Linux Kernel 2.6.31 Brings USB 3.0

Sep 10, 2009

Seventy percent drivers, about six percent firmware and sound and many filesytem updates. That's how Linus Torvalds describes the the biggest changes to the new Kernel 2.6.31.

The most famous change to the current Kernel 2.6.31 is undeniably USB 3.0, for which Linux played a pioneering role. The change that caused the biggest headaches, however, was the fsnotify backend that combined inotify and dnotify, according to Linus Torvalds's announcement on lkml.org.

Performance benefits should come primarily to computers with ATI graphics cards and the free readeonhd driver. For this the new kernel now supports Kernel Mode Settings (KMS), with similar changes to Intel drivers, albeit with an older KMS support.

The remaining enhancements are mostly limited to filesystem updates and new drivers. Whereas the "50% drivers, 50% other" rule once held true for Thorvalds, this has now changed more recently to "70% drivers, 30% other," which Thorvalds sees as a direct result of the staging tree.

To benefit AVM FRITZ!WLAN users, the new kernel added the ar9170 module in Atheros drivers to support USB WLAN sticks from AVM with USB IDs 0x057C:0x8401 and 0x057C:0x8402. To support the widely distributed Rt2800 chipset from Ralink (802.11n), the new kernel also added the rt2800usb driver.

An additional important enhancement for desktop users is how the kernel handles memory pressure. Through a change to memory management, the graphical interface for machines with little RAM should respond up to 50% faster, but with just about all desktop users profiting from the change.

Torvalds ends his announcement with an encouragement to go ahead and test the new kernel: "And as usual, this obviously means that the merge window for 2.6.32 is open. But give me a day or so before bombarding me with merge requests: I like to encourage even developers to first give the plain new release a go, and not immediately start the crazy flood of patches."

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