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What's new and cool in the 6.4 Linux kernel

The latest version of the Linux kernel is ready for brave users to give it a try.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
Reviewed by Min Shin
hands on laptop
Getty Images/damircudic

"Will you still need me? Will you still feed me? When I'm sixty-four." OK, so we can be certain that John Lennon and Paul McCartney weren't thinking about Linux when they wrote this classic Beatles song. But, we can also be certain that the latest version of the Linux kernel, Linux 6.4, will be needed and fed by developers and users. 

This latest Linux kernel release, recently unveiled by Linus Torvalds, offers improved hardware enablement for ARM boards and a host of other chip technologies. Linux enthusiasts can now eagerly look forward to upgrades to their Intel/AMD chips, graphics cards, and Wi-Fi networking.

Also: The best Linux laptops

For ARM, there's a laundry list of new supported processors. These include Allwinner T113-S Cortex-A7 processor, Rockchip RK3588, Qualcomm IPQ5332 Cortex-A53, and the one that will catch most people's eye -- Apple's M2 processor along with better support for the M1.

Let me point out, though, that M2 support is just starting. So, don't get too excited about running Linux on a new 13-inch or 15-inch MacBook Air. Only a serious developer would even try it today. For example, the M2-powered Mac Mini doesn't have a working display. 

Review: Apple Mac Mini: Faster, cheaper, better

If you want to run Linux on an M1 Mac today, your best choice continues to be Asahi Linux. Users willing to walk on leading, bleeding technology's razor edge can try the latest Asahi Linux update with Mac Studio, Bluetooth, and M2 support. But, as the developers warn you, "This is even more experimental than M1 support, so expect bugs."

They're not kidding. 

On another platform, the Linux 6.4 kernel supports RISC-V CPUs hibernation. By year's end, you can expect to see RISC-V laptops appearing. In the US, the Balthazar Personal Computing Device, whose designers claim it's designed from the ground up to be a completely open-source laptop, will be out. I expect mainstream RISC-V to be out as well. Linux is ready for it.

Meanwhile, Linux 6.4 has unlocked new power features for the popular Steam Deck gaming device, which sports an AMD "Van Gogh" APU. The new AMDGPU kernel driver in Linux 6.4 will better handle the handheld's power demands. 

In other good gaming news, the kernel's Xpad driver now supports the Turtle Beach REACT-Raf and Turtle Beach Reconaf Xbox controllers. Other Xbox accessory gear will be gaining support soon too. If you still think Linux isn't for gaming, think again. 

Also: How to install Steam on any Ubuntu-based Linux distro so you can play a world of games

Lenovo Yoga laptop users will be happy to see that  Linux 6.4 comes with a 'tablet switch' driver to support a range of Yoga notebooks better. These include popular models like the Yoga C940 and the Ryzen-powered Ideapad Flex 14APIaf. This driver will detect when the device keyboard is tucked away. This, in turn, will optimize its usability and battery life. 

The new Linux kernel also comes with a wave of tweaks to the in-kernel NTFS file-system driver.  This enables Linux users to access NTFS storage devices and files.  Microsoft introduced NTFS, a proprietary journaling file system, in Windows NT 3.1 in 1993. After a long struggle to support NTFS within open-source Linux, support was finally added in late 2021. But, much more work needed to be done. Still, this latest version comes with notable enhancements.

For those looking to the future of Wi-Fi networking, Linux is adding support for Wi-Fi 7 wireless networking. Wi-what, you ask? This is the next generation of Wi-Fi networking. Known in network engineering circles as 802.11be, by late 2024, you'll start seeing Wi-Fi gear with it that will be able to support up to 30Gbps speeds. That's fast enough that even I'll be happy. 

Some old hardware will be leaving the Linux kernel. If somehow you're still using The CardBus and PCMCIA devices, support for them is disappearing. You can, of course, keep running them with older kernels. 

Also: The most important reason you should be using Linux at home

On the software side, the Linux 6.4 release includes more upstreamed Rust code. We're getting ever closer to full in-kernel Rust language support.

There are also a lot of other down-and-dirty fixes. For more on those, check out the Linux 6.4 changelog.

You can download Linux 6.4's code and compile it yourself. Most of you, however, will want to wait until your favorite Linux distribution incorporates it into its next release. 

Those eager to download can do so from the usual sources. However, less experienced users should wait for your favorite Linux distro to package and release the update in its next version. It will be much easier. 

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