Saturday, 6 December 2003

CNET: Linux guru: Move quickly to new kernel

Linux guru: Move quickly to new kernel (via Ian)

I'm not going to comment heavily on this, but basically the intention is to immediately shift the current stable version of the Linux kernel into security-patch-only mode, as soon as the new version 2.6.0 is released. That immediately puts users of the older version at a disadvantage. Also, historically, the first few releases of a new kernel have been poor - I recall that early 2.2 releases had terrible problems with disk corruption on some IDE drives.

Of course, you've got the source - you could back-port changes from the new kernel to the old one. If you're a programmer. And you're familiar with the kernel. And you have the time and the inclination. Oh, and the kernel developers haven't completely changed the interface to that part of the kernel. And you'd have to do that every time the main kernel got updated. No apt-get or rpm for you.

Now, OK, Microsoft hasn't released a full Service Pack for Windows NT 4.0 since October 1999, a full four months before Windows 2000 was released. But the software is still supported, and fixes are still being produced for it, more than seven years after initial release. It's just about to go out of mainstream support.

Windows 2000 has already had a service pack released after the release of Windows Server 2003 (SP4, released in June 2003), and it appears that a service pack 5 is planned (although no release date has been announced). We might expect SP5 to include some of the same security measures as XP Service Pack 2, although that could be wishful thinking on my part.

CNet reports that the reason this information came to light is that Silicon Graphics wanted to include their XFS journalled file system in 2.4, but it's only just completed. The original decision was that it wouldn't be included - after all, there are already three journalled file systems in Linux.

The trouble is, two of them - ext3 and ReiserFS - are widely regarded as a joke - they tend to lose data, or still require a lengthy fsck when rebooting. Keenspot lost many days of comics - particularly from Keenspace - due to ReiserFS on Linux 2.5. They also lost months of forum posts.

I'll admit I hadn't heard of IBM's JFS until reading this article. Maybe it actually works.

I'll just note here that if you want to add a new file system to Windows, you can get hold of the Installable File System Kit, which currently costs $899. Microsoft isn't yet guaranteeing that file systems written now will work on Longhorn, but I believe that third-party file systems written for NT 4.0 work all the way up to Windows Server 2003 using the same binary. If you want to add a new device driver, the Windows Driver Developers' Kit is free, apart from handling charges.

Oh yeah, and Windows NT has had a journalled file system since the beginning (NTFS).

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