Linux kernel 6.1 released, that’s new

Christmas Linux kernel 6.1

Linus Torvalds gives Santa a run for his money as the FOSS-loving Finn puts the best possible gift under the tree this festive season: a brand new Linux kernel.

Yes, the Linux 6.1 kernel is here and ready to power the servers, desktops, smartphones, switches, routers and everything in between around the world. Linus Torvalds announces inclusion on the Linux kernel mailing list, saying: “So here we are, a week late, but last week was pretty slow and I’m a lot happier with the state of 6.1 than I was a few weeks ago.”

The Linux kernel is developed and maintained by a worldwide community of engineers and enthusiasts. While many of those who contribute to the Linux kernel as part of their day-to-day work, others choose to do so in their spare time, of their own accord, and on their own terms.

Let’s take a closer look at what these awesome people have been up to lately…

Linux kernel 6.1 features

A major addition to Linux 6.1 is Mainline (experimental) support for Rust, the “multi-paradigm general-purpose programming language” that’s gaining momentum in the open-source landscape. Although small, this first bringup batch fulfills the ambition to let kernel developers write kernel code in Rust.

Another addition to the Linux 6.1 kernel is Multi-Generational Least-Recently-Used (aka MG LRU; although this is not yet enabled by default). To quote the in-kernel documentation, this reminder function: “…optimizes page recovery and improves performance under memory pressure” — hey: better performance is always welcome.

Btrfs user? Linux 6.1 includes a “set of performance improvements” to Btrfs filesystem performance, including a new block group tree to speed up mounting on large filesystems, additional io_uring integration, optimized sysfs exports; and “outstanding improvement in FIEMAP speed”.

Elsewhere, the erofs filesystem is now able to share duplicated data across filesystems; and the EXT4 filesystem benefits from a spate of fixes, cleanups, and optimizations, the latter including no longer attempting to prefetch block allocation bitmaps for read-only filesystems.

Also, the PinePhone Pro can now run on the mainline Linux 6.1 kernel, as can a number of older Android smartphones including the Sony Xperia 1 IV and the Samsung Galaxy E5, E7 and Grand Max. There’s also now an input driver for the PinePhone keyboard housing.

The Nintendo HID driver is now sophisticated enough to work with “cheap clone” controllers; and the Logitech driver now allows HID++ use for all Bluetooth devices and, as Phoronix reports, can auto-detect high-resolution scrolling capability when supported.

A stack of new sound hardware support ships with Linux 6.1, including initial work on sound support on Apple Silico, support for AMD Rembrandt with the Sound Open Firmware (SOF), and support for audio on the Mediatek MT8186 SoC, which is expected to be included in new Chromebooks.

Several new devices are supported by the kernel XPad input driver, including Xbox One Elite paddles on the original Elite and Elite Series 2.

Other supported devices include the Hori Fighting Commander ONE gamepad (including in Xbox mode), the 8BitDo Pro 2 wired controller, and a range of Wooting keyboards including the Wooting One, Two, Two HE, and 60HE.

Kernel 6.1 also includes the usual way of laying the groundwork for next-generation CPUs and GPUs. Work in 6.1 includes new driver code for the AMD platform management framework on future Ryzen chips; Installation for Intel ‘Meteor Lake’ 5nm chips; and continued efforts for Intel Arc Graphics DG2/Alchemist.

Further changes:

  • Kernel Memory Sanitizer (KMSAN) merged
  • More LoongArch CPU support
  • The kernel can decompress and start on EFI systems regardless of the architecture
  • Faster decoding of Intel memory errors via EDAC driver
  • Maple Tree data structure support
  • New security controls for the ability to create usernamespaces
  • The kernel prints the CPU core where a segmentation error occurs

Overall, the Linux 6.1 kernel offers a number of new features and improvements that improve the performance and security of Linux-based systems. These improvements make Linux an even more powerful and flexible operating system, capable of meeting the needs of a wide range of applications and users.

Want more information about the latest version? Take a look at the Phoronix feature overview for high-level information, or dive into the details with LWN Merge Report 1 and LWN Merge Report 2.

Get Linux 6.1

Linux 6.1 is now available for download as source code that you can hand-compile on your favorite distribution? Not ready for this? Instead, wait for your distribution maintainer to wrap half the transplant.

While some distributions (like Arch) package new Linux kernel releases and push them out to users as updates, Ubuntu doesn’t. As a fixed-release distribution, new kernel releases are only shipped in new releases, although LTS releases regularly receive new kernel updates that are backported from later releases.

You can try Canonical’s mainline repo to install Linux 6.1 on Ubuntu-based distributions. This is NOT recommended. Mainline builds do not come with warranty, support, or testing to ensure they are bug free. Use at your own risk.

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