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LinuxJournal: Dedication Trumps Talent (How to get the real skinny on the Linux kernel)

Jan 03, 2002, 07:27 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Larry Colen)
"There are many sources of information about the Linux kernel, but not many on how to learn about it. Someone who wants to learn about the Linux kernel will find themselves faced with a huge array of incomplete and slightly outdated HOWTOs, tutorials and books. Combine this with the fact that most of the comments in the code seem to be optimized for people who already know their way around can make the task of coming up to speed on the Linux kernel a daunting one.

The first thing one usually does when trying to learn about a piece of software is to check out the documentation available. There are three types of software documentation: tutorial, mnemonic and misleading. Tutorial explains the software to someone new, mnemonic reminds someone who already knew it and misleading is just wrong, usually ignored by those who know.

There are four basic ways that software can be documented: function or file headers, inline comments, function and variable names, and external documents.

It is my experience that most of the documentation directly associated with the code is more mnemonic than tutorial. A cynical individual might suspect that this was done deliberately to force newcomers to delve more deeply into the code before making any modifications. I often found that it would require a day or two of research to find which three lines of code I needed to change, and several more days of checking and cross checking to make sure. Most of the tutorial documentation was external to the code."

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