Linux 3.4 released quickly, after smooth development cycle

The newest Linux kernel adds more support for the Btrfs file system, as well as graphics and security enhancements

Just over two months after its last major release, Linus Torvalds has posted the newest version of the open source Linux kernel, which supports new graphics processors from Nvidia and Intel, improves file system functionality and comes with a new security module.

Torvalds, who oversees input from thousands of programmers, commented on how smoothly work on this release proceeded.

"I think the 3.4 release cycle as a whole has been fairly calm. Sure, I always wish for the [release candidates] to calm down more quickly than they ever seem to do, but I think on the whole we didn't have any big disruptive events, which is just how I like it," he wrote, in an email announcing the release. "Let's hope the 3.5 merge window is a calm one too."

Linux 3.4 arrived only weeks after the release of 3.3, released on March 19, making it the quickest major update in Linux history. Torvalds even delayed the release by a week for additional testing.

More than 7,800 developers from almost 800 different companies have contributed to the Linux kernel since 2005, according to a report the Linux Foundation released in April. The not-for-profit Linux Foundation employs Torvalds to oversee the development of the kernel.

While this version provides no major changes to the kernel, it does advance the software in a number of critical areas.

Extensive work has been done on better supporting Btrfs, a next-generation file system increasingly used in Linux deployments. Better error handling code has been added, allowing the file system to keep working should unexpected events take place.

Btrfs also operates faster in this release, thanks to improvements in metadata handling and interactions with the kernel's page-caching mechanism. In one test, Btrfs was able to create 170 files per second, whereas the default file system for most Linux systems, ext4, was only able to create 110 files per second.

In terms of graphics, Linux now supports a number of freshly released GPU processors and platforms, such as Nvidia's new Kepler GPUs -- used in the company's GeForce 600 Series. It also supports AMD newest Radeon and Trinity releases, and, on an experimental basis, Intel's Medfield graphics processor, which Intel plans to market for smartphones.

Linux 3.4 also comes with a number of other improvements, including a new security module called Yama, as well as a method to cut the size of variables and pointers in memory.

Joab Jackson covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Joab on Twitter at @Joab_Jackson. Joab's e-mail address is

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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