Linus Torvalds: 'Linux is bloated'

Christopher Browne cbbrowne-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w at
Tue Sep 22 18:04:28 UTC 2009

On Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 1:40 PM, Darryl Moore <darryl-90a536wCiRb3fQ9qLvQP4Q at> wrote:
> There is always Minix for those who don't want bloat in their kernel, or
> any one of several uKernels too, like uCOS or FreeRTOS.
> Of course the trade offs as usual are less support for variety of
> hardware and less runtime flexibility.

The article has some whinging back and forth about the merits of
microkernels...  I *don't* imagine that NT (the basis for modern
Windows) gets terribly much savings out of the fact that since the
disk drivers are external modules, someone using IDE disks doesn't
need to have driver code for SATA drives loaded...

There's the common issue that if you want to be able to "support all
things for all people," you need to load in every driver and its three
brothers.  Thus comes the fairly considerable size of Ubuntu

I have a number of copies of kernels handy; watch the size increases...

2.6.15-26 - 1.5MB
2.6.15-27 - 1.5MB
2.6.15-28 - 1.5MB
2.6.15-29 - 1.5MB
2.6.24-16 - 1.8MB
2.6.24-16 - 1.9MB
2.6.24-19 - 1.9MB

The 2.6.20 kernel on a main Debian box at home: 0.8MB

Entertainingly: 2.6.30 kernel on my work desktop (debian): 2.2MB

There are clearly some variations over time, as well as based on what
bits of functionality the gentle user chooses to include or leave out.

> Linux has grown from a hacker kernel to a full fledged general purpose
> operating system.

I think there's something cautionary; Linus hasn't been controlling
for size terribly much, and there *is* some risk of bloating of the
kernel.  I don't think it's overly troublesome at this point; the
kernel's only a couple MB, typically, which isn't daunting on machines
with >>1GB of memory.

> I think the real question is "Is Linux bloated for what it is NOW?" Not
> what it was when Torvald started. The answer to this question will be in
> the comparison of it to other OSes like OSX, Windows, Solaris, etc...
> Don't compare it to what it was.

It strikes me that there's a different "bloat" problem out there...

I've got a complete OS kernel consisting of less than 2MB of code.

In contrast:

- My "Eight Megabytes And Constantly Swapping" text editor, which *is*
doing quite a lot (lotta buffers open) is ~42MB in size.  I don't
strongly object to this; Emacs has grown since the '80s, but it does
do more, and it hasn't grown nearly as quickly in footprint as my
hardware has grown.

- Rather more distressing is  203MB after loading a
1.73MB document.  163MB before...

- Also distressing is the bloat of the web browsers.  250MB isn't much...

Joan Crawford  - "I, Joan Crawford, I believe in the dollar.
Everything I earn, I spend." -
The Toronto Linux Users Group.      Meetings:
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