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Ready for the Linux 6.0 splashdown? Here are some of the highlights

Don't panic if you're not a fan of big changes… it's 5.20 by another name

The next version of the Linux kernel is jumping version numbers, with some performance gains, but it's not a major change all the same.

Roughly every two dozen kernel versions, Linus Torvalds tends to bump the Linux kernel's major version number, essentially so the minor version number doesn't get too large. As such, what was previously planned to be version 5.20 is now Linux 6.0. The "merge window" during which contributors can send in requests for their new code to be incorporated is currently open, and then will come a period of testing and integration work, marked by a series of "release candidates."

Samba, the Windows-compatible filesharing tool for FOSS xNix, has a new in-kernel server for SMB3. This is receiving improvements to its multichannel handling, as well as further steps in the ongoing deprecation of the SMB 1 protocol. According to Microsoft's analysis, this should boost performance.

Support for the RISC-V architecture continues to accrue, with changes that improve the new platform's support for handling for Docker containers and apps packaged with Ubuntu's Snap system, plus page-based memory types.

It's worth noting that the notes inside the pull request mention that development is mostly being done under emulation using QEMU. Currently shipping RISC-V hardware is rather underwhelming in performance terms – for example, as we mentioned before, see RISC and retro-hardware guru Dr Cameron Kaiser's assessment of the RISC-V version of the DevTerm portable. Now, to be fair, the DevTerm's RISC-V CPU board isn't a powerhouse: it has an Allwinner D1, a 1GHz single-core CPU. But even so, performance of about one-third of a 2005 Mac mini G4 really is not good.

There's also support for Intel's new Gaudi2 accelerators, which aim to give hardware acceleration to the TensorFlow machine-learning libraries.

On more mainstream x86 kit, there are improvements to ACPI handling and power management. These should enable lower power usage on Intel's new "Sapphire Rapids" Xeon processors, and smooth out some problems with laptops based on AMD's Ryzen 6000 chips, which were launched in January. Other changes should also benefit Microsoft Surface and AMD-powered Thinkpad portables.

Although support for the fbdev framebuffer device is still on its way out, a new developer has stepped up to maintain it: SAP's Helge Deller. Something else that Deller is working on is a driver for emulated Atari TT and Falcon hardware, a long-gone machine in the the ST family. These 68030 machines used the VME bus for expansion cards, which does enjoy Linux support, but that is long-unmaintained and looks likely to be moved back out of the main kernel source-code tree into the staging tree.

We hope to return soon to the subject of how and why 680x0-family hardware is getting attention in the 21st century. ®

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