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Torvalds has released the Linux 4.9 kernel

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December 13, 2016

Linux OS senior manager Linus Torvalds has released the new Linux 4.9 kernel and it promises some nice new features.

“I'm pretty certain that this is the biggest release we've ever had in a while, at least in the number of kernel commits,” Torvalds wrote on the Linux mailing list.

“If you look at the sheer number of lines changed, we've had bigger releases in the past, but they have tended to be due to specific issues (v4.2 got a lot of lines from the AMD GPU register definition files, for example, and we've had some big re-organizations that caused a lot of lines in the past. For instance, v3.2 was big due to staging, v3.7 had the automated uapi header file disintegration, etc).”

A lot of the bulk is due to “greybus”, the remnants of Google's Project Ara modular mobile phone that made it into this new release.

Other notable additions this time around include:

  • Support for the Raspberry Pi Zero, plus another 28 ARM-powered devices;
  • Support for Vmapped stacks, which will mean kernel stack overflows are identified immediately rather than being diagnosed as out-of-the-ordinary. The result: better security;
  • Implementing memory protection keys, which allows protection of pages;
  • AMDGPU support to enable use of virtual displays from GPUs.
  • Torvalds has also confirmed a minor change to the development process for Linux 4.10, in the form of a shorter-than-usual merge window.

    As we identified last week, the usual two-week merge window would close on December 25th.

    “That date may look familiar,” Torvalds posted to the Linux Kernel Mailing List. “It's Christmas Day. If you're originally from Finland like me, it's the day when you relax after the real celebrations, which would be on Christmas Eve.”

    He's therefore urging Linux kernel developers to get merging, because “I will certainly stop pulling on the 23rd at the latest, and if I get roped into xmas food prep, even that date might be questionable.”

    In other Linux and open source news

    Canonical’s OpenStack division is now available on IBM’s Power servers as part of zSystems' Linux stack, the company said earlier today.

    We are told that the Ubuntu system integrator's cloud solutions have been released for IBM’s zSeries, IBM LinuxOne and on IBM Power Systems.

    To be certain, Canonical’s cloud will also run on IBM’s planned LC servers, announced in April 2016. The servers will also run OpenPOWER from the group building customised POWER CPUs.

    In case you didn't know, IBM LinuxONE and z Systems, a set of software for IBM’s mainframes launched in August 2015, already ran SUSE and Red Hat in addition to Ubuntu.

    The software stack included Apache Spark, Node.js, MongoDB, MariaDB, PostgreSQL and 'Chef'.

    Canonical said it has been working with IBM to ensure users of zSystems mainframes, LinuxONE, Power Systems and OpenPower got the same experience in terms of management and use as OpenStack customers on x86 platforms.

    Canonical claims that Ubuntu is the most popular operating system in the cloud, with more than two million Ubuntu Linux instances launched last year.

    It also claims to run 55 percent of OpenStack production clouds. E870C and E880C Power Systems for the cloud, running AIX, IBM i and Linux, have OpenStack-based cloud management (Cloud PowerVC Manager) and elastic consumption attributes, meaning that users can extend on-premises computer resources out to the IBM cloud.

    The POWER8-based E870C and E880C provide automated virtual machine (VM) deployments, pre-built image templates and self-service capabilities.

    An HMC Apps as a Service technology preview provides a capability to automatically aggregate Power Systems’ performance and inventory data across an enterprise segment.

    These apps are hosted in a secure cloud and provide health state, geotagging and threshold alerts that can be accessed via a secure portal from users’ mobile devices.

    Copy Data Management provides what IBM calls "detailed, easy-to-use management of data copies." Big Blue says it builds a catalog of copy data from local and hybrid cloud and off-site cloud infrastructure, identifies duplicates and compares copy requests to existing copies.

    This helps ensure that a smaller number of copies are created and saved on storage. IBM has a relationship with Catalogic for copy data management. Spectrum Protect has been extended with cloud object storage options for use in hybrid cloud deployments.

    In other Linux and open source news

    To most Linux Debian lovers, they were happy to see that the ZFS file system has come to the popular distribution, but in a way, Debian's backers think that won't kick up another row over the compatibility of open source licences.

