It’s usually not very interesting to write about individual Linux kernel releases, in part because most updates are fairly routine. Any Linux kernel update fixes some bugs, improves support for existing hardware, and makes some promising changes in anticipation of the new one, and kernel version 5.19 was no exception.
However, there is something interesting about this release that was also mentioned by Linux developer Linus Torvalds in his notes: the kernel update was released using an ARM-based laptop, specifically the M2-based version of Apple’s MacBook Air, reports ArsTechnica.
Linux 5.19 is out, and Linus Torvalds released it from an M2 MacBook Air running the Asahi Linux kernel! 🎉https://t.co/4fZ1ziN8Zj
“It’s something I’ve been waiting for for a long time, and it’s finally reality, thanks to the Asahi team,” writes Torvalds. “We’ve had arm64 hardware around running Linux for a long time, but none of it has really been usable as a development platform until now.”
Torvalds runs Linux on his MacBook M2 using Asahi Linux, a distribution that supports Apple’s new chips. Back in November 2020, Torvalds wrote that the then-new version of the M1 Air “would be almost perfect” as a Linux laptop on Arm, but noted: “I don’t have the time to mess with it or the desire to fight companies I don’t want to help “.
On one level, this news is just an interesting tidbit, because for most Linux users it doesn’t matter what computer Torvalds is currently using. Also, Asahi Linux is still in a rough early state, with many things half-functional or not working at all. But as Asahi contributor Hector Martin points out, having “real people… using Linux on a real modern ARM64 platform” with a modern version of the Arm instruction set and a “near-source kernel” has consequences that benefit the rest of the ecosystem.
More people using Linux versions of Arm means more of them will fix Arm-related bugs, which will benefit all distributions, and more developers will find Arm-specific issues in their own software. Ultimately, the Linux hardware experience on Arm hardware should improve for everyone, although these changes may take years to manifest. But along with hardware efforts such as Qualcomm’s upcoming high-performance Arm chips, and Microsoft’s commitment to Arm‘s hardware and software, they can make Arm-based PCs more attractive and competitive alternatives to traditional x86 PCs on Intel and AMD processors.
It’s also worth noting that Torvalds believes that the 5.20 release of the Linux kernel will eventually become 6.0 version not because of any specific feature updates, but because Linus is “starting to worry about getting confused by big numbers again.” Kernel versions 3.x and 4.x were also ported to the next main version number around the 20th release.