A brand new Linux kernel is now available and in this post we do our very best to recap the core changes and new features you’ll find tucked up inside.

Linus Torvalds announced the Linux 5.11 release on the Linux Kernel Mailing list, as tradition dictates. While this follow up to December’s Linux 5.10 LTS kernel is heavy on features Linus couldn’t resist introducing a bit levity too.

“I know it’s Valentine’s Day here in the US – maybe give this release a good testing before you go back and play with development kernels. All right? Because I’m sure your SO will understand,” he writes.

A credible crop of changes both big and small are (naturally) packed up in this update. For more detail on what’s harder, better, faster, stronger — read on!

Linux 5.11 Features & Changes

If you expect anything from a new Linux kernel release it’ll be new hardware support, and a sled-load of filesystem improvements. Linux 5.11 is no exception.

This kernel uplift intros new mount options for the btrfs file system; the Ceph filesystem gains support for the “msgr2.1” protocol (i.e. encryption); the F2FS filesystem picks up user space control over compressed files.

Intel’s software guard extensions (SGX) finally makes it into the kernel – 41 revisions later

XFS now supports flagging filesystems as in need of repair, and an option to not mount flagged file systems until a repair has been performed in user-space.

Proof that hardwork pays off: Intel’s software guard extensions (SGX) has finally made it into the kernel — albeit 41 revisions and many mailing list posts later! LWN’s Jonathan Corbet explains this feature “allows the creation of encrypted “enclaves” that cannot be accessed from the rest of the system”. SGX can protect data even if the system (i.e. kernel) goes rogue.

On the graphics front there’s a bunch of “initial support” for AMD Van Gogh and AMD Dimgrey Cavefish APUs; continued work on Intel DG1 graphics; early Intel Keem Bay display support; and performance gains for Radeon RX 6800 series graphics cards.

Linux 5.11 supports the Tegra 3-based Ouya games console – 8 years after launch

ARM hardware support includes an interesting one: the Ouya. This crowd-funded, Android-based game console never quite “took off” as planned, now owners looking to repurpose their Ouya’s into Linux-powered things, can!

A selection of a new and existing ARM-based boards gain support in mainline Linux 5.11 including the MediaTek MT8192 (an octa-core Chromebook chip), MediaTek MT6779 (Helio P90), and the MediaTek MT8167 (which is better known as MediaTek’s Pumpkin development board).

Plenty more OpenRISC and RISC-V improvements on offer, the latter sure to please anyone getting a BeagleV RISC-V board to tinker with. USB 4 and Thunderbolt work includes support for Intel Maple Ridge, plus a new testing driver. A handful of BIOS settings in Dell’s Linux laptops are now configurable via sysfs.

Some notable device driver additions in this kernel:

  • Pioneer DDJ-R DJ controller
  • Guitar Hero Live PS3 & Wii U
  • Lenovo ThinkPad palm sensor
  • ASUS “N-Key” keyboard backlight + function keys
  • eKTF2132 touchscreen
  • Dragonrise USB Gamecube adapter
  • Acer S1002 keyboard-dock

Some virtualisation improvements include user-mode support for suspend-to-idle (this allows a suspended instance to be resumed using a SIGUSR1 signal) and a new memory mechanism that, to quote LWN, “allows memory to be added or removed in units larger than the host kernel’s memory-block size”.

For more details keep an eye on Kernel Newbies. It will provide a deep dive on all of this update’s changes in the coming days.

Install Linux 5.11 on Ubuntu

Related Guide Ubuntu 21.04: Release Date & New Features

Want to install Linux 5.11 on Ubuntu, Linux Mint, or another Ubuntu-based Linux distribution? You can — Canonical devs maintain mainline kernel builds — but you shouldn’t as these builds are not intended for ‘end users’.

Ubuntu ships and supports a new Ubuntu Linux kernel (the upstream one with some Ubuntu specific patches and tweaks) in each new release of Ubuntu. The Linux 5.11 kernel (or later) will feature in Ubuntu 21.04 in April, and will be backported to Ubuntu 20.04 LTS in the summer.

If you really can’t wait until them you can install Linux 5.11 manually, but please do so knowing that when/if your system breaks it’s up to YOU to fix it!

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