Linux 3.7 will be armed for ARM

Kernel will ease pain of tailoring Linux platforms for low-power ARM, creating open source opportunities in mobile, desktop, and servers

For too long, Linux and ARM chips haven't lived in harmony. Sure, flavors of the open source operating system are demonstrably capable of running on ARM chips, but it's required programmers to build and tweak their code on a case-by-case basis. Last year, Linus Torvalds famously described "this whole ARM thing" as "a f*cking pain in the ass."

Relief has arrived: The forthcoming Linux 3.7 kernel, due out in January, will feature multiplatform ARM code, meaning Linux will be capable of running on any and all ARM chips. "This is a pretty significant branch. It's the introduction of the first multiplatform support on ARM, and with this (and the later branch) merged, it is now possible to build one kernel that contains support for highbank, vexpress, mvebu, socfpga, and picoxcell," said Olof Johansson, a Google engineer and Linux kernel developer.

Google naturally has a vested interested in seeing Linux play nicely with ARM, as Android is built on Linux. The mobile wars are going to heat up significantly this year with Windows Phone 8, so Android can use the extra edge. In general, this ARM support "promises to help Linux remain competitive against other platforms that also are vying for a piece of the ARM pie," observed Christopher Tozzi, blogger for The VAR Guy.

Not that ARM is strictly for mobile devices, either. The chip has found its way into the data center, for example. Iin fact, chipmaker Calxeda recently announced it will invest $55 million to develop low-power server chips with ARM processors. Low-power ARM chips that support Linux out of the box could boost Linux's stock in the enterprise.

Linux enthusiasts have more to get excited about beyond ARM support. According to Network World, Version 3.5.6 of the Linux kernel will include support for TIAO USB multiprotocol adapter -- a hobbyist tool used to tinker with various electronic devices, including wireless routers and Xbox 360s -- as well as various compatibility and bug fixes.

Version 3.6 of the kernel, released earlier this month, boasts enhancements to the btrfs file system, virtualization capability, power management, and several other upgrades.

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Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.