Linux kernel release notes

The Linux Kernel Archives

There are several main categories into which kernel releases may fall:

Prepatch Prepatch or «RC» kernels are mainline kernel pre-releases that are mostly aimed at other kernel developers and Linux enthusiasts. They must be compiled from source and usually contain new features that must be tested before they can be put into a stable release. Prepatch kernels are maintained and released by Linus Torvalds. Mainline Mainline tree is maintained by Linus Torvalds. It’s the tree where all new features are introduced and where all the exciting new development happens. New mainline kernels are released every 9-10 weeks. Stable After each mainline kernel is released, it is considered «stable.» Any bug fixes for a stable kernel are backported from the mainline tree and applied by a designated stable kernel maintainer. There are usually only a few bugfix kernel releases until next mainline kernel becomes available — unless it is designated a «longterm maintenance kernel.» Stable kernel updates are released on as-needed basis, usually once a week. Longterm There are usually several «longterm maintenance» kernel releases provided for the purposes of backporting bugfixes for older kernel trees. Only important bugfixes are applied to such kernels and they don’t usually see very frequent releases, especially for older trees.

Longterm release kernels
Version Maintainer Released Projected EOL
5.15 Greg Kroah-Hartman & Sasha Levin 2021-10-31 Oct, 2023
5.10 Greg Kroah-Hartman & Sasha Levin 2020-12-13 Dec, 2026
5.4 Greg Kroah-Hartman & Sasha Levin 2019-11-24 Dec, 2025
4.19 Greg Kroah-Hartman & Sasha Levin 2018-10-22 Dec, 2024
4.14 Greg Kroah-Hartman & Sasha Levin 2017-11-12 Jan, 2024
4.9 Greg Kroah-Hartman & Sasha Levin 2016-12-11 Jan, 2023

Distribution kernels

Many Linux distributions provide their own «longterm maintenance» kernels that may or may not be based on those maintained by kernel developers. These kernel releases are not hosted at kernel.org and kernel developers can provide no support for them.

It is easy to tell if you are running a distribution kernel. Unless you downloaded, compiled and installed your own version of kernel from kernel.org, you are running a distribution kernel. To find out the version of your kernel, run uname -r :

If you see anything at all after the dash, you are running a distribution kernel. Please use the support channels offered by your distribution vendor to obtain kernel support.

Releases FAQ

Here are some questions we routinely receive about kernel release versions. See also the main «FAQ» section for some other topics.

When is the next mainline kernel version going to be released?

Linux kernel follows a simple release cadence:

  • after each mainline release, there is a 2-week «merge window» period during which new major features are introduced into the kernel
  • after the merge window closes, there is a is a 7-week bugfix and stabilization period with weekly «release candidate» snapshots
  • rc7 is usually the last release candidate, though occasionally there may be additional rc8+ releases if that is deemed necessary

So, to find the approximate date of the next mainline kernel release, take the date of the previous mainline release and add 9-10 weeks.

What is the next longterm release going to be?

Longterm kernels are picked based on various factors — major new features, popular commercial distribution needs, device manufacturer demand, maintainer workload and availability, etc. You can roughly estimate when the new longterm version will become available based on how much time has elapsed since the last longterm version was chosen.

Why are some longterm versions supported longer than others?

The «projected EOL» dates are not set in stone. Each new longterm kernel usually starts with only a 2-year projected EOL that can be extended further if there is enough interest from the industry at large to help support it for a longer period of time.

Does the major version number (4.x vs 5.x) mean anything?

No. The major version number is incremented when the number after the dot starts looking «too big.» There is literally no other reason.

Does the odd-even number still mean anything?

A long time ago Linux used a system where odd numbers after the first dot indicated pre-release, development kernels (e.g. 2.1, 2.3, 2.5). This scheme was abandoned after the release of kernel 2.6 and these days pre-release kernels are indicated with «-rc».

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Linux kernel release 6.x В¶

These are the release notes for Linux version 6. Read them carefully, as they tell you what this is all about, explain how to install the kernel, and what to do if something goes wrong.

