Linus Torvalds now favors Ampere Arm chip over Apple Silicon MacBook for building Linux kernels — says he's now doing more Arm64 Linux testing than ever

Linux Torvalds announced he is doing more Arm64 development thanks to an Ampere workstation.
(Image credit: Engine9, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons)

Linux kernel creator Linus Torvalds has recently upped his game in testing Arm64 Linux. He initially began Arm64 Linux builds on an Apple Silicon MacBook Air, but now, thanks to a more powerful Ampere AArch64 system, he’s doing even more Arm64 testing.

Torvalds, known for creating not just the Linux kernel but also Git, worked exclusively on Intel hardware for years. Then, he switched to an AMD Ryzen Threadripper workstation for his main system. When he got his hands on his MacBook, he routinely used it to compile new Arm64 kernel builds.

Beginning with Linux kernel 5.19, Torvalds was compiling Arm64 builds on a 2022 MacBook Air with Apple’s M2 System-on-a-Chip (SoC). That model only includes 8 CPU cores, though. When Linux 5.19 was released, Torvalds wrote that he was “trying to make sure that the next time I travel, I can travel with this as a laptop and finally dogfooding the Arm64 side, too.”

In his release notes for the Linux 6.9 build, Torvalds explained that since he has “a more powerful arm64 machine (thanks to Ampere),” he’s now doing “almost as many arm64 builds as I have x86-64.” 

The developer now has an Ampere workstation/server with a high number of Armv8 cores. Torvalds doesn’t specify which Ampere system he has, but some believe it to probably be some variant of the Ampere Altra family.

Yes, the AmpereOne supports more CPU cores, but Altra workstations are more readily available. With support for up to 128 cores, the Ampere Altra is certainly robust enough for heavy-duty Arm64 Linux testing.

Torvalds explained that he expects he will continue doing quite a few Arm64 Linux builds going forward. He’s still using the M2 MacBook but explained that it’s more for weekly test builds than a daily driver. The daily driver is, presumably, the Ampere system he cited in the release notes.

We’ve contacted Torvalds to ask which Ampere workstation or server he’s using and will update you with any response.

Freelance News Writer