Kernel 2.6.31 to speed up Linux desktop

X desktop responsiveness doubled under high memory

Update: Since this article was written, the Linux kernel 2.6.31 has been released. See the new article here.

With the next version of the Linux kernel, 2.6.31, due for release soon, Linux desktop users can look forward to a faster experience in addition to USB 3.0 support and new Firewire drivers.

The kernel developers have been working on improvements to desktop interactivity, particularly when it's under memory pressure since the last release, version 2.6.30, in June.

Desktop applications can experience long and noticeable pauses when the application's code path jumps to a part of the code that is not cached in memory and needs to be read from the disk, which is slower.

However, recent kernel memory management scalability work can result in a desktop environment with poor interactivity as applications become unresponsive too easily.

In version 2.6.31, some heuristics have been used to make it much harder to move the “mapped executable pages” out of the list of active pages, according to Kernelnewbies.org.

“The result is an improved desktop experience; benchmarks on memory tight desktops show clock time and major faults reduced by 50 per cent, and pswpin numbers (memory reads from disk) are reduced to about one-third. That means X desktop responsiveness is doubled under high memory pressure.”

Furthermore, memory flushing benchmarks in a file server shows the number of major faults going from 50 to 3 during 10 per cent cache hot reads.

Linux founder Linus Torvalds, first developed the operating system for his desktop and it rose to prominence as a commodity Unix server.

However, adoption of Linux on PCs and notebooks has remained niche compared with Windows and only became more of a mainstream alternative in recent years.

Estimates vary wildly as to how many Linux desktops are in use today, but according to market share data from Net Applications, the proportion of Linux desktops peaked at 1.17 per cent in May 2009 and has since dropped to 0.94 per cent in August.

The advent of Windows 7 in October may drive Linux's desktop market share down even further.

It's not all doom and gloom for the penguin, however, as the improvement in kernel memory management, X.org display server developments, graphics driver updates and advancements in the two main desktop environments – GNOME and KDE – all continue to enhance the Linux desktop ecosystem.

Another improvement coming with 2.6.31 is kernel mode-setting support for ATI Radeon graphics cards.

Kernel mode-setting moves graphics mode initialisation from the X server startup process to the kernel, enabling faster user switching and a more seamless startup experience.

Peripheral developments that will also improve the Linux desktop experience include support for the new USB 3.0 specification and a new Firewire stack.

Intel has been working USB 3.0 device support for hardware that implements the eXtensible Host Controller Interface (xHCI) 0.95 specification.

USB 3.0, or SuperSpeed USB, ups the theoretical maximum data transfer rate to 4Gbps.

No xHCI hardware is available yet, but the kernel drivers have been tested under the Fresco Logic host controller prototype.

For Firewire, 2.6.31 brings improved support of fine-grained access permission policies for application programs in userspace, IP networking with the new driver stack, and support for Firewire disks larger than 2TB.

“No longer marked as 'experimental' in the kernel configuration menu, distributors who provided the older ieee1394 driver stack so far are encouraged to build and install both driver stacks,” according to the project.

The last release candidate of the new Linux kernel was 2.6.31-rc8 on August 28.

Join the Computerworld Australia group on Linkedin. The group is open to IT Directors, IT Managers, Infrastructure Managers, Network Managers, Security Managers, Communications Managers.

More about: ATI, Intel, KDE, KDE, Linux, Speed
References show all

Comments

steve

1

"according to market share data from Net Applications" - even M$ doesn't believe that
http://www.osnews.com/story/21035/Ballmer_Linux_Bigger_Competitor_than_Apple

apexwm

2

Looking forward to the new kernel. Even the 2.6.27 and 2.6.29 kernels are excellent. I've installed numerous servers/PCs and performance blows away Windows Vista. It's truly amazing at the performance and reliability of Linux as a whole. Great stuff!!

<a href="http://members.apex-internet.com/sa/windowslinux">http://members.apex-internet.com/sa/windowslinux</a>

Jack

3

Net Applications statistics for Linux are a joke. Everybody knows it and "journalists" keeps on referring to it.

