The advantages of Android being Linux

From: Chad Smith 
I've been thinking a lot about tablets lately.  I have bought and sold a
good number of them - several different operating systems - and have played
with as many as I could get my hands on.

I have kinda been wondering - what advantages - if any - are there to
Android being Linux?  I realize from Google's perspective it makes things
easier, not having to rebuild the wheel in making and maintaining their own
kernel... But is there really any other advantage?  To my understanding,
you can just run any old Linux application on Android - it has to be
specifically ported to Android before it will work.

And I realize, too, there is at least some sort of a victory for Linux
supporters saying "Linux has gone mainstream!"

But - pragmatically, for users - and maybe for hardware makers / app
developers - does it really matter if it's a Linux kernel or a WebOS/Palm
kernel or a BlackBerry kernel or some mythical custom Google kernel, etc.?
 And if it does - why?

There's no point this this question other than idle curiosity.  It's not
any kind of attack or anything else.

*- Chad W. Smith*
*"I like a man who's middle name is W."*
President George W. Bush - February 10, 2003

=============================================================== From: William Wade ------------------------------------------------------ One advantage since 3.3 remerged the kernels, is more eyes on the code, more bug fixes some of which are bound to help you server and desktop Linux. Not to mention that in some ways it helps pay for Linus. (Google invests time into Linux thus they support the Linux Foundation in a way helping with Linus' paycheck.) On the other side it helps because the drivers for the tablet/phone/etc... are in the kernel and you can (rooting issues aside) run and Linux based OS on the tablet/phone/etc... So there are some reasons for starters.

=============================================================== From: Stephen Haywood ------------------------------------------------------ Licensing cost?

=============================================================== From: Chad Smith ------------------------------------------------------ ok - those are great benefits - to Linux users - I was more asking what are the benefits to Android users. But those are all good thoughts. *- Chad W. Smith* *"I like a man who's middle name is W."* President George W. Bush - February 10, 2003

=============================================================== From: Randy Yates ------------------------------------------------------ One advantage for Google is that they have free labor in the kernel development. They don't have to develop their own. They can just take what's already there and use it however they want. They also don't have to lose any control over it. If there's something they need added...they can just add that. If they need to change something about the kernel on a lower level, they can. Contrast this with Apple's iOS. Apple has to maintain the core along with the everything else. They have no more control over the kernel than they would if they were using Linux and they don't get all that free help. Advantages to Android users...they have a kernel that has a faster development cycle. There's many more people working on it. Google can focus on other things and add to customer satisfaction. I counter your question... What are the disadvantages of using the Linux kernel?

=============================================================== From: James Nylen ------------------------------------------------------ I think the main benefit to Android users is that Google was able to start from a proven, solid foundation, which enabled them to get products out quicker and not have to worry so much about engineering a kernel properly. It's also easier for manufacturers to get Android devices to market, since the driver infrastructure is already well-established. I'm inclined to agree that the benefits to the *typical* Android user are abstract at best. (It's 2012 and I'm agreeing with Chad. The end times must be here.) However, for someone like me who likes to tweak their device and control how it works, the fact that it's based on Linux is great. I will probably only ever buy phones/tablets/etc. that are based on Linux or a similar "open core". Also, I think it's a good thing that any Linux application can't run on Android. The user experience would be terrible. The user experience of lots of Linux applications is already pretty bad on the desktop.

=============================================================== From: Chad Smith ------------------------------------------------------ Not many - and not to an extent that will ever really affect end users. But one I can think of might be lack of control - sure, they can add whatever they want - but they are still not in complete control of what is in there. Another would be having a kernel that isn't optimized for portability. In other words - the same kernel has to work for phones, game systems, laptops, toasters, and supercomputers... there are possibly (probably?) things in there that are useless to Android. But - it's just a kernel - so any potential amount of "bloat" would me minuscule. Like I said - this isn't a bash Linux thread at all. I'm just wondering if Google just built Android from the ground up and didn't use Linux at all - would it really be much different for the end user? Any - curiosity, not aggression. *- Chad W. Smith* *"I like a man who's middle name is W."* President George W. Bush - February 10, 2003

=============================================================== From: Dan Lyke ------------------------------------------------------ On Wed, 4 Apr 2012 22:46:59 -0500 Chad Smith wrote: It's funny, but I was just composing a message which called this a plus. Hear me out. A few years ago I was down at One Infinite Loop in Cupertino, and we were trying to track down a performance issue. We eventually, with a help of an OS/X kernel hackers, figured out it was some combination of the patterns our app was accessing memory with and the way the VM code in the kernel was responding to that. In the process of this, we went looking at the Linux code, and discovered that they'd apparently seen this pattern, and were doing the right thing to keep performance high. The reality was that the Mac never really had this particular type of application on it, so they'd never seen this use case, and we managed to dog the crap out of the kernel. Inadvertently. Linux is in daily use and extreme development on everything from small embedded devices to servers with hundreds of gigabytes of RAM to parallel arrays of hundreds or thousands of processors. The kernel has seen it all before. A lot of things that a very niche OS, like Windows or, to a lesser extent, OS/X, is about to run into for the first time, Linux ran into back in 2.2.xx and has been pushing forward ever since. If Google built that from the ground up they wouldn't have that experience behind it. It would be like Palm trying to grow from the 68k-like platform to modern dual core multi-GHz phones, every change in hardware style would throw it for a loop. But it's a kernel that has seen *everything* before, so you want to put it on some flashy new architecture, or throw some new peripheral at it? Sure. It's been there and done that. And I think that's why I like using Linux for all sorts of platforms, from a few megabytes and a couple MHz ARM core, to the latest greatest multi-CPU multi-GHz gigabytes out the yin-yang sure, let's run all the RPC servers in their own VM (yes, really) redundant hot fail-over wonder.

=============================================================== From: William Wade ------------------------------------------------------ Remember that most of the kernel is modular and/or optional. It has been a while since I have regularly compiled my own kernel, but most, if not all, of the stuff for anything extra can be cut out. I am sure that Google cuts out as much as possible. I think one reason that Linux is good for Android that has been missed is the marketing aspect. I think many developers feel better developing for Android because it is based on OSS/Linux. If it had a closed source kernel or just a new OSS kernel, I don't think it would have the geek popularity as much. Albeit all speculation.

=============================================================== From: Randy Yates ------------------------------------------------------ Why would you think that? I'm just curious. If they have to change something, that doesn't mean that it has to go back into the main branch of the kernel. They can change everything and anything they want.