The kernel, or heart of the OS, is available on www.kernel.org, which also lists mirrors where the software can be found.
The new kernel includes improvements to such crucial areas as networking and USB control, as well as updates throughout. Kernel version 2.4 was released in January, and the most recent stable version, 2.4.10, made its debut in September.
Linus Torvalds said in at recent Linux conference that kernel improvements are no longer important, and that it is more crucial to make Linux more usable for end-users on the desktop. But other say that the progress of the OS core is the main force driving the GNU/Linux operating system ahead.
"The... kernel is the most significant thing," said Jeremy Allison, leader of the open-source Samba software project, in a recent interview. "It has been the engine driving Linux into large corporations."
Linux, which mimics the Unix operating system, is developed according to open-source principles, which require that any improvements be passed on to other developers free of charge. This means that Linux distributions, as they are called, are much cheaper than comparable commercial systems such as Microsoft's Windows, while retaining a power and stability comparable to Unix.
Stephen Shankland contributed to this report.