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21 October 2010, 14:14

What's new in Linux 2.6.36

by Thorsten Leemhuis

The new kernel version is notable because it hasn't grown in size – yet it contains hundreds of advancements which will be obvious to end users, who don't often notice changes in their Linux distribution's kernel.

After 80 days of development Linus Torvalds has released Linux version 2.6.36. It got the name "Flesh-Eating Bats with Fangs" with the eight pre-release; Torvalds was inspired by a bat that recently found its way into his house. The new Linux kernel is no larger than its immediate predecessor – a rarity, as over the past few years the kernel sources have grown by several hundred thousand lines of code with every new version released in the main development branch.

Downloading the Linux kernel

New versions of Linux can be obtained from the Kernel.org 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 the Linux distributors instead.

The kernel hasn't grown in size because the developers considerably trimmed down the default configuration files. However, other patches have introduced plenty of new source code, allowing 2.6.36 to offer numerous noteworthy new features – for instance, the long-disputed AppArmor security extension, a new Out-of-Memory (OOM) killer, kernel thread improvements, basic Xen Dom0 support and various file system and related VFS optimisations. The kernel hackers also fixed a bug in the VM subsystem which caused certain systems to become unbearably slow when writing to slow storage media. Other changes promise to make systems appear faster through improved response times. As usual, the new version also contains numerous new and improved drivers – for instance, the Nouveau driver for NVIDIA graphics chips now supports the Fermi chips used in recent GeForce graphics cards. The kernel hackers also considerably improved the support of infra-red remote controls and receivers.

The following Kernel Log offers an overview of these and many further new features of Linux 2.6.36. These changes will eventually impact all Linux users as Linux distributions adopt the 2.6.36 kernel, or subsequent point releases, and make these improvements available to end users. At the end of this article, the Kernel Log will also take a peek at the advancements that might make it into 2.6.37.

Next: Graphics Drivers & File Systems

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