Linux kernel version 2.2 close to release

Using the Linux-kernel mailing list as a launch pad, Linux creator Linus Torvalds announced in late January that the final version of Linux 2.2.0 is almost ready.

But most Linux hackers already knew that. Moments after the kernel was posted on Torvalds’ machine, thousands of mirrors downloaded it and made it available on their sites.

The new version offers better symmetric multiprocessing (SMP) support and improved networking capabilities; better file handling; security enhancements; and broader driver support for networking and multimedia devices. The kernel will also include support for Sparc 64, Alpha and PowerPC platforms.

Linux was originally written as a uniprocessor operating system. In the latest version of the kernel, Torvalds restructured the code so multiple processors will spend less time waiting for one another.

“We are no longer talking about a kernel that just works, but now we have proper SMP support,” said Robert Young, chairman and CEO of Red Hat Software Inc., one of two major Linux distributors.

“Of course it is perfection,” Young said.

But do not expect Red Hat to incorporate the newest version immediately,

Young added. “We are in no great rush,” Young said. “We are waiting for the community to pound on it a while.”

While the community pounds, so will Red Hat, taking at least “a month or two” to work out all the kinks. Red Hat will release the next version in the not too distant future, Young said.

Caldera Systems Inc., the second major distributor of Linux for enterprise-level organizations, also expects to incorporate the new kernel by the end of the first quarter, according to Drew Spencer, vice-president of engineering at Caldera.

“Thousands of packages have to be moved over and tested,” Spencer said. “Testing is not just done on individual services, but integration of the service. And there is an awful lot of work there. Having Linus kick that kernel out is only a beginning for us, but a very good beginning.”

Of course, there is room for improvement, according to Spencer. Although large file system support is independent of the kernel, it is complementary.

“We would like to see better support for journal/large structure file systems to handle massive amounts of files and storage,” Spencer said.

“With some other OSes, if the system crashes it can take hours to recover them, depending on the data on the disk. With a journal file, the way they are set up, recovery time is rapid,” Spencer said.

However, representatives from both Caldera and Red Hat said they are quite pleased with the release. According to Young, although sceptics believed that the open-source model would eventually balkanize Linux, the opposite has happened.

“We are not playing catch-up anymore. We’re producing OSes of premier quality,” Young said.

In his letter announcing the new kernel, Torvalds said that barring any major unforeseen problems with the kernel, 2.2.0-pre9 will become 2.2.0-final when it is compiled.

“Just remove the ‘-final’ from the Makefile, and that will be it,” Torvalds said in the letter. In apparent good humour, Torvalds appeared confident that the newest kernel would be free of major problems.

“If you find something hilariously stupid I did, feel free to share it with me, and we’ll laugh about it together,” Torvalds said in his letter.