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The Linux 2.6 Kernel: Cracking the Code - page 3

What is the Linux Kernel?

  • June 23, 2006
  • By Sean Michael Kerner

The 2.6.x Linux kernel is facing security as well as legal challenges.

On the legal side is SCO, the Unix vendor that claims in a complex lawsuit that Linux in some way infringes on its SCO's intellectual property.

Led by Torvalds, the Linux community took some very specific action in May of 2004 to better document the Linux kernel submission process.

The goal is to help ensure that claims by SCO or others in the future would be less likely.

"Some of you may have heard of this crazy company called SCO... who seem to have a hard time believing that open source works better than their five engineers do," Torvalds wrote in a 2004 mailing list posting.

"They've apparently made a couple of outlandish claims about where our source code comes from, including claiming to own code that was clearly written by me over a decade ago.

"So, to avoid these kinds of issues ten years from now, I'm suggesting that we put in more of a process to explicitly document not only where a patch comes from (which we do actually already document pretty well in the changelogs), but the path it came through," Torvalds wrote.

Whether anyone in the open source community agrees or sees SCO's point, the case, which claims in part that the parts of the Linux kernel contain code pilfered from Unix code that SCO claims copyrighted, the case has shed light on some concerns enterprises harbor about using open source code.

On the security front, Linux developers continue to quickly patch the kernel as security issues arise. Though what appears to be happening with a degree of regularity is that each major point release is followed shortly after its official release by a minor point release that fixes bugs or potential security issues.

For example the 2.6.16.1 release followed the 2.6.16 release by a week and fixed a potential security vulnerability.

The 2.6.15 kernel was patched barely two weeks after its release, fixing three potential security vulnerabilities. The 2.6.13 kernel was patched shortly after its release for two vulnerabilities. And just days after the 2.6.12 kernel was released, it was patched for two issues.

The 2.6.17 Linux kernel release is ushering in support for Sun's Niagara processor family. It includes driver updates, incremental performance tweaks and continued work on bug fixes.

This report first appeared on internetnews.com, a JupiterWeb site.

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