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Yesterday, 03:04 PM
Linux 5.6 Released, This is What’s New
Linux 5.6 is the latest stable release of the Linux kernel. In this post we take a look at a few of the new features and changes the update includes.
Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, announced the newest kernel update in an email to the Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML) at the weekend.
Check out the best new features in the latest #Linux kernel release!
In short, this is a fairly substantial kernel update (even putting aside the headline inclusion of Wireguard) with a wealth of networking, file system, and hardware driver improvements bundled up inside.
For those wondering about which kernel will feature in next month’s Ubuntu 20.04 LTS release the answer is Linux kernel 5.4 and not this release, or January’s Linux 5.5 release.
All of that out of the way, let’s get to what’s new!
Top 6 Linux 5.6 Features
Linux 5.6 boasts WireGuard support out-of-the-box — a big deal for those who know what this is, making it arguably the headline change of this kernel update.
What is WireGuard?
Well, Wikipedia describes WireGuard as a secure VPN (Virtual Private Network) tunnelling tool. It “runs as a module inside the Linux kernel” to deliver better performance (and improved privacy) than other tunnel protocols.
I don’t use VPNs personally, but I’m thrilled to know that next-gen support is there for if — when? — I change my mind!
2. Early USB4 Support
The Linux 5.6 kernel series is the first to include support for USB4 (aka USB 4, though for some reason it’s stylised with no space).
USB4 is based on Thunderbolt 3 and (among other benefits) provides high data throughput and backwards compatibility with USB 3.2 and USB 2.0.
A raft of consumer-facing USB4 devices are expected later this year, so while not practical right now, it’s nice to know the Linux kernel is well prepared.
3. Amazon Echo (for the lols)
The inclusion of mainline Linux kernel support for the Amazon Echo, the only retailing giant’s voice-activated smart speaker, will amuse hardware hackers out there.
There’s little practical benefit to booting Linux on a Amazon Echo right now but early support for it is important. It lays a foundation on which other open-source software, Alexa alternatives, and/or user-space software can be developed, built, and run.
For those curious, the Amazon Echo is powered by a Texas Instruments OMAP3 SoC, 256MB DRAM, and features MMC storage — not exactly top-drawer components, is it?
4. CPI Idle Cooling Driver
At first glance the sound of a new “cpuidle_cooling” thermal driver in Linux 5.6 might give you visions of heatsink-free future but, alas, it won’t!
A rival approach to Intel’s home-grown versions, this new generic thermal driver isn’t limited to specific CPU architectures or vendors, and doesn’t need any extra cruft to get to work.
As summarised by Phoronix, “…this driver will inject idle cycles at run-time when necessary to cool down the CPU and also reduce any static power leakage.”
As far as I can tell while this feature is included in Linux 5.6 it needs to be explicitly activated in order to start working — so don’t rip out your expensive water cooling system just yet 😉.
5. Better Hardware Support
Each kernel update offers improved support for hardware, ranging from ARM-based SoCs, developer boards, input devices, sound cards, mice, keyboards, and so on.
Linux 5.6 adds support a bunch of new SoCs and developer boards, including the Pine HardRock64, SolidRun’s HoneyComb LX2K workstation, and the Qualcomm sc7180.
There are also thermal sensor updates for a range of Rockchip and Allwinner platforms, as well as the Broadcom BCM2711 used in the Raspberry Pi 4 (among others).
Logitech devices that use the HID++ protocol can now report battery voltage on Linux, and the Logitech MX Master 3 Mouse will now “just work” out of the box.
Finally, anyone running Linux 5.6 on an ASUS AMD Ryyzen laptop should find that the CPU no longer overheats quickly, degrading performance — phew!
6. VirtualBox Folder Sharing
You may recall the plan to add support for the Virtualbox Shared Folder Driver (allowing users to instantly share folders between guests and hosts without using the Guest Additions package) in the Linux kernel.
It kinda debuted in Linux 5.4, but the feature didn’t quite work as planned and was postponed.
Well, this time the feature is back, working, and more importantly, staying put to enable seamless file access.
