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Gifts for All in Linux 2.6.28

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Linux creator Linus Torvalds is expected to soon release the final Linux kernel of 2008, loaded full of stocking stuffers for users of the open source operating system. Among the key new items in the release is a new, stable filesystem as well as improved graphics performance.

The Linux 2.6.28 kernel will be the fifth Linux kernel release of 2008 and follows the 2.6.27 release that came in October.

“I do think that I’ll make 2.6.28 be a Christmas release (or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Insert-Favorite-Holiday, whatever),” Torvalds wrote in a Linux Kernel Mailing List posting. “Because quite frankly, this kind of boredom won’t help anything and I’ll go stir crazy if I have to do this for another two weeks.”

The ext4 filesystem, which has been in various stages of implementation in the Linux kernel over the course of 2008, is one of the big items in the 2.6.28 release, which marks the first release in which the new filesystem has been declared stable. The new system is an evolution of the ext3 filesystem, the default on many current Linux distributions.

“The ext4 filesystem, the successor to the ext3 filesystem, has been marked stable enough for people to start using and relying on,” Novell Linux kernel developer Greg Kroah-Hartman told

One of the shortcomings of ext3 had been that it uses a system in which every 4k of data has a piece of metadata pointing to where that data is on the drive. Ext4 replaces the 4k system with “extents,” which simply allocates data from a given starting position. The use of ext4 will allow for bigger filesystems and file sizes while providing performance improvements to filesytem operations.

While ext4 represents the next stage from ext3, Linux developers are also at work on another filesystem, BTRFS, which may deliver even further improvements in 2009.

Linux 2.6.28 may also herald a new era for video on Linux as well.

“We now have a proper memory manager for video memory, the GEM [Graphics Execution Manager] memory manager,” Kroah-Hartman said. “This gives Linux much better graphics performance than it previously had.”

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