Welcome to The Long View—where we peruse the news of the week and strip it to the essentials. Let’s work out what really matters.
This week: Linux 6.0 promoted to Stable, Debian 12 will include closed-source binaries, and Google Cloud opens its first Africa region.
1. Next Stop: 6.1
First up this week: Linus “I pronounce Linux as Linux” Torvalds pushes the button on Linux 6.0. The new kernel has about 15,000 non-merge commits.
Analysis: Much cloudy goodness
Notable updates in Linux 6.0 include better support for server CPUs—new and old. Not just changes for the new hotness—latest Xeon, newest EPYC, shiniest ARM, RISC-V—but also fixing a nasty side-effect of an ancient power-management workaround that throttled AMD perf.
Sean Michael Kerner: Linux 6.0 kernel enhances security [and] energy efficiency
Linux … is an essential component of the cloud. … Even Microsoft offers Linux-based compute. … “As is hopefully clear to everybody, the major version number change is more about me running out of fingers and toes than it is about any big fundamental changes. [But] 6.0 is one of the bigger releases,” Linus Torvalds wrote.
An energy-margin heuristic that limited process migration across CPUs has been removed from the Linux scheduler, resulting in better energy utilization in general. … The arm64 chip architecture can now finally properly swap transparent hugepages for memory, improving throughput of certain workloads significantly. … Runtime Verification (RV) is a lightweight yet rigorous formal verification method … analyzing the trace of the system’s actual execution and comparing it against a formal specification of the system behavior.
What else is notable? Kevin Purdy mouths this: [You’re fired—Ed.]
Most notable among them could be a patch that prevents a nearly two-decade slowdown for AMD chips, based on workaround code for power management in the early 2000s that hung around for far too long. … The average desktop user won’t see huge gains, but larger systems working on intensive input/output applications should benefit.
Linux 6.0 includes several hardware drivers of note: fourth-generation Intel Xeon server chips, the not-quite-out 13th-generation Raptor Lake and Meteor Lake chips, [and] EPYC systems. … ACPI and power management improvements for Sapphire Rapids CPUs. … More work on RISC-V, OpenRISC, and LoongArch technologies. Intel Habana Labs Gaudi2 support, allowing hardware acceleration for machine-learning libraries. A “guest vCPU stall detector” that can tell a host when a virtual client is frozen.
One small, quirky addition points to larger things happening inside Linux: Lenovo’s ThinkPad X13s, based on an ARM-powered Qualcomm Snapdragon chip, get some early support in 6.0. ARM support is something … Torvalds is eager to see—he recently wrote release notes for kernel versions from his M2-powered MacBook Air.
How about some real-world testing? Here’s TNZfr’s impression:
Compiled, installed and very happy for office @ home, I use a ryzen 5950x and a 5850u. The difference between the last 5.19 and the 6.0 is significant. (I have an old intel core i5 2400 somewhere else—not a big difference, it’s better but it’s not so evident.)
Firefox displays quicker,
LibreOffice starts quicker. …
Shadow of the Tomb Raider 3072*1728 full options … 5.19.12: 62 fps / 6.0.0: 68 fps with less jerks.
2. Debian Votes to Use Closed Blobs — Yes, Debian
In a stunning volte-face, the Debian community has broken with three decades of Kanute-like denial of non-free software. This comes mostly in the form of precompiled, proprietary device drivers.
Analysis: Finally, the Debian community gets it
Pigs fly. Hell freezes over. Cats live with dogs.
Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols: Debian Linux accepts proprietary firmware
“This is not your dad's Debian”
In Debian Linux’s 29-year history, there was one constant: Debian would be made entirely of free software. … Until now. Starting with the next version, Debian 12, aka Bookworm, Debian Linux will include proprietary firmware.
In September, the group voted on incorporating non-free firmware. … Surprisingly it passed easily. … Debian will now include non-free firmware packages, [which] will be enabled by default when they’re required. … This would have been shocking to an earlier generation of Debian developers.
This is not your dad’s Debian. … Debian Linux 12, with the new closed-source software, will arrive in 2023. … The times, they are a-changin’.
Specifically, for example? Hear the VoiceOfTruth:
Seems like a pragmatic idea. If your internet connection is via Wi-Fi, for instance, there is a strong probability that the default Debian ISO will not be able to bring up Wi-Fi.
I have been in this position with Debian. While I knew how to solve it, I can easily imagine how utterly arcane this would look to a person new to Debian or to Linux in general.
I applaud Debian’s puritan attitude towards FOSS, but it has cost them dearly over the years. It is a lost argument to talk about FOSS firmware when somebody just wants to get on line.
But donbarry is no fan:
A very sad day for Debian. Maintaining a clear division between free and non-free software was always a strength of this distribution.
Instead of making non-free options more visible for those who absolutely required them while making it clear they were not part of Debian proper, they have erased the line and have started down the slippery slope. I almost feel like mourning is appropriate.
3. South Africa to Host Google’s First Region in the Continent
Google is going to open its first African data center. It’s first region will be in the country of South Africa.
Useful if you need edge workloads or data storage in Africa. Looks like a great development for South Africa—and for the whole continent.
Annie Njanja and Tage Kene-Okafor: Google picks South Africa for its first cloud region in Africa
The launch of a cloud region in South Africa [plays] catch-up to other top providers like … AWS and Microsoft Azure. … It’s unclear why, until now, Google has been absent in Africa. … Its early adopters include large enterprise companies, and e-commerce firms like South Africa’s TakeAlot and Kenya’s Twiga.
Google … is also building Dedicated Cloud Interconnect sites, which link users’ on-premises networks with Google’s grid, in Nairobi (Kenya), Lagos (Nigeria) and South Africa (Capetown and Johannesburg). … Google plans to tap its private subsea cable, Equiano, which connects Africa and Europe, to power the sites.
The ability for users to choose where they store their data is increasingly critical as countries like Kenya implement privacy and data laws [that] require companies to store their data within borders and process it through servers hosted locally. … According to research … commissioned by Google Cloud, the South Africa cloud region will contribute over $2.1 billion to South Africa’s GDP and support the creation of more than 40,000 jobs by 2030.
But how will they power it? South Africa’s electricity grid isn’t known for its reliability. This Anonymous Coward ponders thuswise:
I wonder how much power they would need and if it would make sense to have their own power station/s — perhaps running on something cheaper than LPG or diesel — or a huge solar installation? … On the other hand, there are quite a few data centres … in Gauteng and Cape Town (e.g., Standard Bank’s for the whole of Africa at Midrand) so one would assume there are ways to solve the problem. … Might be interesting to talk to a few of my engineer friends at the next braai to see what some of these have come up with that is still deemed profitable.
Was there really any other choice of African location? u/James-VanderGeek suggests one:
I could see Egypt as a potential alternative, but yeah this one makes sense.
The Moral of the Story:
A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool
You have been reading The Long View by Richi Jennings. You can contact him at @RiCHi or [email protected].
Image: Viktor Zhulin (via Unsplash; leveled and cropped)