March 16, 2001

Thousands download Midori Linux, Linus watches from sidelines

Author: JT Smith

- By Grant Gross -

Linus Torvalds' involvement in the just-released Midori Linux project from Transmeta is more as an advisor than as a hands-on coder, but a half dozen other programmers are already working on several improvements to the flavor of Linux designed to run on small devices.

Linux godfather Torvalds' employer released the 1.0.0-beta1 version of Midori Linux, formerly called Mobile Linux, on March 13 and developers are already working on a new init and boot system using Richard Gooch's simpleinit; on improving the configuration programs for the kernel and Xfree86; and on adding Suspend-to-RAM to ACPI.

Daniel Quinlan, the Midori project manager at Transmeta, said the stripped-down Linux software bundle, which includes a build system, a Linux kernel with memory- and storage-conserving features, and system-level support for normal Linux software on embedded platforms, started as a customized version of Debian Potato. "We quickly discovered that customizing a distribution was not the way to go," he said. "In short, distributions are designed for a system with lots of memory and a hard drive, at least when compared to an internet appliance or a Web pad."

The project has generated a lot of press although a couple of other mobile Linux projects already existed, in part because Linux creator Torvalds works at Transmeta. Torvalds created cramfs and ramfs, which are part of the project, "and, of course, he helps us out with kernel-related stuff," Quinlan said. "Right now, Linus is more focused on Linux 2.4 development and other projects within Transmeta."

Quinlan said the interest level hasn't come just from the media. "A lot of people have joined the mailing lists on SourceForge and several projects have indicated their interest in using Midori," he said.

Within two days of Midori's release Tuesday, about 1500 developers had downloaded the major pieces of Midori, and about half of that number downloaded what Quinlan calls "all" of Midori -- about 150MB of software. About 4200 people downloaded the 37KB top-level package, which includes the documentation and the top-level Makefile.

"If you're trying to put Linux on a small device, such as an internet appliance, an MP3 player, a router box, or whatever, Midori Linux might be the base software for getting your project going," Quinlan said, in sales pitch mode. "It's also well done, of course."

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