Linux 2.6: Can You Break It?

by Don Marti

As this issue goes to the printer, kernel development is in feature-freeze. Pretty soon comes the fun part—testing. Almost as important as the work the kernel developers do is the work the kernel testers do. And you don't have to be a kernel expert to test the pre-2.6 kernels on your hardware or your application. By the time you read this, your favorite Linux news sites and mailing lists already might be getting “Please test” messages. Watch your favorite Linux sites, including, for news about the kernel testing process and how you can help.

Can Linux do for music what it did for server applications? Ask Dave Phillips. His web site is a resource for everything from hard-disk recorders to music notation editors. This month, he's written a massive roundup of softsynths, software that uses a bewildering array of techniques to turn your Linux box into a synthesizer studio. Plug in a MIDI keyboard or run a sequencer, and follow along on page 80.

If you practice, soon you'll be listening to music you made, and it will sound better than CDs you buy from the major labels. Why? Rip Rowan explained it best on

Record labels have never really understood what makes a record sound good and frankly, few even care....For some reason, record labels have it in their heads that LOUD equals good, and therefore, LOUDER equals better. Not caring to understand even the basics of audio, these morons simply demand more volume (typically from the mastering engineer) and really don't understand or care about the consequences of their demands.

So using the audio excellence of Linux to rip major-label CDs is as pointless as burning copies of Xenix or SCO OpenServer. Record your own stuff. Freedom-loving hackers have reinvented the way we get operating systems and made them better. Now you can be the one to reinvent the way people get music, and make music better.

Two of the biggest advantages of 2.6 are going to be the included ALSA sound drivers and some dramatic improvements in latency that will make out-of-the-box distributions suitable for studio-quality audio. Preemptible kernel hacker Robert Love covers these and more on page 52.

If your need for raw software speed is greater than your attachment to little features like hardware memory protection, or if your embedded application is so important that if it goes down the machine might as well have crashed, you're the kind of person who might want to try Kernel Mode Linux. Toshiyuki Maeda explains how to make any application into a part of the kernel on page 62.

Hans Reiser follows up with more on the Reiser4 filesystem, one of several that are new for 2.6, on page 68. And, you might notice a few changes when you configure and build the new kernel. Greg Kroah-Hartman fills us in on what to expect on page 62.

Free software will always be an excellent choice for security and network applications, and a good example is the beginning of Mick Bauer's tutorial on Firewall Builder on page 30. The kernel is only a beginning. Freedom works. Use it.

Don Marti is editor in chief of Linux Journal.

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