Linux 3.0 a steady step forward

The newly released Linux kernel features improved support for Xen and BTRFS file system, as well as a new versioning scheme

Bucking standard conventions in software versioning, Linux Torvalds has designated the new release of the Linux operating system kernel, posted Friday, as version 3.0, even while maintaining that the release is only a routine update.

"Sure, we have the usual two thirds driver changes, and a lot of random fixes, but the point is that 3.0 is *just* about renumbering ... No breakage, no special scary new features, nothing at all like that," Torvalds wrote on the Linux Kernel mailing list.

The new kernel was almost released on July 19, but the last-minute discovery of a subtle bug, and testing of a patch for it, delayed the release.

For the past eight years, the volunteer developers behind Linux have been laboring on version 2.6. This new release was bumped up to version 3.0 in honor of Linux's 20th anniversary--which takes place this year--as well as to streamline the increasingly cumbersome version numbering--the previous stable version of Linux kernel was 2.6.39.3.

"It really is just another release along the lines of those we have been making since the beginning 2.6 days," said Jonathan Corbet, a kernel contributor as well as the editor of kernel watchdog site Linux Weekly News]. "People read a lot into version numbers, but that really shouldn't be done here."

"The problem was that the numbers were just getting too high, and the '2.6' prefix didn't mean anything anymore," Corbet added. The developers agreed to jump to 2.7 should they need to fix a problem that would take longer than the 8 to 12 week release cycle, but no such problem ever emerged, and the minor updates spawned ever-more unweldy version numbers.

As an example, under the old numbering scheme, this version of the kernel would be 2.6.40, and the first update would be 2.6.40.1. In the new scheme, the first bug fix update will be 3.0.1. (For compatibility with older programs, the kernel will identify itself as 3.0.0 instead of 3.0).

This new release features improvements in virtualization and file system support, in addition to the usual round of bug fixes and performance tuning.

Four years in the marking, this version of the kernel is the first able to grant Xen hypervisor Dom0 (Domain 0) privileges. By having Dom0 privileges, the Xen hypervisor can run as the primary, or most privileged, layer for the computer. It can then parcel out access to other guest operating systems, which should speed performance of these guests. Previous versions of Xen offered this capability only by applying patches to the kernel.

The Xen update has been a long time in coming, Corbet said.

"Xen is a classic example of what happens when you don't try to get your code upstream from the outset," Corbet said. Xen developers fell behind the work on mainline kernel, and expended considerable effort to "upstream the code," he said. A newer virtualization hypervisor, KVM (Kernel-based Virtual Machine) bypassed Xen and got embedded in the kernel first.

Much work has also been done on improving support for Btrfs (B-tree file system), a new storage system-friendly file system still under development.

"Btrfs has picked up an active development community and is moving along nicely; the only real gap at this point is a working filesystem checker," Corbet said. He noted that file systems can take a long time to finish due to the fact the implementation must be perfect, or users will lose data.

Improvements have also been made to the way the kernel works with the EXT4 file system, which is currently the default file system in many Linux distributions.

The new kernel fixes some of the troubled interfaces it has had with UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface), a next-generation BIOS replacement whose specifications have been vague and hence difficult to implement.

Several significant advances have been made on the networking front. The kernel features a new just-in-time compiler] for network packets, one that allows applications only to receive those network packets relevant to their operation. This can save up to 50 nanoseconds per packet, when enabled. For wireless users, the kernel now includes "Wake on Wireless LAN" (WoWLAN) capabilities for wireless networks.

Other additions address specific uses. The sendmmsg() system call could speed operations for high-rate messaging applications, such as financial exchanges. Work on the namespace file descriptor paves the way for implementing containers, a high security way of securing workloads long available in Sun/Oracle's Solaris.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is Joab_Jackson@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags open sourceOracleLinuxoperating systemsunixIBMsoftwareRed Hatnon-Windows

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?