Latest Release Of Linux Contains Code Developed Via Google Plus


Say what you will about the mainstream viability of Google Plus, but anyone who has spent even a few days on Google’s rapidly developing social network can tell you that the userbase seems unusually knowledgeable and tech-savvy. There have been numerous posts and articles attempting to explain this phenomena, but the most common theory seems likely enough: the early invitations were given out to primarily technical users (developers, tech journalists, etc), and they predictably shared their invites with like-minded individuals.

Whatever the reason, today we see the direct result of the legions of developers and hackers on Google Plus: code developed through the comments in a Google Plus post has officially made it into Linux 3.4-rc3.

Linus’s Challenge

The story starts on April 12th, when Linus Torvalds posted the following on his personal Google Plus:

Hey, since the last disgusting code hack thing worked out so well on G+, here’s a new challenge..

Improve on this new disgusting hack:

#define is_enabled(x) (__stringify(CONFIG_##x)[0]==’1′)

which basically is a C language “is the config variable ‘x’ defined” question (the “__stringify()” thing is the normal two-level macro expansion using the ‘#’ operator, so that it expands the macro argument and then turns it into a string). And gcc does seem to do the proper compile-time optimizations that turn the above into a simple constant.

This resulted in a flurry of activity, with over 146 shares and 161 comments. Multiple possible solutions were put forth, and Linus spent considerable time going back and forth about what would and would not work. By the end of the day, the winning suggestion came from the user comex:

What started as a joke turned into a stroke of inspiration, which the rest of the commenters quickly picked up on.

Linux 3.4-rc3 Announcement

As far as releases go, Linux 3.4-rc3 is pretty minor. It’s primarily a bugfix release, though this isn’t too surprising as the RC’s are supposed to be small updates gearing up for the final stable release. The official release announcement on the Linux Kernel Mailing List shows a changelog full of the normal tweaks and cleanups, likely of very little consequence to the majority of Linux users. But for Google Plus, the announcement of Linux 3.4-rc3 included a special message:

The Future Of Development?

The bit of code comex came up with is certainly not critical to the success of Linux, nor is it something that any Linux would ever be aware of under normal circumstances. But it does prove the increasingly important role social networks such as Google Plus play in the constantly evolving world of technology. What would have once been a task relegated to hidden away mailing lists is now coming to cutting edge “Web 2.0” platforms used by millions of users daily.

It’s easy to dismiss the current social networking craze as a waste of time, and perhaps that’s even a fair claim for many of the people on them. But there is no denying that legitimate work can and will be done via these new forms of real-time communication.

About Tom Nardi

Tom is a Network Engineer with focus on GNU/Linux and open source software. He is a frequent submitter to "2600", and maintains a personal site of his projects and areas of research at: .