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RHEL 9.1, AlmaLinux 9.1 and (eventually) RockyLinux


Red Hat Enterprise Linux 9.1 is out for those of you who pay money, but for those of you who don't, the new-CentOS-no-stream versions are coming up quick with AlmaLinux 9.1 now available for ppc64le and its other, less interesting architectures. As is typical for a point release RHEL 9.1 is largely a maintenance update, though it also includes support for Keylime, Red Hat's remote boot attestation solution. Keylime needs a TPM, though, which doesn't come with Raptor units as sold; there's nothing on the TPM headers on my three systems here. AlmaLinux's release notes are almost identical to RHEL's, including Keylime, and you can get ISOs from their mirrors or upgrade in place. RHEL customers will know their usual drill.

What about RockyLinux, the other white meat? 9.1 is still in beta as of this writing but is "passing ... to our testing team" for signoff. When ready, it should be ready for upgrades in place or new ISOs from the usual location.

As for CloudLinux, it seems to now be derived from AlmaLinux, so you might as well just use that.

Firefox 107 on POWER


Firefox 107 is out, a modest update, though there are some developer-facing changes. As before linking still requires Dan Horák's patch from bug 1775202 or the browser won't link on 64-bit Power ISA (alternatively put --disable-webrtc in your .mozconfig if you don't need WebRTC). Otherwise the build works with the .mozconfigs from Firefox 105 and the PGO-LTO patch from Firefox 101.

Fedora 37


Fedora 37 is out today. As I always say, it's usually one of the first mainstream distros to incorporate new changes and was one of the earliest distros to support POWER9 at all, so you should care about it because bugs and problems show up there first (if you don't like how the bleeding edge cuts your skin, try AlmaLinux or RockyLinux instead, which aim to occupy the niche old pre-Stream CentOS did). Chief amongst its changes is the new GNOME 43, which really does seem to have much better performance on OpenPOWER than previous releases (a big problem for the last couple) along with revised settings, toolkits and even more libadwaita-all-the-things, which means even fewer apps will respect your GTK theme. This also means Pantheon is no longer supported due to incompatibilities, so I guess I won't bother trying it again (admittedly it was definitely buggy even with GNOME the 42nd).

On the OpenPOWER side, the dust has largely settled from the 128-bit long double update, which was necessary pain and has translated into better package availability with the vast majority of regressions having been corrected. The kernel is up to 5.19, though 6.1 may arrive soon with possible good news for graphics card support on our systems. Some of us are tracking a problem with SATA PCIe cards, including ones Raptor ships as build-to-order options, using the Marvell 88SE9215/9235 SATA controllers (the earlier generation 88SE9128 seems unaffected), and I'll verify if this is still the case in the new kernel. The regression happened definitely by 5.15. gcc is up to 12.2.1.

Unfortunately, OpenPOWER is still in the AltArch penalty box (but along with aarch64 and s390x, so at least we have company), though that's better than ARMv7 (a.k.a. arm32, armhfp) which is no longer supported at all. I usually give it a week or two for any straggler packages to catch up and then I'll do our usual mini-review (here was the abbreviated one for F36). Note that I only test GNOME on my Blackbird; my daily driver Talos II is now KDE Plasma and not looking back. Should have made the jump ages ago.

POWER9 and tagged memory and why you care


Another excellent analysis by Hugo Landau (using findings from Jim Donoghue) on the presence — and accessibility — of hardware-supported tagged memory in the POWER9, even bare-metal POWER9s like ours. Operating systems like IBM i (formerly OS/400) use tagged pointers on every quadword for security purposes to mark pointers as valid, storing the tag data outside of the normal addressing space. If an invalid pointer is loaded, a trap instruction intercepts the fault. The instruction to set tags is undocumented and (apparently) privileged, and nothing other than IBM i currently uses it, but naturally that didn't stop these guys. Enabling tags active requires you set your POWER9 to big-endian and use the HPT MMU (i.e., the same configuration IBM i would run the CPU in). Hugo provides a detailed technical discussion on how they are accessed and stored, plus sample code (spoiler alert: the tag set instruction is 0x7c0103e6).

Firefox 106 on POWER


Firefox 106 is out, with PDF editing, the "Firefox View" feature for finding previous content on both your own desktop and any Firefox Sync-connected devices, and a big update to WebRTC. Of course, that only happens if you build with WebRTC on, and if you do you'll still need Dan Horák's patch from bug 1775202 or the browser won't link on 64-bit Power ISA (alternatively put --disable-webrtc in your .mozconfig if you don't need WebRTC). Otherwise the build works with the .mozconfigs from Firefox 105 and the PGO-LTO patch from Firefox 101.

OpenBSD 7.2


The latest release of OpenBSD is available, the new 7.2. Although there are few, if any, Power-specific changes, there are many welcome general ones including multiple improvements in SMP and updated graphics and hardware drivers. LibreSSL and OpenSSH are also updated. Note that the powerpc64 port remains big-endian only — which I have to admit is lovely — and the changelog page only gives "XXXX" for number of prebuilt packages available for 32-bit powerpc and 64-bit powerpc64. Here is a complete list of changes and download mirrors.