Currently, at release candidate 3, the Linux 5.2 kernel is coming soon and promises to offer quite a host of impressive new features and improvements. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.
One of the new features that should excite anyone who deals with automated industrial systems is the introduction of the new Fieldbus Subsystem. Fieldbus is crucial in connecting different systems in industrial environments, and with this addition, the Linux kernel can now natively communicate with field instruments (such as those used in manufacturing plants) as a part of a control system.
U2F Zero Driver
Two-Factor authentication will be getting a bump in the 5.2 kernel, thanks to the new U2F Zero driver. This new drive will add support for USB-based U2F tokens, which can work with online 2-Factor Authentication. The U2F driver will also provide hardware-based Random Number Generator (RNG) capability.
A new open-source NVIDIA driver is coming that handles VirtualLink devices that make use of the USB-C connector-based RTX Turing graphics cards. As for the VirtualLink devices, there is no certainty as to which device might first be supported, but (according to Phoronix) Valve might possibly be among the first VR Head Mounted Display to be supported.
Generic Counter Interface
Although not as sexy as some of the other new features coming to the kernel, there’s a new Generic Counter Interface that will allow counter devices and drivers to reuse common code (rather than having to use redundant code for each driver). What is a Counter Device? According to the diff for generic-counter.rst:
Counter devices are prevalent within a diverse spectrum of industries. The ubiquitous presence of these devices necessitates a common interface and standard of interaction and exposure. This driver API attempts to resolve the issue of duplicate code found among existing counter device drivers by introducing a generic counter interface for consumption. The Generic Counter interface enables drivers to support and expose a common set of components and functionality present in counter devices.
Null TTY Driver
The NULL TTY driver is necessary when a console driver is needed, but not available. When this occurs, the NULL TTY driver will provide a dummy console so that all writes are simply discarded. One practical application for such a driver would be embedded controllers.
Daktronics is a global manufacturer of massive displays (such as those used for scoreboards). These particular drivers have been out of the Linux tree since the 2.x days, but are finally making their way back. Once these drivers return, they will be cleaned up for production usage. Anyone who works with Daktronics displays should be quite excited about this niche-y news.
Intel Comet Lake
Intel Comet Lake is the successor to Coffee Lake and is rumored to top out at 10 physical cores. These new processors should see a mid-year launch and (according to rumors, might require a new motherboard/socket). Comet Lake should be well supported in kernel 5.2.
There are a number of improvements coming to 5.2. Let’s take a look at some of these highlights.
Logitech Wireless Devices
If you own any sort of Logitech wireless device (such as a keyboard or mouse), you will see significant improvement, such as better battery monitoring and per-device key-mapping. Previous iterations of the kernel supported Logitech wireless devices via generic HID emulation, but with 5.2 the per-device keymapping will make it possible to better support individual wireless devices.
EXT4 Case-Insensitive Filenames/Folders
Linux has, since inception, been case sensitive. However, with 5.2, the EXT4 filesystem will allow, on a per-directory basis, the support of case-insensitive files and folders. These patches have been in development and it seems they are finally ready for mainline support.
AMD Ryzen Laptop Improvement
For those with laptops that use AMD Ryzen chips, you should see significant improvement with touchscreens and touchpads.
Alex Deucher (of AMD) has been working on replacement code to clean up/improve:
- Power profiles for PowerPlay
- Dx display bandwidth
- RAS support with Vega 20
- Plane handling with the DC code
X86 Memory Management
Thanks to VMware’s Nadav Amit, the 5.2 kernel should see a 3% performance increase, by reworking a portion of the kernel’s x86 Translation Lookaside Buffer (TLB)/memory management code.
Kernel 5.2 should see a number of other improvements for the likes of:
- Intel Icelake
- ARM Mali graphics hardware
- Fixes for the Nouveau open source graphics driver
- Improved Thunderbolt support (for older Apple hardware)
- Intel i40e Dynamic Device personalization
- ASpeed AST2500 SoC driver
- Zap shader support for Qualcomm Adreno 600
- GCC 9 live-patching
Be on the Lookout
When the 5.2 kernel releases, there should be serious improvements for nearly any type of user. The release date has not been set, but kernel 5.2 should find its way into the wild sometime in late 2019 or early 2020. Be on the lookout for this to hit your systems in the coming months.
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