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But what if you want better memory accounting, or better isolation between users, or a different data structure, or any number of other tweaks to the page cache implementation?

Oh, I don't know, you could always write your own kernel module. Considering I used to work on a kernel module that hooked the IRQ calls to implement hard RT, I'm not convinced that the kernel is that constraining. If you really feel constrained by the kernel, you could do without and go bare metal. Even if you don't want to do that, you've still got tons of other possibilities (the BSDs, any of the OSS microkernels, etc, etc). At least you've got those options with FLOSS kernels; I'd like to see how far you can get with changes to a closed source kernel, or worse, some hardware that's locked down to "keep you safe from malicious code".

As for the approval process of Linux patches, there's good reason for that, and other FLOSS kernels are just as (if not more) picky. The truth is, the Linux kernel has probably had more use cases thrown at it than any other software, ever. It's not perfect, nor heavily optimized towards any particular configuration; but it's highly configurable, and with a bit of tweaking (which would take less time and be less error prone than going bare metal), you can almost always get an acceptable solution to your problem.

Some cases where routing around the kernel are of genuine interest and necessary; most of the time, though, I far too often hear of programmers blaming others for performance problems that they haven't run a profiler on (if they've even heard of profiling).

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