XZ Backdoor, Nova Driver, Linux 6.9 Features & Ubuntu 24.04 Made For An Exciting April

Written by Michael Larabel in Phoronix on 1 May 2024 at 12:00 AM EDT. 2 Comments
April 2024 is now in the books after writing 257 original Linux/open-source-related news articles and another 13 featured articles / Linux hardware reviews. Here's a look back at the most exciting (popular) content from April.

As usual, before getting to the monthly highlights, if you enjoy all of the daily and original content on Phoronix please consider supporting operations by disabling any ad-blockers in your web browser when viewing Phoronix. Or join Phoronix Premium to help support the site while enjoying ad-free browsing, multi-page articles on a single page, native dark mode support, and other benefits. Operations unfortunately remain difficult due to the state of the web advertising industry and the rampant use of ad blockers especially in the Linux/OSS space. Next month on 5 June Phoronix is set to mark its 20th birthday.

The most popular news for April included:

XZ Struck By Malicious Code That Could Allow Unauthorized Remote System Access
Red Hat today issued an "urgent security alert" for Fedora 41 and Fedora Rawhide users over XZ. Yes, the XZ tools and libraries for this compression format. Some malicious code was added to XZ 5.6.0/5.6.1 that could allow unauthorized remote system access.

Red Hat's Long, Rust'ed Road Ahead For Nova As Nouveau Driver Successor
Red Hat's display driver team has recently been devising plans for Nova, a new to-be-developed Linux DRM kernel driver written in Rust for open-source NVIDIA graphics support as the successor/replacement to Nouveau for newer NVIDIA GPU generations supporting the GPU System Processor (GSP). Making this effort all the more involved is being written in Rust at a time when various kernel abstractions are still being devised and not yet upstreamed.

GitHub Disables The XZ Repository Following Today's Malicious Disclosure
Today's disclosure of XZ upstream release packages containing malicious code to compromise remote SSH access has certainly been an Easter weekend surprise... The situation only looks more bleak over time with how the upstream project was compromised while now the latest twist is GitHub disabling the XZ repository in its entirety.

Intel Continues Prepping The Linux Kernel For X86S
Nearly one year ago Intel published the X86S specification (formerly stylized as "X86-S") for simplifying the Intel architecture by removing support for 16-bit and 32-bit operating systems. X86S is a big step forward with dropping legacy mode, 5-level paging improvements, and other modernization improvements for x86_64. With the Linux 6.9 kernel more x86S bits are in place for this ongoing effort.

Rust-Written Redox OS Enjoys Significant Performance Improvements
The open-source Rust-written Redox OS has enjoyed "significant" performance and correctness improvements to its kernel recently as it further shows off the capability of this from-scratch OS.

Linux 6.9 Will Boot Much Faster For Systems With Large Amounts Of RAM
The Linux 6.9 kernel will be able to boot systems with large amounts of memory -- and in particular making use of HugeTLB pages -- much faster than with previous kernels, netting a noticeable reduction in boot times.

Microsoft Helping Out In Making The Linux Kernel Language More Inclusive
With time Microsoft's Linux kernel contributions have extended beyond just the initial business focus on Hyper-V support and other needs for Azure as well as around Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) to more general contributions. Microsoft has also hired more key Linux contributors along with stakes in other projects like systemd. Earlier this week were patches from a Microsoft engineer working out Rust language improvements for the Linux kernel while now in ending out the holiday weekend are patches for making the Linux kernel language more inclusive.

Linux 6.9 Set To Drop The Old NTFS File-System Driver
Merged two years ago with Linux 5.15 with the "NTFS3" driver developed by Paragon Software with working read-write support and other improvements for supporting Microsoft's NTFS file-system driver. This driver was a big improvement over the original NTFS read-only driver found in the mainline kernel and faster than using the NTFS-3G FUSE file-system driver. Now with enough time having passed and the NTFS3 driver working out well, the older NTFS driver is set for removal.

Fedora Workstation 41 To No Longer Install GNOME X.Org Session By Default
Fedora Workstation has long defaulted to using GNOME's Wayland session by default, but it has continued to install the GNOME X.Org session for fallback purposes or those opting to use it instead. But for the Fedora Workstation 41 release later in the year, there is a newly-approved plan to no longer have that GNOME X.Org session installed by default.

