Should Linux 4.0 Focus Only On Bug Fixes?

    November 6, 2013

In about a year, we’ll be treated to Linux 4.0. It’s creator, Linus Torvalds, wants to know if it should focus exclusively on bug fixes and stability.

PCWorld reports that Torvalds made the controversial suggestion during a Q&A session at LinuxCon Europe in October. He was asked by Intel’s Linux chief Dirk Honhdel if he thought the Linux development community should focus entirely on bug fixes in an upcoming release.

In a blog post posted a few days ago, Torvalds revisits that question:

“we’re getting to release numbers where I have to take off my socks to count that high again. I’m ok with 3 , but I don’t want us to get to the kinds of crazy numbers we had in the 2.x series, so at some point we’re going to cut over from 3.x to 4.x, just to keep the numbers small and easy to remember. We’re not there yet, but I would actually prefer to not go into the twenties, so I can see it happening in a year or so, and we’ll have 4.0 follow 3.19 or something like that.

Now, it’s just a number (since we’ve long since given up on feature-related releases), and it’s at least a year away, so why do I even mention it at all?

The reason I mention it is because I’ve been mulling over something Dirk Hohndel said during LinuxCon EU and the kernel summit. He asked at the Q&A session whether we could do a release with just stability and bug-fixes, and I pooh-poohed it because I didn’t see most of us having the attention span required for that (cough*cough*moronic*woodland creature*cough*cough).

So I may be pessimistic, but I’d expect many developers would go “Let’s hunt bugs.. Wait. Oooh, shiny” and go off doing some new feature after all instead. Or just take that release off.

But I do wonder.. Maybe it would be possible, and I’m just unfairly projecting my own inner squirrel onto other kernel developers. If we have enough heads-up that people *know* that for one release (and companies/managers know that too) the only patches that get accepted are the kind that fix bugs, maybe people really would have sufficient attention span that it could work.

And the reason I mention “4.0” is that it would be a lovely time to do that. Roughly a years heads-up that “ok, after 3.19 (or whatever), we’re doing a release with *just* fixes, and then that becomes 4.0″.”

A Linux release solely dedicated to bug fixes sounds awesome, and I think many developers would agree. What some developers may not agree with is the suggestion that version 4.0 be the version that’s solely dedicated to bug fixes. Moving up to a new version number typically implies that there’s been some major additions to the software, and the development community may way to reserve that number for whatever new features they’re currently cooking up.

Torvalds is right, however, when he says that 4.0 is just a number. A 4.0 release that’s solely dedicated to bug fixes would mean just as much as a 3.19 release solely dedicated to adding new features. It’s all about the development community with Linux though and they’re going to make the final call.

What do you think? Should Linux 4.0 be reserved for some major feature release, or should it follow Torvalds’ advice and focus solely on bug fixes? Would the Linux development community even be able to dedicate itself entirely to squashing bugs?

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