A higher-powered, more business-friendly remake of the Linux
operating system is almost complete, and Linux founder Linus Torvalds expects
to post the final version on Monday.
Torvalds told programmers Wednesday that he was taking a few days off before
declaring version 2.2.0 of the Linux kernel
ready for consumption.
The only thing that can stop the release? "Something Linus would be
enough about that he would wear a brown paper bag over his head for a month,"
Torvalds initiated the Linux project, but countless others across the Internet
have contributed to the development of the Unix-like operating system, and
even Microsoft has taken
notice of the advantages of collective programming. Although the Linux
community is famed for its decentralized nature, Torvalds still has control
over deciding when the next version is polished enough to be released.
The upstart operating system is on a roll lately. It has benefited from a series of moves in recent months by some of the largest companies in the computer industry, feeding the perception that it may provide a serious alternative to the dominant Microsoft Windows franchise.
The new version of the kernel--the core features of the operating system--is
able to wring more work out of multiprocessor systems, has more sophisticated
features for managing multiple hard disks, and makes setting up protective firewalls easier.
In addition, the new kernel adds support for Silicon Graphics' new Intel-based Visual
Workstations, which came out earlier this month.
The new kernel will make Linux more appealing for the business customers,
said Drew Spencer, vice president of engineering at Caldera Systems, which
distributes a commercial version of Linux.
Corporate users are putting Linux on increasingly powerful machines, and "this
kernel facilitates that," Spencer said. He expects people to speed up their
efforts investigating Linux on four- and eight-processor systems.
The new kernel will help multiprocessor systems with the computing
equivalent of a server's heavy-lifting tasks, such as generating custom Web
pages for people, said Michael K. Johnson, a software
engineer at Red Hat, another company that
Linux developers emphasize that Linux is a constant work in progress, though.
Watching the kernel version click past 2.2.0 is like watching your car's
odometer click past 50,000 miles.
Version 2.2.0 is just a "milestone along the continuum of development,"
"Every program has bugs, and I'm sure there are still bugs in this. Get over
it--we've done our best," Torvalds posted in his message to the Linux
developers mailing list. "Delaying 2.2.0 forever is not an option."
Distributors gear up for change
Linux distributors, which sell bundles of Linux and related software along
installation instructions and other support, are gearing up for the change to
SuSE's next version of its international
distribution is due by the end of January and will be "kernel 2.2-ready,"
allowing a relatively easy upgrade.
Red Hat declined to comment on the schedule for incorporating the new kernel,
but Johnson said the company won't do so until it's well-tested, Johnson said.
Caldera expects to incorporate 2.2 in the second quarter of 1999, Spenser
Both companies say their hard work is just beginning, making sure all the
software they ship with Linux will work with the new kernel.
What's new with 2.2?Better support for RAID,
arrays of hard disks that servers use to protect data and speed disk access.
Version 2.2 makes using RAID easier, Johnson said.
Better firewalls, the programs that protect internal networks from the
outside world. The new kernel makes Linux firewalls more powerful and makes it
easier to configure the firewall to do things like filter out messages coming
from certain addresses.
Faster file access. Version 2.2 can store filenames in a high-speed cache
in memory, meaning that users won't have to wait for the computer to retrieve
the information off relatively slow hard disks.
More hardware support, particularly for high-speed connection equipment
such as Fibre Channel and Gigabit Ethernet.
Smoother memory management. Users won't notice as much lurching in system
speed as the computer moves data between its real memory and the memory
overflow on hard disks known as "swap files."
Version 2.2.0 adds several features beyond improved multiprocessor support
make Linux faster and more useful. Among them: