The Wonderful World of Linux 2.2

Mr. Pranevich gives us a look at the changes and improvements coming out in the new kernel.
Ports: Parallel and Serial

Nothing much is new on this front; Linux has always had incredible support for these basic building blocks. The parallel-port driver has been rewritten with cross-platform issues in mind, and thus what was once just a “Parallel Port” is now a “PC-Style Parallel Port”, functionality-wise. Note that the naming convention used to label parallel ports has changed, so you may find your lp1 has become your lp0. Distributions should allow for this change automatically.

Serial support is chugging along as well as it always has, with one notable difference. Previously, a serial device such as a modem involved two devices, one for call-in and one for call-out (ttyS and cua, respectively). As of Linux 2.2, the two are combined in one device (ttyS), and accessing the cua devices now prints a warning message to the kernel log. On the bright side, Linux 2.2 includes support for having more than four serial ports, it allows serial devices to share interrupts, and it includes a number of drivers for non-standard ports and multi-port cards. My only complaint about serial support is its lack of support for the standard methods used by modules to pass device parameters at module-load time via the modules.conf file and kmod. Instead, these parameters are set using the setserial command.

CD-ROMs, Floppies and Removable Media

Thankfully, the hodgepodge of hundreds of CD-ROM standards has solidified behind the “standard” of ATAPI CD-ROMs. This reprieve has given developers time to completely rewrite the CD-ROM driver system to be more standardized in terms of support. Small, quirky differences between the individual drivers have now all been fixed for better support.

Rewritable CD-ROMs aren't supported as well as I would like. SCSI CD-ROMs are well done, but IDE drives may require the SCSI-emulation kludge driver. This limitation may be removed in a future version of the CD-ROM subsystem, but is something that must be coped with for now.

Floppies are working as great as ever. New developments have been made in terms of large volume floppies, and it remains to be seen whether or not all of these will be supported. The so-called ATAPI floppies already have a driver.

IOMEGA's Zip drive, an increasingly popular storage solution, is fairly well-supported under Linux 2.2. These beasts come in two versions: SCSI and parallel. Under SCSI, the Zip drives are supported just as any other disk would be. The parallel version of these drives actually uses a kind of SCSI-over-parallel protocol, also supported in Linux 2.2. Other IOMEGA solutions such as DITTO drives may also be supported using the ftape drivers.

The issue of DVD is something for which no one seems to know the answer. It is highly probable that DVD is already supported in some way, most likely through the IDE ATAPI driver interface. DVDs are much like CD-ROMs. If a standard emerges that Linux 2.2 does not support, it is fairly certain that it will be added sometime during the 2.2.x stabilization cycle following the initial release.

Other removable media may or may not be supported under Linux 2.2. If the device in question connects through the parallel port, it is possible that it is supported using one of the parallel-port IDE device protocol modules included in the kernel.

Glorious Sounds

At long last, the sound code has been partially rewritten to be completely modular from start to finish. Distributions will be able to more easily include generic sound support out-of-the-box for their users as well as making it easier for the rest of us to load and configure sound devices (in particular, pesky Plug-and-Play ones). Many new sound devices are supported as well, and it looks as if this is one area where Linux will truly improve in the next year.

One notable defect is the lack of support for the PC internal speaker, if only for completeness. Then again, Windows doesn't do it either, so who am I to judge?

Video4Linux

Linux 2.2 now has amazing support for a growing number of TV and radio-tuner cards and digital cameras. This is truly a bleeding-edge addition to 2.1's roster, so some uncorrected problems may remain, but it is reasonable to assume they will be fixed in time. In my opinion, this is just an amazing area for Linux to be in at all.

Back Me Up, Scotty!

Linux 2.2's backup- and tape-device subsystem has not changed much since the 2.0 release. More drivers for devices have been written, of course, and substantial improvements have been made for backup devices that work off of the floppy-disk controller (including the IOMEGA DITTO).

Rewritable CD-ROMs have become a popular solution for backing up data, and they are supported under Linux 2.2 either natively or by using the SCSI Emulation driver. There are still remaining problems in this regard—see my note above on CD-ROMs.

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