The new Linux 5.4 kernel brings a raft of notable changes and improvements to the fore, just like every kernel release does.

Linux 5.5 is now open for development, but Linus cautions that Thanksgiving (and his 3 kids) may slow him down

Linux Founder Linus Torvalds announced the Linux 5.4 release on the Linux Kernel Mailing List (lkml) saying: “Not a lot happened this last week, which is just how I like it.”

With 5.4 out the merge window for Linux 5.5 is now open. But Linus cautions that the American tradition of Thanksgiving may get in the way.

But what are the changes in this latest kernel update? Read on for a summary of key Linux 5.4 features and changes.

Linux 5.4 Features

The headline addition in Linux 5.4 is a new kernel lockdown mode that aims to improve the separation of UID 0 (aka root) and the kernel.

The feature, implemented as a Linux Security Module, isn’t enabled by default but can be configured (with the understanding that anything relying on low-level access (be it hardware or the kernel) may be impacted.

Elsewhere, there’s ample dose of AMD related additions. This includes support for AMD Navi 12 and 14 GPUs, AMD Arcturus graphics cards, and the AMD Dali APU and AMD 2020 APU platforms.

Linux 5.4 also introduces (early) support for Intel Tiger Lake hardware and improves display colour management under the Nouveau open source driver.

ARM fans will appreciate the inclusion of mainline Linux support for the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855‘s reference board. Sadly, no products using this particular chipset are currently supported, but a solid foundation towards that ability is now in place.

A bunch of ARM-based laptops running the Snapdragon 835 SoC are supported by Linux 5.4, including the ASUS NovaGo, HP Envy X2 and the Lenovo Miix 630.

Support for the Lenovo Yoga C360, based on the Snapdragon 850 SoC, also features.

Staying with Snapdragon, Linux 5.4 adds mainline support for phones based on the Snapdragon 410. This includes devices like the Samsung Galaxy A3 and A5 — though don’t expect to see desktop Linux distributions running on them just yet.

Improvements to the way cryptographic keys are added, removed and/or derived in fscrypt, the encryption API used in ext4/f2fs/ubifs file system encryption help improve security.

Also on the file system front, there’s optional case-insensitive file and folder handling available in f2fs.

Other Linux 5.4 changes:

  • Faster large directory modifications on XFS
  • exFAT drivers in staging
  • VirtIO-FS merged for improved VM folder sharing
  • AMD Ryzen 3000 temperature reporting
  • Support for RTL8125 network device
  • RK3288 VP8 decoding
  • ASpeed AST2600 (server management processor) support
  • Support for Intel Ice Lake Thunderbolt
  • Power management tweaks, inc. Intel TCC thermal offset
  • Sound Open Firmware improvements

Among the devices, peripherals and hardware that should “just work” with the Linux 5.4 kernel:

  • MobileStudio Pro 13 graphic tablet
  • Logitech G700(s) receivers
  • Logitech Lightspeed receiver
  • Creative SB0540 IR receivers
  • Smart Tech touchscreen panel
  • Mygica T230C TV tuner
  • OLPC-XO

You can learn even more about this kernel version over the terrific Kernel Newbies wiki.

Install Linux 5.4 on Ubuntu?

All of the improvements listed above probably have you wondering about how to install Linux 5.4 on your system.

Generally speaking you should always. wait for your distribution to package and distribute this kernel release.

But most Linux distros do not issue new kernel releases as a regular update; they’re held over for new releases.

Ubuntu 20.04, due in April, will include a kernel version later than 5.4 (and that kernel update should find its way back to Ubuntu 18.04 LTS through the Hardware Enablement Stack).

You can install a mainline kernel on Ubuntu, Linux Mint and other Linux distributions but it is not recommended.

If want to ignore that caution and do it any way you can find the relevant kernel downloads in this Ubuntu repo (though they have NOT been tested or checked for stability).

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