New Version of Linux Kernel Released

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Linus Torvalds has released version 2.6.12 of the Linux kernel, a major revision including support for Trusted Platform Modules (TPM), significant changes to many drivers, and other changes.

The revision arrives more than three months after version 2.6.11 and is the first release since Torvalds switched to a different system for managing the kernel source code, a move that slowed development. The 2.6 kernel was introduced in late 2003, succeeding the 2.4 kernel and adding a number of improvements aimed at large companies.

The revision introduces a driver for TPM chips such as those found in some IBM laptops; the TPM is designed as a hardware safeguard for critical data such as passwords. The driver supports TPM devices from National Semiconductor and Atmel. TPM will store cryptographic keys, passwords, and digital certificates, typically on the motherboard. Embedding security measures in the hardware makes a system far more resistant to tampering than does using a software-based security scheme.

What's New

The new revision adds improvements to IPv6, SELinux, the Software Suspend feature, and the device mapper. A feature called address space randomization is designed to help block the effectiveness of viruses. A number of drivers, such as those for DVB, USB, networks, and sound chips have had major updates, and modifications have been made to the CIFS, JFS, and XFS file systems.

In April Torvalds decided to part ways with the BitKeeper software he had been using to manage the kernel source code since 2002, after a conflict over BitKeeper's proprietary nature. He first reverted to managing updates via e-mail, and later in April launched the Git project as a substitute for BitKeeper. Git is more efficient than e-mail, but is incompatible with BitKeeper, and that created difficulties for those converting to the new system.

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