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Linus Torvalds debuts 'boring old plain' Linux kernel 5.18

Adds 'feature activation' for Intel silicon, but Chipzilla still isn't saying what that means

Linus Torvalds has released version 5.18 of the Linux kernel.

The maintainer-in-chief’s post announcing the release was typical of those he made for each of the eight release candidates: this time around he found no nasty surprises, additions were neither major nor complex, and no glitches impacted the development process.

Torvalds called for developers to "run boring old plain 5.18" before getting excited about the forthcoming version 5.19.

That description is a little harsh on the new cut of the kernel, which offers notable additions such as the software-defined silicon code that verifies cryptographically signed licenses to enable dormant features in Intel silicon.

We asked Intel about this, again, and the company still won't share specifics. We were told that Intel is "committed to developing flexible solutions that meet the unique demands of our customers and partners and lead the industry" and "At this time we have no specific product details to share regarding feature activation."

The mention of "feature activation" is at least new, and admission of intent from Intel. The Register will keep watching this one.

Other new features found in version 5.18 of the kernel include:

  • A Host System Management Port driver for AMD EPYC CPUs, which should improve server performance in roles including nested virtualization;
  • More virtual memory support for RISC-V;
  • Support for Tesla's fully autonomous driving chip;
  • A fix to a longstanding problem in the Ceph file system that drove needlessly high CPU usage;
  • Foundational work for Intel's discrete graphics hardware;
  • Support for the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W.

As usual, Phoronix carries a very detailed account of many more features in the new cut of the kernel.

The merge window for version 5.19 of the kernel is now open, meaning that in nine or ten weeks Torvalds will deliver another version of the project. It appears to have plenty of support for forthcoming GPUs, further enhancements for Apple's M1 silicon, ongoing work to make Intel's Alder Lake CPUs and their multiple core types sing under Linux, and an interesting addition to allow code written for 32-bit RISC-V silicon work on 64-bit hardware.

One thing that appears not to be on Torvalds's agenda is future version naming conventions. The 3.x kernel series ended with version 3.19, before the 4.x series ended at 4.20. Perhaps the project's practice of offering an annual release with long-term support (LTS) could come into play, as five kernel versions have most often come between such releases. A hypothetical Linux 5.20 would be a likely LTS candidate but choosing to name that Linux 6.0 could also set a pleasing precedent. ®

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