The Linux 5.13 kernel release is out, and in this post we recap some of the notable new additions included within it.
Announcing the release on the Linux kernel making list Linus Torvalds commented that: “[Linux] 5.13 overall is actually fairly large. In fact, it’s one of the bigger 5.x releases, with over 16k commits (over 17k if you count merges), from over 2k developers”.
What makes the latest Linux kernel update so big?
Read on to find out.
Linux 5.13 Features & Changes
This is the first version of the Linux kernel to offer support for the Apple M1 chip — but don’t get carried away here! Linux support for Apple Silicon is still at a formative stage. You can’t download a distro based on Linux 5.13, install it on an M1 Mac, and expect everything to Just Work™ like it does for Intel and AMD hardware.
That said, this debut dose of M1 code is a concrete step towards realising the dream of running Linux on Apple’s homegrown hardware. Expect further M1 improvements to fall from the tree in future kernel releases.
You can support the effort by contributing to the Patreon of Hector Martin.
Linux 5.13 includes a new ‘Landlock‘ security module. This can be used alongside other Linux Security Modules, e.g., SELinux, to better control/restrict what running process can and can’t access. Also on the security front, a tweak to the kernel’s “trusted keys” feature allows key to originate from sources other than the TPM.
This kernel update also intros mainline support for software-interrupt processing code from the realtime preemption tree. This (rather wordy sounding feature) is pretty important as LWN note it “…means all software interrupts are handled in kernel threads, where they can be preempted by a higher-priority process like anything else”.
A handful of noteworthy EXT4 filesystem tweaks include support for the FITRIM ioctl() command; automatically overwriting directory entries when files get deleted; and the ability to handle filesystems using case folding and encryption — all of which make using this file system (Ubuntu’s default) more reliable and more secure.
Interesting hardware & driver changes
Modern Intel CPUs gain a new cooling driver. This can down-clock processor cores when passing a lower thermal threshold than set by the default OS. The Linux 5.13 kernel also gets initial support for Intel’s upcoming 12th gen Alder Lake-S chips.
An AMD fan? You may be pleased to know that pre-HDMI 2.1 connections now support AMD FreeSync, a feature previously limited to DisplayPort connections. Plus, the kernel now has initial support for the Aldebaran GPU ahead of its expected arrival later this year.
Notable new driver additions in Linux 5.13 include support for Amazon’s Luna game controller (in the XPad driver, via USB); touchpad and keyboard support for recent Microsoft Surface laptops; a temperature monitoring driver for WMI Gigabyte motherboards; and hardware monitoring for NZXT Kraken liquid coolers.
The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 tablet keyboard now “just works” with Linux 5.13; the Apple Magic Mouse 2 gains support for multi-touch mode and battery reporting; owners of the GK6X mechanical keyboard family pick up better support; and the kernel is now able to ‘initialize some […] Thrustmaster racing wheels‘.
Mic muting LED on the HP EliteBook 845 G8 now works as intended. Additionally, the laptop’s mic boost feature (which is said to pick up a lot of noise by default) has been reduced to offer “crystal clear” recordings.
Finally, to end on a tactile note, a swathe of touchscreen and touch controllers gather support in Linux 5.13, including the Azoteq IQS626A, MStar msg2638, Ilitek I2C 213X, and Hycon hy46xx touchscreens.
How to Install Linux 5.13?
You can download source code for the Linux kernel 5.13 from the kernel.org website if you fancy compiling it by hand.
You can install Linux 5.13 on Ubuntu 21.04 using the mainline kernel builds created by Canonical engineers. These builds, however, are not intended for end users, have not been tested or exalted for issues, and are intended solely for development use. Use them at your own risk.
But the recommend way to sample this (and any other) Linux Kernel release is to wait for your distro to package it up and release it as an update — when they’ll get around to this varies. Ubuntu, for instance, won’t release Linux 5.13 as an update to existing users any time soon, though it will likely appear in the Ubuntu 21.10 daily builds.