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23 December 2008, 15:55

Higher and further

The innovations of Linux 2.6.28

Thorsten Leemhuis

The Ext4 file system leaves its main development phase and will soon be ripe for productive use. Major renovation work on the code for memory and disk management promises GPU speed increases and better scalability. Hundreds of new and revised drivers improve hardware compatibility significantly.

Kernel Log Penguin On issuing the ninth pre-release version of Linux 2.6.28 on the 19th of December, Linus Torvalds said he planned to release the next version of Linux in the main development line over the Christmas holidays. Since it is very rare for large-scale changes to be made during the closing days of the development phase, we are taking this opportunity to review the main innovations, and there are plenty of them, in 2.6.28.

With Linux 2.6.28, the kernel hackers have concluded the main development phase of the ext4 filesystem, removing the security warnings that this successor of ext3 was still only meant for developers, testers, and keen experimenters. Extensively rewritten code to manage memory, data media and the GPU is claimed to provide slight or major speed increases, while improvements in various areas of the kernel aim to extend notebook battery life a little. As with every new Linux version in the main development line, there are also hundreds of new or significantly revised drivers. Among the new ones are, for example, those for the Elantech touchpad installed in many Asus Eee PCs and for the Atheros L2 network chip. The kernel hackers have updated the sound drivers to the alsa (advanced linux sound architecture) 1.0.18 release. They have also incorporated a number of drivers that have known issues, in the hope that the kernel community will pull together and jointly improve them so that they can be supplied as regular drivers in the future.

These and many other changes over the last ten weeks have brought the total size of the Linux source code to more than 10 million lines. The detailed change log, measuring several megabytes, lists all the changes that have been made from version 2.6.27. The following Kernel Log provides a brief overview of the innovations in the latest kernel version. Ordinary Linux users who don't normally bother with this central element in their Linux system will also benefit from them when the next distribution update incorporates this or a later version of the Linux kernel.

The links below are to sections describing the improvements to infrastructure and drivers which are relevant to the majority of Linux users.

The following links are to an appendix which has a more detailed listing of the numerous further changes in 2.6.28:

Infrastructure changes

Changes to drivers and surrounding subsystems

Kernel Log Penguin Next: Ext4, Memory Management, New Drivers

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