Linux 5.18 arrives with important improvements for Intel Alder Lake

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Linus Torvalds has announced the stable release of Linux 5.18, the latest version of the kernel that has managed to dominate all areas of computing except personal computers (as much as it weighs us down). On this occasion we find an outstanding amount of news for Intel and AMD processors, and it is that the renewed “equality” that exists between the two companies and the greater interest in Linux of the second have greatly changed the panorama in these parts. .

We start with what is often thought of as the most basic component of a computer (with permission from the motherboard): the processor. For Intel we find the incorporation of Enhanced Hardware Feedback Interface (EHFI)a component that should improve the performance and efficiency of Intel hybrid architecture processors (Alder Lake in the consumer market).

We remember that Linux did not start its journey on the twelfth generation Intel Core processors very well, but with version 5.16 of the kernel the situation began to straighten out and the launch that concerns us should mean the consolidation of the comeback.

Another important novelty, although also controversial, is the incorporation in Intel processors of Software Defined Silicon (SDSi), a feature that allows additional features to be activated at the silicon level using signed cryptographic keys. We will see what model Intel adopts around this, but seeing that AMD is back in shape with Ryzen and EPYC, putting doors on can end up being a shot in the foot for the second blue giant (the first is IBM).

For Sapphire Rapids we have an idle driver and ENQCMD rehab, which had to be disabled as it was not in good shape. The second feature is part of the operation of the Data Transmission Accelerator of the Sapphire Rapids processors, belonging to the Intel Xeon line.

To finish off the Intel specifics, audio support for Raptor Lake has been merged and the P-State driver now uses a firmware-exposed EPP value in Alder Lake instead of using the default encrypted EPP value, which which should improve efficiency.

And after covering the large number of interesting developments for Intel, now it’s up to its great rival in the processor segment: AMD. Here we find ourselves, at general levels, with news with less punch, but that does not mean that they are not important.

We start with the merger of Host System Management Port (HSMP) for access to additional information on AMD server platforms. Continuing with the same segment, support for nested virtualization has also been incorporated, KVM virtual machines are capable of supporting up to 511 virtual processors and the scheduler has been improved in order to improve performance on the EPYC platform.

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Continuing with more things from AMD, the company is now working on a new sound driver for its future platforms, it has delved into the P-State support introduced in Linux 5.17 and the development of Zen 4’s Error Detection and Correction (EDAC)as well as including ACPI Platform Profile support for ThinkPad notebooks that carry its processors.

Intel and AMD

And since in the end Intel and AMD share a lot of things at the processor level, Linux 5.18 has deepened the unification of the code for the two platforms. Why duplicate code when the two brands tend to share features?

At the graphics level, Linux 5.18 has brought the enabling FreeSync by default in the AMDGPU driver. Of course, as we have said on previous occasions, this support must also be implemented in the composer in charge of displaying the graphics (Mutter, Kwin, Sway…) to work. For the same driver, the foundations are being laid to incorporate more and new features that are not yet present. For its part, Intel has Delved into Intel Arc Alchemist support and has introduced that of the DG2-G12 sub-platform and that of Alder Lake N.

Regarding file systems, the highlight is the deprecation of ReiserFS as deprecated. We will address this issue at the time. Despite the last minute efforts to keep it alive, those responsible for the kernel have been blunt, and it is that a support that has been resurrected more by an attack of nostalgia than by its real utility cannot be maintained.

Improvements have been made to EXT4 that should make it faster and more scalable, XFS has received a number of minor fixes and improvements, Btrfs has added encrypted input-output support and faster fsync support, and improved fsync support. NVMe.

But Linux is not only x86, dedicated graphics, file systems and storage units. In Linux 5.18 we have, in addition to everything mentioned, the inclusion of Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W support to the main Linux branchimprovements for x86 tablet support on Android, a Improved sensor support for various ASUS motherboardsan HID driver for Razer keyboards and devices that do not fully comply with the HID specification (which is normal for manufacturers of gaming-oriented products) and improvements in the support of Apple keyboards.

Changing the kernel version is usually not a critical thing for most users, especially if the hardware is a few years old. Aside from the tortuous build process, users can either turn to a rolling release and bleeding edge distribution like Arch Linux, have a little more patience and wait for it to hit Fedora 35 and 36, or turn to third-party repositories out there for Ubuntu.

All the details of this release are available on the corresponding Kernel Newbies page, where they are presented in a more chewy and friendly way for those who do not have deep knowledge.

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