Linux 5.0: A major milestone with minor improvements

It's not like Linus Torvalds didn't warn us. Linux 5.0 is out, but there's no big updates to be found here.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Linux 5.0 is here! RIng the bells! Sound the trumpets! Here's what Linux creator Linus Torvalds had to say about this new release: "I'd like to point out (yet again) that we don't do feature-based releases, and that '5.0' doesn't mean anything more than that the 4.x numbers started getting big enough that I ran out of fingers and toes."

I know. It's an anti-climax. But he's right. It's just another release.

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In an earlier Linux Kernel Mailing List (LKML) message, Torvalds had written "About 50 percent [of Linux 5.0] is drivers, 20 percent is architecture updates, 10 percent is tooling, and the remaining 20 percent is all over (documentation, networking, filesystems, header file updates, core kernel code..). Nothing particular stands out, although I do like seeing how some ancient drivers are getting put out to pasture (*cough*isdn*cough*)."

That said, it does contain some worthwhile improvements.

The new Linux comes with Google's Adiantum storage encryption system. Adiantum works on low-powered devices such as Android smartphones. It's a big step forward in securing these devices. It's faster than previous encryption systems. Paul Crowley and Eric Biggers, of Google's Android Security & Privacy Team, blogged, "Storage encryption protects your data if your phone falls into someone else's hands Adiantum is an innovation in cryptography designed to make storage encryption more efficient for devices without cryptographic acceleration, to ensure that all devices can be encrypted."

There's also a workaround in place now to help combat memory fragmentation. Mind you, with sufficiently troubled memory interactions, you can still fragment memory and thus drop overall performance. But this patch goes a long way to preventing these problems.

Linux 5.0 also comes with graphics drivers improvements. These includes AMD FreeSync, NVIDIA RTX Turing, and Raspberry Pi Touch Display support. The new Raspberry Pi Touch driver enables Pi builders make their own tablets or smart information displays.

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Another graphics improvement, which may not appear that important at first, is a large version of the Terminus console font. It's a big deal to me and other people who use HiDPI displays, such as 4K screens, because it makes reading a terminal's font much easier.

The Linux developers has also improved the performance hit that came with the Spectre and Meltdown bugs mitigation. Most of the work has been done with improving Linux's networking performance from the slowdown caused by Google's Retpoline fix.

If you really must, you can compile and install the Linux 5.0 now. Unless you're an old hand at compiling kernels, I don't advise it. Most people should wait for it to arrive in production Linux distributions such as Fedora 30 and Ubuntu 19.04 this April.

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