The future of linux

Scott Stirling sstirling at
Tue Feb 1 00:05:33 EST 2000

Everyone is focusing on the desktop.  I said this a few weeks ago, under the
Linux distro comparison/contrast discussion: Linux, or what we loosely refer
to as "Linux," is probably going to diverge along several lines of
specialization, viz., desktop/workstation, server, embedded/portable
devices.  The one I left out last time was embedded devices, but that's
clearly an emerging context for Linux.  Witness Linus Torvald's involvement
working for Transmeta, creating Mobile Linux.

My main interest is in a workstation-cum-server for development and fun.  I
have that.  The next version of GNOME and Enlightenment will be totally
kick-ass, but I don't really need it.  It's just nice to have.  I agree with
what people have been saying about the home user issues.  There are
definitely issues, and they definitely involve Linux.  Without the
applications, user-friendliness, eye-candy, etc., Linux is just a kernel.
As seen in the original post in this thread, we tend to think of "Linux" the
phenomenon or "Linux" the full distribution rather than Linux, the kernel.

So anyway, for an enterprise server (instead of a bunch of throw-aways
clustered into server farms), you need better threading than Linux has.
Java is becoming the programming language of choice for enterprise
applications.  Any application server worth its salt has to have a Java
servlet engine, JSP engine, and an EJB server/container.  Java is inherently
multi-threaded and when using native threads (a must on multi-CPUs and on
production JVMs from Sun) it inherits the threading model of the OS it runs
on.  The "every thread is a process" model doesn't seem to scale under big
time loads running multi-threaded apps.  Two major problems are the
algorithms used by the kernel scheduler, which wastes lots of time
scheduling all these individual processes, and the related problem of a lack
of a user-level threads library.  Most major Unixen have adopted the
many-to-many threading model.  Linux may never because Linus and his cronies
are dead set against the complexity of it.  The savior may be something like
Ralph Engelschall's GNU-threads.  If the user-level threads can be
implemented without modifying the kernel (or burdening the kernel developers
too much), then it might happen.  For an excellent article on this
kernel/Java stuff there's one at IBM:  I'm
interested to see how Linux evolves to meet the next generation of
server-side applications.  It should be interesting.

Scott Stirling
West Newton, MA

----- Original Message -----
From: "Derek Martin" <dmartin at>
To: "gnhlug" <gnhlug at>; "BLU mailing list" <discuss at Blu.Org>
Sent: Monday, January 31, 2000 8:31 AM
Subject: The future of linux

> Having seen Linux go from little more than a fledgeling Unix-like
> operating system that I could write my shell script homework on to a
> well-supported OS that I now use for everything, including "desk-top"
> applications like productivity apps, to games, to internet servers, to
> [lots of more good stuff here], I wonder what people think is the
> direction Linux will take from here, and what challenges it should be
> prepared to face that it currently isn't.  Comments anyone

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