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24 February 2010, 21:24

What's new in Linux 2.6.33

by Thorsten Leemhuis

A promising open source driver for NVIDIA graphics hardware, a replication solution to prevent server down times, "ATA Trim" support and a host of new and improved drivers are some of the most prominent improvements in Linux 2.6.33.

Kernel Log Logo Two and a half months after the release of Linux 2.6.32, Linus Torvalds has released version 2.6.33 of the Linux kernel. Among the most important long-term advances is probably the open source KMS graphics driver for GeForce graphics hardware. While the driver doesn't yet offer any 3D support and has for now been classified as an immature staging driver, it already offers more features than the open source driver most Linux distributions currently configure for NVIDIA graphics chips.

However, the graphics driver is only one of more than ten thousand major as well as minor changes in 2.6.33. For instance, the Linux kernel is now capable of "ATA Trim", which improves the performance and lifespan of SSDs. Also new is the DRBD (Distributed Replicated Block Device) replication solution, which is mainly used in high availability environments and can be roughly described as a "RAID1 over the LAN". Speaking of RAIDs: Write barriers now make software RAIDs managed via mdadm more crash resistant, but also more sluggish.

The developers made further extensive changes to the KVM virtualisation solution and the tracing infrastructure around ftrace. In the usual Linux fashion, the new kernel version also comes with numerous new and improved drivers – among them several drivers for VMWare hypervisors and drivers for storage and Wi-Fi chips by various manufacturers. The ramzswap framework previously known as compcache has been added to the staging area. Ramzswap compresses the data on a virtual swap device and stores it in the working memory, which is more efficient.

The following Kernel Log offers an overview of these and many other new features of the freshly released Linux version. Even Linux users who don't usually have anything to do with their distribution's kernel will sooner or later benefit from these improvements, as future Linux distributions will be based on Linux 2.6.33 or its successor, ensuring the widespread availability of the improvements integrated by the kernel developers in the past few weeks.

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