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Old 08-14-2010, 04:35 AM   #1
Registered: Aug 2008
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Question Big picture of the Linux kernel?


I need to get the big picture of what a kernel is, what it includes, when it's necessary to compile a new kernel, etc., and have the following questions:
  • What source files do I need to compile a new kernel?
  • What's the difference between downloading source files from and "apt-get install" kernel + kernel-headers? Does the latter simply make it easier to download the source files, or are the kernel source files from Ubuntu different from
  • When do I need to compile a new kernel?
  • Why does the kernel contain multiple files? vmlinuz, initrd.gz, filesystem.squashfs, etc.
  • When using dynamic drivers (modules) instead of static drivers, do I need to compile a new kernel? If not, how does the kernel know about the new drivers?
  • If I simply recompile... things so that I can have a new driver, what files must I replace in a liveCD ISO file? What applications will be impacted by adding a new driver to an existing ISO image?

Thank you for any help.
Old 08-14-2010, 04:38 AM   #2
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This sounds an awfully lot like homework/project word... also can you not answer the difference between downloading raw source files and downloading specifically catered files from a package manager?
Old 08-14-2010, 05:01 AM   #3
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Is this topic a continuation of

I don't think recompiling the kernel to get the desired video driver is a good idea.
Old 08-14-2010, 05:46 AM   #4
Fred Caro
Registered: May 2007
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A good film. There is no real short answer If you understand the difference between GNU and linux kernels that might help. There is really no need to update kernels unless you can see a real benefit, for example, if you had virtualbox installations loaded the kernels will not match after a host upgrade, causing another headache.

Old 08-14-2010, 12:28 PM   #5
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After a whole day reading and experimenting, I finally got it working.

For those having the same issue (Ubuntu 9.10 with an Nvidia chip with X displayed in 800x600), here's the gist of it:

1. Uninstall nv: apt-get --purge remove xserver-xorg-video-nv

2. Install nouveau (haven't tried the Nvidia driver):
# apt-get install linux-headers-$(uname -r) linux-libc-dev kernel-package
# apt-get install python-software-properties
# add-apt-repository ppa:bjfs/ppa
# apt-get update
# apt-get install xserver-xorg-video-nouveau
# depmod

3. Try to start X (eg. /etc/init.d/slim start). If it doesn't start with the settings you want, exit X and run "Xorg -configure to create an xorg.conf file that you can customize
Caution: The Modeline returned by "gtf" includes a trailing ".00" which crashed X when starting it. Removing this ".00" solved the problem.

Thank you.


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