Zack's Kernel News

Zack's Kernel News

Article from Issue 213/2018
Author(s):

Zack discusses removing dead ports, new minimum GCC version jumping from 3.2 to 4.8, Intel considering hardware changes to mitigate security flaws, enhancing asymmetric process migration, and protecting user's system control. 

Removing Dead Ports

When no one's using a particular piece of hardware, Linus Torvalds becomes very likely to accept a patch removing that hardware from the kernel. It's a similar reason for why he doesn't want to add security patches that don't actually fix security holes, but that just make it "harder" for attackers to design worms. He wants to support hardware that people actually use and fix bugs that actually exist, but he doesn't want to add features that no one will use or that add bloat without actually adding a feature.

Some hardware ports came onto the chopping block recently for this reason. Arnd Bergmann posted a patch to remove Blackfin, CRIS, FRV, M32R, Metag, MN10300, Score, and Tile. He also gave his opinion on why these particular pieces of hardware had disappeared from use. Apparently, as he put it, "while the eight architectures are extremely different, they all suffered the same fate: There was one company in charge of an SoC line, a CPU microarchitecture and a software ecosystem, which was more costly than licensing newer off-the-shelf CPU cores from a third party."

The moral of that story seems to be: Companies shouldn't make custom hardware when generic will do just as well. It's sort of the same reason companies should use Linux instead of writing their own operating system whose key features would soon be incorporated into Linux anyway and be better maintained as well. But apparently this lesson must be learned over and over again.

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