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Linux 3.0 arrives in RC1, providing absolutely nothing new
Jun. 02, 2011

Linus Torvalds announced an RC1 release of the next Linux kernel, but instead of calling it the expected Linux 2.6.40, it's dubbed Linux 3.0. The final Linux 3.0 will coincide with the 20th anniversary of Linux in August, but will offer no great breakthroughs, says Torvalds.

Last week, Linux creator and overseer Torvalds dropped hints that he might consider switching the upcoming Linux kernel 2.6.40 to Linux 2.8 or 3.0. Ignoring feedback that the new features in the release were not substantive enough, he went ahead and made the switch anyway.

"What's the point of being in charge if you can't pick the bike shed color without holding a referendum on it?" writes Torvalds in a May 29 blog announcement. "So I'm just going all alpha-male, and just renumbering it."

Alpha male Linus Torvalds takes the plunge into Linux 3.0
Source: Polls Boutique

The move, which had been discussed since last year's Kernel Summit, will help celebrate the upcoming 20th anniversary of Linux, as the final release is expected to hit in late July or August. The news comes less than two weeks after the release of Linux 2.6.39.

"So what are the big changes?" Linux writes, setting us up for the punchline. "NOTHING. Absolutely nothing. Sure, we have the usual two thirds driver changes, and a lot of random fixes, but the point is that 3.0 is *just* about renumbering."

Torvalds appears to be matching a particularly uneventful kernel update for the switch in order to defray any potential disappointment. With few exceptions -- 2003's Linux 2.60 being among them (see farther below) -- Linux has advanced in frequent, incremental updates, some only moderately more exciting than others.

"We are very much *not* doing a KDE-4 or a Gnome-3 here. No breakage, no special scary new features, nothing at all like that," writes Torvalds, referring to the controversial debuts of two of the leading desktop environments for Linux. First, the KDE project disappointed many users in early 2008 with a not-ready-for-primetime KDE 4.0, and this year, the GNOME Foundation has received flak for what is perceived by many to be a needlessly radical UI switch in a somewhat rough-edged GNOME 3.0.

"There's absolutely no reason to aim for the traditional '.0' problems that so many projects have," writes Torvalds. At another point, he notes that the release will offer "no ABI changes, no API changes, no magical new features -- just steady plodding progress."

That said, Torvalds adds that the release offers "some nice VFS [Virtual File System] cleanups, various VM [virtual machine] fixes, and some nice initial ARM consolidation (yay!). As we have previously reported, other changes are expected to include a host of Wi-Fi related changes, including support for new Marvell and Realtek Wi-Fi chips. According to, the release will also include Sandy Bridge performance optimizations, initial Intel Ivy Bridge support, graphics support fixes, and a "form of Nvidia Optimus."

Other major numbering switches in the Linux kernel have been similarly uneventful. Linux 2.4, for example, released in January 2001, celebrated the arrival of a new millennium, but offered no great breakthroughs. Linux 2.5, which showed up that November, "is exactly the same as 2.4.15, except for a version number change," explained LinuxDevices at the time.

The Linux 2.6 release in 2003 was more substantial, however, especially for embedded systems. Among new features included enhanced real-time performance, easier porting to new computers, support for large memory models, support for microcontrollers, and an improved I/O system.

-- Eric Brown

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