The New Linux Kernel: Better Wi-Fi, Better File Systems
Better late than never, the new Linux kernel, version 2.6.14, became available late last week.
Originally, the latest kernel was to show up on Oct. 7. Linus Torvalds explained that the release been "delayed twice due to some last-minute bug-reports, some of which ended up being false alarms (hey, I should be happy, but it was a bit frustrating)."
Good things may come to those who wait.
Compared with 2.6.13, the 2.6.14 kernel includes changes "all over the place," said Torvalds. The big change in the standard kernel is that it now includes Centrino Wi-Fi support.
Many Linuxes, such as SUSE 10 and Xandros 3 already support Centrino through the use of ipw2xxx drivers and Linuxs hotplug infrastructure. This enables the Centrino cards or mini-adaptors firmware to be switched out with a Linux-compatible interface. For further technical details with how this is done with the Intel PRO/Wireless 2100 Network Connection mini PCI adapter, see the SourceForge site.
By incorporating this support within the kernel, it makes it easier for Linux distributors to support Centrino-based Wi-Fi. However, vendors must still obtain the Intel driver firmware itself separately from the kernel due to Intels licensing restrictions.
Besides many smaller improvements in InfiniBand, USB and SCSI support, the new kernel also came with significant file system support improvements.
These include updates for the Silicon Graphics Inc.s 64-bit XFS and Microsofts NTFS (New Technology File System). In addition, improvements were made to Linuxs VFS (virtual file system).
With this kernel, FUSE (File system in Userspace) has also been merged into Linux.
FUSE, like the no-longer-supported LUFS, is designed to provide an abstract interface for making remote files and file systems appear and act as if they were on your local file system. Therefore, for example, developers and expert users can set up their systems so that users can easily access ftp or SMB (Simple Message Block) file systems just as if they were local file systems.
More advanced users may be interested in exploring FUSEs more advanced functionality. Since in Linux, almost anything can be treated as a file, you can also use FUSE to access Googles GMail and BitTorrent streams as file systems.
Some had hoped that the Reiser4 high-performance file system would be merged into this kernel, but it was left out due to concerns over its consistency with VFS and other Linux features. These are being addressed, and Reiser4 should become an official part of Linux in the near future.
In the meantime, Torvalds plans to only accept code merges for the two weeks after 2.6.14s release, before freezing features for the next release candidate, 2.6.15. This new policy has been adopted to keep the constant flood of would-be improvements from overwhelming the kernels core developers.
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