scumbags

      And what kind of support are you talking about? Software or

      • I agree with all that you said. And, as an engineer, I believe that this is an area where we are not meeting our responsibilities. We should be creating solutions, not problems. An engineer has a responsibility to society.

        In this case, we need to be pointing out the problem and demanding regulation, not to stop the trend, but to minimize the long-term costs so that the economy can expand by creating more different things, not by creating the same thing more often. This kind of regulation helps to explode di

    • Now I'm interpreting this as an indication that devices with Android are targeting a six-year lifecycle!!

      Well, currently, few devices have support for more than a year or two, so six years is a big improvement. Even Google -- one of very, very few device makers who actually provides a committed support lifetime -- only promises three years. For that matter, although Apple tends in practice to update devices for 4-5 years, AFAICT they make no commitment to support devices beyond the one-year warranty period.

      Android needs to be thinking in terms of how to at least maintain security updates for 30 years.

      That's ridiculous. There is NO consumer electronic device that is expected to continue functioning correc

      • The point is that every device is now an electronic device. Android is available in every kitchen device I can think of from refrigerators to coffee makers. And they are all being networked to facilitate home and life automation.
        • Standard Android is not a good fit for long-lived appliances. They need an entirely different approach. Google has a team working on that, the Android Things project. But that's not what this article is about, and the dynamics of that ecosystem are entirely different. That's not to say no one will put standard Android in such devices, but they shouldn't... and you shouldn't buy one.
          • This article was about long-term Linux kernel support which Android happens to benefit from. Just because Google asked for it and may be helping it to occur doesn't mean that they are the only ones needing it or who will benefit from it. Any device manufacturer using a Linux kernel to create a smart connected device should be interested in this.
            • This article was about long-term Linux kernel support which Android happens to benefit from. Just because Google asked for it and may be helping it to occur doesn't mean that they are the only ones needing it or who will benefit from it. Any device manufacturer using a Linux kernel to create a smart connected device should be interested in this.

              Only if they need to stick with a kernel for a long period of time. Android Things doesn't need to do that.

    • by dj245 ( 732906 )

      Most of my life, I've received 20 to 30 years of service out of appliance-class products such as televisions, refrigerators, stoves, microwaves, washing machines, and dryers. I have noticed a steep downtrend in those lifecycles, particularly in televisions, washing machines and dryers. But that reduction has been due to engineering choices in the machinery.

      Now I'm interpreting this as an indication that devices with Android are targeting a six-year lifecycle!!! No way.

      Android is in all of the above device types today and even in our cars. Android needs to be thinking in terms of how to at least maintain security updates for 30 years. Perhaps that may have to involve some standard pluggable module so that the hardware can be upgraded too, but it has to happen. The ever falling device lifetimes are soaking up both the piddling economic growth of the middle class and our resources.

      That's capitalism and the free market for you. The people want the new shiny. Anything capable of lasting and being maintainable for 30 years generally looks dated, usually costs significantly more, and is therefore slowly being choked out of the mass market.

    • by Threni ( 635302 )

      I don't know what you're talking about. Nobody has a device for 30 years. This announcement is just an advert for Project Treble, so people can pretend they'll be using the same phone in 6 years instead of the usual 2 or 3.

      • au contraire. As a device engineer, I can attest the word, and the relevance of this article, covers far more than you're thinking.

        Devices that I'd expect to last decades have been running Linux kernels and even Android for quite some time now. Here's a refrigerator introduced in January 2013 [ndtv.com]. The more recent Samsung refrigerators are much fancier than this with massive screens.

        In addition, every major appliance manufacturer now has WiFi-enabled appliances of every variety I can think of. Even dishwashers a

  • Do we really think most manufacturers would actually use this opportunity to ease the difficulty of providing long term updates for their platforms, versus just dropping them and churning out new e-waste?

You see but you do not observe. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes"

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