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Linux 4.4 Ushers In 2016

  • January 10, 2016
  • By Sean Michael Kerner

After 8 release candidates, the Linus Torvalds officially released the Linux 4.4 kernel on January 10, marking the first new Linux release of 2016. The first kernel release of 2016 is coming faster in the new year than 2015, with the first kernel release of 2015 not out until February 9.

"Nothing untoward happened this week, so Linux-4.4 is out in all the usual places," Linus Torvalds wrote in in his release announcement.

Last week Torvalds explained that having an 8th release candidate for a Linux kernel release is typically a cause for concern to deal with unresolved issues, but that wasn't the case with Linux 4.4 rc8.

"This time around, it just means that I want to make sure that everybody is back from the holidays and there isn't anything pending, and that people have time to get their merge window pull requests all lined up," Torvalds wrote "No excuses about how you didn't have time to get things done by the time the merge window opened, now.."

The first release candidate for Linux 4.4 debuted on November 16, just a few short weeks after the Linux 4.3 release which ended up being the final Linux kernel release of 2015.

The Linux 4.4 kernel is noteworthy in that it is has been labelled as a Long Term Support (LTS) kernel, meaning that it will be maintained with bug and security fixes for longer than a non-LTS release. The last major Linux kernel to be labelled as an LTS was the Linux 4.1 kernel which is currently scheduled to be maintained until September 2017.

Among the many improvements introduced in the new Linux 4.4 kernel are improved cryptographic functions. In particular, the Intel SHA Extensions are now integrated, providing optimized SHA256 support. 3D support gets a big boost in Linux 4.4 with support for the virtio-gpu driver, which was committed by Red Hat's Dave Airlie.

Networking gets a big boost in Linux 4.4 that could serve to accelerate all TCP/IP based connections thanks to a major refactoring of code to build a lockless TCP listeners.

"During my tests, my server was able to process 3,500,000 SYN packets per second on one listener and still had available cpu cycles," Linux kernel developers David Miller wrote in his commit message. "That is about 2 to 3 order of magnitude what we had with older kernels. This effort started two years ago and I am pleased to reach expectations."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at LinuxPlanet and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist

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