The Kernel Hacker's Guide to Source Code Control

Greg explains how to use patch and diff or BitKeeper for kernel development.
Other Benefits of BitKeeper

BitKeeper also allows you to see easily all of the changes that have happened to a specific file over time. You can see if the file was modified by one of the main kernel patches or by yourself. An example of the changes that have happened to the drivers/usb/serial/usbserial.c file over time in my repository can be seen in Figure 3. With this tool, you can see what other changes happened at the same time and even what line of code was modified in which version.

Figure 3. BitKeeper Keeping Track of Changes

One of the strongest benefits of using BitKeeper for your kernel development is that it is a very powerful version control system, and it allows you to work with other developers on the same sections of code at the same time. You can allow other people to pull from your working tree, or you can set up a local server to store your working tree. See the BitKeeper tutorial and documentation for some good examples of how this can be set up and how the development life cycle can be used.


I have shown two different ways of doing Linux kernel development, one with only patch and diff and one using BitKeeper. Personally, BitKeeper has enabled me to spend more time actually doing development work and less time messing with merges. It has also kept me sane in trying to track the 2.2, 2.4 and 2.5 kernel trees for the Linux USB and Linux Hot Plug PCI drivers.


Greg Kroah-Hartman is currently the Linux USB and PCI Hot Plug kernel maintainer. He works for IBM, doing various Linux kernel-related things and can be reached at



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Your article helped

Satish Muniyappa's picture

Hey Greg!

We use bitkeeper here. Your article on how to resolve merge conflicts helped a great deal. Just needed to thank you for posting this article.

Great job!

Warm Regards,

Cool! I can't read the artic

Anonymous's picture

Cool! I can't read the article, but I can leave a comment -- well, I think the article lacks depth, insight, and accuracy. It is very concise though, consisting as it does, simply of a screen saying REGISTER!