Linux 2.6.26 Open for Debugging

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted Jul 15, 2008


No piece of software is immune to defects, which is why it's important to use tools that help find and fix bugs.

The latest Linux kernel features a new debugger as well as virtualization and memory support.

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That's the idea with the new Linux 2.6.26 kernel, which provides the Linux ecosystem with an integrated kernel debugger to help improve the open source operating system.

The 2.6.26 kernel continues the relentless release cycle of Linux kernels adding new features and driver support that help expand the operating system's capabilities.

"The most surprising change was the addition of KGDB after discussions on kernel debuggers had gone on for a while," Dr. Gerald Pfeifer, director of inbound product management at Novell, told InternetNews.com. "This will prove very useful in handling some hard support situations and nicely complements the KDB kernel debugger that Novell has been shipping for years."

KGDB is the new Linux source level debugger and enters the mainline Linux kernel despite the past objections of Linux founder Linus Torvalds. Eight years ago, Torvalds wrote in a Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML) post: "I don't like debuggers. Never have, probably never will."

Torvalds had argued that not having a kernel debugger forces people to think about their development problems on a different level than with a debugger. In his view, there is a greater degree of understanding about the overall nature of the program and how it operates.

Although Torvalds is still the leader of Linux and the person that releases mainline Linux kernel releases, the effort counts a variety of kernel developers who also get things added like KGDB. A recent study from the Linux Foundation noted that there are more than 1,000 developers working on the Linux kernel representing over 100 corporations.

Among those contributing to kernel development is Linux vendor Red Hat. Rik van Riel, senior software engineer at Red Hat told InternetNews.com that for him the KGDB debugger is a key improvement to Linux 2.6.26. As well, van Riel applauded the Page Attribute Table (PAT) feature, which allows for better support of graphics hardware.

Novell's Pfeifer explained that PAT support for x86 systems allows for setting memory attributes at page level granularity, which opens more possibilities for further optimizations.

The 2.6.26 kernel follows the 2.6.25 kernel which debuted in April introduced a long list of new driver and support features. The 2.6.26 changelog has a similarly long list of driver support improvements.

"One thing that I was reminded of reading through the detailed set of changes is the impressive amount of newly contributed or updated drivers, demonstrating the breadth of hardware that Linux supports — more than any other operating system," Novell's Pfeifer said. "I think it's worth highlighting the increasing stability and richness of wireless support here in addition to the usual network, storage and audio drivers, and there is also ever growing support for tuners and other multimedia drivers.

This article was originally published on InternetNews.com.

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