Get Linux 5.6
That’s an overview of the biggest changes in Linux 5.6 — but chances are you’re wondering when you might get to try them, and that’s difficult to say.
While it is possible to install Linux 5.6 in Ubuntu, Linux Mint and other Ubuntu-based distributions using mainline builds it is not advised.
And why is it not advised? Because, repeat-after-me class: mainline kernels aren’t as widely tested, checked, or finessed like regular in-release Ubuntu kernel updates!
Furthermore, major new Ubuntu Linux kernel releases don’t happen often, and are usually tied to new releases of Ubuntu.
If you really can’t wait for Ubuntu to back port this (or a later update) in the future then at least wait for the first Linux 5.6 point release, due in a week or two. This will nix any major bug fixes discovered after release.
Mainline kernel builds are up on the Ubuntu kernel server should you want to ignore the advice and go ahead and use them.
02 Apr 2020
10 Feb 2020
The Galaxy S20 leaks keep on coming. The device is scheduled to be officially announced in just over 24 hours from now, but leaks keep ruining whatever surprise Samsung has planned for the event. This time around, leakster @MaxWinebach has posted some low-light photos from the Galaxy S20. He has also posted photos from the Galaxy S10's camera for comparison purposes.
The photos do a great job of showing the improvement that the Galaxy S20's camera will bring to the table in low-light scenarios when compared to the Galaxy S10. What's immediately noticeable between the Galaxy S10 and S20 photos is that images from the latter are brighter. A bit of a pixel peeping shows the Galaxy S20 photos as having more details as well. Do note that these photos have been taken in Night mode and not in regular mode
The difference might not seem like much at first glance but at this stage, smartphone cameras have become so good that we are only going to see incremental improvements in image quality.
Max has also posted some photos from the Galaxy S20+ including one with 30x zoom. The latter image is grainy and noisy and there's not much to talk about it, though it was taken indoors where most phones with digital or optical zoom tend to struggle.
Do remember that these photos are from the Galaxy S20 which is rumored to come with a 12MP 1.8um f/1.8 shooter. For comparison, the Galaxy S10 features a 1.4um 12MP f1/.5 primary shooter. So, while the S20 might come with a bigger camera sensor, the smaller aperture limits the amount of light reaching it.
The bigger Galaxy S20 Ultra 5G is expected to come with a primary 108MP shooter which will make use of 9:1 pixel binning to deliver even better low-light photos. It remains to be seen just how much better photos the Galaxy S20 Ultra will be able to capture than its smaller siblings.
10 Feb 2020
AMD has announced the Radeon Pro W5500 and Radeon Pro W5500M graphics cards aimed at workstations and mobile workstations respectively. The GPUs are designed primarily to meet the needs of Design & Manufacturing and Architecture, Engineering & Construction professional, according to AMD.
Some of the highlights of the new products include a redesigned geometry engine that enables up to 25% higher performance-per-clock than older previous-generation Graphics Core Next (GCN) architecture. The more powerful AMD Radeon Pro W5500 also improves multitasking performance with a 10x better application workflow than the competition. Despite AMD’s claims of better performance than the competition, the Radeon Pro W5500 consumes 32% less power than the competition.
Talking about the new GPUs, Scott Herkelman, corporate vice president and general manager, Radeon Technologies Group at AMD, said:
“Designers and engineers require a professional graphics solution that delivers the performance and efficiency to meet today’s unique challenges. Nothing is more stressful than a deadline, and AMD professional graphics keep performing when you need them most. The AMD Radeon Pro W5500 graphics card delivers exceptional power efficiency and leadership performance for 2D and 3D design applications, enabling them to better visualize and interact with their designs in real time, explore new immersive workflows like virtual reality and maximize productivity.”
In terms of availability, the AMD Radeon Pro W5500 will be available from mid-February for $399. The AMD Radeon Pro W5500M GPU is expected to be available in “professional mobile workstations” from spring. The AMD Radeon Pro W5500 will also be showcased at AMD booth 208 at 3DEXPERIENCE World 2020 from February 10-12 in Nashville, Tennessee.