New Linux kernel debuts, adds more suspect NSA-sourced crypto

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New Linux kernel debuts, adds more suspect NSA-sourced crypto

Adds more Spectre fixes, better power management and a hint of all-day-battery PCs.

Linux creator and lead developer Linus Torvalds has released a new version of the Linux kernel.

Version 4.18 went through eight release candidates – one more than usual – on its way to release.

The biggest change this time around is the omission of the Lustre filesystem, software popular in the high-performance computing community because it helps storage to scale.

Lustre’s developers emphasized work on the standalone version of the software and it was never fully-integrated with Linux, so this release dumped it.

An interesting inclusion is improved support for the Speck128 and Speck256 encryption algorithms in some other filesystems.

Speck was developed by the United States’ National Security Agency (NSA) and security experts aren’t entirely certain the NSA has told the world all it needs to know about the algorithms. Some suspect the agency may be able to circumvent its use.

Another notable addition is support for the Qualcomm 845 system-on-chip. That silicon already powers plenty of phones, but the chip will also be adapted into the model 850 to power Microsoft’s forthcoming PCs powered by ARM chips.

Those PCs are promised to have 24-hour-plus battery life, making Linux support for the 845 an important step on the route towards Qualcomm getting into the PC business and the Wintel duopoly shaking just a little.

Also new this time around are:

  • Better support for USB 3.2 and USB-C ;
  • Power management updates, which will help performance for both servers and PCs;
  • Native Thunderbolt support on Dell hardware, which is notable as Dell is one of the OEMs most-friendly to Linux-powered PCs;
  • More Spectre mitigations for ARM CPUs;
  • Improved support for x86 CPUs from Chinese companies Zhaoxin and Centaur x86, important as China has articulated ambitions to create a home-grown computer supply chain.

This new release will, as ever, be appreciated by Linux aficionados. But the release that matters most at present is 4.14, the most recent designated Long Term Support (LTS) release that will receive six years of support. Many Linux users and distributions are yet to adopt 4.14, so 4.18 is worthwhile evolution but somewhat academic for most users.

 

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