Linux 3.3 Merges Android – Makes Android App Developers Happy
Linux 3.3 released on March 18, 2012 and one of the most notable (there were quite a few) features to make news was the merging of the kernel code from the Android project.
Why is that a big deal? Well, this event means a lot to Android and Linux programmers. Now, you can basically boot an Android user space on a Linux 3.3 machine. Linux developers can work on Android apps without downloading code separately, code development in itself should be faster and easier, and Google will also not have to constantly sync its code to the mainline Linux kernel.
But first, some history. Android is a Linux-based operating system. The first Android version (cupcake) was based on Linux kernel 2.6. However, Android and Linux progressed as parallel open source projects, with some Linux team members speculating on Android’s losing interest in sharing open code and contributing back to Linux. Google’s contribution of a power management feature called WakeLocks was also rejected over such qualms. Android soon branched off as a code repository, separate from the main repository that’s found on the Linux Kernel Archives, overseen by Linus Torvalds, leader of the Linux kernel project.
Android and Linux continued to grow as parallel river banks, apparently never to meet. But in September 2010, Linux kernel developer Rafael J. Wysocki developed a patch that improved the mainline Linux wakeup events framework. He further added that Android device drivers using WakeLocks could now be merged into mainline Linux easily. In 2011, Linus Torvalds said that “eventually Android and Linux would come back to a common kernel, but it will probably not be for four to five years”.
December 2011 saw a surprising development. Greg Kroah-Hartman announced the start of the Android Mainlining Project that aimed to bring some Android drivers, patches and features into the Linux kernel, starting in Linux 3.3 with further integration expected in Linux 3.4. And that’s how we now have Linux 3.3 with Android.
What are the advantages of Android merging with Linux? To start with:
- Android app developers and even hardware manufacturers can access Linux features that have not made it to Android code yet.
- With the joining of two open source projects, the scope for innovation, adoption and enhancement of Android broadens.
- Android app developers working with custom ROMs and the Android code base should experience easier migration with fewer support issues.
- Android development could get easier and faster.
- Mobile devices using Linux will benefit from Android enhancements.
According to Greg Hartman, longtime Linux kernel developer, “The 3.3 kernel release will let you boot an Android userspace with no modifications, but without very good power management. The 3.4 kernel release will hopefully have all the power management tools that Android needs in it, along with a few other minor missing infrastructure pieces that didn’t make it into the 3.3 kernel release.”
Well, all good things take time. But it’s a beginning for sure, and a great one at that.
- Linux 3.3 Released, Integrates Android Code (pcworld.com)
- Linux Kernel 3.3 released by Linus Torvalds (linuxuser.co.uk)
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