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Next Linux kernel closer to reality

An open-source advocacy and development group releases a test version of the Linux 2.6 kernel, which may be finalized by the end of the year.

An open-source advocacy and development group has released a test version of the next Linux kernel, which may be finalized by the end of the year.

The Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) on Monday launched test9, the latest beta of the Linux 2.6 kernel. Developers and hardware manufacturers are being encouraged to download it, test it out, and report their findings to OSDL.

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OSDL will then incorporate the findings into the final version of the kernel. A kernel is the heart of an operating system. Among other improvements, Linux 2.6 will be able to run on more processors simultaneously than its predecessor. It has been tested on 64-processor servers and works well on 32-processor machines, according to the group.

The desktop version of Linux 2.6 will make it easier to swap mice, keyboards and other peripherals. The current commercial version of the open-source operating system is Linux 2.4 Even numbers signify a commercial release while odd numbers, such as 2.5, mean a development version.

"Now is when we want big companies and software vendors to step in and hammer on the kernel, so we can get their ideas into the final production release of 2.6 Linux," Linus Torvalds, an OSDL fellow, said in a statement. "This is their last big chance."

There is no definitive release date for the kernel. Linux gurus Andrew Morton and Torvalds will have the ultimate authority as to when the kernel is complete, but it is expected by the end of the year, slightly later than last year's estimate, an OSDL representative said. The first test version came out in July.

Linux is being widely adopted by businesses in several industries, such as finance and banking, as a cost-effective replacement for servers that run Windows or Unix. A number of companies, including IBM, Red Hat, Hewlett-Packard and NTT Data Intellilink, are members of OSDL.