Kernel-Updates - yes or no? [solved]

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Kernel-Updates - yes or no? [solved]

Post by rainerk »

Hi everybody,

my question is not a new one, but I don't have an answer which helps in daily practical use of Linux Mint. The question is simply: Should I install kernel updates or not?

I have been using Linux Mint throughout the 17's and 18's versions. I have installed every update I got all this time on three privately used PCs of different configurations and ages (up to ten years old). No problem ever. But recently I read: Don't change the kernel of a distribution! Install every update, but stay with the kernel which comes initially with a distribution! Stay with the first two numbers: Kernel 4.10 should stay kernel 4.10. Install updates, but only those which don't change these first two numbers.

Since then I realized, that I don't have a criterion I could apply to decide whether to apply a kernel update or not. I want to keep my system(s) up to date. There is no risk of loosing data. Data are saved daily. I'm used to install every update of category 4. Kernel updates come as updates of category 4, so why not install a kernel update? Okay, there is a risk. Should I take the risk to have my system(s) using the latest state of the art? There is a way to roll back to a previous kernel, but this rollback is not easy, and the Mint-Team warns there could be problems. To much of a risk? I could even make a system backup before updating the kernel. Do you?

The question remains unanswered: Yes or no? What do i miss if I follow the advice to never change the kernel of a distribution? And if you say: that depends!, then: on what does it depend? What should be my criterion?

Thanks for your remarks.

Rainer Klueting, Germany
Last edited by rainerk on Fri Feb 02, 2018 2:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by Pjotr »

rainerk wrote:my question is not a new one, but I don't have an answer which helps in daily practical use of Linux Mint. The question is simply: Should I install kernel updates or not?
Yes. Reason: Meltdown/Spectre.

Klare Sache und damit hopp. :mrgreen:

Under ordinary circumstances, it's usually an acceptable risk not to update your kernel. But the current Meltdown/Spectre crisis is an exception: everybody should install a kernel with (some) protection against this. Currently, these can only be found in the 4.4 and the 4.13 kernel series.
Last edited by Pjotr on Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by Moem »

rainerk wrote:There is a way to roll back to a previous kernel, but this rollback is not easy
I disagree: it's actually quite easy. You need to boot up from a previous kernel that you know was working, by chosing it in GRUB during startup; once booted, you can uninstall the non-suitable kernel through the update manager.
Because this is so easy, I regard kernel updates as non-risky.

Keep in mind that kernel updates can be security updates; in these cases I would install them. And yes, they are marked as highest level updates, but that is only because a non-suitable kernel will cause problems; it does not mean these problems are irreversible. They are not: once you are back on a working kernel, all will be well with the world again.
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by Hoser Rob »

Moem wrote:
rainerk wrote:There is a way to roll back to a previous kernel, but this rollback is not easy
I disagree: it's actually quite easy. You need to boot up from a previous kernel that you know was working, by chosing it in GRUB during startup; once booted, you can uninstall the non-suitable kernel through the update manager.
Because this is so easy, I regard kernel updates as non-risky.

Keep in mind that kernel updates can be security updates; in these cases I would install them. And yes, they are marked as highest level updates, but that is only because a non-suitable kernel will cause problems; it does not mean these problems are irreversible. They are not: once you are back on a working kernel, all will be well with the world again.
+1. Reverting kernels is easy, it's the other high level updates that aren't.
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by Cosmo. »

