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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ
Chapter 10 - Debian and the kernel

10.1 Can I install and compile a kernel without some Debian-specific tweaking?


There's only one common catch: the Debian C libraries are built with the most recent stable releases of the kernel headers. If you happen to need to compile a program with kernel headers newer than the ones from the stable branch, then you should either upgrade the package containing the headers (libc6-dev), or use the new headers from an unpacked tree of the newer kernel. That is, if the kernel sources are in /usr/src/linux, then you should add -I/usr/src/linux/include/ to your command line when compiling.

10.2 What tools does Debian provide to build custom kernels?

Users who wish to (or must) build a custom kernel are encouraged to download the package kernel-package. This package contains the script to build the kernel package, and provides the capability to create a Debian linux-image-version package just by running the command

     make-kpkg --initrd kernel_image

in the top-level kernel source directory. Help is available by executing the command

     make-kpkg --help

and through the manual page make-kpkg(1).

Users must separately download the source code for the most recent kernel (or the kernel of their choice) from their favorite Linux archive site, unless a linux-source-version package is available (where version stands for the kernel version).

Detailed instructions for using the kernel-package package are given in the file /usr/share/doc/kernel-package/README.gz.

10.3 How can I make a custom boot floppy?

This task is greatly aided by the Debian package boot-floppies, normally found in the admin section of the Debian FTP archive. Shell scripts in this package produce boot floppies in the SYSLINUX format. These are MS-DOS formatted floppies whose master boot records have been altered so that they boot Linux directly (or whatever other operating system has been defined in the syslinux.cfg file on the floppy). Other scripts in this package produce emergency root disks and can even reproduce the base disks.

You will find more information about this in the /usr/share/doc/boot-floppies/README file after installing the boot-floppies package.

10.4 What special provisions does Debian provide to deal with modules?

Debian's modconf package provides a shell script (/usr/sbin/modconf) which can be used to customize the configuration of modules. This script presents a menu-based interface, prompting the user for particulars on the loadable device drivers in his system. The responses are used to customize the file /etc/modules.conf (which lists aliases, and other arguments that must be used in conjunction with various modules) through files in /etc/modutils/, and /etc/modules (which lists the modules that must be loaded at boot time).

Like the (new) Configure.help files that are now available to support the construction of custom kernels, the modconf package comes with a series of help files (in /usr/lib/modules_help/) which provide detailed information on appropriate arguments for each of the modules.

10.5 Can I safely de-install an old kernel package, and if so, how?

Yes. The linux-image-NNN.prerm script checks to see whether the kernel you are currently running is the same as the kernel you are trying to de-install. Therefore you can remove unwanted kernel image packages using this command:

     dpkg --purge linux-image-NNN

(replace NNN with your kernel version and revision number, of course)

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The Debian GNU/Linux FAQ

version 5.0, 27 August 2011

Authors are listed at Debian FAQ Authors