What is Linux?В¶

Linux is a clone of the operating system Unix, written from scratch by Linus Torvalds with assistance from a loosely-knit team of hackers across the Net. It aims towards POSIX and Single UNIX Specification compliance.

It has all the features you would expect in a modern fully-fledged Unix, including true multitasking, virtual memory, shared libraries, demand loading, shared copy-on-write executables, proper memory management, and multistack networking including IPv4 and IPv6.

It is distributed under the GNU General Public License v2 — see the accompanying COPYING file for more details.

On what hardware does it run?В¶

Although originally developed first for 32-bit x86-based PCs (386 or higher), today Linux also runs on (at least) the Compaq Alpha AXP, Sun SPARC and UltraSPARC, Motorola 68000, PowerPC, PowerPC64, ARM, Hitachi SuperH, Cell, IBM S/390, MIPS, HP PA-RISC, Intel IA-64, DEC VAX, AMD x86-64 Xtensa, and ARC architectures.

Linux is easily portable to most general-purpose 32- or 64-bit architectures as long as they have a paged memory management unit (PMMU) and a port of the GNU C compiler (gcc) (part of The GNU Compiler Collection, GCC). Linux has also been ported to a number of architectures without a PMMU, although functionality is then obviously somewhat limited. Linux has also been ported to itself. You can now run the kernel as a userspace application — this is called UserMode Linux (UML).

Documentation¶

There is a lot of documentation available both in electronic form on the Internet and in books, both Linux-specific and pertaining to general UNIX questions. I’d recommend looking into the documentation subdirectories on any Linux FTP site for the LDP (Linux Documentation Project) books. This README is not meant to be documentation on the system: there are much better sources available.

There are various README files in the Documentation/ subdirectory: these typically contain kernel-specific installation notes for some drivers for example. Please read the Documentation/process/changes.rst file, as it contains information about the problems, which may result by upgrading your kernel.

Installing the kernel source¶

If you install the full sources, put the kernel tarball in a directory where you have permissions (e.g. your home directory) and unpack it:

Replace “X” with the version number of the latest kernel.

Do NOT use the /usr/src/linux area! This area has a (usually incomplete) set of kernel headers that are used by the library header files. They should match the library, and not get messed up by whatever the kernel-du-jour happens to be.

You can also upgrade between 6.x releases by patching. Patches are distributed in the xz format. To install by patching, get all the newer patch files, enter the top level directory of the kernel source (linux-6.x) and execute:

Replace “x” for all versions bigger than the version “x” of your current source tree, in_order, and you should be ok. You may want to remove the backup files (some-file-name

or some-file-name.orig), and make sure that there are no failed patches (some-file-name# or some-file-name.rej). If there are, either you or I have made a mistake.

Unlike patches for the 6.x kernels, patches for the 6.x.y kernels (also known as the -stable kernels) are not incremental but instead apply directly to the base 6.x kernel. For example, if your base kernel is 6.0 and you want to apply the 6.0.3 patch, you must not first apply the 6.0.1 and 6.0.2 patches. Similarly, if you are running kernel version 6.0.2 and want to jump to 6.0.3, you must first reverse the 6.0.2 patch (that is, patch -R) before applying the 6.0.3 patch. You can read more on this in Documentation/process/applying-patches.rst .

Alternatively, the script patch-kernel can be used to automate this process. It determines the current kernel version and applies any patches found:

The first argument in the command above is the location of the kernel source. Patches are applied from the current directory, but an alternative directory can be specified as the second argument.

Make sure you have no stale .o files and dependencies lying around:

You should now have the sources correctly installed.

Software requirements¶

Compiling and running the 6.x kernels requires up-to-date versions of various software packages. Consult Documentation/process/changes.rst for the minimum version numbers required and how to get updates for these packages. Beware that using excessively old versions of these packages can cause indirect errors that are very difficult to track down, so don’t assume that you can just update packages when obvious problems arise during build or operation.

Build directory for the kernel¶

When compiling the kernel, all output files will per default be stored together with the kernel source code. Using the option make O=output/dir allows you to specify an alternate place for the output files (including .config). Example:

To configure and build the kernel, use:

Please note: If the O=output/dir option is used, then it must be used for all invocations of make.

