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Linux 2.6.29: New Kernel, New Mascot

Tuz and Tux
Tuz (left) is the 2.6.29 kernel's temporary replacement for Tux (right).
The first new Linux kernel of 2009 is now out, sporting the early stages of the next generation of Linux filesystems -- and a new, temporary mascot, to boot.

The 2.6.29 kernel follows the 2.6.28 kernel by three months and also introduces improved wireless options with WiMAX support, a move that aims to hop on the growing interest in the mobile broadband technology.

The 2.6.29 kernel comes as Linux continues to mature as an operating system versus Unix and as enterprises look to Linux as an economical option in hard economic times.

But for Linux creator Linus Torvalds, one of the release's most notable features is its new mascot.

"The most obvious change is the (temporary) change of logo to Tuz, the Tasmanian Devil," Torvalds wrote in a mailing list posting announcing 2.6.29.

Tuz, a cartoon Tasmanian Devil, is standing in for Linux's typical logo, Tux the penguin, in an attempt by Torvalds to help raise awareness around the plight of the Tasmanian Devil. Torvalds adopted the design after having received a plush Tuz and participating in a Tasmanian Devil charity event while in Australia earlier this year for the Linux.conf.au conference.

Aside from a temporary new mascot, Linux 2.6.29 also shows off the future of Linux with the BTRFS filesystem, which makes its debut in the kernel.

The BTRFS filesystem is the brainchild of Oracle engineer Chris Mason, and provides improved filesystem scalability and performance, supporters say.

"The main goal is to let [Linux] scale for the storage that will be available," Mason, who is director of Linux kernel engineering at Oracle, told InternetNews.com in an interview last year. "Scaling is not just about addressing the storage, but also means being able to administer and to manage it with a clean interface that lets people see what's being used and makes it more reliable."

BTRFS is still in active development and is not finalized in the 2.6.29 release. Instead, it's intended for early testing purposes. In that respect, BTRFS is following a similar development path like other Linux filesystems.

For example, the Ext 4 filesystem, which debuted in the 2.6.19 kernel in November 2006, is just now making its way into community Linux distributions with the upcoming Red Hat Fedora 11 and Ubuntu "Karmic Koala" releases.

Ext 4 itself gets an incremental update in the new 2.6.29 kernel to support a mode that does not require journaling, a method for tracking where all the bits are located, which results in a small performance boost.

Other filesystem improvements in Linux 2.6.29 come from an update to the OCFS (Oracle Cluster Filesystem) which debuted in the 2.6.16 kernel. In 2.6.29, OCFS gets support for metadata checksum to further improve data file integrity checking. OCFS is supported by Oracle's Linux as well as the new Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 high-availability extension, which was officially announced today.

The compressed, read-only squashFS filesystem makes its mainline kernel debut in 2.6.29 as well. However, the filesystem has been widely used for the last several years by Linux distributions through the production of LiveCDs, which Linux vendors typically produce as a way for users to try out Linux directly from a CD, without the need to actually install the OS to their hard drives.

While filesystems are a large part of the 2.6.29 release, they aren't the only part.

WiMAX, which is an emerging broadband wireless standard, is included in the 2.6.30. The kernel's specific WiMAX stack had been developed by Intel and supports Intel Wireless WiMAX/Wi-Fi Link 5050 devices.