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Graphics drivers

The KMS driver for Radeon cards in 2.6.36 now allows underscan to be enabled to allow better adjustment of image size on digitally controlled monitors which automatically activate overscan. The driver now also offers functions for reading the temperature sensor integrated into newer Radeon GPUs and supports audio output via HDMI on RS600, RS690 and RS740 motherboard chip-sets.

The developers have added basic support for Fermi graphics chips to the Nouveau KMS driver (see e. g. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7). Fermi GPUs are used on the GeForce GTX 470 and 480, released in March, as well all 400 series models.

Another addition is the intelligent power sharing (IPS) driver, which allows graphics chips in some Intel Westmere mobile processors (e.g. the Core i5) to increase their clock speed when the processor package is not utilising its full thermal budget. Intel calls this technology, which is aimed at improving 3D performance, "HD Graphics Dynamic Frequency Technology". Also new is support for the KGDB debuggers and KDB (kernel debugger, first integrated into the kernel in 2.6.35) in the DRM core and the KMS Intel driver. Together with changes to the KGDB / KDB code, where it is no longer possible to switch to a text console and there is no serial console configured, this allows the Intel driver to switch to a debugger shell for analysing X Server crashes, etc. The technology is demonstrated in an old YouTube video.

Details

This article provides an overview of the most important changes of Linux version 2.6.36. More detailed information can be found in the Kernel Logs of the "Coming in 2.6.36" mini series, released over the past few weeks on The H Open, which form the basis of this article.

In these articles, you will find the more detailed source articles that cover the important changes in each particular area. There is also the "Minor gems" section which lists the many other changes not mentioned in the main article but which, for many users, are still of great significance.

For example, in the article on Drivers, "Minor gems" lists the numerous patches to support the video hardware on different PCs, notebooks and motherboards, and lists the changes to the V4L/DVB subsystem, which includes the addition of product names for TV hardware that the Linux kernel now recognises.

File systems

When releasing Linux 2.6.35, Linus Torvalds already expressed the hope that, in 2.6.36, he would integrate various patches developed by Nick Piggin to optimise many aspects of the Virtual File system Layer (VFS), which offers basic file system functionality. These "VFS scalability patches" are designed to improve the scalability of VFS and considerably speed up its performance when handling various tasks, especially on the now ubiquitous multi-processor systems. Because they were not fully developed yet only a subset of the patches was integrarted. A lot more changes will be integrated into Linux 2.6.37.

The kernel has returned to mounting Ext3 file systems in "data=ordered" mode in its default configuration. This mode offers more data security than the "writeback" option – which the kernel developers integrated as the default in 2.6.30 because it is similar to that used in Ext4 and promises to improve performance. By using FS-Cache, the CIFS file system can now store shared Windows or Samba data in local cache to speed up the repeated access to this data. The client code for version 4 of the NFS file system is no longer classified as "experimental"; the NFS 4.1 client retains this rating, but its "developer only" warning has been removed. Christoph Hellwig writes in his XFS status update for August 2010 that various changes to the XFS code are to improve code performance in a number of places

Next: Storage & Networking

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