Linus Torvalds released Linux 3.1 Monday and the new feature list is long and wide. Linux 3.1 includes a new iSCSI implementation and support for OpenRISC, Near-Field Communication chips, and -- get this -- Wii controllers.
OpenRISC is a project to build a free and open CPU under the GPL license and encompasses the CPU architecture, software development tools, libraries, and so forth. The implementation included in Linux 3.1 is the 32-bit OpenRISC 1000 family (OR1K).
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NFC support is interesting but not surprising. It is interesting because NFC is becoming the latest must-have feature for smartphones, and while Android is a Linux derivative, it is in its own development sphere (some would call that a fork). So there really isn't another form of Linux smartphone out there yet, now that MeeGo is dead. However, Intel is still trying. Last month it announced it had landed Samsung as a new partner and would be working on a new Linux mobile project called Tizen, dusting its hands of MeeGo.
While it's not surprising that Linux would add NFC support -- the kernel tends to support up-and-coming technologies -- the question is how one would actually use NFC if not on a smartphone. Apparently, NFC is viewed as an important attribute for netbooks, tablets and embedded devices such as keycards or ID cards. NFC can also act like a barcode scanner, reading NFC tags on displays in museums or retail shelves, directing people to audio or visual information according to the Kernelnewbies.org site. It also has Bluetooth qualities and can be used to beam contacts, files, media and applications between devices. Linux 3.1 adds a NFC subsystem and a new NFC socket family.
This release also includes the latest iSCSI implementation. It replaces SCST in favor of Linux-iSCSI.org SCSI and ends a longstanding and formerly contentious fight in the Linux community over which iSCSI technology would be included with the kernel.
Support for the Wii controller remote is equally interesting. With this you'll be able to use the WiiMote and other Wii controller devices with Linux machines for whatever creative purposes you can imagine (or program). There are a couple of ports of Linux available today that run on the Nintendo Wii console: Wii-Linux and GameCube Linux. But perhaps with Wii remote support baked in, gesture-based gaming will soon be an option for Linux devices -- like desktops. Many Wii controllers such as the balance board, Nunchuk, etc., support Bluetooth and can also interact with a computer that way.
There are also "performance improvements to the writeback throttling, some speedups in the slab allocator, bad block management in the generic software RAID layer, a new 'cpupowerutils' userspace utility for power management, filesystem barriers enabled by default in Ext3, and new drivers," according to Kernelnewbies.org.
In his note announcing Linux 3.1, Torvalds joked (a little) about the security breach at kernel.org and noted that 3.1 is signed by his own GNU Privacy Guard key, an open source implementation of PGP. To recap: In late August hackers broke into the Kernel.org site that is the home of the Linux project. They gained root access to a server known as Hera and ultimately compromised a number of other servers in the kernel.org infrastructure. This led the Kernel.org folks to take down and rebuild the entire site and is one of the reasons the 3.1 release took nearly a month longer to release than the typical Linux release cycle.
Here is the full text announcement on 3.1 from Torvalds posted to the Linux Kernel Mailing List:
"As promised, the kernel summit has started, and Linux-3.1 is out. The (small) shortlog of changes since -rc10 are appended, we have mostly some sparc and networking changes, along with some radeon and intel iommu fixes (mostly for largepages and integrated graphics issues).
"Most people probably will not notice the changes. One big change from -rc10 is that there are tar-balls and patches, so if you aren't a git user (why?) you can download it now in a traditional format. On of the things to note is that the files are now signed by my gpg key, and it's the *uncompressed* version that the signature is for.
"And of course, this means that the merge window for 3.2 is open. I'll do some merging during the KS, but probably most when I get back home - but you can still send me the pull request, even if I may not necessarily pull it for a few days.
"NOTE! Because the -rc series was longer than usual, and as a result linux-next is bigger than usual, I'm going to be much more of a stickler for 'has your patch series been in linux-next' than usual. If I get a big pull request for things that I can't find in my linux-next branch, I will simply not pull it - we have enough code that has gone through the proper channels as it is, and we don't need anything extra.
"Another thing worth mentioning is that I really want the pull request to be validated some way. With the small changes late in the -rc series, I could afford to spend the time to look at commits and try to verify them, but with the merge window (and the 11k commits or so that I saw pending in the last linux-next tree), that just isn't reasonable.
"So use git.kernel.org or some other host that I can trust is really you.
Julie Bort is the editor of Network World's Microsoft Subnet and Open Source Subnet communities. She writes the Microsoft Update and Source Seeker blogs. Follow Bort on Twitter @Julie188.
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