Leaner Linux Kernel 4.17 Sees Full Release

Two major stories seemed to surround the news involving the release of Linux kernel version 4.17, and those were related to Microsoft’s acquisition of GitHub as well as Linus Torvalds’ announcement that the newest kernel release release wouldn’t be labeled version 5.0. Ironically, Torvalds originally considered using the 5.0 name as this release marks the six million git object mark for the project.

While Torvalds might have joked that he plans to authorize the release of the 5.0 Linux kernel as soon as he runs out of fingers and toes to count minor versions, it’s no joke that the new release comes with a number of important fixes.

In spite of any of the unusual headlines surrounding yesterday’s release, developers were still able to trim out support for a number of other architectures such as Score, Tile and Blackfin. Linux security experts often find such code reductions to be useful as they can hypothetically remove vulnerabilities along with it. All of these various changes come to a package consisting of almost 61,000 unique files according to a cloc command run on the source tree. Back in April, they announced that the kernel removed nearly 500,000 lines of code.

Updates to a system referred to as the Linux Kernel Memory Consistency Model makes it much easier to understand how the kernel uses memory. Those who have been paying close attention to Linux security for some time may recall that updates to the kernel address space layout randomization system helped to reduce the risk of attacks caused when x86 chipsets leaked addresses assigned to the kernel.

A better understanding for developers of how the kernel memory system is particularly important not only because of the recent shakeups in the world of open-source code but also because of problems such as the hardware security vulnerability found in Intel chips over the last several months. Considering that several recent updates focused on this sort of an issue, it stands to reason that similar releases should pepper the Linux security headlines in the next few months.

Other new features include a patch developed by Collabora’s engineers that works to enable secure register access when coding for Bx50v3 devices.

John Rendace

John is a GNU/Linux expert with a hobbyist's background in C/C++, Web development, storage and file system technologies. In his free time, he maintains custom and vintage PC hardware. He's been compiling his own software from source since the DOS days and still prefers using the command line all these years later.