During the roundtable discussion at LinuxCon this year, Linus Torvalds made some pretty harsh remarks about the current state of the Linux kernel, calling it “huge and bloated”, and that there is no plan in sight to solve the problem. At the same time, he also explained that he is very happy with the current development process of the kernel, and that his job has become much easier.
“We’re getting bloated, yes it’s a problem,” Torvalds said, “I’d love to say we have a plan. I mean, sometimes it’s a bit sad and we’re definitely not the streamlined hyper-efficient kernel that I had envisioned 15 years ago. The kernel is huge and bloated, and our icache footprint is scary. I mean, there is no question about that. And whenever we add a new feature, it only gets worse.”
Over the course of the last ten releaes, Linux kernel performance saw a 12% cumulative drop in performance, according to a report by Intel. Stability, however, is not a problem, according to Torvalds. “I think we’ve been pretty stable,” he said, “We are finding the bugs as fast as we’re adding them – even though we’re adding more code.”
Torvalds is also very happy with the improvements made in the kernel development process. “The one feature that is most important to me is how the development model seems to be working and it’s working better than it did even six months ago, where I beat up a lot of people over how they did things because it made it more difficult for me,” he said, “It took a while but they seem to have all gotten it.”
“I don’t spend all my time just hating people for sending me merge request that are hard to merge,” Torvalds added, “For me, I need to have a happy feeling inside that I know what I’m merging. Whether it works or not another issue is a different issue.”
The father of the Linux kernel also explained that his motivation has changed over the years. It used to be all about the technology aspect of it all, but now it is more about the community and the fame. Oh, and the flamewars, of course. “I really enjoy arguing, it’s a big part of my life are these occasional flame threads that I love getting into and telling people they are idiots,” Torvalds said, “All my technical problems were solved so long ago, that I don’t even care. I don’t do it for my own needs on my machine, I do it because it’s interesting and I feel like I’m doing something worthwhile.”