    Whether that happens or not is besides the point for now. To be sure, Ubuntu 16.04 has already added ZFS, despite pre-release grumblings from Richard Stallman to the effect that anything licensed under the GNU GPL v2 can only be accompanied by code also released under the GNU GPL v2.

    ZFS is issued under a Common Development and Distribution License, version 1 (CDDLv1). So how did Debian manage to include ZFS in its unstable branch? That's a good question, but we'll try our best to explain what we're seeing here.

    Debian has decided to include the source code only, rather than take Ubuntu's approach of shipping pre-built kernel modules. And that source code will be included in contrib, the archive Debian describes as containing “supplemental packages intended to work with the Debian distribution, but which require software outside of the distribution to either build or function.”

    If you choose to compile ZFS and run it, that's your problem. It's difficult to say just how big a problem it is if only because it's equally difficult to imagine how anyone would know what you're running or who would sue you for doing something that is already eminently possible.

    The Software Freedom Conservancy have assisted cases in the past against vendors it felt breached the GPL, as the case against VMware last year shows.

    But that case suggests that VMware has made open-source code a key component of a commercial and closed-source product.

    That's a long way from an individual or organization deciding to roll-their-own ZFS-on-Debian installation, however. We'll see what happens next, but for now get ready to see more of the same for the next few months.

    In other Linux and open source news

    Open source solutions developer TurnKey has announced the general availability of its TurnKey Linux 14.1 release, the 1st point version of the Debian-based virtual appliance (VA) library distributed as ISO images or virtual machines.

    In case you weren't sure, TurnKey Linux 14.1 has been in development for the past six months, during which the ever-growing team of developers behind the project implemented many improvements, fixed a lot of software bugs reported by the Linux community, and upgraded most of the appliances on the latest Debian release.

    "About seven months after the release of v14.0, we are proud to announce the updated v14.1 release," asserted Jeremy Davis in the announcement. "Once again this release has been a community affair. We've had lots of great contributions from many motivated and helpful people," he added.

    Based on the Debian GNU/Linux 8.4 "Jessie" operating system, the TurnKey Linux 14.1 release gives users instant and free access to a huge library of over one-hundred appliances that integrates some of the best open-source software, thus offering ready-to-use solutions to the community.

    Among the most popular virtual appliances, we can mention WordPress, Joomla, phpBB, Apache Tomcat, Drupal, Bugzilla, TWiki, MediaWiki, Rails, PostgreSQL, MySQL, MovableType, LAMP, Zimra, Magento, Torrent Server, StatusNet, and File Server.

    As part of the launch of Turnkey Linux 14.1, the open source team is also proud to announce a new appliance called TurnKey MediaServer, which has been designed from the ground up to offer users a simple network-attached media storage solution for bringing their home videos, photos, and music together.

    TurnKey Linux 14.1 also comes with an updated version of the open-source and widely used Webmin web-based system configuration tool for Unix-like systems.

    In other Linux and open source news

    Free Software Foundation president Richard Stallman has weighed in on the argument over whether Ubuntu can legally include ZFS in Linux. His answer: a resounding No.

    Stallman has issued a statement he says “explains some issues about the meaning and enforcement of the GNU General Public License. The specific view for this article is the violation of combining Linux with ZFS”.

    Stallman needs to consider that combination because Ubuntu has signalled it will soon add OpenZFS to version 16.04 of its distribution.

    The Free Software Conservancy (FSF) argued that the Common Development and Distribution License, version 1 (dubbed CDDLv1), under which ZFS is published means that it cannot be added to a Linux distribution.

    But Ubuntu disagrees. Stallman is arguing that “Code under GPL-incompatible licenses cannot be added, neither in source nor binary form, without violating the GPL.” He continues-- “if you distribute modules meant to be linked together by the user, you have made them into a combined work, and you must release the entire combined work under the GNU GPL.”

    It's therefore not possible to release ZFS alongside GNU GPL-licensed code because ZFS is licensed under CDDLv1, he added.

    Ubuntu has previously stated that it has sought legal advice and believes it can bundle ZFS without breaching any licences. But is that really the case?

