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Linux 5.14 with “secret” storage and secure hyperthreading

Just days after the 30th anniversary of the very first Linux announcement, Linus Torvalds released kernel version 5.14. In the current release announcement, Torvalds jokingly took up this coincidence. He understands that for the 30th anniversary everyone will certainly be busy with galas and fancy events, but has a nice change from glitter, champagne and Co. ready: a new kernel release to test and enjoy.

Linux 5.14, which falls between two emblematic anniversaries, namely the Linux announcement on August 25, 1991 and the very first kernel release on September 17 of the same year, is not a gigantic release compared to some of its recent predecessors. At first glance, it could even pass as a mere “standard update” with new and improved drivers. However, some less obvious but significant innovations deserve some attention – including the complete elimination of the old IDE driver system, so-called “core scheduling” as a defense against Specter attack variants and secret memory areas.

The previous IDE driver (Integrated Drive Electronics) has been deprecated since Linux 5.2 and should disappear from Linux with one of the kernel releases in 2021. Linux 5.14 is now implementing this plan: The driver is history.

The announcement of the discontinuation had already sparked heated discussions in advance: Many users saw their old hard drives connected by ribbon cables and the systems based on them land at the recycling center. But it doesn’t get that bad: The discarded driver is just the “Legacy IDE driver” that addresses data carriers via parallel ATA (PATA) or IDE and drives drives via device names such as / dev / hda, / dev / hdb and Co. provides.

What was used almost exclusively in the 1990s and earlier 2000s no longer plays a role in modern systems. Because with the advent of Serial ATA (SATA), the Linux kernel received a new driver called libata. This provides the newer SATA devices as / dev / sda, / dev / sdb etc. Initially there was a separate driver for PATA (in the form of the legacy IDE driver) and SATA (in the form of libata). But very soon, libata added more to be able to control PATA devices.

Most Linux distributions have been using libata for years and the mainstream distributions have all been changed. In the end it was only old systems with Motorola MC680x0 that still relied on the legacy driver. With the Replace the q40ide driver with pata_falcon and falconide the Atari faction was ready for the change with the Falcon and modified Mega STE and TT030. After this Exchange of macide for libata for some classic 68k Macs like the Quadra 630 the last hurdle was taken. Removing the old legacy ID driver lightened the Linux kernel by over 41,000 lines of code.

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