Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Try the new Linux 5.14 when you’re done celebrating Linux’s 30th birthday, says Linus Torvalds

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Linux overlord Linus Torvalds has released version 5.14 of the Linux kernel.

“Of course, the poor tireless kernel maintainers won’t have time for the festivities, because for them, this just means that the merge window will start tomorrow. We have another 30 years to look forward to, after all.

“So I realize you must all still be busy with all the galas and fancy balls and all the other 30th anniversary events, but at some point you must be getting tired of the constant glitz, the fireworks, and the champagne,” wrote Torvalds in his weekly state of kernel development update. “The celebrations will go on for a few more weeks yet, but you all may just need a breather from them. And when that happens, I have just the thing for you – a new kernel release to test and enjoy. Because 5.14 is out there, just waiting for you to kick the tires and remind yourself what all the festivities are about.

“But for the rest of you, take a breather, build a kernel, test it out, and then you can go back to the seemingly endless party that I’m sure you just crawled out of.”

Perhaps the most significant are memfd_secret and core scheduling because both are ongoing clean-up work to mitigate Intel’s Spectre and Meltdown fiascos.

For those who decide that kernel testing is more fun than galas and balls and champagne, Linux 5.14 offers many tasty little tidbits.

memfd_secret lets applications create an area of memory that only that application can access. Not even the kernel can access the designated area of memory. Which matters, because Spectre and Meltdown meant cached data could be accessed. memfd_secret is designed to provide a safe place for secrets like cryptographic keys or passwords to reside.

The new core scheduling code matters because one way to mitigate Spectre and Meltdown was to disable hyper-threading. Linux can now allow hyperthreading more efficiently and ensure that trusted and less-trusted workloads don’t share a core and create potential Spectre-esque risks. This one’s mainly for hyperscale operators – but seeing Linux is widely used by those players the update will have wide applicability.

And for now let’s not worry that Intel just introduced a bunch more pre-emptive execution tricks in its new architectures. Speaking of Intel, version 5.14 of the kernel adds more support for Chipzilla’s Alder Lake platform that puts multiple core types onto a single die and prioritises workloads depending on their needs.

Support for the RISC-V architecture was enhanced, giving it more access to some core kernel features such as the “transparent hugepages” memory mapping facility. The inclusion of SimpleDRM improves GPU-handling (DRM in this instance stands for Direct Rendering Manager). Dell has contributed a driver allowing hardware-level disablement of webcams and microphones, to enable either actual kill switches or keypress combos that do the same in some of its laptops.

As promised, legacy IDE has had its day and the Raspberry Pi 400 has been granted full support. There’s stacks more, of course, all available here, or wherever good kernel downloads are made available.

News Summary:

  • Try the new Linux 5.14 when you’re done celebrating Linux’s 30th birthday, says Linus Torvalds
  • Check all news and articles from the latest Security news updates.
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