GNU Linux-libre 6.8-gnu Dealing With Blobs From New Intel Drivers

Written by Michael Larabel in GNU on 11 March 2024 at 11:05 AM EDT. 14 Comments
GNU Linux-libre 6.8-gnu is out as the newest downstream kernel variety endorsed by the Free Software Foundation that takes the upstream Linux kernel but does away with proprietary module support and stripping out drivers/functionality contingent upon binary-only microcode/firmware and other elements not deemed up to their free software standards.

GNU Linux-libre 6.8-gnu continues to be leveraged by FSF-approved Linux distributions for not letting the kernel boogie with proprietary microcode/firmware even if it means reduced hardware and feature support. With Linux 6.8 the de-blobbing effort has had to deal with the new Intel Xe kernel graphics driver, the updated QuickAssist Technology (QAT) hardware support from Intel, and also the Intel Visual Sensing Controller (VSC) driver. Plus there's the new Imagination PowerVR Rogue DRM driver that requires microcode along with Aquantia PHY and other drivers needing blobs.

The GNU Linux-libre 6.8-gnu new changes include:
- Upstream removed atmel, hermes, orinoco_usb, libertas_cs, and zd1201 drivers, so we no longer need to clean them up.

- New drivers for Intel qat\_420xx, Imagination PowerVR, Intel Xe, Chips&Media Wave5, Intel VSC, Aquantia PHY, and Realtek rtw8922a needed cleaning up.

- The coda driver moved in the upstream "source" tree, so its cleaning up was adjusted.

- Some new blob names appeared in new new ARM and AArch64 devicetree files, so we cleaned them up.

- Upstream changed the .deb packaging scripts, so we adjusted for the changes and took the opportunity to improve the wording.

The GNU Linux-libre 6.8-gnu kernel also comes with new artwork in celebrating 16 years of this Linux-libre downstream:

GNU Linux 6.8 artwork

Besides the new Intel driver frustrations, the GNU Linux-libre 6.8-gnu announcement also points out ongoing frustrations with the existing Intel i915 DRM driver around the GuC (graphics micro-controller) firmware as needed with newer Intel graphics hardware while optional for older generations:
Intel i915, that used to be a very freedom-friendly driver, has become a constant source of problems due to blobs.

Last year, we learned about infinite loops on certain i915 hardware variants, as they attempted to fall back to earlier blob variants that we had cleaned up to indistinguishable names.

We fixed that, and even contributed the patch upstream. It wasn't taken, but other changes were made in response to our patch, that made the driver much noisier in our case.

We've addressed the extra noise, but those upstream changes were not what broke the driver again for us. We still don't know what did, but the symptom is similar to the earlier breakage: some systems with Intel graphics appear to freeze.

Booting with i915.enable_guc=0 will avoid the apparent freeze on systems affected by this problem.

Downloads and more details on this kernel variety via the GNU mailing list.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of 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 automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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