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Oh, Yeah! Linux Kernel 5.10 LTS is Finally Here Before the End of 2020 With Interesting Performance Improvements

A few months back, Greg Kroah-Hartman already mentioned that Linux Kernel 5.10 will be an LTS release.

Linus Torvalds also confirmed that Linux Kernel 5.10 is on its way while committing the 7th release candidate of the Kernel 5.10 a few days back.

Now, we finally have the stable release of Kernel 5.10 LTS.

Kernel 5.10 is LTS

As you might know, there are different Linux Kernel release models. They are RC (Release Candidate), Mainline, Stable, and LTS (Long-Term Support).

From those, LTS Kernel releases are the least frequent. They are generally supported for at least 2 years (often for 6 years, which is great!). They come with important new features, optimizations, and bug fixes. This is also the same for the Linux 5.10 LTS. But, this time, there are many changes and looks like a huge release to me.

This release gets even more interesting for the Android Open Source Project(AOSP) as it’s getting closer to the Mainline Linux Kernel. So, there’s a great chance with Linux 5.10 LTS, Android may finally become a pure Linux distribution. Which will be precious for Android vendors to maintain their devices’ security updates.

Key Changes in Linux Kernel 5.10 LTS

For technical details, you might want to refer the official changelog. Here, I shall mention some key changes compiled from Phoronix and the official log.

Improvements for Processors

  • Support added for Intel Rocket Lake CPUs, which is Intel’s next-generation CPU arriving in Q1, 2021.
  • Early support was added for Alder Lake and Meteor Lake.
  • Some performance improvements and fixes were added for AMD Zen 3 CPU architecture.
  • Added EFI boot support for RISC-V CPUs.
  • Rewrote ARM’s Spectre Mitigations as Ghostbusters. Previously that code was hard to maintain and now it clearly separates the state from policy and follows a more structured approach for mitigation.
  • Added SLDT/STR emulation for a better Wine experience. This will allow the Store Local Descriptor Table Register and Store Task Register to be spoofed by the kernel on User-Mode Instruction Prevention or UMIP enabled CPUs.
  • Added Meltdown Mitigation by KPTI on ARM guest session by Xen. KPTI or Kernel Page Table Isolation is a Linux Kernel feature that mitigates the Meltdown security vulnerability and hardens kernel against an attempt to bypass KASLR or Kernel Address Space Layout Randomization.
  • AMD SEV-ES support added for further securing guest VMs on KVM. Secure Encrypted Virtualization will now help AMD EPYC processors for better-securing guest virtual machines and public clouds. This feature will enable hardware memory encryption using one key per VM, the protection will enforce not only between guests but also the hypervisor.
  • Lots of AMD and Intel processor fixes and improvements covering cache, paging, and new instruction support.


Storage and File System

  • Fixed XFS the year 2038 problem(where Unix epoch time no longer fits into a 32-bit integer) and now it’ll support until July 2486 and XFS will deprecate the V4 file system format in 2030.
  • Improved F2FS across ATGC(Age Threshold Garbage Collector), faster file decompression, NVMe, generic casefolding, ZNS(Zoned NameSpace) support, and a lot more.
  • Improved inode in the allocation group will cause less time needed for mount.
  • Improved FSync performance with Btrfs.
  • Added a Volatile option for OverlayFS will give a faster performance but omitting sync.
  • Added the nosymfollow mount option like other BSDs for improving system security.
  • Supported fast commits and faster file overwrite performance for Ext4 in DAX/DIO modes.
  • Improved RAID10 DISCARD from 259 seconds to less than 1 second.
  • Added faster hibernation and resume.

Other Improvements

  • Included more support for Synaptics touchpads for laptops including ThinkPad X1, X1E, P1 devices.
  • Matured and improved performance for USB4.
  • Hardened against possible DMA attack by external PCIe devices.
  • Added several new ARM boards including Librem 5 to the Device Tree.
  • Rewrote Intel Haswell audio driver due to bugs.
  • Upstreamed Nintendo Switch controller support.
  • Added Nitro Enclaves for protecting highly sensitive AWS EC2 cloud.
  • Improved Networking Subsystem.

Getting Kernel 5.10

There seems to be so many performance improvements. And you probably want to try it.

As always, we suggest sticking with the kernel provided by your distributions. You can manually install the latest kernel in Ubuntu or whichever distribution you use but that’s totally your call. You should have some experience with these kinds of things.

What do you think about the latest LTS kernel release? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Thanks to Phoronix for regular in-depth coverage of Linux kernel development.

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