Lisa Su Says The "Team Is On It" After Tweet About Open-Source AMD GPU Firmware
George Hotz with Tiny Corp that is working on Tinygrad and TinyBox for interesting developments in the open-source AI space has previously called out AMD over ROCm issues. Yesterday yielded new tweets by "the tiny corp" over AI training runs crashing with MES errors and then called for AMD open-sourcing the firmware to which AMD CEO Lisa Su has responded.

Llamafile 0.7 Brings AVX-512 Support: 10x Faster Prompt Eval Times For AMD Zen 4
A new release of Llamafile is available this Easter Sunday from the Mozilla Ocho group. Llamafile is a means of distributing and running large language models (LLMs) from a single file, making LLMs much easier to distribute and use by developers and end-users. Llamafile remains one of the more interesting non-browser projects out of Mozilla in recent times that so far has a bright future.

Linux 6.9 Makes A Change To Satisfy Microsoft For EFI x86 Shim Loader Signing
The EFI updates were merged today for the ongoing Linux 6.9 merge window. This cycle the EFI kernel code is seeing enhancements for confidential computing as well as for satisfy Microsoft's requirements for getting them to sign the x86 shim loader again for UEFI Secure Boot handling.

Awesome Changes Coming With Linux 6.9: Lots From Intel/AMD, FUSE Passthrough & More Rust
Depending upon how Linus Torvalds is feeling today, Linux 6.8 could debut today as stable and in turn mark the opening of the Linux 6.9 merge window... Otherwise it will be punted off by one week. In any event, there's a lot of interesting work queuing for Linux 6.9 as shared in today's preview.

Linux Foundation Launches Valkey As A Redis Fork
Given the recent change by Redis to adopt dual source-available licensing for all their releases moving forward (Redis Source Available License v2 and Server Side Public License v1), the Linux Foundation announced today their fork of Redis.

KDE Developers Are Currently Seeing 150~200 Bug Reports Per Day
KDE developer Nate Graham is out with his weekly development summary outlining the interesting feature work and bug fixes to land in the KDE space. Being fresh off the recent Plasma 6.0 release, a lot of bug reports are still coming in while developers are already busy tackling new features for Plasma 6.1.

AMDGPU Linux Driver No Longer Lets You Have Unlimited Control To Lower Your Power Limit
The AMDGPU Linux driver up until the recent Linux 6.7 kernel release has let you lower the power limit of your graphics card with, well, no limits... This has allowed AMD Radeon Linux users to limit their GPU power draw when desiring for power/efficiency reasons. But since Linux 6.7 they've begun enforcing a lower-power limit set by the respective graphics card BIOS. Users petitioned to have this change reverted but in the name of safety this lower-limit enforcement will stand.

LXQt Desktop Now "100%" Ready For Wayland
The lightweight LXQt desktop environment is fully ready to take on the Wayland world.

Microsoft Engineer Sends Rust Linux Kernel Patches For In-Place Module Initialization
What a time we live in where Microsoft not only continues contributing significantly to the Linux kernel but doing so to further flesh out the design of the Linux kernel's Rust programming language support. A previously unimaginable combination of Microsoft, the Rust programming language, and the Linux kernel.

exFAT Driver Boasts Much Faster "dirsync" Performance With Linux 6.9
The latest file-system driver with notable mentions for Linux 6.9 is that for Microsoft's exFAT file-system.

Microsoft Enables DNS Tunneling By Default For WSL - More Reliable Networking
Microsoft is rolling out WSL 2.2.1 to Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) users with more reliable networking support, hang fixes, and other improvements.

And the most popular reviews/featured articles for the month:

Ubuntu 24.04 Boosts Performance, Outperforming Windows 11 On The AMD Ryzen Framework 16 Laptop
With the Framework 16 laptop one of the performance pieces I've been meaning to carry out has been seeing out Linux performs against Microsoft Windows 11 for this AMD Ryzen 7 7840HS powered modular/upgradeable laptop. Recently getting around to it in my benchmarking queue, I also compared the performance of Ubuntu 23.10 to the near final Ubuntu 24.04 LTS on this laptop up against a fully-updated Microsoft Windows 11 installation.

AMD Ryzen 9 7950X & Intel Core i9 14900K: Ubuntu 22.04 vs. 23.10 vs. 24.04 Linux Performance
As part of my ongoing benchmarking of the newly-released Ubuntu 24.04 LTS Linux distribution, today's focus is looking at the high-end Intel Core i9 14900K and AMD Ryzen 9 7950X desktops while comparing the performance across Ubuntu 22.04.4 LTS, Ubuntu 23.10, and Ubuntu 24.04 LTS for dozens of workloads.

