Does anyone really know what will be better in Windows 7? I don’t and I follow Windows almost as closely as I do Linux. With Linux, on the other hand, we know exactly what we’re getting well in advance of its arrival. In this latest Linux kernel, I see several outstanding new features that have been coming down the road for some time.
After a brief hardware hiccup with Intel’s e1000e gigabyte Ethernet firmware, Linux 2.6.27 was released on October 9th. It’s a good, but not ground-breaking, kernel. Still, it has at least five significant improvements.
The first of these, in my opinion, is a new way of handling device firmware. In the best of all possible worlds, firmware should be compiled with each driver. Linux users know all too well that, despite the opening of some proprietary driver firmware by vendors like Atheros, the Wi-Fi chip OEM, too many devices still require proprietary firmware. In Linux 2.6.27, the firmware blobs (binary large object) now have a permanent home: the new directory, ‘/lib/firmware.’
This works for Linux in two ways. The first is that it will make it easier for all Linux distributors to handle proprietary drivers in a single common way. For users this translates into making it easier to use this kind of devices. For those users who don’t want a thing to do with proprietary drivers, it also makes it easy for them to make sure that their PCs don’t inadvertently use the closed software.