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Linux Creator Calls Backporting ‘Good Thing’

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The creator of the Linux operating system, Linus Torvalds, has weighed in on the issue of backporting features from newer Linux kernels into older ones, calling the practice a good thing for the most part.

Torvalds comments, in an e-mail interview with, came after SUSE’S CTO, Juergen Geck, told an audience at the Real World Linux Conference in Toronto that Red Hat’s practice of backporting features from the 2.6 kernel into the 2.4 Kernel is a “bad thing” because it interferes with standardization of the open source operating system.

Geck’s comments were part of a keynote theme that urged industry players to avoid practices that could fragment open source standardization efforts.

The comments sparked discussions in the open source community. When asked by e-mail to comment for, Torvalds wrote:

“I think it makes sense from a company standpoint to basically ‘cherry-pick’ stuff from the development version that they feel is important to their customers. And in that sense I think the back-porting is actually a very good thing.”

A vice president of Novell and co-founder of Ximian, which, like SUSE is also owned by Novell , also defended Red Hat’s practice of backporting. “Very few people ship a vanilla Linus Torvalds kernel,” Miguel de Icaza told

He explained that developers will often bundle features that customers require, but that don’t make it in the official kernel release. For example, Red Hat backported the Native Posix Threading Library (NPTL) from its 2.5.x development tree to the 2.4 kernel, which were part of larger goals of achieving scalability and stability enhancements in current enterprise releases.

“I am very happy that they decided to do this work, since the NPTL thread stack is very important to run multi-threaded applications reliably,” de Icaza said.

De Icaza said his current project Mono, an open source implementation of the .NET <.net>


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