GCC 14 vs. LLVM Clang 18 Compiler Performance On Fedora 40
One of the leading-edge benefits of Fedora Linux is that it always ships with the most up-to-date open-source compiler toolchains at release. For their spring releases each year, it typically means shipping with a GCC compiler that isn't even officially released as stable yet. With this week's release of Fedora 40, it's shipping with GCC 14.0.1 as the development version that will culminate with the inaugural GCC 14 stable release in the coming weeks. Plus Fedora 40 has all of the other latest GNU toolchain components and then over on the LLVM side is with the current LLVM 18 stable series. For those curious how GCC 14 vs. LLVM Clang 18 performance is looking, here is a wide range of C/C++ benchmarks carried out on Fedora Workstation 40 using a System76 Thelio Major workstation powered by the Zen 4 AMD Ryzen Threadripper 7980X.

AMD Radeon Linux Gaming Performance At Parity Between KDE Plasma 6.0 X11 vs. Wayland
With a few weeks having passed since the KDE Plasma 6.0 desktop release along with some point releases for addressing initial fall-out, I've been meaning to run some Plasma 6.0 Linux gaming performance benchmarks. I'll have up some interesting metrics soon using Fedora 40 while for this initial article is a look at the KDE Plasma 6.0 gaming performance between the Wayland and X11 sessions atop KDE Neon. Then similarly are the results for GNOME Shell with its X11 and Wayland sessions.

Ubuntu 24.04 Brings Some Performance Gains For AMD Threadripper 7980X / System76 Thelio Major
With Ubuntu 24.04 LTS due out later this month and the beta now available, I've been spending more time recently testing out the latest development state for this next Long Term Support installment of Ubuntu Linux. Similar to seeing some Ubuntu 24.04 performance gains on server class hardware both from Intel and AMD, testing on workstation hardware is also showing some gains over the current Ubuntu 23.10 release. Here are some comparison tests of the System76 Thelio Major with AMD Ryzen Threadripper 7980X.

AMD Announces Ryzen PRO 8840 & PRO 8000G Series CPUs
Following the launch of the Ryzen 8000G series processors earlier this year as well as the Ryzen 8840 series mobile processors, AMD has now announced the associated "PRO" parts for business customers.

Intel Xeon Max Sees Some Performance Gains For OpenVINO & ONNX With Linux 6.9
Last week being surprised to see a number of AMD EPYC performance gains with Linux 6.9 using that in-development kernel, I was curious about what other platforms may be benefiting from better performance on this kernel that will debut as stable in May. This week I turned to running some fresh benchmarks of Intel Xeon Max using the Supermicro Hyper SuperServer SYS-221H-TNR. More than 230 benchmarks were carried out of Linux 6.8 stable versus Linux 6.9-rc2 in looking for any performance differences.

TUXEDO Pulse 14 Gen 3 Continues Running Well As A Powerful AMD Ryzen 7 Linux Laptop
The past two months I've been testing out the TUXEDO Pulse 14 Gen 3 laptop as a new AMD Ryzen laptop from this Bavarian Linux PC retailer. It's been working out very well under Linux (as would be expected of TUXEDO Computers) and quite adaptable for power and performance. For those needing a capable Linux laptop the TUXEDO Pulse 14 Gen 3 has proven quite stable and reliable under both their in-house TUXEDO OS distribution as well as Ubuntu Linux.

Crucial T705 PCIe 5.0 NVMe SSD On Linux
In February was the announcement of the Crucial T705 PCIe 5.0 NVMe M.2 SSD while reaching retail channels in March. This is a very speedy PCIe 5.0 solid-state drive that Crucial recently sent over for our Linux testing and review.

Intel Announces Gaudi 3 AI Accelerator, Intel Xeon 6 Brand
Intel is using its Vision 2024 conference in Arizona today to announce the Gaudi 3 AI accelerator. With Gaudi 3 comes some rather bold AI claims from Intel: 50% on average better inference and 40% on average better power efficiency than the NVIDIA H100. All while costing "a fraction" of the NVIDIA H100. Gaudi 3 sounds quite promising and will be interesting to see how its adopted in the marketplace. In addition, Intel also is disclosing the new Xeon 6 branding for their upcoming server processors formerly codenamed Sierra Forest and Granite Rapids.

Stay tuned for an exciting May filled with lots of interesting news and Linux benchmarks.
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About The Author
Michael Larabel

Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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