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Building a kernel older than the initial release of the distro is a pretty good recipe for disaster. With each new release features are added that are not necessarily (and almost certainly not) available in the older kernel.
Ok, the driver support is built into the newer kernels. So no new kernel, no hardware support(unless you want to track down all the patches to get your hardware running on the older kernel). You MAY be able to apply the .24 patch to a newer kernel. I would contact the author of the patch and see what information he can provide. You are likely to have one of four situations. The patch is not needed for newer kernels. The provided patch works on current kernels. There is a current patch for current kernels. No further work is being done on the project.
More than likely the older kernels (or distro versions) are probably due to missing hardware support in the kernel. That being said there are ALWAYS exceptions to any such statement. To make any real assessment one would have to know the specific (as in cut and paste) errors that the failed attempt was give out.
When I tried to install Fedora 8, when I get to the installation screen, even before start formatting disk and installing, I got the window error message of
" no driver found"
"unable to find any devices of the type needed for the installation
type, could you manually select your driver or use a driver disk?"
I'm trying to evaluate the click router (http://www.read.cs.ucla.edu/click/) in the kernel. It seems I cannot get around it without running 188.8.131.52 or earlier kernel version on my machine. Will it be useful to try other linux distributions?
For the most part a kernel is a kernel(same number) regardless of distro.
Another option my be to replace the machine. The older the hardware is the more likely it will have support in an older kernel. Normally routers do not need a lot of raw power to get the job done. There are a lot of PIIs around that are being used as routers.
Just a quick glance through the description of the software would leave me to believe you are not likely to find an equivalent replacement. If you were just needing to set up a machine as a regular router there would be tons of choices, but the dynamic flexibility nature of click will probably narrow your choices to the extreme. You might consider starting a new thread about click itself. I am always amazed at the diversity of projects that people on this forum have ran. I would suggest the Networking section.
One option (distro wise) did just occur to me. RHEL/Centos keeps the same base kernel throughout the entire versions life cycle. For instance RHEL/Centos 5.X will have a 2.6.18-X based kernel for its entire life (7years?). However they do back patch those kernels with new security features and new hardware support. Centos/RHEL 5.2 added a ton of new hardware support when it was released and Centos5.3(out in days?) (RHEL is already out)adds even more. Centos is a free clone of RHEL. It is built from the same source code as REHL, just with the proprietary bit (mostly logos) removed.