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18 July 2008, 10:22

Polish and add-ons

Thorsten Leemhuis

What's new in Linux 2.6.26

New and updated wireless drivers for fast data transfer, a USB Webcam driver, PCI Express Active State Power Management (ASPM) technology, the KGDB kernel debugger, and a multitude of extensions for various virtualization solutions are among the most important updates in the latest version of the kernel. There was also once again a multitude of additional improvements to drivers and infrastructure. All of these changes are bound to benefit end-users one way or another.

After integrating record numbers of updates into Linux versions 2.6.24 and 2.6.25, kernel hackers have slowed the pace a bit over the past twelve weeks while putting together the current release, Linux version 2.6.26. But with its nearly ten thousand commits and many new, modified and deleted lines of source code, the current version of Linux still packs a heap of updates. These are sure to benefit Linux users one way or another, even users who don't make a habit of tinkering with the kernel of their Linux system, because many Linux distributions will soon incorporate either this version or one based on it.

For example, Linus Torvalds has finally let go of his distaste for kernel debuggers, allowing KGDB to be included, making troubleshooting easier. Support for Page Attribute Tables (PAT) is intended more as a performance boost than as a way to simplify debugging; PAT gives the kernel more influence over caching behaviour in modern processors. This is accompanied by read-only bind mounts and numerous improvements for the KVM and Xen virtualization solutions -- and now the kernel can handle UDF version 2.50, used by Blu-ray media and others.

As with every new version of the main development line, a multitude of changes to drivers and their surrounding infrastructure improves Linux hardware support. As was the case with 2.6.24 and 2.6.25, there is a host of improvements for wireless hardware that help Linux to deliver fast wireless data transfer and to better handle mesh networks. There is also an array of new, updated Video4Linux and audio drivers, as well as code that supports the PCI Express Active State Power Management (ASPM) technology.

But these updates are only the highlights in Linux 2.6.26. The changelog lists all of the modifications to the code in detail since version 2.6.25 for anyone that wants to know exactly what was changed and has the time to study the several megabyte-long document. The following kernel log gives you an easy-to-read overview of the improvements that are likely to affect a majority of Linux users either directly or indirectly:

More: More changes to the wireless subsystem and infrastructure

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