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File systems

Together with new userland tools, the "Lazy Inode Table Initialization" feature should considerably speed up the creation of Ext4 file systems. The Ext4 code now co-operates more closely with the Block Layer. This is intended to improve file system speed and on larger systems allow Ext4 to approach the performance of XFS; more details and background information can be found in Part 2 of the "What's coming in 2.6.37" series.

The VFS now offers an ioctl called "FITRIM", which enables such programs as fstrim that are soon to be integrated into the util-linux-ng tool collection to instruct the kernel's file system code to search for free areas and inform the storage device – for instance via ATA_TRIM. More details on why this alternate discard method is needed can be found in Part 2 of the "What's coming in 2.6.37" series. There you'll also find some information about the improvements around Btrfs and the major restructuring of the Ceph cluster file system, which make it possible to set up a new and experimental Rados Block Device (RDB) that can be used in a similar way to nbd or iSCSI.

The CIFS code for accessing Samba or Windows shares now supports the multi-user and mfsymlinks mount options. A new idmapper allows the NFS client to be quicker and more flexible when mapping user and group IDs to names – details about this function can be found in the pertaining documentation. A good overview of the changes to XFS is available in the "XFS Status Update For October 2010".

Downloading the Linux kernel

New versions of Linux can be obtained from the servers; the contents of these servers are also mirrored on numerous mirrors 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 their Linux distributors instead.

After various changes in 2.6.36 that were already designed to improve the scalability of VFS, the developers have incorporated further scalability optimisations into kernel version 2.6.37. Many more changes to improve scalability, whose integration seemed quite likely, were left for another time – it is highly likely that they'll get integrated in 2.6.38.

Graphics support

The Nouveau driver now supports the GeForce 320M (aka MCP89). It is now able to utilise some power management functions on GeForce graphics chips, but is still not able to activate the fan control, with the result that fans on graphics cards without autonomous fan control, always run at maximum speed.

A few changes to the Radeon drivers are supposed to improve 2D and 3D performance. Drivers for Intel GPUs now support the ring buffer in the integrated graphics core of Sandy Bridge processors – userspace code can utilise this to address the processor units for decoding and encoding video. Intel introduced the Sandy Bridge CPUs in early January under names such as Core i3-2000, Core i5-2000, and Core i7-2000. The Intel KMS driver is now able to activate audio output via DisplayPort and HDMI.

A KDB debug shell can now be opened in the KMS drivers for GeForce and Radeon graphics hardware in order to get to the bottom of problems or crashes (1, 2). The code for the shell was merged into kernel 2.6.36, but in that version only works with Intel's KMS driver.

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