It's been many months since the Linux Kernel developers conference, where the linux-staging tree was discussed and role changed. It turns out that people are still a bit confused as to what the staging tree is for, and how it works.

So here's a short summary, I'm not going into the history or background here, that's a much longer writeup that I'd be glad to do if people are interested.

The Linux Staging Tree, what it is and is not.

What the Linux Staging tree is

The Linux Staging tree (or just "staging" from now on) is used to hold stand-alone drivers and filesystems that are not ready to be merged into the main portion of the Linux kernel tree at this point in time for various technical reasons. It is contained within the main Linux kernel tree so that users can get access to the drivers much easier than before, and to provide a common place for the development to happen, resolving the "hundreds of different download sites" problem that most out-of-tree drivers have had in the past.

What the Linux Staging tree is not

The staging tree is not a place to dump code and run away, hoping that someone else will to the cleanup work for you. While there are developers available and willing to do this kind of work, you need to get them to agree to "babysit" the code in order for it to be accepted.

Location and Development

The staging tree is now contained within the main Linux kernel source tree at the location drivers/staging/. All development happens within the main kernel source tree, like any other subsystem within the kernel. This means:

  • The linux-next tree contains the latest version of the staging tree, with bugfixes that are about to be merged into Linus's tree, as well as the patches that are to be merged into the next major kernel release.
  • If you wish to do work on the staging tree, checkout the linux-next tree and send patches based on that.


When code from the staging tree is loaded in the kernel, a warning message will be printed to the kernel log saying:

MODULE_NAME: module is from the staging directory, the quality is unknown, you have been warned.

and the kernel will be tainted with the TAINT_CRAP flag. This flag shows up in any kernel oops that might be produced after the driver has been loaded.

Note, most kernel developers have expressed the warning that they will not work on bugs for when this taint flag has happened, so if you run into a kernel problem after loading such a module, please work to reproduce the issue without a staging module loaded in order to be able to get help from the community.

If anyone has any questions that this summary doesn't answer, please let me know.

posted Wed, 18 Mar 2009 in [/linux]


My Linux Stuff