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While updating my Linux installation on an AMD Ryzen system with sudo pacman -Syu, I noticed this row:

gremlins/linux-zen    5.12.1.zen2-1     5.12.4.zen1-1      0.05 MiB      98.39 MiB

So the kernel would be updated from version 5.12.1.zen2-1 to 5.12.4.zen1-1.

Why the downgrade from zen2 to zen1?

My laptop has an AMD Ryzen 7 2700U, Zen 2, processor. The Linux distribution is Artix (Arch based).

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It's not a downgrade from zen2 to zen1. It's an upgrade from 5.12.1.zen2-1 to 5.12.4.zen1-1. You can't just split out a component in the middle of the version string to decide if its newer or older.

You're seeing the result of a double layer of versioning applied. Package versions generally (across distros) tend to comprise both the upstream version (5.12.1-zen2 and 5.12.4-zen1 here) and a distro-specific version (here, both are 1, the number after the last hyphen) intended to be used for distro-specific updates (e.g., custom patches applied, rebuilds made due to changes in build dependencies, etc.). The situation is complicated here by the Zen kernel itself being a downstream of Linux, so they tack on their own version modifier (zen2, zen1) after the real upstream (Linux kernel) version (5.12.1, 5.14.1).

So imagine something like this:

  1. Linus publishes a new kernel, say x.y.z
  2. The Zen folks publish their new version based on that - x.y.z-zen1
  3. Arch Linux publishes their packages based on that - x.y.z-zen1-1
  4. Arch Linux publishes another package based on x.y.z-zen1 because some dependency got changes (maybe a new version of gcc or something) - x.y.z-zen1-2
  5. The Zen folks publish one more version base don the same Linux version, maybe tacking on another patch or something - x.y.z-zen2.
  6. Arch Linux publishes that: x.y.z-zen2-1 (note how the Arch Linux part of the number resets)
  7. Linus publishes a new kernel x.a.z
  8. When Zen publishes a new version based on x.a.z, now they will use x.a.z-zen1, since it's their first release based on x.a.z.
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    just for sake of completeness, zen is called patchset, and is applied to vanilla kernel; every new version of the patchset will increase its number: zen1, zen2, and so on...
    – mattia.b89
    May 16 at 11:43

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