Linux 5.6 Is The Most Exciting Kernel In Years With So Many New Features

Written by Michael Larabel in Operating Systems on 9 February 2020 at 02:06 PM EST.

The Linux 5.6 merge window is anticipated to be ending today followed by the Linux 5.6-rc1 test release. This kernel is simply huge: there is so many new and improved features with this particular release that it's mind-boggling. I'm having difficulty remembering such a time a kernel release was so large.

The quick summary of Linux 5.6 changes include: WireGuard, USB4, open-source NVIDIA RTX 2000 series support, AMD Pollock enablement, lots of new hardware support, a lot of file-system / storage work, multi-path TCP bits are finally going mainline, Year 2038 work beginning to wrap-up for 32-bit systems, the new AMD TEE driver for tapping the Secure Processor, the first signs of AMD Zen 3, better AMD Zen/Zen2 thermal and power reporting under Linux, at long last having an in-kernel SATA drive temperature for HWMON, and a lot of other kernel infrastructure improvements. In our original monitoring of the kernel mailing list and Git activity, the big highlights for Linux 5.6 that have us excited include:

Processors / Platforms:

- Continued bring-up of Intel Jasper Lake, Tiger Lake, and Elkhart Lake platforms along with some missing Comet Lake PCI IDs in different drivers.

- A new, generic CPU idle cooling thermal driver.

- Linux 5.6 has mainline support for the Amazon Echo.

- Many other new ARM SoCs and boards supported.

- Continued Intel Gateway SoC enablement.

- Ingenic X1000 SoC support.

- Intel MPX support is completely removed.

- ASUS laptops with AMD Ryzen CPUs will stop overheating / severely down-clocking.

- Faster memmove() for Intel Ice Lake.

- Various x86 code improvements.

- The first tiny bits of AMD Family 19h support (Zen 3).

- The AMD k10temp driver finally starts reporting voltage/current for Zen CPUs and numerous thermal reporting improvements. This is a big step forward thanks to the community but unfortunate these Zen/Zen2 thermal/power reporting bits have taken so long and there are still some mysteries that remain.


- NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2000 Turing support with the open-source Nouveau driver that can offer hardware acceleration but still relies upon the binary firmware (to be released) and yet to be made NVC0 Gallium3D changes for OpenGL support.

- AMD Pollock support.

- AMDGPU reset support for Renoir and Navi.

- Continued Intel Gen11 and Gen12 graphics improvements.

- Many other DRM driver changes.

- Media driver improvements for Rockchip SoCs.

File-Systems / Storage:

- Async DISCARD support for Btrfs for better efficiency/performance.

- Experimental compression support for F2FS.

- EXT4 performance fixes.

- The Zonefs file-system for zoned block devices is a new file-system with Linux 5.6.

- NFSD now supports server-to-server copies building upon the previously-merged NFS client support for SSC.

- The NFS client meanwhile can now use a cache if the NFS server connection is lost.

- Fixes for NVMe and BFQ.

- Performance enhancements for FS-VERITY.

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