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developerWorks: Improvements in Kernel Development from 2.4 to 2.6

Feb 18, 2004, 21:00 (1 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Paul Larson)

"In the three years of active development leading up to the recent release of the new 2.6 Linux kernel, some interesting changes took place in the way the Linux kernel is developed and tested. In many ways, the methods used to develop the Linux kernel are much the same today as they were 3 years ago. However, several key changes have improved overall stability as well as quality.

"Historically, there never was a formal source code management or revision control system for the Linux kernel. It's true that many developers did their own revision control, but there was no official Linux CVS archive that Linus Torvalds checked code into and others could pull from. This lack of revision control often left gaping holes between releases, where nobody really knew which changes were in, whether they were merged properly, or what new things to expect in the upcoming release. Often, things were broken in ways that could have been avoided had more developers been able to see changes as they were made.

"The lack of formal revision control and source code management led many to suggest the use of a product called BitKeeper. BitKeeper is a source control management system that many kernel developers had already been using successfully for their own kernel development work. Shortly after the first 2.5 kernels were released, Linus Torvalds began using BitKeeper on a trial basis to see if it would fit his needs. Today, BitKeeper is used to manage the Linux kernel source code for both the main 2.4 and 2.5 kernels. To most users, who may have little or no concern for kernel development, this may seem insignificant. However, there are several ways that users can benefit from the changes that the use of BitKeeper have brought about in the methods used to develop the Linux kernel..."

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