The new long-term Linux kernel, Linux 4.14, has arrived

For the next six years, Android smartphones, embedded Linux devices, and Linux-based Internet of Things gadgets will use the newly released Linux 4.14 kernel.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

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Linus Torvalds quietly released the latest Linux 4.14 kernel on Nov. 12. It won't be a quiet release, though. The Linux developers had previously announced that 4.14 would be Linux's next long-term support (LTS) version of the Linux kernel. That's important because Linux LTS version now has a six-year life span.

That changes everything for Linux device developers. As Google senior staff engineer Iliyan Malchev recently said, "All Android devices [...] are based of the LTS kernel. The problem with LTS is it's only two years. And so, by the time the first devices on a SoC [System on a Chip] hit the market, you have maybe a year, if you're lucky, of LTS support. And, if you're not, it's over." Now, Internet of Things (IoT), smartphone, and embedded Linux device developers can build gear knowing that it's operating system will be supported until 2023.

In addition, thanks to new Linux security development tools, Torvalds expects Linux to be safer than ever. He remarked, it's "worth pointing out how the 0day robot has been getting even better (it was very useful before, but Fengguang has been working on making it even better, and reporting the problems it has found)."

What Torvalds is talking about here is Intel's 0-Day test project. Led by Intel engineer Fengguang Wu, this zero-day security testing system automatically and constantly run regression tests on the mainline kernel and over 400 Linux developer trees. As soon as a change is made, it pulls the patch set and immediately tests several builds, progressing through boot and function tests, and finally power and performance tests.

This, combined with more Linux fuzzing tests, has made Linux more secure than ever. With fuzzing random code is pushing into Linux's inputs to induce errors. This helps identify potential security holes before they can open.

The new release also features support for Address Space Identifier (ASID), AKA as PCID on x86 systems, AMD memory encryption support for its EPYC processors, and support for Intel's 5-level paging. All this gives the latest Linux better memory management paging support for virtual machines (VM)s. Specifically, virtualization programs such as Microsoft Hyper-V, Xen, and KVM will work better with Linux 4.14.

In terms of numbers, most Linux 4.14's improvements has been with device driver updates. According to Torvalds, there were over 1,500 contributors to this release. It also boasts more support for developer boards including the Raspberry Pi Zero W.

Heterogeneous Memory Management (HMM) has also finally made it into Linux. This feature enables GPUs and CPUs to access a process's shared address space. Both supercomputing and programs using parallel-processing languages and application programming interfaces (API) such as OpenCL 2.0, Nvidia's CUDA, and C++'s Parallel Algorithm Scheduling Library (PASL) will find this useful.

Put it all together and when you look at Linux 4.14, you're looking at Linux's future until the 2020s.

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