Linux kernel 5.16 now available with performance tweaks, Nintendo Switch controller drivers, and more
The Linux kernel is at the heart of countless devices and operating systems, including Android phones and tablets, Chromebooks, desktop Linux distributions, and much more. New versions are usually released every few months, and now version 5.16 is available to try out.
Linus Torvalds, the creator and lead maintainer of the Linux kernel, wrote on the kernel mailing list (via omg! ubuntu!), “Not a lot here since [v5.16 release candidate 8], which is not unexpected. We had that extra week due to the holidays, and it’s not like we had lots of last-minute things that needed to be sorted out. So this mainly contains some driver fixes (mainly networking and rdma), a cgroup credential use fix, a few core networking fixes, a couple of last-minute reverts, and some other random noise.”
Perhaps the most important change in this release is a new kernel system called ‘futex2,’ short for ‘fast user mutex.’ It allows applications to create mutexes, semaphores, conditional variables, and other fast-performing synchronization mechanisms. This new feature could improve performance of games running in the Wine compatibility layer (as well as native Linux games), but Wine hasn’t implemented this yet, so we’ll have to wait and see how that turns out.
This release also has the usual mix of new hardware support. Nintendo Switch Joy-Cons and Pro Controllers now work without any additional drivers or tweaks, as well as the 2021 Apple Magic Keyboard. The AMD graphics driver now works with DisplayPort 2.0, which is rumored to be included on upcoming Radeon graphics cards, and support for Intel Alder Lake S graphics (DG1) is now considered stable.
There are hundreds of other changes in this release — Kernel Hacking has a detailed log, if you’re interested. The kernel should start appearing as an update for some desktop Linux distributions in the coming days, but some operating systems and distributions (like Ubuntu) will hold off for now. Canonical hasn’t confirmed which Linux kernel version will be included with the next Ubuntu 22.04 update, for example.