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Kernel Development Continues Despite In-fighting

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Speaking at Linux Australia's annual Linux conferernce,, in Canberra last week, Colorado-based Linux kernel developer Jonathan Corbet said predicting kernel development is hard but is "possible".

The current kernel version, 2.6.11, to be succeeded by 2.6.12, will include support for trusted computing and SELinux (security enhanced Linux) for multi-level security.

Corbet didn't announce when version 2.6.12 will be out other than to say "sometime soon".

"It depends on what the developers do and even Linus [Torvalds] doesn't really try," Corbet said. "Even so, some predictions are possible by looking at work that is in progress now and user needs which are unmet."

Proposed patches go to Andrew Morton and eventually to Linus Torvalds who merges them into the mainline tree.

Corbet conceded that not all goes "that smoothly" but the process is working "better than ever".

Other features Corbet earmarked for 2.6.12 include Red Hat's contribution of address space randomization for defence against buffer overflow attacks and remote script kiddies, and multipath I/O support to rival "fancy" storage systems that offer redundancy and load balancing.

Users can also look forward to native virtualization support with Xen.

"Xen creates a new architecture and you can run Windows," he said. "It has nice features like being able to take a virtual host and move it to another machine while it's running."

The Linux filesystem family will also be added to with Reiser4, "a fast, transactional filesystem that has problems but will eventually go into the mainline tree."

Other enhancements will be in the clustering and embedded systems arena, and software suspend will allow a state to be suspended to disk or memory.

All these new features bode well for Linux server applications, however, improving the desktop won't be overlooked.

"inotify is a better file modification notifier which will keep file managers current," Corbet said. "And kernel events notification is an effort to make hardware 'just work'."

Kernel events notification will tell user space applications when something happens such as a CD being inserted or a camera is attached.

Although Corbet said latency issues will remain for a while, which matters for desktops and the overall "feel" of the system, it will improve over time.

"The radical approach to improving latency is to include Ingo Molnar's real-time pre-emption patch but this is a huge intrusive change so expect a debate," he said. "This could be the motivation for a 2.7 branch."


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