Linux Kernel 4.10 Released — Happy Anniversary!


Kernel 4.10 has the honor of being christened the “Anniversary Edition” by Linus Torvalds. I’m guessing this is because of the recent 25th anniversary of the release of Linux 0.01. Admittedly, it is a bit late for that (the anniversary was back in September); however, Linus had not named any of the recent releases for the occasion, opting instead for naming them after several deranged animals.

Although everybody was expecting Linus to release the final version of 4.10 on February 12th, he ended postponing it until the 19th because, with travel coming up, he preferred not to open the merge window for 4.11 while he was on the road.

Be that as it may, 4.10 — which is now deemed stable enough to go forth into your distribution — comes with the usual load of drivers for CPUs (especially ARM) and GPUs. Especially interesting is the introduction of gVirt, or GPU Virtualization feature. Currently for Intel integrated GPUs only (Broadwell or newer), it allows one GPU to be safely shared among multiple virtual machines and the host, so all of them will support better graphical output. If you want to enjoy this feature, you will probably have to modify your VM configuration so that it uses the Intel drivers.

A slightly lesser addition in the GPU department is that Nouveau now includes a driver for the LED that lights up the logo on high end Nvidia cards. Whee.

Linus was expecting this to be a rather small release, especially after the humongous 4.9, but, no; as it turns out, 4.10 has also been pretty big, with over 13,000 commits — not including merges. Another area that has been improved is the back buffered writebacks. What the developers have done is add a throttling mechanism which stops writes to slow block devices (i.e., a hard disk or a USB stick) from making your machine sluggish or even causing it to seize up.

Other things to look forward to in 4.10

  • HID for Microsoft Surface 3 and 4. Which means external HID-compliant USB devices such as mice and keyboards will now work.

  • Lots of drivers for TV tuners, webcams and video cameras have found their way into this kernel. Boxes like the Cinergy S2 and sticks like the EVOLVEO XtraTV are now supported.

  • What else? Well, more ARM devices of course! The Nexus 5 and 6 are now both supported, as well as two Android TV boxes, the A1 and A95X by Nexbox. A popular Raspberry Pi competitor, the PINE64, is also now supported (no more hacked Android 3.x kernels for you), as is the Renesas “R-Car Starter Kit Pro,” a low-cost automotive board.

  • The perf c2c tool adds cacheline contentions analysis, useful for tracking down performance problems when several cores try to access and modify the same bit of memory at the same time. Perf also gets detailed history of scheduling events.

For a full list of changes, some in depth explanations, as well as links to the commits, take a look at this entry on kernel newbies website.