80-characters-per-line limits should be terminal, says Linux kernel chief Linus Torvalds

As he gives us version 5.7 with support for Apple power tech and better exFAT

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Linux kernel overlord Linus Torvalds has railed against 80-character-lines as a de facto programming standard and has moved to make reminders to keep things short a thing of the past.

Torvalds weighed in on a Linux kernel clean-up post that somehow strayed into the topic of line lengths. Some advocated for the retention of 80-character lines on grounds that they're a long-standing convention and that large monitors can handle many small windows when column width is limited.

Torvalds respectfully disagreed on grounds that limiting lines to 80 characters makes for lots of line breaks.

"Excessive line breaks are BAD. They cause real and every-day problems," he wrote.

"They cause problems for things like 'grep' both in the patterns and in the output, since grep (and a lot of other very basic unix utilities) is fundamentally line-based."

His main point appeared to be that wrapping lines after 80 characters means catering to a niche audience.

"I do not care about somebody with a 80x25 terminal window getting line wrapping," he wrote. "For exactly the same reason I find it completely irrelevant if somebody says that their kernel compile takes 10 hours because they are doing kernel development on a Raspberry PI with 4GB of RAM."

And he kept going with this, too:

People with restrictive hardware shouldn't make it more inconvenient for people who have better resources. Yes, we'll accommodate things to within reasonable limits. But no, 80-column terminals in 2020 isn't "reasonable" any more as far as I'm concerned. People commonly used 132-column terminals even back in the '80s, for chrissake, don't try to make 80 columns some immovable standard.

"If you choose to use a 80-column terminal, you can live with the line wrapping. It's just that simple," he added. "And longer lines are simply useful. Part of that is that we aren't programming in the '80s any more, and our source code is fundamentally wider as a result."

Torvalds appears to have put some code where his mouth is, with this commit to stop warnings appearing when coders go beyond designated line lengths.

Linux 5.7

The 80-line action happened on Friday, but by Sunday Torvalds was on track for his usual look at whether the current release candidate of the Linux kernel is ready for public consumption.

His answer was "Yes" and Linux 5.7 was therefore loosed on a locked-down world.

Linus Torvalds

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Notable new features include a Samsung-derived exFAT driver that will make for better performance of SD Cards, a fix for early 2020 Intel graphics bug CVE-2019-14615 and support for Intel's newish Tiger Lake graphics. Apple admirers get a driver for Cupertino's fast-charging tech and there's also the usual swathe of newly supported Arm devices and general tidying up.

Torvalds is hopeful this release avoids the fate of its predecessor, which shipped with a dud Wi-Fi driver. ®

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