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The kernel hackers have incorporated the vmxnet3 driver into the main development branch. It is able to communicate with the "vmxnet3 virtual ethernet NIC" - a network adaptor that emulates several virtualisation solutions by VMware. The r8169 driver for recent network hardware by Realtek now also supports the RTL8168D chip. The btusb driver is now capable of USB autosuspending – with Bluetooth chips that don't support remote wake-up, however, the interface must be shut down for the power saving mechanisms to take effect. In addition, Linux 2.6.32 will offer the infrastructure required for updating ("flashing") the firmware of network chips using the ethtool program. The kernel developers also integrated several mISDN drivers.

The developers have re-activated the p54 driver's power saving support. While, to bypass a bug that is presumed to be hardware-related, they have done the opposite with the iwl4965 driver for Intel's Wireless Wi-Fi Link 4965AGN, and disabled it. It is yet uncertain if they will ever be able to re-activate the power saving features. However, the kernel hackers also improved the driver for Intel Wi-Fi chips, which can now automatically select the appropriate sleep state for the Wi-Fi hardware using information gathered via pm_qos (Power Management Quality of Service).

The MAC8021 Wi-Fi stack now scans for Wi-Fi networks in the background, which allows access point connections to continue transmitting data. This is an interesting feature for location-based services and roaming, as highlighted in a blog post by Dan Williams, the main developer of NetworkManager.


As in previous versions of Linux, the current development cycle's staging branch, which is home to immature drivers that don't live up to the quality standards of the kernel hackers, has seen many substantial changes. This is the main reason why the number of lines of source code currently added or removed in every new kernel version is considerably larger than it was a year or two ago. The patch which integrates the RT3090 driver for a Ralink Wi-Fi chip of the same name, alone contributes a hefty 3.5 Mbytes; the commit that integrates a driver for Realtek's 8192 Wi-Fi chip is more than 2 Mbytes.

Downloading the Linux kernel

New versions of Linux can be obtained from the servers ; the contents of these servers are also mirrored on numerous mirror sites internationally . However, Linux users who are not familiar with the details of the kernel and its environment should generally not install new Linux drivers and kernels themselves but use the kernels provided by the Linux distributors instead.

As expected, the kernel developers have incorporated Microsoft's Hyper-V drivers, which were recently released under the GPL, into the staging area. These drivers allow Linux guest systems to partially bypass hardware emulation when running certain Microsoft virtualisation solutions, which considerably improves I/O performance. As the Microsoft developers have become active again, it is now unlikely that their drivers will be removed in 2.6.33 – which is what the maintainer of the staging area had threatened to do because he hadn't heard anything from the developers for a long time. Integrated at the beginning of the current development cycle, the cowloop driver has been removed again due to problems even before the final release of 2.6.32.

Even more

The USB 3.0 drivers integrated with 2.6.31 now operate smoothly due to various changes made in 2.6.32 – some of the relevant patches have also been incorporated into the series 2.6.31 stable kernels to improve these kernels' USB 3.0 support. The thinkpad-acpi driver has been given a major overhaul – among the improvements are the support of ThinkPads with a more recent generation of firmware ("second-gen firmware") and better userspace coordination for controlling volume and brightness via hotkeys.

The subsystem for input devices now offers a driver for the Sentelic Finger Sensing Pad – a fingerprint reader used in some of the devices in MSI's Wind series. Another first-time official kernel component is the driver for Winbond's WPCD376I infrared controller (CIR/Consumer IR) found, for instance, on Intel's DG45FC motherboard.

UIO (Userspace I/O) now offers a generic driver for PCI 2.3 devices – the driver's developer intends to combine it with Qemu for use in virtualisation. A new addition is an I2C driver for the generic, ACPI-based SMBus Control Method Interface (CMI)PDF.

Conclusion, data and numbers, outlook for 2.6.33

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