Next Up: Linux Desktop

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2004-01-19 Print this article Print

Kernel maintainer Andrew Morton is optimistic about desktop and client apps.

Andrew Morton, Linus Torvalds right-hand man and the maintainer of the 2.6 kernel, will not be attending the LinuxWorld conference in New York this week, but he did speak with Senior Editor Peter Galli about the recent 2.6 kernel release and his vision for Linux. What will the buzz be around Linux in 2004, from your perspective? It will be around the desktop. We are very interested in that. The Sun [Microsystems Inc.] desktop [Java Desktop System] makes sense and is a good innovation. The OSDL [Open Source Development Lab] is also doing work with some of our partners around the desktop. Novell [Inc.] also now has Ximian, so that is all looking good and promising. There are also a lot of desktop applications that do not require the whole mobile professional business suite. Things like kiosk applications, point-of-sale applications and more embedded applications. I think thats another entry point for Linux on the desktop.
Some Linux watchers have said 2004 will not be the year of the Linux desktop. Obviously you disagree?
I think a lot of mobile professionals go by their own personal experience and, frankly, trying to get all your e-mails and other things on your BlackBerry with Linux really sucked. But thats not the whole desktop market. Theres a percentage out there that dont need a Web browser or PowerPoint and all those things, and thats an entry point for the Linux desktop. As you and Linus move toward the next test and development kernel, 2.7, are features for the desktop and desktop functionality a high priority, or are you continuing to focus on the server? A lot of work went into the server side in the 2.6 kernel, mainly because that was the area where more work needed to be done in terms of some scalability and hot-plugability. But were all very sympathetic to the desktop as everybody in the kernel world uses Linux as their desktop, and we want to see it do well. What we did give the desktop in 2.6 were improvements in the areas of device management and hot plugability. The 2.4 kernel was not bad in that space either. So, in my opinion, not a lot needed to be done to the kernel for desktops in 2.6 since the 2.4 kernel is fine for desktops as long as we get the applications story sorted out. What do you think the greatest changes are that the 2.6 kernel will bring users when it ships in commercial distributions? What are the parts you are most proud of? It would be the improved scalability on the high end for certain machines and the improved responsiveness and interactivity on desktop machines. When can we expect to see the release of the 2.6.2 update? We just got through 2.6.1, which had a huge backlog of stuff that had been saved up during the 2.6.0 freeze period. I seem to have another 300 changes here ready to go, so 2.6.2 will also be a significant merge. You can expect that in a couple of weeks. But we are being pretty successful these days in keeping the kernel stable as we make large changes to it. Thats not something we were very good at across the 2.3 and 2.4 series. I think weve sorted out some processes a lot more now in that area. Next page: Looking toward Kernel 2.7.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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