Linux kernel 2.2 explainedJan 21, 1999, 11:12 (194 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Dave Whitinger)
If your computer
is not a production
system, then it
makes good sense
to upgrade it
and see how well
There are good reasons for upgrading and good reasons to stay with the 2.0.XX series of kernels. The most direct answer is: if this is a production machine, you are strongly advised not to upgrade to 2.2 until it has proven completely stable. This is not to say that 2.2.0 is not already stable, but on a production machine, you may be better served to delay your upgrade until it's stability has been proven elsewhere.
Which leads me to the reason you may choose to upgrade: if your computer is not a production system (e.g., your personal workstation, your spouse's/kids' computer), then it makes good sense to upgrade it and see how well it performs, especially if you want to take advantage of the 2.2 kernel's new features.
For this question, we visit the Wonderful World of Linux 2.2 article, that Joseph Pranevich so generously volunteered to write.
The summary is this:
Increased hardware architecture support
The kernel now fully supports:
Linux 2.2 is the first stable Linux to support x86 processor vendor selection in the kernel configuration tool for even better fine-tuning.
Better CD-ROM support
Thankfully, the hodge-podge of hundreds of CD-ROM standards has solidified behind the 'standard' of ATAPI CD-ROMs. This reprieve has given developers time to completely rewrite the CD-ROM driver system to be more standardized in terms of support. Small, quirky differences between the individual drivers have now all been fixed for better support.
The sound support has been completely re-written in order for the sound card drivers to be modular from the start. This will ease the setting up of a sound card, and will allow distribution vendors more flexibility in their setup.
Perhaps the most surprising and cutting-edge addition to kernel 2.2 is what is called the 'frame-buffer console' driver (or 'fbcon', for short.)
From the kernel source:
"Frame buffer consoles ("fbcon") are now in the kernel for all platforms, not just those non-Intel ones for which VGA text mode is impossible. VGAcon is still available for those who want it, but fbcon has the advantage of providing a uniform graphical subsystem across all Linux ports, and it displays a spiffy penguin logo on boot-up ;-). For more information, see the files in /usr/src/linux/Documentation/fb/"
The new kernel will support a vast array of filesystems:
Linux 2.2 adds to the already present internationalization features of the operating system by including the ability to load some UNICODE codepages for translating filenames into Linux's native system. Linux 2.0 only supported international keyboards and the like.
Linux 2.2 will be a more 'standard' UNIX in a number of ways. The most pronounced of these ways to the end user will be the addition of UNIX98-style Pty devices using a new filesystem (devpts) and a cloning device to provide the functionality.
First, you must make sure you are running the latest versions of these software packages:
|Package||Version needed||How to ascertain version|
|Kernel modules||2.1.121||insmod -V|
|Linux libc5 C Library||5.4.46||ls -l /lib/libc.so.*|
|Linux libc6 C Library||2.0.7pre6||ls -l /lib/libc.so.*|
|Dynamic Linker (ld.so)||1.9.9||ldd --version or ldd -v|
You only need to upgrade these packages if you are currently using them. If you don't currently use Ncpfs, for example, don't worry about getting the latest version. If you end up needing to upgrade something, first check with your distribution vendor's ftp site for updates. Failing that, you may access the Linux Changes page for an HTML-ized version of this table (and more!) with links to each package's download site.
There is a good possibility that your distribution is already up to date, and ready for the kernel.
After this is in place, follow through with the standard kernel compilation techniques. Untar the file into /usr/src/linux, then:
make config # Answer the questions are are given
make dep ; make clean
Notice that it is now encouraged to use "bzImage" instead of the old "zImage". This allows for better compression of a kernel that has increased considerably in size.
Once you have the new bzImage, you may configure your lilo to boot the image as normal.
It is still too early to say what kinds of problems people may find with the new kernel, but if you carefully upgraded each of your software packages (listed above), you should not run into any problems.
I have been using the beta to this kernel for quite some time, with no problems at all. Your results may vary, of course, but if you have a spare machine that you can play with, I highly encourage you to take part in this historic event by testing the new kernel out.
Please use the talkback forum below to voice any comments or questions you have regarding this article.