San Diego, CALIF. — Although nobody in the Linux community wants to say so, Linux 2.4 is late.
The father of Linux, Linus Torvalds, said last Friday that the final 2.4 kernel isn’t likely to be ready for another two months. Other open-source advocates say it might not be finished before January 2001. Earlier this week, developers placed Linux 2.4 Test version 9 into the Linux kernel archives for evaluation.
Torvalds said in June of 1999 that Linux 2.4 would be done by last fall. In May 2000, Torvalds acknowledged that it would likely be October 2000 before 2.4 saw the light of day, since developers were attempting to cram more new, high-end features into the final release.
On Oct. 6, at Frankfurt’s LinuxWorld, Torvalds was quoted as saying Linux 2.4 wouldn’t roll out the FTP server doors until December at the earliest.
When asked by ZDNet News for further elaboration, Torvalds said, that “Basically, we’re pretty much ready with 2.4. But I’m putting in two months of stability control to find the worst issues early rather than late.”
He added, “Obviously, everybody knows a ‘.0′ release always has bugs. We won’t get rid of all of them. But we’ll get rid of the embarrassing ones, I hope.”
Open-source backers haven’t been forgiving when for-profit software makers – most notably, Microsoft Corp. – let development schedules slip. But when it comes to Linux, they claim expectations aren’t the same thing as release dates.
“We don’t do deadlines in the open-source world, which is a major reason our stuff is right when it comes out,” said open-source leader Eric Raymond.
Nevertheless, the news indicates that Linux, increasingly going head-to-head with Windows NT and Windows 2000, is just as prone to feature creep and delays as any Microsoft OS. Other open-source officials attempted to distance themselves from the impact of the delayed 2.4 kernel.
“It’s not prudent to bet your company on something as fundamental as a 2.4 kernel arriving at a certain date,” said Lonn Johnson, vice president of marketing for TurboLinux. “You can’t get the benefits of open source and expect to hold the open-source developer community to release schedules.”
Johnson insisted the Linux 2.4 delay was “not a surprise to us. We had planned for it all along and it won’t slow down our release schedule at all.”
Erik Troan, vice president of product engineering for Red Hat, agreed. “It’s no big deal. The kernel designers were still adding features. What’s happening now is that Linux 2.4 is finally going into a feature freeze.”
Red Hat recently released its 7.0 update, which is based on the 2.2 kernel as planned. For, as Troan couldn’t resist adding: “There was never a hard date for this (2.4) so it’s not really a slippage.”
Troan said that the developers contributing to the 2.4 kernel are in the final throes of work, namely, the stabilizing and debugging of the new kernel. He predicted that this phase “will take much less time.”
Still, some commercial Linux projects do depend on Linux 2.4. TurboLinux, for example, is relying on 2.4 in porting Linux to IA-64. Caldera Systems has an engineering prototype of 2.4 out, and Red Hat just released on Friday the first beta of its 2.4-based Tux (Threaded Linux Webserver) enterprise-level web server.
But none of these companies expressed any public worry. TurboLinux’s Johnson said the 2.4 delay wouldn’t affect Turbo’s IA-64 plans. A Red Hat spokeswoman said the company was anticipating no slowdown in the planned Tux release schedule.
“We’ve been tracking 2.4 from the start and we saw in our 2.4 that there were some problems, and we applaud Linus’ plans to make sure it’s done right rather than come out half-baked,” said Drew Spencer, chief technology officer of Caldera.