Linus Torvalds says there is “nothing fundamentally different” about the new core, but what’s missing may be more news.
A release candidate for Linux kernel 6.0 has arrived, but Linus Torvalds downplays the importance of a version change. Despite this, there are some substantial improvements to the kernel.
There is nothing fundamentally different about the 6.0 Kernel
Linus Torvalds announced the upcoming kernel launch candidate in Message to the kernel development mailing list. Torvalds said that despite changing the version number to 6.0, the change is mostly just a number:
I have long avoided the idea that major numbers are meaningful, and the only reason for a “hierarchical” numbering system is to make the numbers easier to remember and distinguish. Which is why when the small number gets to about 20, it’s best to just increment the main number instead and reset to something smaller.
What’s new in version 6.0?
The main changes to the kernel are improvements to support more graphics, network and audio adapters. All of these devices are necessary to support games on Linux.
It will be an uphill battle to bring down Windows as the dominant PC gaming platform, but the effort has the support of one major player. Valve’s handheld Steam Deck runs many popular games out of the box and SteamOS 3.0 is based on a custom version of Arch Linux.
What is notable in this version may be what is missing. In the letter, Torvalds noted that some expected changes written in the Rust programming language were absent, although he hopes there will be more Rust code in future updates.
Rust emphasizes memory safety in contrast to the traditional use of the C kernel. With Rust, developers can hope to avoid major bugs like Heartbleed that can compromise system security.
When can users get 6.0?
This version is still just a candidate version. However, expert users can download and compile the kernel themselves. Most users will wait until the final release of their distribution packages. Although Linux kernel development is happening at a fast pace, distros have their own preferences for how modern their software is. Since Linux kernel improvements are often security related, there is an interest in keeping them updated.
The development team maintains a number of legacy “long-term” cores for applications that require stability, such as servers.
A new version of the program is everywhere
The Linux kernel is the heart of the modern Internet because it powers many servers. Not only is it ubiquitous in the cloud, it’s also popping up in longtime rival Windows with WSL2.