KernelDevViewpoint (an apparently serious source) makes kernel development look like an accessible art. According to them:

Contrary to popular belief, kernel developers rarely need to know math at the calculus level. You need to be good at basic arithmetic and you must know Boolean algebra to work on device drivers.

One skill that many kernel developers learn on the job is the ability to build state machines in your head of what the code is doing. (...)


Technical skills for kernel developers include experience with the C programming language, and knowledge of Git.

Is that the basis of kernel development? Basic arithmetic, Boolean algebra, C and Git?

Obviously, I don't expect to read "C in ten days" (or whatever similar book) and start contributing to the Linux kernel development, however, I wonder how difficult will be to obtain the skills to do that?


Is that the basis of kernel development? Basic arithmetic, Boolean algebra, C and Git?

I have never contributed to a kernel project, but unless you are working on certain parts like threading locks, security, etc. you don't need advanced math. You defiantly need to know how to work with others, communicate effectively, and use a version control system with a public repository, e.g. Git. You will have to learn the ethos of the group and expect to receive constructive criticism. Unit testing is big on the projects I do and it is the unit test and documentation that take most of the time.

On many projects don't expect to have the ability to commit updates to the project without passing through one or more layers of reviews. You must earn trust by proving your skills. On large projects don't expect to master all of the code, you will most likely become good at one section that you work on and over time learn other parts. You will see lots of different styles and skill levels unless they have a good set of standards to follow.

As you can see there are lots of checks and balances in good projects and it is more than just coding. If you think you can make a contribution make a change and submit the update. Expect it to get rejected at first then heed the comments, make the changes and soon you may become part of the team. It will take a lot of your time.


Even though the source is respectable. I'd say it's a gross generalisation to say you only need Basic arithmetic, Boolean algebra, C and Git. When you see the code, almost everything has been reduced to plain and simple C code. But the code implements something that's far more complex than, say basic arithmetic. Some examples:

  1. floating point emulation. Linux started on i386 which didn't have fpu. Someone wrote an emulation for fpu which includes geometry.
  2. Algorithm analysis. At some point, someone proposed an AVL tree memory allocator. Why would anyone do that? Because to balance the tree it takes O(1) on average and O(log n) on maximum. Takes more than basic math to figure it out.
  3. Not on linux. See http://www.ertos.nicta.com.au/research/l4.verified/ to see how formal methods is used in developing a kernel.

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