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The Linux 3.13 Kernel Has Many Improvements

Linux Kernel

Published on 09 January 2014 04:06 AM EST
Written by Michael Larabel in Linux Kernel
2 Comments

With development dragging on for the Linux 3.13 kernel until the middle of January, here's a recap of some of the most important changes that landed into Linux 3.13 that either provided new features, performance improvements, or are worth noting for one reason or another. There's also a rundown of all the Linux kernel benchmarks we've done on this new kernel to date.

Here's what I find as my top changes from Linux 3.13 worth mentioning:

- A late bloomer to the Linux 3.13 kernel that fortunately got in was a very important Radeon DRM patch that sharply improves the RadeonSI Gallium3D performance. This will excite many Phoronix readers. As soon as I get back to America (at the time you're reading this, I'll be airborne on my back), I will be running some new RadeonSI performance tests! For some OpenGL test cases the performance can be multiple times faster over pre-3.13 kernels. It's also a good idea to be using the latest Mesa Git code on the user-space side for maximum performance.

- The Multi-Queue Block Layer was merged for intending to offer better performance for SSDs. The multi-queue block layer work allows for I/O load to be spread across multiple CPU cores and to support multiple hardware queues. In my early Linux 3.13 SSD testing I found the file-system to be lower nearly across the board on Linux 3.13, but some users are reporting better responsiveness under high I/O with this kernel. I also have already carried out some Linux 3.13 HDD file-system benchmarks.

- AMD landed open-source Radeon R9 290 "Hawaii" GPU support. However, this support is still very primitive and with the user-space code that's also needed it doesn't yet enable hardware acceleration by default. The Radeon R9 290 is a wreck on Linux right now with the Catalyst driver and with the open-source driver with the current experimental code it will be even messier. Just avoid the hardware until the support improves in the coming months.

- Besides enabling Hawaii GPU support and the Radeon performance patch for newer AMD GPUs, there's also Dynamic Power Management support by default. Enabling Radeon DPM means better performance on high-end GPUs, lower power use, and lower heat output.

- AMD also pushed HDMI audio improvements with 7.1 channel audio support on capable hardware and DTS HD-MA and TrueHD audio. It's also enabled by default now where previously it was hidden behind a kernel module parameter.

- Intel landed their open-source Broadwell graphics support, their 2014 Haswell successor. The support is now there both from the kernel and user-space side, but it will likely take a few months -- roughly until Broadwell processors hit the streets -- until the support is really primed within Intel's open-source Linux stack.

- Nouveau power management code but it still isn't ready for end-users and leaves a lot to be desired. No exciting Nouveau code has yet been shared for Linux 3.14 so it still may be a while until this open-source NVIDIA driver can set modern GeForce GPUs to run at their proper frequencies.

- NFTables was merged and in due time will ultimately replace IPTables on Linux.

- A power regression fix has landed for some older Intel servers/workstations and it's since been back-ported to the supported stable Linux kernel series.

- There's a new power-capping framework and run-time power average limiting driver being led by Intel.

- Various other bug-fixes and minor additions, see the dozens of Linux 3.13 Phoronix articles.

On the Linux 3.13 kernel benchmarking side, among the performance articles I've already done with this forthcoming kernel include:

- Linux 3.6 to 3.13 power consumption testing.

- AMD APU benchmarks.

- Linux 3.13 CPU governor benchmarks.

- Linux 3.11 / 3.12 / 3.13 performance benchmarks.

- Early Linux 3.13 kernel benchmarks.

- Intel Core i3/i5 performance update using the latest open-source code, including Linux 3.13.

- Intel HD Graphics benchmarks from Linux 3.13.

- SSD and HDD benchmarks from the new kernel. Published just yesterday were also 8-way file-system benchmarks using the new kernel.

About The Author
Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com and founded the web-site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience and being the largest web-site devoted to Linux hardware reviews, particularly for products relevant to Linux gamers and enthusiasts but also commonly reviewing servers/workstations and embedded Linux devices. Michael has written more than 10,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics hardware drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and OpenBenchmarking.org automated testing software. He can be followed via and or contacted via .
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