Linux Kernel Update Adds Brawn Without Bulk

A new update to the Linux kernel adds a raft of security features, driver support, and other enhancements without increasing the overall size of the kernel at all.

That's a rarity, given that enhancements in each update have tended over the years to increase the kernel's size. This time around, though, there are a number of improvements that will be visible to users, but without any extra mass.

It won't be long before this new kernel is integrated into most popular Linux distributions. Here are some of the highlights of what users can expect.

Beefed Up Security

Perhaps most notable in Linux 2.6.36, which was announced by creator Linus Torvalds on Wednesday, is the inclusion of the AppArmor security system, a Mandatory Access Control (MAC) system that has been part of Linux distributions including Ubuntu for some time. The new security extension effectively contains the potential damage that can be done by attackers who find a way to gain root access.

Tilera Support

Known also as "Flesh-Eating Bats with Fangs," the new kernel release also adds support for the Tilera chip architecture, a multicore design capable of scaling to hundreds of cores on a single chip. Linux is fully supported in the Tile-GX line of chips, and now the open source operating system offers native support in return.

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An ‘Out of Memory' Rewrite

The Virtual Machine "Out of Memory (OOM) Killer" terminates a process when there's no memory left so as to keep the system from crashing. In this new release, the algorithm that decides which process to kill has reportedly been rewritten to make better decisions.

Intelligent Power Sharing

For Intel Core i3 and i5 systems with integrated graphics support, an intelligent power sharing (IPS) driver now offers dynamic power sharing between the CPU and GPU for better performance.

Better Responsiveness

Linux 2.6.36 is said to fix responsiveness issues when it comes to Virtual Machine heuristics and latency when parallel processes are claiming CPU time.

Graphics Driver Support

Version 2.6.36 includes better support for Radeon cards and Fermi graphics chips, according to a report on The H.

Despite all the visible improvements, developers have reportedly contained the kernel's size by trimming down the default configuration files. Coming up in Linux version 2.6.37 will be a raft of further improvements to look forward to, according to reports.

Follow Katherine Noyes on Twitter: @Noyesk.

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