Linux 3.0 Is A Big Deal (Kind Of)

20 September 2011

The release of kernel 3.0 in the Linux world was effectively downplayed by a good portion of the Linux world as "just another update."  And they're right- the version was going to be 2.6.40, until Linus Torvalds switched it to 3.0 to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Linux.  In that sense, no, Linux 3.0 was not a big deal as far as the 44 million lines of code in the kernel were concerned.  It only added the usual collection of drivers and bug fixes.

However, 3.0 is, from a publicity standpoint, a huge milestone for Linux in a lot of ways.  It shows, among other things, that Linux is continuing to grow and evolve and is a viable piece of software.  The fact that the version number was bumped to 3 could have made much more of an impact on the non-Linux world than it actually did- understandably, few people would care to hear that Linux hit version 2.6.40, but jumping a whole number is considered a big deal.  Windows has moved to that scheme- Windows 7, Windows 8- as has Firefox, jumping from 3.x to 4, then 5, and now 6, with 7 to be released at the end of September.  It makes for good marketing when users can brag about using a higher number, whether or not that number means a lot technologically.  Even someone such as myself, who is aware of the marketing and its use, is affected by it.  As soon as Linux 3.0 was released, I spent a long, impatient week or so waiting for it to show up on my own computer.

Kernel 3.0 even makes some waves in the software world where the change is known to be (from the developer standpoint) fairly insignificant.  Due to version numbers, developers and hardware manufacturers have been able to claim Linux compatibility to the latest version without actually updating the Linux side of their software.  "Supports Linux 2.x.x" has appeared on software support information for some time now even if that particular software was made 5 years ago or more.  The version number jump breaks that scheme, not only from the packaging standpoint, but from a programming standpoint as scripts that check kernel versions will be met with a shiny, new, confusing "3.0.2" (as it stands now in Arch) rather than 2.x.x.

So what was the deal with 3? Technically, nothing out of the ordinary (though it now has drivers for the Kinect!).  Out in the world, it was a different story and could have made for some great news from the world of the kernel.  It's hard not to be interested when you hear "Linux 3.0 is out- with Kinect support!"

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