If I've been that sloppy I would never work again.

Pingu

4

"The advent of Windows 7 in October may drive Linux's desktop market share down even futher."

It may well not. While the global economy shrinks, Microsoft loses money and employees while it cancels many products. Red Hat and Open Source adaptation as a whole gains ground.

Be a reporter, not a repeater.

steve

5

hope Con Kolivas BFS patch gets to desktops, i can confirm my 901 eeepc netbook is much more responsive with it and no crashes so far

J.B.Nicholson-Owens

6

"Linux founder Linus Torvalds, first developed the operating system for his desktop and it rose to prominence as a commodity Unix server."

Linus Torvalds wrote a kernel, a portion of an operating system but not an operating system in itself. The Linux kernel has been used with other software to make complete operating systems. Most notably, the Linux kernel is used with the GNU operating system written by thousands of people. Together the GNU/Linux operating system runs on millions of computers around the world.

Let's give Torvalds credit for what he wrote, not credit for what he didn't write.

Anonymous 2

7

Don't confuse installed base (what NetApps measures) with current sales (what keeps Ballmer up at night).

Anonymous 2

8

>"according to market share data from Net Applications" - even M$ doesn't believe that
http://www.osnews.com/story/21035/Ballmer_Linux_Bigger_Competitor_than_A...<

Don't confuse installed base (what NetApp attempts to measure) with current sales (what keeps Ballmer up at night).

Janny Sellers

9

Linux is here to stay. The Word Crisis would still go on for many years and there's no other way, young generations would demand a new Thing and that is Free - OpenSource.

Anonymous Insider

10

"Estimates vary wildly as to how many Linux desktops are in use today, but according to market share data from Net Applications, the proportion of Linux desktops peaked at 1.17 per cent in May 2009 and has since dropped to 0.94 per cent in August."

Estimates vary wildly, so the writer picked the least reliable, most debunked estimate published. There's enough material available from Microsoft to comfortably use an estimate much higher.

fabb

11

the only comment which actually contains correct info. cheers!

Anonymous

12

Correct! Wondering how is that so many people don't even understand Free Software and it's goal (let users be free). If everybody would correctly write GNU/Linux when they refer to the OS, and avoid "Open Source" term, things would improve a little.

SteveOS./2

13

The GUI/UI in kde/gnome are woeful. Blatant ripoff of Apple OSX and a vastly inferior experience at that. At least Windows 7 is professional in its appearance and Windows layouts and modern looking etc.

Anonymous

14

yea, eye candy is soooo important on my desktop. i kinda' prefer blazing speed, security, no worries from infections, a quite hard drive that isn't constantly reading/writing like it was in windows, no defrag to full with in the ext3/ext4 filesystems, apps that don't conflict with each other, not having to reboot everytime i update/upgrade, no vendor lockin that pesters me to renew my license, no revalidation ever time i add new hardware, etc, etc,

so you can have your pretty desktop and marry a pretty trophy wife too!!

Steve

15

1% in Steve Balmers' wet dreams.
"At least Windows 7 is professional in its appearance and Windows layouts and modern looking etc...."
Windows has always had appearance. Sadly, no brains at all...

ghxandsky

16

I use Debian , and I download linux2.6.32 source code pack from Debian official website . Then , I compile it ,pack it, install it...I find that the graphics performance is worse than 2.6.30. Why so that ? I compiled 2.6.30 a week ago ....I run R-Language on my PC

Comments are now closed.
Related Coverage
Related Whitepapers
Latest Stories
Community Comments
Tags: Linux, Firewire, USB 3.0, linux kernel
Whitepapers
All whitepapers

Queensland Police arrest man for allegedly hacking US gaming developer site

READ THIS ARTICLE
DO NOT SHOW THIS BOX AGAIN [ x ]
Sign up now to get free exclusive access to reports, research and invitation only events.

Computerworld newsletter

Join the most dedicated community for IT managers, leaders and professionals in Australia