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LWN on Linux: 'Secure' Boot, AF_XDP Patch, 4.17 Release and 'Beep'

  • Kernel lockdown locked out — for now
    As the 4.17 merge window opened, it seemed possible that the kernel lockdown patch set could be merged at last. That was before the linux-kernel mailing list got its hands on the issue. What resulted was not one of the kernel community's finest moments. But it did result in a couple of evident conclusions: kernel lockdown will almost certainly not be merged for 4.17, but something that looks very much like it is highly likely to be accepted in a subsequent merge window. As a reminder: the purpose of the lockdown patches is to enforce a distinction between running as root and the ability to run code in kernel mode. Proponents of UEFI secure boot maintain that this separation is necessary; otherwise the promise of secure boot (that the system will only run trusted code in kernel mode) cannot be kept. Closing off the paths by which a privileged attacker could run arbitrary code in kernel mode requires disabling a number of features in the kernel; see the above-linked article for the details. Most users will never miss the disabled features, but there are always exceptions. [...] One other aspect of this issue that came up briefly is the fear that, if Linux looks like a tool that can be used to compromise secure-boot systems running Windows, that Microsoft might blacklist the signing key and render Linux unbootable on most x86 hardware. David Howells expressed this worry, for example. Greg Kroah-Hartman said, though, that he has researched this claim numerous times and it has turned out to be an "urban myth".
  • Accelerating networking with AF_XDP
    The Linux network stack does not lack for features; it also performs well enough for most uses. At the highest network speeds, though, any overhead at all is too much; that has driven the most demanding users toward specialized, user-space networking implementations that can outperform the kernel for highly constrained tasks. The express data path (XDP) development effort is an attempt to win those users back, with some apparent success so far. With the posting of the AF_XDP patch set by Björn Töpel, another piece of the XDP puzzle is coming into focus.
  • The first half of the 4.17 merge window
    As of this writing, 5,392 non-merge changesets have been pulled into the mainline repository for the 4.17 release. The 4.17 merge window is thus off to a good start, but it is far from complete. The changes pulled thus far cover a wide part of the core kernel as well as the networking, driver, and filesystem subsystems.
  • What the beep?
    A "simple" utility to make a system beep is hardly the first place one would check for security flaws, but the strange case of the "Holey Beep" should perhaps lead to some rethinking. A Debian advisory for the beep utility, which was followed by another for Debian LTS, led to a seemingly satirical site publicizing the bug (and giving it the "Holey Beep" name). But that site also exploits a new flaw in the GNU patch program—and the increased scrutiny on beep has led to more problems being found.

Games: Cities: Skylines - Parklife expansion, Supposedly Wonderful Future, Serious Sam 4

Graphics: AMD, RADV, RadeonSI, Mesa 18.0.1

  • AMDGPU DRM Gets "GFXOFF" Patches To Turn Off Graphics Engine
    AMD's Huang Rui has posted a set of 20 patches providing "GFXOFF" support for the AMDGPU Direct Rendering Manager Linux kernel driver. GFXOFF is a new graphics processor feature that allows for powering off the graphics engine when it would otherwise be idle with no graphics workload. Obviously, this would equate to a potentially significant power savings with that engine being able to be shut-off.
  • RADV Driver Lands Support For Vulkan's New Descriptor Indexing Extension
    Earlier this month with the Vulkan 1.1.72 specification update was the new VK_EXT_descriptor_indexing extension that is quickly being well received by developers. The VK_EXT_descriptor_indexing extension allows for creating large descriptor sets made up of all their combined resources and selecting those resources via dynamic indexes in a shader.
  • RadeonSI Now Appears To Support "RX Vega M" With Intel Core CPUs
    One of the most common Linux hardware questions I've received dozens of times in the past few weeks alone has been over the support for "RX Vega M" Vega-based graphics processors found on select newer Intel Kabylake CPUs. It appears RadeonSI at least should now support these Radeon graphics on Intel CPUs.
  • mesa 18.0.1
  • Mesa 18.0.1 Released With A Number Of Fixes
    In addition to Mesa 17.3.9 being released today, Mesa 18.0.1 also rolled out the door as the first point release to last quarter's Mesa 18.0 series. Mesa 18.0.1 features improvements to its Meson build system support, several RADV Vulkan driver fixes, various fixes to the Gallium3D Nine (D3D9) state tracker, various Intel driver fixes, several core Mesa improvements, and then the other random smothering of fixes collected over the past few weeks.

Programming: nGraph Compiler, JavaScript Trademark, PyPI and Pip

  • Intel Opens Up nGraph Source Code For DNN Model Compiler
    Intel tonight announced they are open-sourcing their nGraph compiler code, which serves as a framework-neutral deep neural network model compiler. Intel claims with nGraph and Xeon Scalable hardware that researchers can obtain up to 10x performance improvements over previous TensorFlow integrations, as one example. Besides TensorFlow, nGraph also supports PyTorch, MXNet, Neon, Caffe2, and CNTK while also planning to support other frameworks moving forward.
  • Why it's finally time to give up on the name JavaScript
    An iOS developer has apparently received a cease and desist notice from Oracle over the use of the word "JavaScript" in the title of their app. The developer, Tyanya Software, shared the notice on perennial internet soapbox Reddit to seek advice on how to fight the order. [...] If user reviews are any indication, the app is not even particularly good, with reviewers stating things such as "Not ready for production," "Does not work as advertised," and "Waste of money, don't buy this." The last update to the app was in 2014, which the changelog notes was only an upgrade to add support for iOS 8. The app developer is at least honest about the intent behind the unwieldy name for the app, saying in a Reddit comment that "we game the App Store ranking by adding all the keywords to the app name." While Oracle has a duty to protect their trademarks, this type of legal bludgeoning underscores a historical problem that has been left unaddressed for too long: JavaScript is a terrible name for the thing being described. It has nothing to do with Java, an actual product developed by Sun (now owned by Oracle). JavaScript was developed at Mozilla, and the name was changed during beta releases of Netscape Navigator 2.0 from "LiveScript" to "JavaScript." It has, for some time, caused confusion among casual web users about the difference between Java and JavaScript. Given that ECMAScript is also a trademarked term, it seems best to revert to calling the language "LiveScript" to undercut trademark-related legal posturing. [...] Oracle declined to comment on this story.
  • New PyPI launched
    The new PyPI has been launched. Browser traffic and API calls (including "pip install") have been redirected from the old pypi.python.org to the new site. The old PyPI will shut down on April 30. LWN covered the new PyPI last week.
  • Pip 10.0 has been released
    The release of pip 10.0 has been announced. Some highlights of this release include the removal of Python 2.6 support, limited PEP 518 support (with more to come), a new "pip config" command, and other improvements.