rainerk wrote:But recently I read: Don't change the kernel of a distribution! Install every update, but stay with the kernel which comes initially with a distribution! Stay with the first two numbers: Kernel 4.10 should stay kernel 4.10. Install updates, but only those which don't change these first two numbers.
Where did you read this? There gets much nonsense written in the wild, partially even dangerous.
For a LTS kernel it might be a good choice to stay with it, if there are no special needs to upgrade the kernel, but 4.10 is not a LTS kernel and since some time no longer supported. So regarding 4.10 such an advice (or misunderstanding from your side?) is a really bad idea.
rainerk wrote:I could even make a system backup before updating the kernel. Do you?
Going back to the previous kernel is a matter of loading it at boot time. On some hardware it might be not so easy to make the grub menu visible for this purpose. So simply try it: Press and hold the shift-key immediately after powering on until you see the grub menu. If this works for you the following is easy. In case it should not work, there are other methods, which we can discuss if necessary. You can also use TimeShift to prepare to revert the system to a previous state. For loading an older kernel this is not really necessary, but it is a good idea to use TS an prepare for any possible problem.
rainerk wrote:What do i miss if I follow the advice to never change the kernel of a distribution?
Very simple: You miss to protect your system against possible attacks. Your system will be attackable, possibly your privacy and even your identity get lost. Those things can hardly get "restored" afterwards.

So there cannot be 2 opinions about updating security related things. So far that, what you have read (see at the top) is either dangerously wrong or misunderstood.
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by Pjotr »

Cosmo. wrote:So far that, what you have read (see at the top) is either dangerously wrong or misunderstood.
I suspect the latter.
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by michael louwe »

@ rainerk, .......
rainerk wrote:...
.
In general, a new Linux kernel is compatible with new computers and hardware and an old kernel is compatible with old computers and hardware, eg 7th-gen Intel KabyLake processors require kernel 4.10 or higher to run properly = eg install LM 18.3.

Which kernel to remain on also depends on LTS support by Ubuntu. Only kernel 3.13, 4.4 and the coming 4.15 are LTS. So, those with Intel KabyLake running kernel 4.10 to 4.13 non-LTS should upgrade to LTS kernel 4.15 in due course. This is on condition that kernel 4.15 will prove stable for their LM system. No point being kernel-updated or patched for LTS or for the Meltdown/Spectre bugs if you end up with an unstable or bricked system.

4th-gen and 5th-gen Intel processors running LM 18.3 should also be running kernel 4.4 LTS, and not 4.10 non-LTS(= not supported), on condition kernel 4.4 proves stable for their system.
... If the coming LM 19.0 with LTS kernel 4.15 proves stable for their system, they may upgrade from kernel 4.4 to 4.15.

Even though kernel updates/upgrades can be easily reverted, there is still a small risk that a buggy kernel update/upgrade will bork or brick the system, eg ...
viewtopic.php?f=61&t=258898

In general, some Win XP-era computers that are around 15 years old can no longer install or run LM 18.x or Win 8.x/10 = time to buy new computers.
Last edited by michael louwe on Sat Jan 27, 2018 2:03 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by bjmh46 »

Pjotr wrote:
rainerk wrote:my question is not a new one, but I don't have an answer which helps in daily practical use of Linux Mint. The question is simply: Should I install kernel updates or not?
Yes. Reason: Meltdown/Spectre.

Klare Sache und damit hopp. :mrgreen:

Under ordinary circumstances, it's usually an acceptable risk not to update your kernel. But the current Meltdown/Spectre crisis is an exception: everybody should install a kernel with (some) protection against this. Currently, these can only be found in the 4.4 and the 4.13 kernel series.
For those of us hanging on to Mint 17, the LTS 3.13 kernel has also been updated--currently at 3.13.0-141

Regards
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by Termy »

Perhaps the source you looked at was referring to major and minor releases, rather than patches.
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by beachgardener »

4.13.32 seems to install nicely on 18.3 cinnamon, thank you :)
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by Moem »

beachgardener wrote:4.13.32 seems to install nicely on 18.3 cinnamon, thank you :)
That's hardware-dependant. Glad to hear that it works with your machine, it works well on mine too.
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by rainerk »

Pjotr wrote:Under ordinary circumstances, it's usually an acceptable risk not to update your kernel. But the current Meltdown/Spectre crisis is an exception: everybody should install a kernel with (some) protection against this. Currently, these can only be found in the 4.4 and the 4.13 kernel series.
That's important, thank you. I understand: If for example kernel 4.13 is available, the previous kernel 4.10 will not be updated, even if there is a problem like Meltdown/Spectre. I was not sure about this.

