The Linux Kernel In 2018 Summed Up: Spectre/Meltdown, CoC, Speck Fears, New Features
Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Kernel on 31 December 2018 at 06:56 AM EST. Add A Comment
LINUX KERNEL --
It was a very busy year in kernel space from mitigating security vulnerabilities to preparing new features. Here is a look back at the most popular kernel topics of this year.

The year started off on a difficult foot due to all the Spectre/Meltdown mitigation work and following that work on recovering lost performance. The year improved with many new kernel features and new hardware support being introduced, cleaning up of old CPU architectures and other deprecated code, and continuing on plenty of exciting work. But there was also more controversy mixed in from the short-lived Speck encryption code in the kernel that was developed by the NSA to the recent introduction of a "Code of Conduct".

Of our 400+ original kernel news articles on Phoronix this year, below is a look at the most popular Linux kernel news stories of 2018. But before getting to that, a final reminder that today is our last day for participating in the Phoronix Premium holiday deal.

The Linux Kernel Is Now VLA-Free: A Win For Security, Less Overhead & Better For Clang
With the in-development Linux 4.20 kernel, it is now effectively VLA-free... The variable-length arrays (VLAs) that can be convenient and part of the C99 standard but can have unintended consequences.

Linux Gaming Performance Doesn't Appear Affected By The x86 PTI Work
With the recently published Initial Benchmarks Of The Performance Impact Resulting From Linux's x86 Security Changes, one of the common questions that came up is whether gaming performance is adversely affected by the x86 Page Table Isolation changes recently merged to the Linux kernel.

Linus Torvalds Shows His New Polite Side While Pointing Out Bad Kernel Code
When Linus Torvalds announced last month that he would be taking a temporary leave of absence to work on his empathy and interpersonal skills as well as the adoption of a Linux kernel Code of Conduct, some Internet commenters thought this would lead Linus to being less strict about code quality and his standards for accepting new code to the mainline tree. Fortunately, he's shown already for the new Linux 4.20~5.0 cycle he isn't relaxing his standards but is communicating better when it comes to bringing up coding issues.

Linux Will End Up Disabling x86 PTI For AMD Processors - Update: Now Disabled
While at the moment with the mainline Linux kernel Git tree AMD CPUs enable x86 PTI and are treated as "insecure" CPUs, the AMD patch for not setting X86_BUG_CPU_INSECURE will end up being honored.

The Controversial Speck Encryption Code Will Indeed Be Dropped From The Linux Kernel
While Google got the NSA-developed Speck into the Linux kernel on the basis of wanting to use Speck for file-system encryption on very low-end Android (Go) devices, last month they decided to abandon those plans and instead work out a new "HPolyC" algorithm for use on these bottom-tier devices due to all the concerns over Speck potentially being back-doored by the US National Security Agency.

Linux Kernel Developers Discuss Dropping x32 Support
It was just several years ago that the open-source ecosystem began supporting the x32 ABI, but already kernel developers are talking of potentially deprecating the support and for it to be ultimately removed.

Patches Revived For A Zstd-Compressed Linux Kernel While Dropping LZMA & BZIP2
For more than a year it's been talked about adding an option to support Zstd-compressed Linux kernel images while it looks like that Facebook-backed high performance compression algorithm for kernel images could soon finally be mainlined.

Apple Is Looking For Linux Kernel Developers
For reasons unknown, Apple is looking to hire Linux kernel developers in both Texas and California.

Linus Torvalds Comments On STIBP & He's Not Happy - STIBP Default Will End Up Changing
It turns out that Linus Torvalds himself was even taken by surprise with the performance hit we've outlined on Linux 4.20 as a result of STIBP "Single Thread Indirect Branch Predictors" introduction as well as back-porting already to stable series for cross-hyperthread Spectre V2 protection. He doesn't want this enabled in full by default.

Torvalds Expresses Concerns Over Current "Kernel Lockdown" Approach
The kernel lockdown feature further restricts access to the kernel by user-space with what can be accessed or modified, including different /dev points, ACPI restrictions, not allowing unsigned modules, and various other restrictions in the name of greater security. Pairing that with UEFI SecureBoot unconditionally is meeting some resistance by Linus Torvalds.

Some Of The Features Coming To The Linux 4.16 Kernel
Linux 4.15 will hopefully be released later today and that will kick off the start of the Linux 4.16 kernel merge window. Here's some of what is coming to this next kernel cycle.

Dropping Profanity In Kernel Code Comments: Linux Gets "Hugs"
In seeking to comply with the Linux kernel's new Code of Conduct enacted by the recent 4.19 release, a patch series has been sent out today replacing profane kernel code comments with "hugs".

Linux Set To Shed Nearly 500k Lines Of Code By Dropping Old CPUs
As expected, the Linux 4.17 kernel will move ahead with dropping support for older/unmaintained CPU architectures.

The Linux Kernel Adopts A Code of Conduct
Prior to releasing Linux 4.19-rc4 and Linus Torvalds taking a temporary leave of absence to reflect on his behavior / colorful language, he did apply a Code of Conduct to the Linux kernel.

Linux 4.19-rc4 Released As Linus Temporarily Steps Away From Kernel Maintainership
Linux 4.19-rc4 is out today as the very latest weekly development test kernel for Linux 4.19. It's another fairly routine kernel update at this stage, but more shocking is that Linus Torvalds will be taking a temporary leave from kernel maintainership and Greg Kroah-Hartman will take over the rest of the Linux 4.19 cycle.

Seven Reasons To Already Get Excited For Linux 4.17, Especially For AMD/Radeon Users
While Linux 4.16 is coming in the next few days, I am already quite excited about the upcoming Linux 4.17 kernel cycle and the changes it will bring.

The Linux 4.20/5.0 Kernel Is The Biggest All Year With 354+ Thousand Lines Of New Code
The Linux kernel will be ending 2018 on a high note with the current merge window for what will be called either Linux 4.20 or Linux 5.0 is the biggest kernel update by lines of code in more than one year.

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.

Linux 4.17 Will Be Another Exciting Kernel Cycle
While the Linux 4.16 kernel release is still three weeks or so away, the Linux 4.17 kernel is already shaping up to be another exciting cycle.

Features That Didn't Make It For The Mainline Linux 4.18 Kernel
There are many changes and new features for Linux 4.18 with the merge window having just closed on this next kernel version, but still there are some prominent features that have yet to work their way to the mainline tree.

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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