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Kernel trends: Outlook on 3.1

Directly following the release of 3.0, the first, usually two-week long merge window of the Linux kernel development cycle commences, during which the kernel developers incorporate the many changes for the next version of the kernel into the main development branch. Numerous changes have already been prepared for this first phase of the next development cycle.

A patch is ready for inclusion in 3.1 to allow the Nouveau driver to generate firmware on its own in order to use the acceleration functions in NVIDIA's GeForce 400 and 500 series graphics cards (Fermi GPUs); up to now, such firmware had to be derived from proprietary NVIDIA drivers by using complicated trickery.

The merging of the rtl8192de driver for Realtek's RTL8192DE and RTL8188DE PCIe wireless LAN chips is also pretty much a done deal. A number of enhancements for the still relatively new GMA500 graphics driver (which addresses Intel's US15W, aka Poulsbo) are also awaiting to be merged. Parts of the driver could soon take their leave of the staging area.

Microsoft developer K. Y. Srinivasan has yet again developed a long series of improvements for the Microsoft's HyperV virtualisation drivers, which are located in the staging area. If all of them make it into Linux 3.1, it's likely that Srinivasan will again be among the top developers when it comes to individual changes; in Linux 3.0 a breakdown by LWN.net puts him at the top of the list for individual contributions to the kernel.

There are also indications that userspace tracing solution uprobes may soon be merged. TX zero copy support could also be merged into MacVTap and VhostNet, reducing overhead when guest systems use these network communication techniques to send data. Consideration is also being given to adding the native KVM tool to the kernel's tools directory. It is also pretty certain that cpupowerutils will find its way into this directory, which is intended for userspace programs with close ties to the kernel.

The coming days will reveal which of these changes will actually be incorporated into the main development branch by Torvalds. As Torvalds indicated earlier this week, the merge window might be a little bit shorter or longer than usual; that's a side effect of the small problems that delayed Linux 3.0, making the merge window overlaps with his diving vacation. As usual, the Kernel Log will summarise these and other developments in the Linux kernel field – including new point releases of the stable kernel series (3.0.y), which should, over the next few weeks, fix the odd bug or two overlooked by hackers and testers during 3.0 development.

In addition, the Kernel Log in The H Open will, as usual, be reporting on the major changes integrated into the next kernel version in a "Coming in 3.1" mini series. A release of 3.1 in mid or end of September seems likely at this point in time. A detailed summary of the major changes in 3.1 will then be published on The H Open in a Kernel Log like this one.

Further background information about the developments in the Linux kernel area can be found using the search function at The H Open Source. New editions of Kernel Logs are also mentioned on Identi.ca and Twitter by @kernellog2. The Kernel Log author also posts updates about various topics on Identi.ca and Twitter as @kernellogauthor.

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