January 29, 2001, 9:25 AM — ALL OF THE TALK about the recently released Linux 2.4 kernel centers around the improvements that will make Linux a better operating system for the enterprise. I have not yet subjected the 2.4 kernel to intensive server testing. But I do have a lot of confidence in the 2.4 kernel for enterprise use, if for no other reason than the fact that IBM and Oracle have already loudly endorsed this new kernel.
These are not hollow endorsements solely for the purpose of promoting Linux. I've spoken to IBM, Oracle, and other major software companies about what they want from Linux. And I can say with confidence that the 2.4 kernel has answered a good portion of their wants and needs, although not quite all of them.
There is definitely more work to be done. But 2.4 has made very significant strides, and the kernel developers are busily filling the remaining gaps. (You can find a general summary of the advances in kernel 2.4 at www.linuxtoday.com/news_story.php3?ltsn=2001-01-05-007-04-NW-LF-KN.)
As for my personal experience so far, I can say that 2.4 doesn't deliver what Linux needs to make Linux the default desktop operating system of tomorrow. Let me qualify that statement a bit, however, lest you get the mistaken impression that my complaint is with the kernel itself. It is not. But before I can properly place the blame, I need to explain what it is the kernel lacks.
The 2.4 kernel integrates USB support. (Limited USB support has also been back-ported into some of the earlier 2.2 kernels, but you usually have to compile it into the kernel yourself. It is more convenient to simply use a 2.4 kernel if you want USB support.)
But having USB support is not enough. Linux needs broad support for the USB peripherals themselves. For example, I have two USB-enabled digital cameras, and neither of them works with Linux. They both work fine with my copy of Windows 98SE.
Here's where the situation gets tricky. Commercial operating systems such as Windows and the Mac (I assume this is true of the Mac, anyway -- I'm not a Mac user) include a number of USB drivers by default.
Naturally, many drivers are missing. But when a new digital camera, printer, or scanner is released, you can usually count on it to include a driver for Windows and the Mac. You can't usually count on it to include a driver for Linux, or just about any other operating system for that matter.