In an official announcement, Linus Torvalds confirmed that version 3.7 of the Linux kernel is now stable. It’s the first Linux kernel to have generic support for ARM-based processor architectures, making it easier to get Linux onto smartphones, tablets and gadgets like the Raspberry Pi.
For those not in the Linux / Unix loop, the “kernel” is the heart of any Linux (or open) operating system. Linux’s highly modular nature means that unlike in Windows or Mac, very clear distinctions are maintained between its components. The kernel handles the devices, processor, RAM and other core functions of an OS. On top of it go the various application platforms and user interfaces, which can be removed and re-inserted at will, so to speak.
Currently, every time a Linux-based system (eg: Android) is ported to an ARM processor, the developers have to write a new kernel for that processor’s particular architecture. Since there’s quite a lot of different processors floating around (Samsung’s Exynos, TI’s OMAP-4, and Qualcomm stuff, for instance) porting Linux-based operating systems across platforms is quite a tough task. The new kernel is expected to make that process shorter. It’s like the generic graphics drivers that Windows loads: it’s not pretty or optimized, but it lets you see enough to find and run that driver setup for your shiny new video card. This idea a bit similar to Microsoft’s new Windows, although not as functional: one base system that can run on any platform. One Kernel to Rule Them All. There’s also a heap of Human Interface Device additions that add multi-touch support and a whole list of game console controllers supported – yes, including the PS3’s BD controller.
Currently the support’s leaning more towards server and embedded device processors: Calxeda’s Higbank ARM server processor, Marvell’s ARMADA SoC processors, and Altera’s Cortex A9 design (Samsung Note and S2) are among the ranks. According to Torvalds, they’ll be adding in more supported processors within the next few releases.