If Dreams Were Real: Convergence of Distro and Kernel Versions


Mark Shuttleworth had a dream: the big Linux distros should agree to have version numbers identical to those of kernel components and refresh them every two years. The dream now is more real than ever.

In a lengthy 2008 blog (as we reported), Mark Shuttleworth outlined a plan for the most commonly used Linux distros (Debian, Ubuntu, Red Hat and SUSE) to agree to a two-to-three-year major release cycle. The sting: if they were to agree to a common version numbering, it would immensely simply the software and especially the driver development process. According to Shuttleworth, it would lead to a definite positive effect for all distros.

While Shuttleworth considers the biannual releases for LTS versions, the same regularity could be introduced for the Debian releases. The Enterprise distros of Red Hat and Novell could also follow the same pattern. Shuttleworth's suggestions were batted about quite heavily over the last summer among the Debian team, with the outcome that no common timetable with Ubuntu would be pursued: Debian will continue to be ready when it's ready.

However, after the Debian team announced the version numbers for the main components of their upcoming 6.0 "Squeeze" release, Shuttleworth's plan seemed to get some recognition after all. In his March 15 blog, he announced that Debian 6.0 and Ubuntu 10.04 were, in fact, using identical versions of the kernel, Python and Perl, GCC and OpenOffice. Even Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 12 are likely to run kernel version 2.6.32, so that kernel developers are more willing to nurture it.

Even if this unique convergence were no more than coincidental, there's a great chance that it might have such a positive effect on individual distros to become a stimulus for common release cycles in the future. By current timetables, the chances for Ubuntu, Red Hat and SUSE Linux Enterprise are good in that Ubuntu is releasing semiannually and Red Hat and Novell are releasing on an eight-month cycle. The lowest common denominator therefore being 24 months gives credibility to Shuttleworth's "The Art of Release" theory.

( Marcel Hilzinger)

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