Linux kernel 6.1 launched, here’s what’s new

christmas kernel linux 6.1

Linus Torvalds is giving Santa a contest as the FOSS-loving Finn puts the best possible gift under the tree this festive season: a brand new Linux kernel.

Yes, the Linux 6.1 kernel is here, ready to power servers, desktops, smartphones, switches, routers, and everything in between. Announcing the arrival on the Linux kernel mailing list, says Linus Torvalds: “So here we are, a week late, but the last week has been nice and slow, and I’m much happier with the state of 6.1 than I was a few weeks ago.”

The Linux kernel is developed and maintained by a global community of engineers and enthusiasts. While many of those who contribute to the Linux kernel as part of their day job, others choose to do so in their spare time, on their own accord and on their own terms.

Let’s take a closer look at what these great people have been up to lately…

Linux kernel 6.1 features

A major addition to Linux 6.1 is primary (experimental) support for Rust, the “general purpose multi-paradigm programming language” that is snowballing across the open source landscape. Although small, this first batch of updates fulfills the ambition of letting kernel developers write kernel code in Rust.

Another addition to the Linux 6.1 kernel is Multi-Generational Least-Recently-Used (aka MG-LRU; although this is not yet enabled by default). To quote documentation in corethis memory-focused feature: “…optimizes page fetch and improves performance under memory pressure” — hey: better performances are always welcome.

Btrfs user? Linux 6.1 includes a “bunch of performance improvements” Btrfs filesystem performance, including a new block group tree for faster mounting on large filesystems, additional io_uring integration, modified sysfs exports; and “exceptional improvement in FIEMAP speed”.

Elsewhere, the erofs filesystem is now able to share duplicate data between filesystems; and the EXT4 filesystem gets a host of fixes, cleanups, and tweaks, the latter no longer attempting to prefetch block allocation bitmaps for read-only filesystems.

Additionally, the PinePhone Pro is now capable of running from the mainline Linux 6.1 kernel, as are a suite of older Android smartphones including the Sony Xperia 1 IV and the Samsung Galaxy E5, E7 and Grand Max. Additionally, there is now an input driver for the PinePhone keyboard case.

The Nintendo HID driver is now so advanced that “cheap clone” controllers will work with it; and the Logitech driver now allows the use of HID++ for all Bluetooth devices and, as Phoronix Reportscan auto-detect high-dpi scrolling capability if supported.

A pile of new audio hardware support comes with Linux 6.1, including initial work for sound support on Apple Silico, AMD Rembrandt support with Sound Open Firmware (SOF), and audio support on the SoC Mediatek MT8186 should be in new Chromebooks.

Several new devices are supported by the kernel XPad input driver, including Xbox One Elite palettes on the original Elite and the Series 2 Elite.

Other supported devices include the Hori Fighting Commander ONE gamepad (including in Xbox mode), the 8BitDo Pro 2 wired controller, and a series of Wooting keyboards, including the Wooting One, Two, Two HE, and 60HE.

Kernel 6.1 also includes the usual kind of foundation for next-gen CPUs and GPUs. Work in 6.1 includes new driver code for the AMD Platform Management Framework on future Ryzen chips; plumbing for 5nm Intel ‘Meteor Lake’ chips; and continued efforts on Intel Arc Graphics DG2/Alchemist.

Other changes:

  • Merged Kernel Memory Sanitizer (KMSAN)
  • More LoongArch processor support
  • Kernel can decompress + launch architecture independent on EFI systems
  • Faster decoding of Intel memory errors via EDAC driver
  • Maple Tree data structure support
  • New security checks on the ability to create user namespaces
  • The kernel will print the CPU core where a segfault occurs

Overall, the Linux 6.1 kernel offers a range of new features and enhancements that improve the performance and security of Linux-based systems. These improvements make Linux an even more powerful and flexible operating system, able to meet the demands of a wide range of applications and users.

Want even more information about the latest release? Glance at Overview of Phoronix Features for high-level information, or dive into the details with the LWN Merge Report 1 and LWN Merge Report 2.

Get Linux 6.1

Linux 6.1 is available for download as source code now, which you can compile by hand on your distribution of choice? Not ready for this? Wait for your cast maintainer to package the half-graft instead.

While some distributions (like Arch) bundle new versions of the Linux kernel and push them out to users as updates, this is not the case with Ubuntu. As a fixed-version distribution, new kernel releases only ship in new releases, although LTS releases periodically receive new kernel updates backported from later releases.

You can try Canonical Main Repository to install Linux 6.1 on Ubuntu-based distributions. This is NOT recommended. Major releases come with no warranty, support, or testing to ensure they are trouble-free. Use at your own risk.

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