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Upgrades Wireless Networking Graphics Software Linux Hardware

Linux 2.6.28 Promises Year-End Presents 305

darthcamaro writes "Little penguins all around the world are waiting for Penguin-Master Linus Torvalds to deliver some Glogg inspired Xmas cheer in the form of the new 2.6.28 kernel. Among the innovations in 2.6.28 are ext4 as stable, wireless USB drivers, better KVM support and the GEM graphic memory management technology. 'We now have a proper memory manager for video memory, the GEM [Graphics Execution Manager] memory manager,' Greg Kroah-Hartman said. 'This gives Linux much better graphics performance than it previously had.'"
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Linux 2.6.28 Promises Year-End Presents

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  • Haven't read read the article yet but it does it require doing things differently in drivers or user-land software?
    • Re:The new graphics (Score:5, Informative)

      by chunk08 ( 1229574 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @06:52PM (#26226679) Journal
      Hm, sry to reply to myself but according to Wikipedia it seems that the drivers have to be rewritten to support GEM. Still not sure about user-land software tho...
      • It's transparent to userland, it should just mean the next generation of drivers will be faster. Of course, if the drivers are done wrong, it'll mean the next generation of drivers will be crashy, so...
        • Re:The new graphics (Score:5, Interesting)

          by dow ( 7718 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @09:29PM (#26227515)

          What should be important is that maybe next gen games should be released on Linux as a platform equal to Windows.

          I was a long term Linux user, who went to XP just for the games. My gaming rig is waiting an RMA on a PSU, so rebuilt an old system and installed Slackware.

          On an older machine with slower drives and a quarter the Ram, the responsiveness of the OS is amazing. If mainstream games were released for Linux I'd have no choice.

          Sadly, I mainly use computers these days for relaxation, shopping and play, and if I'd continued as I set out, would no doubt be a full time Linux user... However, as a gamer, I put up with XP64 as a day to day OS.

      • Re:The new graphics (Score:5, Informative)

        by grantek ( 979387 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @07:58PM (#26227037)

        Intel staff were the ones mainly responsible for implementing GEM, so their driver supports it. The open-source ATI drivers recently got a layer of glue to use GEM on the outside without changing much of the TTM-based code that was on the inside. I don't know what nouveau is up to, but the nvidia blob has had a lot of memory management stuff implemented independently for a while now in their X driver.

        Phoronix [] follows a lot of this stuff well.

        • Re:The new graphics (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Antique Geekmeister ( 740220 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @02:58AM (#26228753)

          The NVidia blobs remain a big problem. It's not the kernel blob: it's their replacement by setting aside of the OpenGL libraries, used to access the NVidia features. This part of the NVidia process destabilizes every OS that it touches because any updates to those libraries overwrite the NVidia libraries and seriously break your graphical setup.

          It's theoretically possible to rewrite the Xorg and Mesa packages to cooperate with this by bundling the Nvidia package and its libraries to a package matching the Mesa components and install one or the other, but no one has yet done so. So NVidia remains a dangerously unstable set of tools to install in any sytem that gets any updates otherwise.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by GigaplexNZ ( 1233886 )

   bundling the Nvidia package and its libraries to a package matching the Mesa components and install one or the other, but no one has yet done so.

            Gentoo does an excellent job of managing the upgrades - the Mesa and Nvidia drivers are installed to different locations and symlinks are used to choose the right one, with a nice wrapper script to make it easy to choose what one you want with eselect.

            • Re:The new graphics (Score:5, Informative)

              by morgan_greywolf ( 835522 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @09:46AM (#26229707) Homepage Journal

              Ditto on Ubuntu. The package management scripts are very intelligent in regards to Xorg and Mesa updates when the NVidia drivers are installed. Kernel updates, Xorg updates, and Mesa updates will all trigger init scripts that re-install the NVidia restricted drivers.

    • by rts008 ( 812749 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @06:54PM (#26226695) Journal

      ""We now have a proper memory manager for video memory, the GEM [Graphics Execution Manager] memory manager," Kroah-Hartman said. "This gives Linux much better graphics performance than it previously had."

      The video improvements in Linux also extend to power utilization for graphics. Red Hat Fedora Project Leader Paul Frields told that the 2.6.28 kernel enables reduced power consumption across the video driver subsystem in the vertical blanking routines, which will be helpful to mobile users."

      That is all that is mentioned (above quote) about the state of 'the new graphics' in the new kernel.

      • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @06:46AM (#26229297) Journal

        Although not part of GEM, one related improvement is moving modesetting into the kernel. Currently, when you switch to an X11 VT, X11 requests the console be set back to VGA then initialises it to the correct mode itself. This is really horrible, and doesn't play nice with power management (because the kernel doesn't know anything about the GPU state, so can't easily save and restore it). The modesetting branch in has been defining some clean kernel interfaces for doing this, simplifying both the kernel and the X server in the process (since both previously contained lots of special-purpose code for doing the same thing for each device).

        As with GEM, this isn't a Linux-specific thing, it's driven by and being implemented on Linux, *BSD and Solaris.