Configuring the kernel¶

Do not skip this step even if you are only upgrading one minor version. New configuration options are added in each release, and odd problems will turn up if the configuration files are not set up as expected. If you want to carry your existing configuration to a new version with minimal work, use make oldconfig , which will only ask you for the answers to new questions.

Alternative configuration commands are:

You can find more information on using the Linux kernel config tools in Kconfig make config .

NOTES on make config :

Having unnecessary drivers will make the kernel bigger, and can under some circumstances lead to problems: probing for a nonexistent controller card may confuse your other controllers.

A kernel with math-emulation compiled in will still use the coprocessor if one is present: the math emulation will just never get used in that case. The kernel will be slightly larger, but will work on different machines regardless of whether they have a math coprocessor or not.

The “kernel hacking” configuration details usually result in a bigger or slower kernel (or both), and can even make the kernel less stable by configuring some routines to actively try to break bad code to find kernel problems ( kmalloc() ). Thus you should probably answer ‘n’ to the questions for “development”, “experimental”, or “debugging” features.

Compiling the kernel¶

Make sure you have at least gcc 5.1 available. For more information, refer to Documentation/process/changes.rst .

Do a make to create a compressed kernel image. It is also possible to do make install if you have lilo installed to suit the kernel makefiles, but you may want to check your particular lilo setup first.

To do the actual install, you have to be root, but none of the normal build should require that. Don’t take the name of root in vain.

If you configured any of the parts of the kernel as modules , you will also have to do make modules_install .

Verbose kernel compile/build output:

Normally, the kernel build system runs in a fairly quiet mode (but not totally silent). However, sometimes you or other kernel developers need to see compile, link, or other commands exactly as they are executed. For this, use “verbose” build mode. This is done by passing V=1 to the make command, e.g.:

To have the build system also tell the reason for the rebuild of each target, use V=2 . The default is V=0 .

Keep a backup kernel handy in case something goes wrong. This is especially true for the development releases, since each new release contains new code which has not been debugged. Make sure you keep a backup of the modules corresponding to that kernel, as well. If you are installing a new kernel with the same version number as your working kernel, make a backup of your modules directory before you do a make modules_install .

Alternatively, before compiling, use the kernel config option “LOCALVERSION” to append a unique suffix to the regular kernel version. LOCALVERSION can be set in the “General Setup” menu.

In order to boot your new kernel, you’ll need to copy the kernel image (e.g. …/linux/arch/x86/boot/bzImage after compilation) to the place where your regular bootable kernel is found.

Booting a kernel directly from a floppy without the assistance of a bootloader such as LILO, is no longer supported.

If you boot Linux from the hard drive, chances are you use LILO, which uses the kernel image as specified in the file /etc/lilo.conf. The kernel image file is usually /vmlinuz, /boot/vmlinuz, /bzImage or /boot/bzImage. To use the new kernel, save a copy of the old image and copy the new image over the old one. Then, you MUST RERUN LILO to update the loading map! If you don’t, you won’t be able to boot the new kernel image.

Reinstalling LILO is usually a matter of running /sbin/lilo. You may wish to edit /etc/lilo.conf to specify an entry for your old kernel image (say, /vmlinux.old) in case the new one does not work. See the LILO docs for more information.

After reinstalling LILO, you should be all set. Shutdown the system, reboot, and enjoy!

If you ever need to change the default root device, video mode, etc. in the kernel image, use your bootloader’s boot options where appropriate. No need to recompile the kernel to change these parameters.

Reboot with the new kernel and enjoy.

If something goes wrong¶

If you have problems that seem to be due to kernel bugs, please follow the instructions at ‘ Reporting issues ’.

Hints on understanding kernel bug reports are in ‘ Bug hunting ’. More on debugging the kernel with gdb is in ‘ Debugging kernel and modules via gdb ’ and ‘ Using kgdb, kdb and the kernel debugger internals ’.

© Copyright The kernel development community.

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