The first Linux kernel release of 2010 has arrived with version 2.6.33 and it is big on graphics, with a new open source nVidia driver and support for the Nintendo Wii and GameCube gaming consoles, in addition to the usual high-end features.
Kernel 2.6.32 was released in December last year and since then the routine high number of changes have been added to the Linux code base.
A common bugbear among Linux users and distributors was the need for a proprietary graphics driver to get the most out of nVidia graphic cards. This dependency has changed in 2.6.33 with the inclusion of Nouveau as a “staged” driver. This means an open source nVidia card driver is available for development and testing with the rest of the Linux stack.
Nouveau is a community project and does not receive development support from nVidia. Its functionality is advanced by reverse engineering the closed source driver. An open source driver promises better “out-of-the-box” integration and long-term support for older devices.
So far Nouveau supports kernel modesetting (KMS), suspend and resume, dual head and 2D operations. 3D functionality is not yet fully supported.
In addition the to nVidia driver, VMware has also contributed two drivers for Virtual GPU and for virtual Ethernet NIC vmxnet3. With these additions Linux guests running on a VMware host will have optimal graphic and network performance.
Another interesting development is the inclusion of drivers to make Linux run on Nintendo Wii and GameCube gaming consoles. The drivers come from the GameCube Linux project and allow either console to be used as a thin client or small home server.
Other technical additions include Linbit's DRDB, the Distributed Replicated Block Device, which can be used to build high-availability clusters; new performance management tools; many changes to x86 and ARM CPU code; and refinements to the SATA and SCSI storage drivers.
As always, developments in virtualisation play a big part in any kernel release and 2.6.33 no exception.
The kernel's native hypervisor KVM gets support for Xen PV-on-HVM guests and KVM autoloading has been enabled to avoid conflict with other virtual machine monitors (VMM).
Google's Linux-based Android operating system is rapidly gaining popularity on smartphones, but the code will not be entering the main kernel tree and has been dropped for the 2.6.33 release.
For a detailed summary of the changes for the 2.6.33 release, see the Kernelnewbies.org page.
Linux 2.6.33 is another busy release for Linus Torvalds and the kernel hackers. It will gradually find its way into the Linux distributions that are shipped to consumers over the coming months, depending on the individual release cycles.