Community Linux support for Penguin phones floated
'Let's all pick one kernel and stick with it for a bit'
Plans are afoot to establish a long-term support system for new versions of the Linux kernel to help slide the penguin into more smartphones.
One of the Linux kernel's top maintainers has suggested that the Linux community each year picks a version of the kernel that they will commit to maintain for a period of two years, before dropping it for a new kernel.
Such a long-term support commitment would mean that the chosen version of the kernel receives big fixes, security and hardware updates from maintainers.
Greg Kroah-Hartman floated the plan here and invited others to weigh in with their opinions.
"To keep this all out in the open, let's figure out what to do here. Consumer devices have a 1 to 2 year lifespan, and want and need the experience of the kernel community maintaining their 'base' kernel for them," Kroah-Hartman said.
Kroah-Hartman said he has been approached by different groups and companies over the past 12 months who have been asking him how they could pick up the next long-term kernel.
Until now, the process of picking a Linux kernel for long-term support has been something of an ad-hoc process, while the benefits of long-term support itself has chiefly fallen to enterprise Linux distros.
It has meant distro providers like Canonical, Novell and Red Hat can get on with the business of making and selling their distros without worrying that the underlying kernel itself is up-to-date or secure.
With Linux going into more embedded systems – particularly consumer devices like smartphones, thanks to Android – device manufacturers seem to want the same kind of support guarantees as the enterprise boys.
Such a guarantee could eliminate the headaches and costs associated with implementing fixes and updates on products that have short lifespans and have tight margins, but must also be bulletproof.
The problem for Linux device makes is that so many versions of the Linux kernel are typically delivered that it is hard to know which to focus on and support. In 2010, Linus Torvalds and crew delivered four updates of the kernel.
Kroah-Hartman said he can't see a "real enterprise embedded distro" out there that could help establish a long-term support model. Linux distros from Cavium Networks' MontaVista and Intel's WindRiver are not being universally used. Google upgrades the Android kernel with every major release of its disto, and while there has been talk of developing long-term support from groups such as the CE Linux Forum (CELF), that talk hasn't come to anything. CELF members include Hewlett-Packard, Fujitsu, Intel, Sharp and Toshiba. ®
Of course if they shipped the damned OS updates in a timely manner, they wouldn't need long-term support of earlier versions.
Why would the community want to help these bastards screw their customers into buying a new device, purely to get an update that they should be bloody well entitled to anyway?
Why maintain old kernels when you can do rolling updates like PCLinuxOS does.
Re:Waste of effort
Or you could always offer an upgrade utility with the phone, so you don't have to bugger around so much.
Most people probably don't even know their phones can be updated. Those who do probably take one look at the instructions that involve messing with USB cables and downloads, and make sure you get the right one or you knacker your device, and decide it's too complicated and they don't want to screw it up.
Just include a "check for updates" button somewhere, possibly also an option to automatically check once a week turned on by default. When an update is known to be available have a discrete notification somewhere. The key is to make sure it is as painless as possible, let it be something you can set running over night while your phone is probably on charge anyway. I believe Apple plan this for iOS 5, it's definitely something that is of benefit to users.