Linux first to offer USB 3.0 driver

A kernel hacker from Intel has posted a Linux driver for USB 3.0, making Linux the first operating system (OS) to support the new connectivity standard. Sarah Sharp (left) announced that her xHCI-compliant driver for USB 3.0 will be supported in Linux 2.6.31 in September.
The xHCI (Extensible Host Controller Interface) host controller driver is available now, and will be formally supported by the Linux kernel in September in version 2.6.31, reports Sharp, also known as the "Geekess." This should make Linux the first OS to offer a USB 3.0 driver, according to Sharp, who says she has worked a year and a half on the project.

Sharp is now working with fellow Intel "OSV person" Keve Gabbert to ensure that Linux distributions including Ubuntu and Red Hat adopt the xHCI driver. She also plans to release instructions soon on how to compile a kernel using her git tree.

USB 3.0: ten times faster throughput
The Intel-backed USB 3.0 spec was completed by the USB Implementers Forum under the formal name "SuperSpeed USB" in November. The spec is said to offer physical-layer throughput speeds of up to 5Gbps (gigabits per second), compared to USB 2.0's 480Mbps (megabits per second). By comparison, Firewire (IEEE 1394) currently tops out at 3.2Gbps.

It's said real-world transfer rates for USB 3.0 may be as much as 500Mbps, compared to 25Mbps to 35Mbps for typical USB 2.0 mass storage drivers, offering the potential for 20x faster speeds. The technology is also claimed to offer reduced power consumption compared to USB 2.0.

USB 3.0 is targeted initially at PCs, Blu-ray players, hard drives, flash card readers, and optical drives such as DVD. The technology is said to be backward-compatible with USB 2.0, and will first appear in discrete silicon products, as opposed to being integrated in system-on-chips (SoCs). By September, says Sharp, NEC estimates it will have produced one million xHCI PCI Express add-in cards.

In November, MCCI Corp. and Synopsys announced they would together produce USB 3.0 compliant semiconductor IP and Linux-ready GPL'd drivers. Last month, MCCI announced more details about its USB 3.0 SuperSpeed products at the USB 3.0 Developer�s Conference in Tokyo, but has yet to announce details on availability.

Linux 2.6.31 will support the driver when it is expected to be released in September, says Sharp. Linux 2.6.30 arrived this week, offering several new filesystems, among other features.

A cached version of the apparently overtaxed Geekess blog page announcing the driver, may be found here.


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