Released the Linux 5.6 kernel, here’s what’s new

Linux 5.6 is the latest stable version of the Linux kernel. In this post, we’ll look at some of the new features and changes that the update includes.

Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux, announced the latest kernel update in an email to the Linux Kernel Mailing list (LKML) over the weekend.

In short, this is a fairly substantial kernel update (even if you don’t take into account the inclusion of Wireguard) with many improvements to the network, file systems, and hardware drivers included in the package.

For those wondering which kernel will appear in the next release of Ubuntu 20.04 LTS next month, the answer will be the Linux 5.4 kernel, not this release or the January release of Linux 5.5.

All this is related news, let’s go directly to the new product!

Top 6: Features of Linux 5.6

1. WireGuard

Linux 5.6 has built – in support for WireGuard-a big deal for anyone who knows what it is, and probably the main change in this kernel update.

What is WireGuard?

Wikipedia defines WireGuard as a secure VPN (virtual private network) tunneling tool. It “works as a module inside the Linux kernel”, providing better performance (and improved privacy), compared to other tunnel protocols.

Personally, I don’t use VPNs, but I’m happy to know that next – gen support is there, in case – ever-I change my mind.

2. Early USB4 support

The Linux 5.6 kernel series is the first to include support for USB4 (aka USB 4, although for some reason it is styled without spaces).

USB4 is based on Thunderbolt 3 and (among other advantages) provides high bandwidth and backward compatibility with USB 3.2 and USB 2.0.

A whole host of consumer-focused USB4 devices are expected later this year, so while it’s impractical right now, it’s nice to know that the Linux kernel is well prepared.

3. Amazon Echo (pure giggle)

The inclusion of core Linux kernel support for the Amazon Echo, the retail giant’s only voice-activated smart speaker, should amuse hardware hackers.

There’s no practical benefit to booting Linux on Amazon Echo at the moment, but early support for new devices is important. It lays the foundation on which to develop, build, and run other open source software, alternatives to Alexa, and user-space software.

For those who are interested, Amazon Echo runs on the Texas Instruments OMAP3 SoC platform, 256 MB of RAM and has MMC storage – not the top-end components, right?

4. CPU cooling driver

At first glance, the sound of the new “cpuidle_cooling” thermal driver in Linux 5.6 may give you a glimpse of a future without a radiator, but alas, it won’t happen!

This new universal thermal driver is a homegrown competitor to similar Intel drivers, but is not limited to specific processor architectures or vendors and does not require additional effort to get started.

As Phoronix summedup, ” … this driver will introduce run-time idle cycles when needed to cool down the CPU, as well as reduce any static power drain. “

As far as I can tell, while this feature is enabled in Linux 5.6, you need to explicitly activate it to get started – in general, do not rush to take out your expensive water cooling system.

5. Better hardware support

Each core update offers improved hardware support, ranging from ARM-based SoCs, developer boards, and input devices, as well as sound cards, mice, keyboards, and more.

Linux 5.6 adds support for a number of new SoCs and development boards, including Pine HardRock64, SolidRun HoneyComb LX2K workstation, and Qualcomm SC7180.

There are also temperature sensor updates for a number of Rockchip and Allwinner platforms, as well as for the Broadcom BCM2711 used in the Raspberry Pi 4 (among others).

Logitech devices that use the HID ++ protocol can now report battery voltage on Linux, and the Logitech MX Master 3 mouse now works out of the box.

Finally, anyone running Linux 5.6 on an ASUS AMD Ryzen laptop should find that the CPU no longer overheats quickly, which used to reduce performance-wow!

6. Sharing VirtualBox folders

You may remember the plan to add support for the Virtualbox shared folder driver (allowing users to instantly share folders between guests and hosts without using the guest add-on package) in the Linux kernel.

The debut of the implementation seems to have happened in Linux 5.4, but the function did not work as planned, and was postponed.

Well, this time the feature is back, working, and more importantly, staying in place to allow seamless file access.

Install Linux 5.6

This is an overview of the biggest changes in Linux 5.6, but chances are you’re wondering when you can try them out yourself, and it’s hard to answer.

Although it is possible to install Linux 5.6 on Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and other Ubuntu-based distributions using the main builds, this solution is not recommended.

And why is this not recommended? Because, class, repeat after me: the core kernels are not as extensively tested, validated, or honed as regular Ubuntu kernel updates!

Moreover, new releases of the Ubuntu Linux kernel do not occur frequently and are usually associated with new releases of Ubuntu.

If you really can’t wait for Ubuntu to support this port (or a later update) in the future, at least wait for the first release of Linux 5.6, which should be out in a week or two. At the very least, there will be bugfixes, bugs found after the release.

However, if you want to ignore all the recommendations of Ubuntu, then the main kernel builds are performed on the Ubuntu kernel server.


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