To Cosmo: I'm sorry I forgot where I read the recommendation to stay with the first kernel of a distribution. It seems to make some sense if it is a LTS kernel. But:

To michael louwe: The update manager doesn't tell me that a kernel it offers for update is not a LTS kernel. Where do I find that information?

Thanks to all who wrote!

Rainer
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by Pjotr »

rainerk wrote:
Pjotr wrote:Under ordinary circumstances, it's usually an acceptable risk not to update your kernel. But the current Meltdown/Spectre crisis is an exception: everybody should install a kernel with (some) protection against this. Currently, these can only be found in the 4.4 and the 4.13 kernel series.
That's important, thank you. I understand: If for example kernel 4.13 is available, the previous kernel 4.10 will not be updated, even if there is a problem like Meltdown/Spectre. I was not sure about this.

Rainer
You've understood correctly (sozusagen: haargenau). :)

Only the LTS kernel series (4.4) and the latest HWE kernel series (4.13) get these critical updates:
https://sites.google.com/site/easylinux ... WE-kernels
(item 8.2, right column)
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by michael louwe »

@ rainerk, .......
rainerk wrote:...
.
https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Kernel/LTSEnablementStack

Canonical Inc support the Linux kernels found in Ubuntu. Since LM is based on Ubuntu, LM users should rely on Canonical's LTS support policy and not on Linus Torvald/kernel.org's support policy... https://www.kernel.org/category/releases.html

Those who use Debian, Fedora/CentOS, OpenSuse, ArchLinux, etc may have different LTS support policy for the Linux kernel.

I think the smaller Linux distros will usually follow Linus Torvald/kernel.org's support policy because it takes quite a lot of resources to support a Linux kernel for 3 to 5 years.

The Linux distro, Lubuntu 16.04 LTS, is only supported for 3 years by Canonical's sub-developers, ie until April 2019, whereas Ubuntu 16.04 LTS is supported for 5 years, ie until April 2021. LM follows Ubuntu's LTS support schedule.
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by rickNS »

I consider this SOLVED from the first reply.

I used Mint 9 for years without a single update, without a single issue.
I used Mint 18 for a year+ without a single update, or issue, but when everybody including those in the know says to do it, then it's a good idea, so I did.
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by Termy »

I consider that not, because it's purely anecdotal. It's safe to go outside during a thunderstorm because I've not been struck by lightening, ... doesn't mean it can't and doesn't still happen, however. Never updating a kernel for over 9 years is nuts, IMO; not only can you lose out on performance and stability improvements, but also you absolutely will lose out on updated hardware support and, most importantly, a very great many minor and major security patches.

However, I'm sure the person who posted that bit actually did upgrade their kernel whenever they got a new release, but even so, it's certainly not something I'd recommend to anybody. Of course, to each their own, per the nature of Linux. :)
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by turtlebay »

Termy wrote: not only can you lose out on performance and stability improvements, but also you absolutely will lose out on updated hardware support and, most importantly, a very great many minor and major security patches.
If hardware is working why break what's not broken?
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by Moem »

turtlebay wrote:
Termy wrote: not only can you lose out on performance and stability improvements, but also you absolutely will lose out on updated hardware support and, most importantly, a very great many minor and major security patches.
If hardware is working why break what's not broken?
I think you missed the last words: security patches.
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by Cosmo. »

turtlebay wrote:If hardware is working why break what's not broken?
If there exist security vulnerabilities, than it is broken.
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Re: Kernel-Updates - yes or no?

Post by rickNS »

Getting off topic, as the OPs question was "kernel updates"
As far as the rest of the stuff goes, certainly one strategy won't fit all, we can agree that's the beauty of Linux...choice.

For me, one of the biggest reasons I came to Linux was I was absolutely sick of Windows updates, relentless 200MB+ per day, you spent more time updating, and learning the new changes than actually using your computer. I have a good backup strategy, 2 identical computers running on cloned disks from a "master" disk, no scenario could put me out of business for more than a few minutes.
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