Mainline Linux refers to the Git tree of Linus Torvalds that contains the Linux kernel. Every stable Linux kernel release originates from the mainline tree. Mainline Linux has only solid support for a small subset of the many devices that run Linux. Support can be found through independent projects such as Yocto or Linaro, but in many cases the kernel from the device vendor is needed.
The maintainer of the
-stable branch Greg Kroah-Hartman has applied the term "Linux-like" to downstream kernel forks by vendors that add millions of lines of code to the mainline kernel. In 2019, Google stated that they wanted to use the mainline Linux kernel in Android so the number of kernel forks would be reduced.
Mainlining refers to the effort of adding support for a device to the mainline kernel, while there was formerly only support in a fork or no support at all. This usually includes adding drivers or device tree files. When this is finished, the feature or security fix is considered mainlined.
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