GNU Linux-Libre 4.16 Released, Won't Warn You About Spectre/Meltdown Microcode Updates

Written by Michael Larabel in GNU on 2 April 2018 at 10:13 AM EDT. 23 Comments
The folks maintaining the GNU Linux-Libre downstream of the Linux kernel have released their kernel 4.16 release that pulls in yesterday's Linux 4.16 kernel but strips out parts that aren't entirely free software and eliminates support for loading binary-only modules, etc.

One of their new changes on top of this deblobbed kernel is dropping error messages that suggest users update their CPU micrcode. These messages came in the wake of the Spectre and Meltdown CPU vulnerabilities and needing the microcode updates for fending off the branch target injection attacks effectively. But GNU Linux-Libre 4.16 is dropping these warning/error messages since they encourage the user to update the microcode, which is non-free software to their standards. So it sounds like they are more for allowing users to unknowingly run a potentially vulnerable system to Spectre rather than having to use binary-only CPU microcode.

The GNU Linux-Libre 4.16 kernel also now has changes to its request firmware code, potentially allowing some drivers to function better when they can operate without needing binary-only firmware in some cases. The Realtek rtl8821ae may be one class of hardware now working with this libre kernel thanks to the change. There was also the usual code deblobbing to take place.

More details on GNU Linux-Libre 4.16 via this morning's release announcement.
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