Linux 5.11, Pyston, Wayland & Other January Excitement

Written by Michael Larabel in Phoronix on 1 February 2021 at 12:00 AM EST. 1 Comment
From Linux 5.11 adventures to the AMD CES keynote to many open-source software advancements, there was a lot of activity during the month of January to take one's mind off the pandemic.

During the past month on Phoronix were another 250 original news articles and 18 featured reviews / benchmark articles written by your's truly, on top of all the benchmarking and Phoronix Test Suite / development work. A lot of interesting activities in January while still a lot more to look forward to in the quarter from the Linux 5.12 merge window to the GNOME 40 debut to AMD EPYC 7003 "Milan" to Ryzen 5000 series mobile Linux testing (soon as I can find a retail unit available for purchase) and more.

If you enjoy the daily, original content on Phoronix you can always show your support best of all by joining Phoronix Premium or at the very least not using any ad-blocker when viewing this site. You can stay up to date with the content via Twitter and Facebook. With that out of the way, below is a look at the most popular news stories during January:

Pyston 2.1 Is Blowing Past Python 3.8/3.9 Performance
With this past week's release of Pyston 2.1 as an alternative Python interpreter I was curious to see how the performance compared to that of upstream Python... So here are some weekend benchmarks with a Ryzen 9 5900X system.

Linus Torvalds Decides To Land NVIDIA RTX 30 "Ampere" Support In Linux 5.11
While new feature code is normally not allowed in past the end of the merge window for a given Linux kernel release cycle, Linus Torvalds has decided to merge the newly-published open-source driver code for the NVIDIA GeForce RTX 30 "Ampere" graphics cards for the Linux 5.11 kernel that will debut as stable in February.

Linus Torvalds On The Importance Of ECC RAM, Calls Out Intel's "Bad Policies" Over ECC
There's nothing quite like some fun holiday-weekend reading as a fiery mailing list post by Linus Torvalds. The Linux creator is out with one of his classical messages, which this time is arguing over the importance of ECC memory and his opinion on how Intel's "bad policies" and market segmentation have made ECC memory less widespread.

Linux Kernel Developers Discuss Dropping A Bunch Of Old CPUs
With Linux 5.10 having shipped as the latest Long Term Support (LTS) release to be maintained for at least the next five years, a discussion has begun over dropping a number of old and obsolete CPU platform support currently found within the mainline kernel. For many of the architectures being considered for removal they haven't seen any new commits in years but as is the case once proposals are made for them to be removed there are often passionate users wanting the support to be kept.

Linux 5.12 Set To See Support For The Nintendo 64
It's taken nearly twenty five years but the mainline Linux kernel this year will be able to boot on the Nintendo 64 game console... It's looking like the Nintendo 64 support will be merged with the upcoming Linux 5.12 kernel.

HDMI Forum Closing Public Specification Access Is Hurting Open-Source GPU Drivers
It's been recently elaborated why the likes of FreeSync support over HDMI aren't coming to the open-source drivers, at least not yet... It stems from the decision by the HDMI Forum to prevent public access to the HDMI specification, which in turn is hurting open-source graphics drivers.

NVIDIA Windows/Linux Graphics Drivers Hit By A Series Of Security Vulnerabilities
With this week's R460 driver release also comes a number of security updates. Several security issues have been patched in both the NVIDIA Windows and Linux graphics driver components.

Red Hat Announces No-Cost RHEL For Small Production Environments
Following the announcement at the end of last year that CentOS 8 will be ending and instead focusing on CentOS Stream as the future upstream to RHEL, there have been many concerned by the absence of CentOS 8 past this year. In trying to fill that void, Red Hat announced today they will be making Red Hat Enterprise Linux free for small production deployments.

dav1d 0.8 Released With More Optimizations - More AMD Performance
Dav1d 0.8 was released this weekend (and subsequently 0.8.1 too) as the latest major release for this CPU-based AV1 decoder hosted by the VideoLAN project. Dav1d continues to be about offering the best AV1 decode speed and with the v0.8 series are even faster results -- so here are some of our initial data points as well from some weekend benchmarking.

