Major Linux Kernel 4.5 Update Released For Testing

Linux, penguin © Nik Frey Shutterstock 2012

The new kernel, version 4.5, includes major driver improvements, including better 3D graphics support for the Raspberry Pi

Developer Linus Torvalds on Sunday released the first release candidate (RC) for the upcoming Linux 4.5 kernel, including expanded driver and architecture support as well as other updates.

The new kernel is intended to form the core of next-generation Linux operating systems, which run everything from data centres to mobile devices, including Android smartphones and the Raspberry Pi computer board.

Raspberry Pi drivers

Linux mascot penguinTorvalds said the two-week period for merging new additions to the kernel had ended, and that the software is now ready be put through its paces.

“The merge window is over, and RC1 is out there,” Torvalds wrote in a mailing list post. “Go test!”

Drivers make up about 70 percent of the release, which is on par with previous releases, Torvalds said, with the principal driver additions in graphics, networking, sound and other areas.

The driver updates include code enabling a more robust and complete open source 3D driver stack for the Raspberry Pi, according to developers.

More than half of the hardware architecture updates relate to the 32- and 64-bit ARM platforms used primarily in mobile devices, with other architecture changes affecting the PowerPC, x86, MIPS and s390 architectures, Torvalds said.

Mobile improvements

He noted that new developments by UK-based chip designer ARM mean developers can now build a generic ARM kernel that works across all ARMv6 and ARMv7 platforms.

“It’s been many years in coming,” he wrote.

The latest stable release of the Linux kernel is version 4.4, a long-term support (LTS) release scheduled to be maintained until February 2018. Version 4.4 is Linux’s fifteenth LTS release.

Last week security researchers urged Linux administrators to patch a serious kernel security flaw that they said has existed since 2012, affecting versions 3.8 and later, including two-thirds of Android devices. The privilege-escalation flaw means a user with low-level access to a system could gain control of the machine, they said.

“With no auto update for the kernel, these versions could be vulnerable for a long time,” said Yevgeny Pats, cofounder and chief executive of Perception Point. “Every Linux server needs to be patched as soon the patch is out.”

Also last week, IT security firm Dr Web said its researchers had uncovered Linux malware capable of taking screenshots of infected systems and even recording sound.

Such security issues pose a serious problem because of Linux’s wide use in Internet infrastructure and mobile devices.

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