Linux Kernel 5.17 Coming This Week – What to Expect

The release was planned a week earlier, but it appeared only the other day. We will tell you why there was a delay and talk about notable innovations.

Unsplash / Pawel Czerwinski
Unsplash / Pawel Czerwinski

Need more tests

The first release candidate of the new kernel version has been released in the end of January. Next up, maintainers continued development on schedule, and on March 6 in the mailing list LKML Linus Torvalds announcedthat the release of Linux kernel 5.17 will take place within a week, unless “something out of the ordinary happens.” As a result, the release was still postponed.

The reason for the delay is new vulnerabilities in the processors allowing bypass protection mechanisms against Specter v2 and extract arbitrary data from memory. Patches on some systems solved the problem not to the end. The kernel developers have allocated time for an additional series of automated tests and “quick fixes”. Also Linus Torvalds urged community evaluate the latest release candidate rc-8 in “combat mode” under real loads. This approach will allow you to get a more complete picture of the situation and eliminate other surprises.

What has been added or changed

Changes touched a fairly large number of drivers for motherboards, graphics cards and processors, as well as mobile devices especially laptops and tablets. For example, we added support for active pens that comply with the open standard of the Universal Stylus Initiative (USI). It defines the interaction mechanism between the stylus and the touch device.

Another update worth paying attention to is the x86 driver for android tablets. He will allow devices to work on a modern “vanilla” kernel and not experience problems with touchpads, accelerometers due to incorrect descriptions in the table ACPI DSDT.

Although some residents of thematic forums question the need for a driver. They think that he is onlyinflates“kernel codebase, and in general it makes no sense, since manufacturers of many tablets on x86 already stopped update them. But there are those who believe that the driver will be of help to enthusiasts using such devices for home projects.

Unsplash / Rod Long
Unsplash / Rod Long

A fairly large layer of upgrades is associated with network subsystems. They improve the performance of the open operating system both in the cloud and on IoT devices. In particular, there updated drivers and improved the performance of individual protocols. For example, optimized code for working with the AF_UNIX socket, as well as improved the x86_64 csum_partial() function, which is needed to calculate TCP checksums. Now it loads less hardware resources (by 50–80%).

A look into the future

After the launch of Linux kernel 5.17, the maintainers will continue to work on the next version of the kernel – it should come out until the end of spring. It is too early to talk about an exhaustive list of innovations, but some of them are already known.

In Linux kernel 5.18 should appear support software-defined silicon (SDSi) technologies. It allows you to programmatically turn on and off the hardware capabilities of processors – for example, increase the clock speed or activate additional cores. One potential application is the licensing of individual CPU functions.

Can expect improve UDP/IPv6 performance and new GPU drivers. More about the changes will become known with the release candidate of the 5.18 kernel.

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