Threadripper 2, Spectre, Steam Play / Proton & Linux 4.19 Made August Super Exciting
Written by Michael Larabel in Phoronix on 31 August 2018 at 08:10 PM EDT. 1 Comment
PHORONIX --
August 2018 was the busiest month in the open-source/Linux space and hardware in many months... So busy in fact your's truly wrote a combined total of 352 original articles over the course of August. Here's a look back at what made this month so exciting.

In August there were 31 featured hardware reviews/articles and 321 original news articles posted on Phoronix, all of which were written by myself... This month due to the AMD Threadripper 2 launch, continued Spectre mitigations needing to be benchmarked, the Linux 4.19 merge cycle getting underway, and Linux graphics drivers continued evolving, the entire month was back above the 120 hour work week average (rather than the usual 100 hour work weeks) in order to carry out all of the articles, benchmarks, test suite development, etc, single handedly. If you appreciate all of the time invested each and every day into Phoronix.com as well as the associated Phoronix Test Suite, OpenBenchmarking.org, LinuxBenchmarking.com, etc, please consider showing your support by joining Phoronix Premium or making a PayPal tip. Pay-per-impression advertisements remain the main source of revenue to allow for all of the Phoronix activities to continue after 14 years so at the very least please do not view this web-site with any ad-blocker.

With that out of the way... The most popular featured articles this month were:

AMD Threadripper 2990WX Linux Benchmarks: The 32-Core / 64-Thread Beast
Whether you are compiling a lot of code, rendering models with Blender, or running various scientific workloads with OpenMP or MPI, the AMD Threadripper 2990WX is capable of delivering immersive Linux performance with its 32-cores and 64 total threads. While coming in at $1800 USD, the AMD Threadripper 2990WX can deliver better performance than the more expensive Intel Core i9 7980XE. Beyond being mesmerized about the performance today with this high-end desktop/workstation processor with the many thread-happy Linux workloads we encounter daily, this 32-core Zen+ processor has us even more eager to see AMD's next-generation Zen2-based EPYC CPUs next year.

A Look At The Windows 10 vs. Linux Performance On AMD Threadripper 2990WX
Complementing the extensive Linux benchmarks done earlier today of the AMD Threadripper 2990WX in our review (as well as on the Threadripper 2950X), in this article are our first Windows 10 vs. Linux benchmarks of this 32-core / 64-thread $1799 USD processor. Tests were done from Microsoft Windows 10 against Clear Linux, Ubuntu 18.04, the Arch-based Antergos 18.7-Rolling, and openSUSE Tumbleweed.

The Performance Cost Of Spectre / Meltdown / Foreshadow Mitigations On Linux 4.19
One of the most frequent test requests recently has been to look at the overall performance cost of Meltdown/Spectre mitigations on the latest Linux kernel and now with L1TF/Foreshadow work tossed into the mix. With the Linux 4.19 kernel that just kicked off development this month has been continued churn in the Spectre/Meltdown space, just not for x86_64 but also for POWER/s390/ARM where applicable. For getting an overall look at the performance impact of these mitigation techniques I tested three Intel Xeon systems and two AMD EPYC systems as well as a virtual machine on each side for seeing how the default Linux 4.19 kernel performance -- with relevant mitigations applied -- to that of an unmitigated kernel.

A Look At The Windows vs. Linux Scaling Performance Up To 64 Threads With The AMD 2990WX
This past week we looked at the Windows 10 vs. Linux performance for AMD's just-launched Ryzen Threadripper 2990WX and given the interest from that then ran some Windows Server benchmarks to see if the performance of this 64-thread CPU would be more competitive to Linux. From those Windows vs. Linux tests there has been much speculation that the performance disparity is due to Windows scheduler being less optimized for high core/thread count processors and its NUMA awareness being less vetted than the Linux kernel. For getting a better idea, here are benchmarks of Windows Server 2019 preview versus Ubuntu Linux when testing varying thread/core counts for the AMD Threadripper 2990WX.

The Performance Hit For A Xeon-Backed Ubuntu Linux VM With L1TF / Foreshadow Patches
Last week L1 Terminal Fault (a.k.a. L1TF and Foreshadow) was made public as the latest set of speculative execution vulnerabilities affecting Intel processors. This Meltdown-like issue was met by same-day Linux kernel patches for mitigating the problem and does introduce another performance penalty but in this case is at least only limited to virtual machines. Last week I posted some initial L1TF-mitigated KVM-based VM benchmark results using a Core i7 CPU but the results for sharing today are using a much more powerful dual Xeon server.