    Oracle, which since acquiring Sun Microsystems has decided the licence under which ZFS is published, has never shown any inclination to change the licence.

    Stallman hopes that this will change-- “the copyright holders of ZFS (the version that is actually used) can give permission to use it under the GNU GPL, version 2 or later, in addition to any other license.”

    “This would make it possible to combine that version with Linux without violating the license of Linux. This would be the ideal resolution and we urge the copyright holders of ZFS to do so,” he asserted.

    So you decide, Oracle... Or would allowing ZFS to be compatible with the GNU GPL threaten your billion-dollar ZFS business? It will soon be interesting to see how Larry Ellison treats this dilemma. We'll keep you posted.

    In other Linux and open source news

    Earlier today, Google said it has developed load-balancing open source software using its 'Go Language' it developed last year.

    Google is now offering the software to the Linux and open source community.

    The company has released the 'Seesaw Load Balancer' for Linux, built to replace two existing systems that were developed a few years ago.

    The code has been released to GitHub this morning. Google’s site reliability engineer, Joel Sing, blogged that Seesaw would increase the availability of service and reduce the management overhead compared to what was available until today.

    “We are pleased to be able to make this platform available to the rest of the world and hope that other enterprises will be able to benefit,” Sing said.

    Overall, Seesaw will handle internet server traffic for unicast and anycast virtual IP addresses, perform load balancing with NAT (network address translation) and direct routing, and assess the health of the systems involved. That's quite a feat.

    According to Sing, Google had employed two load-balancing systems up to now, which had led to various issues managing the overall infrastructure as well as a few problems with stability and redundancy.

    Sing added that one of the requirements on Seesaw were that it was built using Google's Go language, offered as a modular multi-process architecture and with the added ability to abort and terminate a process if it had entered an unknown state.

    Google says it has released more than 900 projects to the open source community, equating to about 20 million plus lines of code in total.

    Apart from Go, Google's better known open-source projects include WebM, the V8 JavaScript engine, and the Android mobile operating system.

    In other Linux and open source news

    Today, the Linux community is proud to announce that version 4.4 of the Linux kernel has been finalized and released to the public.

    Linus Torvalds announced the release himself last night. So what's new this time around?

    Support for GPUs seem the headline item, with plenty of new drivers and hooks for AMD processors.

    Perhaps most notable is the adoption of the Virgil 3D project which makes it possible to parcel up virtual GPUs.

    With virtual Linux desktops now on offer from Citrix and VMware, those who want to deliver virtual desktops with workstation-style graphics capabilities will be happy.

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    Raspberry Pi owners also have better graphics to look forward to, thanks to a new Pi KMS driver that will be updated with acceleration code in future releases.

    There's also better 64-bit ARM support and fixes for memory leaks on Intel's Skylake CPUs.

    Torvalds also says the new release caught a recent issue by unbreaking the x86-32 sysenter ABI, when somebody misused it by not using the vdso and instead using the instruction directly.

    Naturally, it will be months before the new kernel pops up in a majority of production Linux releases, but it's out there for those who want it now.

    And Torvalds is letting us know he's about to start work on version 4.5. He's been pretty busy as of late, and things are looking up in deed.

    In other Linux and open source news

    Linux OS creator/developer Linus Torvalds says the fourth release candidate of the Linux 4.4 kernel contained a nasty core bug that's since been repaired, but may not initially have rang that many alarm bells.

    “Another week, another rc,” Torvalds writes on the Linux Kernel mailing list, before going on to say that development work in Linux labs is progressing as usual save for “A fairly bad core bug that was introduced in rc4 that is now fixed in rc5,” he said.

    Torvalds declares that bug a bit embarrassing but added “I don't think that many people in the Linux community actually ever saw the bug in the first place.”

    Torvalds' next dilemma is deciding when to schedule the release of the now fixed version 4.4.

    He's tossing up pausing things for a week to let people enjoy the season, or proceeding at the usual pace and waiting a week before opening the version 4.5 merge window.

    No matter how you look at this, Linux kernel coders will get two weeks off soon, at a time of year it makes lots of sense to get some rest. Happy Linux Christmas to all.

    Source: Linus Torvalds.

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