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diff -u: What's New in Kernel Development

At long last, Jeff Dike's User-Mode Linux has been accepted into the 2.5 kernel tree. Now users may invoke the Linux kernel as a user process on a running system. Or to put it another way, users may invoke any number of concurrent virtual Linux systems, which may be Beowulfed together or clustered in some other way, or else used for testing new drivers and other invasive patches that can result in crashed systems. No more lengthy reboots when your new toy blows up—start another instance and keep hacking!

SGI's journaling filesystem XFS has also been accepted into the 2.5 tree, having finally met Linus Torvalds' requirements. For a long time, XFS made some fairly violent changes to areas of the kernel that Linus felt really shouldn't be touched. These have been cleaned up, and the code is in. Users desiring journaling filesystems can now choose between ext3, ReiserFS, IBM's JFS and now XFS.

Threading scalability has just made a huge jump. Now you can start 100,000 threads and run them all concurrently. This came as such a shock to kernel developers that Linus thought he misread the announcement. Ulrich Drepper and Ingo Molnar have been leading this charge, which brings threading scalability far, far above what anyone could reasonably need on a home system. Still, as one developer put it, if nothing else, this shows we're doing something right.

There is currently an ongoing debate that will have a strong impact on virtually all users. The ability to unload a given module from the kernel may be going away. Apparently, the code to handle modules has become too complicated; one proposal is that this can be simplified if modules, once loaded, are simply grafted permanently onto the running kernel. The problem with this is the ability to unload modules is seen as a really useful feature many developers want to keep. So far, the debate looks as though it could swing either way.

Some new code for handling crashes has come to light. One such is a patch to control core-dump filenames. When a program core-dumps, instead of simply producing a file in the current directory called core, it can produce a file in another directory with a name specified by the user. Another bit of code for crash handling is kksymoops, an OOPS handler that decodes the kernel symbols before dumping the OOPS. Previously, OOPS output had to be run through a separate program in order to produce data that would be meaningful to kernel developers. With kksymoops, more and better information is available. This makes it easier for users to report system crashes and easier for developers to debug them.

—Zack Brown

CheckBook Tracker tony.maro.net

If you've been waiting for a replacement for Quicken, this might be the ticket. I don't have Quicken, so I downloaded my bank files as QIF, and they imported flawlessly into CheckBook Tracker. The interface is clean, efficient and has a number of display modes. This is probably the most intuitive checkbook I've used recently. Requires: libXi, libXext, libX11, libm, libgtk, libgdk, libglib, libgdk_pixbuf, libgmodule, libdl, glibc.

—David A. Bandel

TypeFast homepages.ihug.co.nz/~syringe/typefast.html

This is a simple curses-based typing practice program. It won't teach you to type (you already need to know how to do that), but it will help improve your speed, using either an xterm window or a VT. You can practice on different keyboards (QWERTY or DVORAK) and alternate hands to give either hand more practice. Requires: libncurses, glibc.

—David A. Bandel

LJ Index—January 2003
  1. Number of Linux-based Sicom Systems point-of-sale systems being installed in Burger Kings in Puerto Rico: 160

  2. Number of Linux-based PDAs: 16

  3. Billions of searches per month on Linux-based Google: 5

  4. Millions of Linux users: 18

  5. Position of Linux Professional Institute (LPI) on Computer Reseller News (CRN) fastest-rising certification list: 1

  6. Position of Red Hat Certified Engineer (RHCE) on Computer Reseller News (CRN) fastest-rising certification list: 2

  7. Percentage of retail Red Hat Linux customers who use the OS at home: 34

  8. Percentage of retail Red Hat Linux customers who use the OS at work: 13

  9. Percentage of retail Red Hat Linux customers who use the OS both at home and at work: 50

  10. 2001 salary in dollars of Hilary Rosen, president of the RIAA: 1,163,729

  11. 2001 salary in dollars of Jack Valenti, president of the MPAA: 1,030,000

  12. Average payola in dollars paid by record companies to US commercial radio stations to add a song to a playlist: 1,000

  13. Payola in dollars paid per week by the US record industry: 300,000

  14. Amount paid by US radio stations to record companies or artists to play music: 0

  15. Range of percentage of revenues that will be paid by small webcasters to artists via the RIAA's collection arm: 8-12

  16. Percentage of TV commercials that don't get watched in households using the Linux-based TiVo: 88

  17. Factor by which the cost of processing a single bit declines every 20 years: 1,000

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