By Nur Hussein, Contributing Writer
The Linux kernel is the very heart of the Linux OS and it is developed by a worldwide team of open source developers led by Linus Torvalds since its inception. Torvalds is the “benevolent dictator” that more or less has the final word on the development of the official version of Linux, and this week he has decided to upgrade the version number of the kernel from 3.x to 4.x. Unlike proprietary software which likes to inflate version numbers for marketing reasons (Windows even skipped version 9 just so Microsoft could release a version 10), in the world of open source software, major version numbers go up very slowly. Therefore, it is usually a big deal when numbers go up, as it took practically forever for Linux to go from 2.x to 3.x.
There used to be an elaborate numbering scheme for Linux kernels. The number usually took the form x.y.z where x was the major version number, and y and z were the minor and point release numbers. It used to be that if y was odd-numbered, it was a developmental “unstable” kernel, and if it was even, it was a stable release kernel. Then after kernel 2.6 was released, things became a lot more arbitrary, and the numbers didn’t really mean much more than just a tag for releases. Torvalds upped the major version number to 3.x in 2011 due to the massive number of changes it accumulated during the 2.6.x series releases. After the release of 3.19 earlier this month, Torvalds decided he wasn’t going to put up with snowballing numbers for the minor version, and decided bump it to 4.x after an online poll asking folks what they preferred. Some people argued that they wished to see the 4.x series because we will eventually get 4.1.15, the version of the kernel apparently used for Skynet’s T-800 Terminator (the Arnold model). While this wasn’t quite the deciding factor in Torvalds’ choice of starting the 4.x series, it amused him enough for him to mention it in the announcement email he sent to the Linux kernel mailing list.
The fact that we know now that Terminators run Linux, and that version 4.1.15 will be upon us soon, do we prepare for the eventual robot apocalypse? Perhaps Torvalds should add a shutdown_killer_robot() function to the Linux kernel, just in case.
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