The Qt Company Is Tomorrow Moving Qt 5.15 To Its Commercial-Only LTS Phase
As part of their fundamental shift to restrict Qt LTS point releases to commercial customers, The Qt Company is closing the Qt 5.15 branch to the public tomorrow with future Qt 5.15 LTS point releases to be restricted to paying licensees.

Pyston 2.1 Released With Striving For High Performance Python
Pyston started out as a fork of CPython and was very promising during its early days as a Dropbox project for delivering on high performance Python. Its performance was great but in 2017 Dropbox stopped supporting it. Then at the end of 2020, Pyston reappeared and Pyston 2.0 promoted ~20% faster performance than Python 3.8. Pyston 2.x was developed by many of the original developers from Dropbox now out working on their own firm.

ReactOS Has Been Steadily Improving As An Open-Source Windows Implementation
ReactOS as the long work-in-progress open-source operating system implementation of Windows enjoyed much progress over the course of 2020.

Progress On The GNOME 40 Shell Continues At Full Speed
The GNOME Shell user experience improvements and other components continue in development at full-speed for the GNOME 40 release due out in March.

Wine 6.0 Released With A Plethora Of Improvements For Windows Software On Linux
Wine 6.0 stable is now officially available as the annual stable release for this open-source project allowing Windows games and applications to run on Linux, macOS, and other Unix-like platforms.

Changing One "If" To "While" Caused An Unexpected Shift In A Kernel Benchmark This Week
Several months back you may recall that Linux 5.9 kernel regression we noted that in turn was bisected to code introduced by Linus Torvalds around page lock fairness. That was ultimately worked out in time with allowing a control over the page lock (un)fairness to address the regressed workloads while being fair enough to satisfy his original change. But now this week for Linux 5.11, Linus Torvalds has again altered the behavior. It then ended up causing a PostgreSQL database server performance regression but fortunately any impact should be very minimal and hopefully not appearing in any real-world situation.

FreeBSD Continues Work On Ridding Its Base Of GPL-Licensed Software
The FreeBSD project today published its Q4-2020 status report concerning all the interesting happenings for this open-source BSD operating system.

Another NVIDIA Engineer Just Made His First Contribution To Mesa
Another NVIDIA engineer has made his first contribution to Mesa in the rather interesting focus of fixing up Volta so atomic operations will work with OpenCL SVM.

Valve's Steam Data For December Points To A Huge Dip For Linux Gaming Marketshare
Valve just published their Steam Survey numbers for December 2020 and it's a huge letdown for Linux gamers if the numbers are indeed accurate.

Vulkan Wayland Compositors Are Nearing Reality
One of the last pieces of the puzzle for supporting an entirely Vulkan-based Wayland compositor is coming together with a new extension that looks like it will be merged soon and there already being work pending against Sway/WLROOTS to make use of the Vulkan path.

Apple M1 Open-Source GPU Bring-Up Sees An Early Triangle
The open-source/Linux Apple M1 work continues to be quite busy this week... The latest is Alyssa Rosenzweig who has been working on reverse-engineering the M1 graphics processor has been able to write some early and primitive code for rendering a triangle.

And the most popular featured articles:

A Look At The CPU Security Mitigation Costs Three Years After Spectre/Meltdown
With this week marking three years since Spectre and Meltdown were made public in ushering in a wave of CPU security disclosures that followed and mitigations that often resulted in measurable performance hits, here is a look at how the performance costs stand today with various new and older Intel CPUs as well as AMD processors too. This article is looking at the current performance costs under Linux with the default mitigations and then the run-time disabling of the relevant mitigations for each of the processors under test while using an up-to-date Ubuntu 20.10 paired with the new Linux 5.10 LTS kernel.

The Performance Of Clear Linux vs. Fedora vs. Ubuntu Over 2020
Earlier this week we looked at the performance of Intel's Clear Linux over the past year but how does that compare to the likes of say Fedora and Ubuntu? This article is looking at the performance of Fedora Workstation, Ubuntu, and Clear Linux on the same hardware over the past year.