    • Re:The new graphics (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ( 653730 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @07:54PM (#26227013)

      I recommend reading this link [] to get an idea of what's going on in the Linux graphics stack:

      "So currently there is not one field where construction done but several. These are 2D Acceleration, Memory Management, 3D Acceleration and 2D Modesetting. And they are all being worked on at the same time to speed things up.

      But the problem is that more or less all of these depend on proper Memory Management, which is also the hardest thing to get right.

      Now lets look at how Xorg works today; every Xorg driver implements its own way of memory management and provides the DRI1 functionality when it comes to 3D. Furthermore it is responsible for modesetting, which is quite suboptimal, since some perliminary modesetting is already done in kernel, so it can output messages during bootup. The Xorg driver resets the hardware again when it is loaded.

      Kernel Based Modesetting

      In order to solve this duplication the modesetting code is about to be moved into the kernel, so the hardware can be setup once and for all. But since modesetting involves memory management which is not done properly yet too."

  • Nice start... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TheNetAvenger ( 624455 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @06:55PM (#26226703)

    Not quite Vista's WDDM abilities in dealing with GPU RAM, but a nice start that people other than MS are actually taking GPU RAM allocation seriously beyond simple context swtiching.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @07:10PM (#26226775)

    GEM is short for Graphics Execution Manager, it is a graphics memory manager for the kernel written by Intel.

    If graphics device drivers want take advantage of GEM, then they need to add some code for GEM in the device driver.
    A memory manager for the graphics memory is very useful because it allows direct rendering and direct redirected rendering and such.
    This means you can now do things "the real way" which have previously either not been possible, or been done using some dirty hack such as indirect rendering.

    • by squiggleslash ( 241428 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @07:19PM (#26226823) Homepage Journal

      Kind of a shame, I was hoping they were integrating the Digital Research Mac-like User Interface system for DOS (and the Atari ST) into the kernel, just to annoy purists...

      • by Neil Hodges ( 960909 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @07:28PM (#26226871)

        We had one of those [] when 2.6.9 came out, but not since. A shame.

        • by radish ( 98371 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @12:17AM (#26228187) Homepage

          That page is a hoot. In general I groan whenever a software homepage has a "Philosophy" section, but the installation instructions more than make up for it...

          Installation for Non-Programmers (emphasis mine)
                1. FBUI resides inside the 2.6.9 kernel, so the first thing you must do is to get the kernel, un-tar FBUI in its directory, select the necessary options mentioned in the README, then make the kernel and update your loader to let you boot the new kernel. (I will offer a precompiled x86 kernel later.)
                2. You also need to tell your boot loader to switch to the VESA console during booting. In LILO use the expression vga=792 for a 1024x768 display or vga=789 for 800x600.
                3. Then you boot with the kernel. Next you need to set up the PCF font directory, populating it with fonts from the X distribution, making sure to uncompress them. The PCF font reader is really just a temporary chunk of code so I'm not going to update it to perform automatic decompression. Note, if you aren't sure where the fonts are, type (as root) find / -name "*.pcf*". To make sure libfbui knows where they are, you can use the PCFFONTDIR environment variable (as in export PCFFONTDIR=/path...).
                4. Once you've done these things, just compile the sample programs in /usr/src/linux-2.6.9/libfbui and run them from there. You may find it helps to run a program in a different virtual console using the -c switch.

          See how easy? I am a programmer and that's... well... yeah.

    • by tyrione ( 134248 )
      In short, Linux is one step closer to what OS X has done for several major releases.
  • It's Christmas! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris_Jefferson ( 581445 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @07:31PM (#26226885) Homepage
    It's Christmas! Be sure to go to bed, get up, and spend the day with friends, family and food. Do you really need to update your kernel today? Why not let other people find out if there are some terrible early bugs in it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hal_Porter ( 817932 )

      Santa provided this kernel. If you install it and if kills your box you must have been naughty, if it works well you must have been nice.

    • I have no friends, family nor someone to cook for me you insensitive clod!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      It's Christmas! Be sure to go to bed, get up, and spend the day with friends, family and food.

      What do I do if my family (i.e. wife) and frieds are all compiling the new kernel already, and the only food in the vicinity is a half-empty pizza box on top of my PC?

  • by sega01 ( 937364 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @07:32PM (#26226895) Homepage
    If you haven't been following every commit's short log, you may find [] useful. I for one, would like 2.6.28 for Christmas.
  • It is also another open source project OpenGEM [] based on the original DRI GEM. GEM was a Windows like 16 bit interface for DR-DOS and MS-DOS like Windows 3.X was. Apple sued them and they had to change their look a feel, and Atari used GEM as a GUI for TOS.

  • I was hoping someone was bringing back GEM [] from Atari ST and IBM PC to Linux. Oh well

    • Check out this OpenGEM project [] maybe you can run it under DosBox or some other emulator?

      • Yea I'm aware of FreeGEM/OpenGEM. But porting it to Linux was non-trivial so I gave up. Running it under qemu was not so great, how can I use it to manage my ext4 partition that way? DosBox is a thought, although there is a lot of weirdness in DosBox for filesystems over some smallish size. Depending on what API the applications use.

