Linux creator Linus Torvalds says the open source kernel has become “bloated and huge,” with no midriff-slimming diet plan in sight.
“Uh, I’d love to say we have a plan,” Torvalds replied to applause and chuckles from the audience. “I mean, sometimes it’s a bit sad that we are definitely not the streamlined, small, hyper-efficient kernel that I 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.”
But according to the folks at TuxRadar, it’s not just the addition of major new features and support for a huge variety of hardware that’s making some distros start to look a touch overweight. Even the basics are getting pudgy.
They surveyed the number of options relating to 16 common UNIX commands in three UNIX/Linux distros from 1975, 1990, and 2009 with some startling results. The cp command has ballooned from no options in 1975 to 28 today, while diff has had to loosen its belt as it exploded from 1 to 27. And a once svelte ps with just 4 options in 1975 now waddles about with 84 today. Not a pretty sight, you could say.
What’s the risk here?
But some people, particularly our Free Software leaders, are so mired in their hatred of Microsoft and proprietary systems that they will use only Free and Open Source software for the sake of ideological reasons alone.
A captive audience sees no flaws in its captor. This is why in the 1980s, Apple users would “debate” anyone who dared point out where Apple lagged technically. This is why today we have Apple fanbois and Linux fanbois, but not so many Windows fanbois… in fact, Windows fans seem to be retaliating out of sheer dislike of the Apple and Linux people. If we want healthy software, we can’t have fanbois.
People in “crowd sourced” movements contribute whatever they want. This is great, until you realize that it means a project that expands like poured cement. Direction is lost, as is shape. Bloat remains.