Version 5.1 of the Linux kernel is available, optimizes asynchronous I/O

In the new version of the Linux kernel, version 5.1, there are new features, many improvements, and some bug fixes. One of the improvements is the default Intel Fast Boot activation in the graphics driver for Skylake and more modern processors.

Fast Boot explained

Fast Boot is a BIOS feature that reduces the computer’s boot time. If Fast Boot is enabled, booting from a network, an optical drive and removable devices are disabled, and video and USB devices (keyboard, mouse, drives) are not available until the operating system is loaded. It means that Fast Boot only loads what is necessary, eliminating the jolts of the image in the process.

Still, on the Intel technology side of this version of the kernel, we note the support of HDCP 2.2 and GVT (Graphics Virtualization Technology) from Coffee Lake. Coffee Lake is Intel’s code name for the second 14 nm process node refinement after Broadwell, Skylake and Kabylake. The graphics integrated on Coffee Lake chips support DP 1.2 to HDMI 2.0 and HDCP 2.2 connectivity. Coffee Lake natively supports DDR4-2666 MHz dual-channel memory when used with Xeon, Core i5, i7, and i9 processors, DDR4-2400 MHz dual-channel memory when used with Celeron, Pentium, and Core i3 and LP DDR3-2133 MHz memory when used with mobile processors.

Linux 5.1 kernel

The Linux 5.1 kernel brings some improvements to the support of ARM platforms, including a new DRM graphics driver for Komeda and support for Bitmain SoC (two A53 cores and a RISC-V core). Only the ARM part is completed for the moment, and RISC-V support is partially progressing. For ARM processors, the default 64-bit configuration in the kernel now recognizes up to 256 cores; a decision following the continuous increase in the number of cores in the Socs. The value can be changed.

In other words, the BM1880 Bitmain SoC includes a dual-core ARM Cortex-A53 processor, a single-core RISC-V subsystem and a Tensor processor subsystem. But with the initial state for Linux 5.1, only the A53 cores are enabled for the moment. The BM1880 is marketed as an “on-board TPU” capable of delivering 1TOPS@INT8 performance, a single-core RISC-V processor capable of up to 1 GHz, and optimized for in-depth learning with a power consumption of only 2.5 Watts. Note that the BM1880 is manufactured by Bitmain, a Chinese company that has started to design ASICs for the extraction of Bitcoins with Antminer and other products. The company has also embarked on artificial intelligence and in-depth learning projects.

There are asynchronous I/Os to accelerate operating systems. It allows applications to perform other tasks until a background writing function is available. The kernel is responsible for notifying the application. A kernel developer, Jens Axboe, is now introducing a new variant called io_uring that aims to increase the speed of asynchronous reading and writing tasks and allow them to evolve better. There is also a userspace library that allows developers to familiarize themselves with the main features of io_uring.