  • The changelog is available [] might aswell have waited a bit to the final release!

  • by ( 653730 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @08:03PM (#26227055) []

    It doesn't really matter what day it is, or what holiday (if any) you're
    celebrating, because even if you sit at home, alone in your dank basement,
    without any holidays or friends, I bring you a tiding of great cheer: you
    can now download Linux-2.6.28, and compile it to your hearts content!

    Listen to the cheerful grinding of your harddisk as you reboot into an
    all-new kernel - and I'm sure that if your computer could smile, it would
    have a big silly grin on its non-existent face. So as you sit there in
    your basement, give your computer the holiday cheer too.

    In fact, even _if_ you have friends or family, leave them to their endless
    toil over that christmas ham or turkey, and during the night, when they're
    asleep, you can give them that magical present of a newly updated
    computer. When they wake up tomorrow morning, tell them how you saw Santa
    crawl down the chimney with his USB stick in hand, updating the OS of all
    good boys and girls.

    Ho, ho, ho,

                    Linus "almost Santa" Torvalds

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Oh, my... The man is insane.

  • by DiegoBravo ( 324012 ) on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @08:21PM (#26227165) Journal

    A new and single sound stack (valid for the next 10 years); with the added promise of discontinuing (deleting from the main tree) all the others by 2010.

  • by Alain Williams ( 2972 ) <> on Wednesday December 24, 2008 @08:39PM (#26227255) Homepage

    "The ext4 filesystem, the successor to the ext3 filesystem, has been marked stable enough for people to start using and relying on,"

    Forgive me for being a cynic -- I am going to wait until others have really tested & debugged ext4 before I trust it with my own data.

  • Im not so sure about putting graphics stuff in the kernel? Why? Why not make it a part of X and thus platform independant. Now we will have a class of drivers locked to linux. Great, just what we need, incompatabilities.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Akin to that idea: so you think that regular memory handling should be done by the shell? That is the analogue to X handling graphic memory.

    • by MostAwesomeDude ( 980382 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @11:18AM (#26229979) Homepage

      Graphics stuff must be in the kernel at some level. The reason for GEM is that the entire system needs to have unified memory management for GPUs, just like for CPUs.

      Also each GEM-capable driver has to support legacy mode. Linus was *very* clear on that point. So, starting with 2.6.29, each KMS or GEM driver supports non-KMS and non-GEM mode. (Some drivers, like the Radeon drivers, are all-or-nothing, so running KMS without GEM won't work.)

      You're probably a BSD guy. Which is fine. Nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, your upstreams have shown a rather lackluster interest in actually participating in these DRM changes. While there are a few guys working on porting this stuff, most of us are not BSD guys and are certainly not required to make it work across kernels. We're trying to make it as open and clean as possible, though. (DRM is actually built from a shared core that has Linux and BSD wrappers.)

      And really, you don't want drivers in X. That's what we've done for a long time, and frankly, it sucks. Poor memory management, poor direct rendering. Lock contention, kernel sareas, GETPARAM/SETPARAM insanity. Each new feature requires kernel modifications and new ioctls which then have to remain working for a decade despite Mesa being the only real consumer of those ioctls. (nVidia doesn't use our DRM. They got this stuff working a long time ago on their own code. That's right, the closed-source drivers do this.)

      Sorry for ranting, but that's the way it is.

  • I looked over the Wikipedia article for Ext4, and it mentioned that Ext4 uses an H Tree [] for directory indexing. I looked over the H Tree article, but it is sparse, and I wasn't sure how it differs from a balanced B Tree. Could someone more mathematically inclined explain, or point me to some better information?

    Thanks in Advance. (o:

    • I hope this fixes the two annoyances I have with Linux:

      1. Doing an ls on a directory containing 1000 ext3 files on my quite modern computer takes nearly 10 seconds.
      2. Deleting a multi-gig file such as a TV recording locks up the OS so badly that other apps freeze. If mencoder is recording TV it will fail to keep up with the stream. AV sync is lost, ruining the rest of the recording.

  • Religious people tend to always find a religious meaning, let me be the first to give a secular reason to be thankful for this season. However slight and insignificant, Linux has gained ground this year. More hardware and applications work this year than last year, and once again, I am preparing my yearly X-mas LAN war like so many other years before. (Hey, I don't believe in religion/God, but I do find this time of year wonderful for partying. And thats exactly what I will do.)

    I'm starting to re-evaluate m

  • by twilight30 ( 84644 ) on Thursday December 25, 2008 @03:18AM (#26228825) Homepage

    Hi everyone,
    Ever since 2.6.27.x came out I have not been able to compile from source and have the internet connection work correctly at all.

    Basically I try to take old source configs and run them in the new kernels, but I get the same result.

    Even binary Ubuntu kernel builds fail to run internet connections correctly...

    Apparently this item may be related to it:;a=commit;h=fd6149d332973bafa50f03ddb0ea9513e67f4517 []

    (regarding the reordering of TCP options... how do I fix it?)

    Any advice very gratefully appreciated ...