Linux 5.11 Is Now Looking Great For AMD Zen 2 / Zen 3 Performance
Not only is the AMD "CPU frequency invariance regression" from that new support with the in-development Linux 5.11 kernel on course to address the performance shortcomings I outlined last month, but with the patched kernel for a number of workloads the performance is now ahead of where it was at with Linux 5.10.

Zink OpenGL-On-Vulkan vs. RadeonSI OpenGL Performance As Of January 2021
With the Zink OpenGL-on-Vulkan implementation within Mesa on a nice upward trajectory with most recently now having the backing of a Valve contract developer and a focus on getting the backlog of patches to this Gallium3D code upstreamed, here are some fresh benchmarks looking at where the performance currently stands when using Zink atop the RADV Vulkan driver compared to using the native RadeonSI driver with this round of testing from a Radeon RX 5700 XT graphics card.

Patched Linux 5.11 Continues Looking Great For AMD Ryzen/EPYC Performance
While the initial AMD Linux 5.11 performance regression written about at the end of last year was of much concern given the performance hits to AMD Zen 2 / Zen 3 processors with the out-of-the-box "Schedutil" governor, with a pending patch the regression is not only addressed but in various workloads we continue seeing better performance than even compared to Linux 5.10. Here is the latest from several more days of extensive performance testing.

Ampere Altra vs. Amazon Graviton2 Linux Performance Benchmarks
Last month we provided benchmarks of Ampere Altra against Intel Xeon and AMD EPYC with the Q80-33 CPUs in a 2P / 160 core configuration. From that article, reader questions were raised about how this high performance ARM server chip compares to Amazon's Graviton2 processors, so in this article today are such benchmarks. The Graviton2 via an AWS m6g.metal instance with 64 cores was compared to the Ampere Altra Q80-33 in its 2P 160 core configuration, 1P 80 core configuration, and then a 64 core configuration to match the Graviton2 by disabling the excess cores.

XanMod's Linux 5.10 Kernel Helping Tap Extra Performance With The AMD Ryzen 9 5900X
For those wondering how the likes of the XanMod and Liquorix kernel spins are competing these days with the mainline Linux kernel, here are some fresh benchmarks looking at these popular derivatives of the Linux kernel. XanMod in particular atop Ubuntu can easily help squeeze extra performance out of the system as shown by these benchmarks on an AMD Ryzen 9 5900X desktop.

AMD Ryzen 9 5950X + GCC 11 Compiler Benchmarks At Varying Optimization Levels
Following last month's initial benchmarks of the AMD "znver3" support that landed in the GCC 11 compiler was a request by a premium supporter to see the AMD Zen 3 benchmarks at more compiler optimizations. Well, here are those numbers for those wanting to pursue aggressive compiler optimizations on a shiny AMD Ryzen 9 5950X.

Mesa 21.0-devel RADV vs. AMDVLK 2021.Q1.1 Vulkan Driver Performance
For those wondering how the open-source Radeon Vulkan drivers of Mesa's RADV and AMD's official AMDVLK are competing as we start the new year, here are some fresh benchmarks looking at the performance for various Linux games (native and via Steam Play with DXVK) as well as Vulkan compute tests.

Benchmarking OpenMandriva Lx 4.2 With Its AMD Zen Optimized Build
While Intel has Clear Linux as an aggressively optimized Linux distribution catering towards their hardware, there isn't a direct equivalent for optimally showcasing the performance potential of current AMD platforms. Clear Linux often offers leading performance on Zen CPUs but that is obviously not by design but just an artifact of a lot in common between the latest Intel and AMD microarchitecture features. One of the few distributions (or only notable one) offering specific AMD Zen optimized builds has been OpenMandriva. With the OpenMandriva Lx 4.2 release candidate shipping this week, I ran some fresh benchmarks looking at how OpenMandriva Lx 4.2 RC1 compares between its generic x86_64 image and that of the Zen optimized build as well as in turn how that performance compares to Clear Linux and Ubuntu 20.10.
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About The Author
Michael Larabel

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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