Linked by Clinton De Young on Mon 3rd Mar 2003 03:07 UTC
Debian and its clones If you are reading this, I assume you already know what the Linux kernel is and why you may want to update it. However, if you are accidentally reading this walkthrough, just happen to be running Linux, and have no idea what the kernel is or why you would want to update it, the next two paragraphs are for you (if you are looking instead into a less verbose and more generic way of updating your kernel on any Linux distro, read here). In a neophyte nutshell, the Linux kernel is the brain of the Linux system. It tells your system which file systems, hardware, protocols, etc. are supported. There is a lot more to it than that, of course, but I think that diminutive description will suffice for now.
Permalink for comment
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
by Clinton De Young on Tue 4th Mar 2003 16:46 UTC

I intended to help new Linux (and specifically Debian) users with this article. Not start a holy war. Sheesh.

Well, to answer a few questions and make a couple of statements here:

First of all, there are several reasons that I chose NOT to use the kernel source off of the Debian servers, but rather download a generic kernel off of . The first reason is that the topic has already been covered (as some have mentioned), whereas the method I used has not (well at least not much, there was a very good article about it in Linux Journal last year which chose the same route I did, only it was specific to a certain model of Dell laptop). I feel that choice is a good thing, so I chose to cover the topic from a different angle than most. There are some benefits to using a kernel from the Debian servers, but in reality, new users probably don't care about those things right now. They just want their sound and CD-Rs to work. There are also some benefits to using a generic kernel. I will leave those choices up to new users.

Secondly, the kernel source on the Debian stable servers does not include the latest 2.4.20 kernel (at least it didn't last time I looked). I had many requests after my previous article to show people how to install the latest kernel or development kernels; which are also not available on the Debian stable servers. I am not willing to instruct new users to go to unstable or testing to aquire these things. I figure they can venture into those branches as soon as they are ready (in my mind, knowing what those branches are and that they exist is the first step in determining readyness. I don't want people doing it just because I say so, I want them to do it when they know how to do it and why they want to).

I did not mention my intentions because I felt it would confuse new users(which is after all who this is written for). In fact, I feel that many of the comments regarding my article are confusing and incapacitating to new users. There are many ways to install a new kernel. Why muddy the waters for a new user by bombarding them with information describing all these various ways? How then would a new users choose the best way for them? In my opinion, it is best to teach one way clearly and concisely, and as thoroughly as possible, and then let new users choose for themselves the methods they will use as they aquire new knowledge and experience.

Another reason that I did not use a Debian kernel is that I wanted the article to be useful to users who wanted to try and compile a kernel on a non-Debian machine. Sure, the make kpkg stuff is Debian specific, but Eugenia has written a very good, although short, description of the generic way of installing the kernel on any Linux system. I felt that between the two articles, everybody would be benefited.

The truth of the matter is that anyone who can read and is not mentally impared, can install and make good use of Linux (or any other OS for that matter). More than information, what new users need is to feel that something is possible. Once they accomplish something for themselves, through good instruction or otherwise, they will have the confidence to explore new methods and such. The key is for them to feel that they can do it the first time.

There are many "tutorials" that say do this and do that, but if a new user types a command wrong, or accidentally skips a section, then they fail in their first attempt, and many are unwilling to try again. That is why I try to describe the scenery, so to speak, as we go along. I want people to be able to look around and say, "yep, that's exacly where I'm at so things must be going well". I want them to have that confidence in themselves and in their guide; my article in this case. That is why I write the way I do.

There are many tutorials and books, such as <product name> for Dummies, or <product name> for Complete Idiots, but I find them insulting to new user's intelligence before they ever open the book. This same insulting attitude is commonplace in Linux forums as well.

I feel that new users are intelligent human beings who just need to be shown what to do; and not be insulted in the process. That is why I use the phrase "very verbose". It indicates that the information will be extremely plentiful, which is something I think benefits new users. I also don't feel the phrase is insulting in any way.

One last comment while I'm thinking about it. Somebody was upset because I had new users go through the entire kernel instead of opening the config file for the current kernel. My response is that opening an existing config file teaches new users how to open a file (something that most of them are probably good at already). Since my intent was to teach them how to configure the kernel, I instructed them to read each help screen as they go through the entire kernel. What better way to learn a topic than to actually do it?

Anyway, if you all have more questions or complaints, feel free to ask. I will respond to them.