The Linux 3.3-rc4 kernel was released this Saturday evening after a peculiar 32-bit kernel bug had led to the release being delayed by a few days.
Linus Torvalds and others spent the past few days tracking down a complicated issue with the Linux 3.3 kernel
whereby there would be floating-point state corruption resulting in a range of nasty problems. This FP corruption would result in crashes, Flash problems within the browser, the X input cursor moving sporadically, or other random issues.
This issue was tracked down to using a 32-bit x86 kernel on modern CPUs that support the AES-NI instruction set. Besides needing to be on a 32-bit AES-NI-capable kernel for CPUs that support the Advanced Encryption Standard instruction set, you also need to be using a wireless kernel driver that can utilize this hardware-acceleration for Advanced Encryption Standard encryption/decryption. When all these factors are met, you might have encountered this bug, which is fortunately now expected to be addressed in 3.3-rc4 and should in time be back-ported to stable kernels.
Intel supports AES-NI on their modern Sandy Bridge and most Clarkdale/Arrandale/Gulftown CPUs and AMD provides support for AES-NI with Bulldozer. All of these CPUs support x86_64, so you really should be using a 64-bit Linux kernel anyways and not a 32-bit kernel. If you still are using a 32-bit kernel on recent Intel/AMD hardware you should really consider moving to a 64-bit x86 kernel.
Besides fixing this 32-bit-kernel-with-AES-NI-and-WiFi-driver-causing-havoc bug, the 3.3-rc4 carries a variety of other bug-fixes too. There isn't anything else that stands out too much, although the old GMA500 driver was removed from staging now that there's the better Poulsbo driver
. The old POHMELFS code was also dropped since now there's the new POHMELFS file-system
One graphics-related note is that the Intel DRM driver with the Linux 3.3-rc4 kernel has decided to disable frame-buffer compression (FBC) for Sandy Bridge hardware as it's causing BLT ring problems with it running many times slower (up to 100x slower) or frequent lock-ups. The Intel developers aren't sure why having FBC causes the problem for Sandy Bridge, but this is their interim fix.
The Linux 3.3-rc4 kernel release announcement can be read at LKML.org
. Some of the new features of the forthcoming Linux 3.3 kernel are talked about in this Phoronix article