A Quick Look At The Windows Server vs. Linux Performance On The Threadripper 2990WX
One of the frequent requests/comments stemming from the launch-day Windows 10 vs. Linux benchmarks on the new AMD Threadripper 2990WX were questions about whether this 32-core / 64-thread processor would do better with Windows Server given Microsoft's obvious tuning of that Windows flavor to high core/thread counts... Well, here are some initial figures with Windows Server 2016 and a Windows Server 2019 preview.

NVIDIA 396.54 Linux Driver Offers Big Performance Boost For Frequent Gamers
Yesterday NVIDIA released the 396.54 Linux driver update and while from being another point release might feel like a mundane update hot on the heels of the GeForce RTX 2070/2080 series debut, it's actually a significant driver update for Linux gamers. Here are some benchmarks showcasing the performance fix that warranted this new driver release.

An Early Look At The L1 Terminal Fault "L1TF" Performance Impact On Virtual Machines
Yesterday the latest speculative execution vulnerability was disclosed that was akin to Meltdown and is dubbed the L1 Terminal Fault, or "L1TF" for short. Here are some very early benchmarks of the performance impact of the L1TF mitigation on the Linux virtual machine performance when testing the various levels of mitigation as well as the unpatched system performance prior to this vulnerability coming to light.

The Tighter NVIDIA GeForce vs. AMD Radeon Linux Gaming Battle With 396.54 + Mesa 18.3-dev Drivers
Last week NVIDIA released the 396.54 driver that has a significant performance fix for OpenGL/Vulkan Linux performance due to a resource leak regression introduced at the start of the 390 driver series. With that updated driver (also as of yesterday back-ported to 390.87 too), there is a measurable boost in performance after running a few games on NVIDIA Linux systems. But at the same time, the Mesa 18.3-dev open-source graphics driver stack with RadeonSI/RADV continues improving on the open-source AMD front. Here is a fresh look at how the latest AMD Radeon and NVIDIA GeForce graphics cards compare using these latest drivers.

Benchmarks Of Intel's Latest Linux Microcode Update
With all of the confusion last week over Intel's short-lived CPU microcode license change that forbid benchmarking only for them to change it a short time later -- to a much nicer license in that the microcode files can be easily redistributed and don't curtail it in other manners (and also re-licensing their FSP too), here are some performance benchmarks when trying out this latest Intel microcode on Linux.

And the most popular news:

Valve Rolls Out Wine-based "Proton" For Running Windows Games On Linux
Valve has today announced a new version of Steam Play that allows Linux gamers to enjoy Windows games on Linux via their new Wine-based Proton project.

Linus Torvalds On Linux 4.19: "This Merge Window Has Been Horrible"
While Linux 4.19 is slated to have a lot of new features as we have been covering now the past week and a half, Linus Torvalds is upset with these big pull requests and some of them being far from perfect -- to the extent of being rejected.

The Best Features Of The Linux 4.18 Kernel
Following a one week delay, the Linux 4.18 kernel is set to be released this coming weekend. In case you forgot about the new features and improvements since the Linux 4.18 cycle kicked off back in June, here's a look back at some of the most prominent additions for this latest kernel version.

Linux 4.19 Certainly Is Going To Be A Big Kernel
At the end of July I outlined some of the changes queued for Linux 4.19 while since then several more notable additions have become aligned for this next kernel cycle following the one week delay of Linux 4.18.

Linus Torvalds Is Hoping WireGuard Will Be Merged Sooner Rather Than Later
While the WireGuard secure VPN tunnel was just sent out this week for review as the first formal step towards getting it mainlined in the Linux kernel, Linus Torvalds is already looking forward to it.

A Global Switch To Kill Linux's CPU Spectre/Meltdown Workarounds?
Something I have seen asked in our forums and elsewhere -- most recently on the kernel mailing list -- is whether there is a single kernel option that can be used for disabling all of the Spectre/Meltdown workarounds and any other performance-hurting CPU vulnerability workarounds.

L1 Terminal Fault - The Latest Speculative Execution Side Channel Attack
Details are still light but a new vulnerability is coming out called the L1 Terminal Fault. It's been described as a "train-wreck" and is another big deal in the security space as the latest speculative side-channel attack vector.

It Looks Like A Steam 64-Bit Client Could Finally Be Near
It looks like Valve could be prepping to finally ship a 64-bit Steam client, possibly coinciding with their long talked about Steam UI/UX overhaul.

There Are 600+ Games In The Main Debian Repository
In addition to Keith Packard talking about the state of the Debian GNU/Linux stack for gaming in 2018, during this week's DebConf 18 was a talk by Debian developer Markus Koschany on the state of games for the Linux distribution.

ASUS Begins Offering Linux-Based Endless OS On Select Laptops
It has been a while since ASUS last offered any Linux options for laptops, but they appear to have a new effort underway with Endless OS.

About The Author
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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 10,000 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 or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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