Linux Kernel 5.18 Includes a Controversial Intel Driver + More

A new version of the Linux kernel has been released.

Announced by Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds on the Linux Kernel Mailing List, Linux 5.18 offers a number of improvements in hardware and driver support, improves file system functionality and performance enhancements, and boosts system security.

Among the notable changes in Linux 5.18 is a controversial new driver from Intel. Their ‘Software Defined Silicon’ (SDSi) driver allows the chip vender to restrict specific processor features unless a license (from Intel) is purchased and present..

Or, to quote Intel engineer David Box, the SDSi is a “post manufacturing mechanism for activating additional silicon features. Features are enabled through a license activation process.”

Its inclusion has unsettled some within the open source community. As present, when you buy an Intel CPU you are able to make use of all of its features. Licensing will allow certain features to be ‘paywalled’ behind a one-off or subscription fee. This could kickstart a new business model that other hardware vendors might seek to copy.

SDSi aside, Linux 5.18 contains a host of CPU and graphics updates for Intel and AMD hardware; support for Tesla’s Full Self Driving (FSD) chip; and several significant file system updates for EXT4 and Btrfs users.

Full support for the Raspberry Pi Zero 2 W, better handling of Apple Magic Keyboards (including models with Touch Bar) and Razer BlackWidow keyboards, plus live patching of the kernel for 32-bit PowerPC systems.

Linux 5.18 arrives two months after the release of the previous kernel, Linux 5.17. The merge window for Linux 5.19 is now open ahead an expected stable release sometime in mid-July.