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From The Chief Editor's Desk...

Technology is great! But as great as the latest advances in technology are, it carries heartaches as great as the advances. In probably no other industry is this as clear and poignant as the computer industry.

Think back to just storage mediums. We've seen large reels of tape, to tape drive cartridges, to 8" floppy disks, to 5.25" floppy disks, to 3.5" floppy disks, to CD-ROMs, to DVDs, to BluRay discs, to static USB thumb drives of ever increasing size.

We've seen a similar progression with CPUs. My first "IBM Compatible" PC was a 486-SX25. GPUs with 8 KiB memory were the norm for quite a while. Today's GPUs commonly support 1000 times as much memory. Today's web browsers are larger in file size than the memory that used to come as "standard" on many of yesteryear's computers (my first PC ran Windows 3.1 and had 4 MiB RAM). Expansion ports (remember PS/2 keyboard and mouse connections?) have seen their fair share of advancements. Parallel and RS-232 ports gave way to USB, and even USB has shown advances from USB 1/2/3, with USB 4 literally right around the corner and ready to supplant USB 3. You can throw FireWire and Thunderbolt into the mix, too. IDE, SCSI, and PATA yielded to the superior SATA interface. BIOS gave way to UEFI. The list goes on and on and on. No part of the computing landscape has been spared its share of advances.

This month, we celebrate the 31st birthday of Linux. Try to imagine the changes that have happened in just the 31 years of Linux. During that time, now try to imagine all of the support that has been rolled into the Linux kernel in an effort to support all of those changes. Much of that support still exists, even if the hardware is no longer commonly used.

It's here where the heartaches come in. There are MANY computer users who get used to the hardware they have, and/or can't afford/don't want to run out and buy the latest-greatest new gizmo on the market. And no one can blame you. Hey, if it still works and meets your needs, there's no incentive to run out and spend more hard earned dollars on yet more expensive hardware. And, among computer users, NO ONE can match the Linux user's mindset and track record of using what you've got, and making it work.

Linux is unbeatable when it comes to supporting older hardware. Do you have a 10 year old laptop? Sure, no problem. Linux will thrive on it. But, can you really expect Linux to support old, obsolete hardware F-O-R-E-V-E-R? It wasn't all that long ago when Linux support for floppy disk drives was going to be dropped because the kernel modules were no longer being maintained. I don't know about you, but I haven't even seen floppy disks available for purchase in over a decade, after seeing them available just about everywhere for years. For what it's worth, I do still have two USB floppy disk drives available for use (and I've used them only once since I became a Linux user), but because they use a USB interface, they don't use the kernel's floppy disk drive driver. Instead, the Linux kernel sees the USB floppy disk drive merely as another USB storage device. If I recall correctly, someone stepped up at the 11th hour with an offer to support the antique barely-used driver, saving it from being omitted from the Linux kernel.

There are many similar stories surrounding the Linux kernel. And with the Linux kernel numbering in excess of 28,000,000 lines of code, how much smaller can the kernel be made by eliminating all of the code that supports outdated, obsolete, rarely used hardware? A smaller kernel should run even faster, be more secure (less "entry points" for malevolent actors), and have a smaller footprint. This is otherwise known as "kernel bloat." Eliminating kernel bloat has benefits for nearly everyone. As for those users who still think they need support (e.g., RS-232 serial port support, which was THE serial interface before USB came along and simplified things), they can build their own custom kernel with that support enabled. For the rest of us, we get a leaner, cleaner, faster kernel without the weight of that excess, no-longer-needed baggage.


This month's cover, created by Meemaw, celebrates Linux's 31st birthday. Linux was "born" on August 25, 1991, when Linus Torvalds released the very first version of the Linux kernel to the world.


Until next month, I bid you peace, happiness, serenity, prosperity, and continued good health!

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