New York, NY — Linux software creator Linus Torvalds on Thursday issued a major new version of his software alternative to Windows and Unix that aims to make Linux easier to use while boosting its capacity to run big business computer systems.
In contrast to the hoopla of the standard product launch, Torvalds offered up version 2.4 of the Linux “kernel” — the guts of the software — in a quiet e-mail to users saying it was ready to be incorporated in Linux-based programs.
“Enough is enough … Things don’t get better from having the same people test it over and over again,” Torvalds said in an accompanying note. “In short, 2.4.0 is out there,” he said, referring to the availability of the ongoing work-in-progress.
The low-key approach was in keeping with the grass-roots, voluntary development effort with which the Linux kernel is being built. Scores of programmers have pitched in from around the globe to offer improvements, using the Internet both as a coordination tool and also as a kind of virtual “office water cooler” to exchange ideas and keep up morale.
The 2.4 kernel is compatible with upcoming generations of computer microprocessors, including Intel Corp.’s upcoming 64-bit Itanium chip, and supports symmetric multiprocessing, which allows machines to run up to 32 computer chips at once.
It also is designed to work with International Business Machines Inc.’s mainframes as well as more easily link up with computer peripherals using fast Universal Serial Interface (USB) connections and graphics hardware.
The last major update to the Linux kernel, version 2.2, was officially released in January 1999.
Torvalds, who now works for Santa Clara, California chip designer Transmeta Corp., took a self-deprecating tone in making the announcement, while pointing out the contributions of dozens of other programmers.
“2.4.0 brings to the table many improvements, none of which come to mind to the exhausted release manager right now,” wrote Torvalds, who is known for an impish sense of humor.
“It’s better,” he said blandly of the project.