Update of Linux Kernel 5.9 with support for defunct Intel and AMD processors

Thursday, October 1, 2020, 14:40 GMT

A stable version of the Linux kernel 5.9 was released after two months of development. Slightly less than half of all differences in it involve computer drivers in one direction or another. For example, a list of compatible Linux devices has been added to the AMD Navi 21 and Navi 22 GPUs, as well as Intel GPUs based on the Rocket Lake architecture that have yet to be released.

Linux kernel 5.9 released

Start of Linux kernel 5.9

Linus Torvalds (Linus Torvalds) has announced the availability of a stable version of the Linux 5.9 kernel.

A lot of improvements are included in the patch, including initial support for upcoming Intel and AMD GPUs, FSGBASE instructions for quicker context switching on x86-compatible platforms, NVMe SSD zoning orders, and the zstd kernel image compression algorithm for faster loading.

In the latest Linux version, 16074 patches from 2011 developers were approved. In comparison, 45% of all modifications are linked to application drivers, 15% to hardware architecture-specific code revisions, 13% to the network stack, 3% each to file systems and internal kernel subsystems. Eight Release Candidates (RC) were released during the Linux 5.9 kernel development period, which took two months.

Linux 5.9 source code as of October 11, 2020 is available for download from kernel.org.

In early August 2020, the previous version of Linux, we remember, was released. Work on it has lasted two months, and over 17.6 thousand kernel improvements, including 1.04 million additional lines of code, were made by the developers during this period. This was the greatest upgrade of all the 29 years of Linux life, adding support for the Russian processor-Baikal T1-for the first time in history.

Help for new hardware

Help for graphics chips (GPUs) based on the Rocket Lake microarchitecture is included in the i915 DRM driver for Intel graphics. It is estimated that this processor family will join the industry in Q1 2021. Initial support for Intel Xe DG1 discrete graphics cards is also added by the driver. For the first time, in April 2019, Intel demonstrated discrete graphics cards based on the Xe architecture.

Initial support for the AMD Navi 21 (Navy Flounder) and Navi 22 (Sienna Cichlid) GPUs due October 28, 2020 has been received by the AMD graphics driver (amdgpu) on Linux.

Help for frame-by – frame CRC (Cyclic Redundancy Checks) is added by the free Nouveau driver for Nvidia GPUs.

It is noteworthy that the code base of the aforementioned amdgpu driver is approximately 10.5 percent (2.71 million lines) of the source code of the entire kernel (27.81 million lines), according to the calculations of the Phoronix edition. For comparison, i915 developers are limited to 209 K lines, while Nouveau-149 K lines are limited. It is worth noting that dynamically created C header files account for the lion’s share (1.79 million lines) of amdgpu code.

Finally, support for a number of smartphones, laptops and other platforms is introduced by the current kernel. Thus, Linux 5.9 announced work on Pinephone smartphone revision 1.2 (released by Pine Microsystems on SoC Allwinner sunxi) in the list of changes; Lenovo Ideapad Duet 10.1 Chromebook based on Mediatek Helio P60 t; Asus Google Nexus 7 and Acer Iconia Tab A500 tablets based on Nvidia Tegra 3 and 2 chips respectively; Xiaomi Libra (Mi 4C) and Microsoft Lumia 950 smartphones running Snapdragon 8 8 and Acer Iconia Tab A500 tablets based on Nvidia Tegra 3 and 2 chips respectively;

In addition, Microtik Routerboard 3011, based on a 32-bit Qualcomm IPQ8064 chip and a Wetek Core2 TV box (Amlogic S912 chip), is supported by Linux 5.9.

Processes for memory and applications

Linux has support for the FSGSBASE instruction for x86-compatible processors with the introduction of version 5.9. It enables FS / GS processor registers to be accessed directly from user space by running applications, bypassing kernel mediation. FSGSBASE support can improve the performance of Intel and AMD processors, especially in areas such as context switching.

Also added developers kernel image compression support using Zstandard algorithm (zstd) Jan Colle (Yann Collet). Compared to the default lzma2 for this purpose, zstd provides faster kernel image decompression, thereby reducing overall boot time.

Processes for memory and applications 

Linux has support for the FSGSBASE instruction for x86-compatible processors with the introduction of version 5.9. It enables FS / GS processor registers to be accessed directly from user space by running applications, bypassing kernel mediation. Support for FSGSBASE can enhance Intel and AMD processor performance, particularly in areas such as context switching. 

Developers have also added support for kernel image compression using the Jan Colle (Yann Collet) Zstandard algorithm (zstd). Zstd offers quicker kernel image decompression compared to the default lzma2 for this reason, thus reducing total boot time.