Article from Issue 231/2020

In the news: Elementary OS 5.1 Has Arrived; Linux Kernel 5.4 Released; System76 To Design And Build Laptops In-House; SUSE Adds SUSE Linux Enterprise to the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure;

Elementary OS 5.1 Has Arrived

If you've not heard of Elementary OS, chances are you don't know what Linux is. If, on the other hand, you have heard of Elementary OS, and you've yet to give it a try, now's a great time. Why? The latest release, 5.1 (aka "Hera") is available and it promises to be the best release yet.

Elementary 5.1 brings a number of new and exciting changes to what is often considered the most elegant desktop operating system on the market. Some of the new changes to the platform include:

  • A new first-run experience that makes onboarding seamless and simple. The app is modular and includes introductions to Location services, Night Light, Housekeeping, and the AppCenter.
  • A brand new login window that looks more refined and includes numerous bug fixes.
  • Sideload, a new app for installing Flatpak applications that are not found in the AppCenter.
  • Flatpak support in the Elementary AppCenter.
  • Major upgrades centered around accessibility and the System Settings tool.

Although it might seem like a minor release (going from 5.0 to 5.1), Hera should be considered a major upgrade. Elementary releases new platform versions every two years. However, this particular release is significant enough to warrant its own name and identity.

Download Elementary OS 5.1 at

Linux Kernel 5.4 Released

Linux founder Linus Torvalds has announced the release of kernel 5.4 ( Included in this latest release are a number of additions and improvements that will certainly benefit desktop linux. What are the top features? Read on.

The most important addition to the Linux kernel 5.4 iteration is the new kernel lockdown mode. The goal of this new feature is a heightened level of security via the separation of UID 0 (also known as the root user) and the kernel. This feature includes both integrity and confidentiality modes. Integrity mode does not allow userland applications and services to modify the running kernel, while confidentiality mode does not allow the extraction of confidential information by userland applications and services.

As for graphics? Other important new features include support for AMD Navi 12 and 14 GPUs, as well as AMD Arcturus graphic cards and the AMD Dali and 2020 APU platforms. Intel Tiger Lake hardware now gets early support and the Nouveau open source driver sees improved display color management.

Finally, file systems are getting a couple of important additions. First off, an optional case-insensitive file and folder handling feature has been made available in F2FS. This will bring support for case-insensitive file-name lookups. With this feature, F2FS case folding can be set on a per-directory basis. Second, exFAT support is now available for Linux. With this new option, the transferring of files bigger than 4GB will be possible with drives formatted to the exFAT file system.

System76 To Design And Build Laptops In-House

System76 ( has been selling laptops and desktops, preinstalled with Linux, since 2005. But up until recently, their desktop machines were designed by third-party OEMs. That all changed in 2018 when System76 began selling their in-house designed and built desktops, the Thelio ( The Thelio machines have been met by glowing reviews around the globe, and can be specced high enough to accommodate serious loads.

As for laptops? System76 has been depending on Sager and Clevo to design their hardware. These laptops have served the company (and consumers) well. But once System76 proved they could build one of the finest Linux-powered desktops on the market, they set out to discover if it was possible to also produce laptops in house.

Starting in 2020, the company will begin the journey to make this dream a reality. But these won't just be the standard fare. According to Carl Rochelle, CEO of System76, the laptops will follow in the same footsteps as the Thelio and deliver as much form as it does function. In other words, the company plans on designing a laptop that can stand toe-to-toe with both the aesthetic and performance (relatively speaking) of their desktop offering.

The in-house designed and built laptop production should take 2 to 3 years to get on its feet. Until then, System76 will continue to offer the current laptop lineup, which includes the Galago Pro (, Darter Pro (, Gazelle (, Oryx Pro (, Adder WS (, and Serval WS (

The PinePhone Pre-Order has Arrived

Created by Pine64 (, the PinePhone is an affordable Linux phone with a price tag of only $149. This phone is targeted at Linux enthusiasts and developers looking for privacy-centric open source software and hardware kill switches.

The specs for the PinePhone are humble (to say the least). The device includes an Allwinner A64 1.2 GHz quad-core A53 CPU, 2GB of RAM and 16GB of storage, a 5.9" IPS LCD display, a 2MP front-facing camera and a 5MP rear-facing camera, a Mali 400 MP2 GPU, a 3000 mAh battery, and a USB C port.

The one feature that will excite privacy advocates is the inclusion of hardware kill switches for Wi-Fi, cellular, camera, speaker, and mic. For any mobile user concerned about privacy and security, a kill switch allows quick disabling of a feature. And for those who like to experiment with different flavors of Linux, the PinePhone will eventually support the installation of other distributions, such as Ubuntu Touch, PostmarketOS, LuneOS, Nemo Mobile, and Aurora OS/Sailfish OS. Because there has been so much support from the Linux community, it is possible the PinePhone will eventually be available with a number of operating systems to choose from. When the PinePhone is released to the general consumer, it will most likely ship with a version of KDE Plasma, which has been optimized for the smartphone form factor.

The first release of the PinePhone is called the "Braveheart Edition." This release is strictly for enthusiasts and should not be considered a finished product for the general public. The "Braveheart Edition" goes up for pre-order on November 15, 2019. Pine64 has targeted March 2020 for the general release.

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