The Linux Kernel Series: Every Article





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In 1991, a Finnish student named Linus Benedict Torvalds made the kernel of a now popular operating system. He released Linux version 0.01 on September 1991, and on February 1992, he licensed the kernel under the GPL license. The GNU General Public License (GPL) allows people to use, own, modify, and distribute the source code legally and free of charge. This permits the kernel to become very popular because anyone may download it for free. Now that anyone can make their own kernel, it may be helpful to know how to obtain, edit, configure, compile, and install the Linux kernel.

A kernel is the core of an operating system. The operating system is all of the programs that manages the hardware and allows users to run applications on a computer. The kernel controls the hardware and applications. Applications do not communicate with the hardware directly, instead they go to the kernel. In summary, software runs on the kernel and the kernel operates the hardware. Without a kernel, a computer is a useless object.

There are many reasons for a user to want to make their own kernel. Many users may want to make a kernel that only contains the code needed to run on their system. For instance, my kernel contains drivers for FireWire devices, but my computer lacks these ports. When the system boots up, time and RAM space is wasted on drivers for devices that my system does not have installed. If I wanted to streamline my kernel, I could make my own kernel that does not have FireWire drivers. As for another reason, a user may own a device with a special piece of hardware, but the kernel that came with their latest version of Ubuntu lacks the needed driver. This user could download the latest kernel (which is a few versions ahead of Ubuntu's Linux kernels) and make their own kernel that has the needed driver. However, these are two of the most common reasons for users wanting to make their own Linux kernels.

Before we download a kernel, we should discuss some important definitions and facts. The Linux kernel is a monolithic kernel. This means that the whole operating system is on the RAM reserved as kernel space. To clarify, the kernel is put on the RAM. The space used by the kernel is reserved for the kernel. Only the kernel may use the reserved kernel space. The kernel owns that space on the RAM until the system is shutdown. In contrast to kernel space, there is user space. User space is the space on the RAM that the user's programs own. Applications like web browsers, video games, word processors, media players, the wallpaper, themes, etc. are all on the user space of the RAM. When an application is closed, any program may use the newly freed space. With kernel space, once the RAM space is taken, nothing else can have that space.

The Linux kernel is also a preemptive multitasking kernel. This means that the kernel will pause some tasks to ensure that every application gets a chance to use the CPU. For instance, if an application is running but is waiting for some data, the kernel will put that application on hold and allow another program to use the newly freed CPU resources until the data arrives. Otherwise, the system would be wasting resources for tasks that are waiting for data or another program to execute. The kernel will force programs to wait for the CPU or stop using the CPU. Applications cannot unpause or use the CPU without the kernel allowing them to do so.

The Linux kernel makes devices appear as files in the folder /dev. USB ports, for instance, are located in /dev/bus/usb. The hard-drive partitions are seen in /dev/disk/by-label. It is because of this feature that many people say "On Linux, everything is a file.". If a user wanted to access data on their memory card, for example, they cannot access the data through these device files.

The Linux kernel is portable. Portability is one of the best features that makes Linux popular. Portability is the ability for the kernel to work on a wide variety of processors and systems. Some of the processor types that the kernel supports include Alpha, AMD64 (x86-64), ARM, C6X, Intel, x86, Microblaze, MIPS, PowerPC, SPARC, UltraSPARC, etc. This is not a complete list.

In the boot folder (/boot/), users will see a "vmlinux" or a "vmlinuz" file. Both are compiled Linux kernels. The one that ends in a "z" is compressed. The "vm" stands for virtual memory. On systems with SPARC processors, users will see a zImage file instead. A small number of users may find a bzImage file; this is also a compressed Linux kernel. No matter which one a user owns, they are all bootable files that should not be changed unless the user knows what they are doing. Otherwise, their system can be made unbootable - the system will not turn on.

Source code is the coding of the program. With source code, programmers can make changes to the kernel and see how the kernel works.

Downloading the Kernel:

Now, that we understand more about the kernel, it is time to download the source code. Go to and click the large download button. Once the download is finished, uncompress the downloaded file.

NOTE: For this article, I am using the source code for Linux kernel 3.9.4. All of the instructions in this article series are the same (or nearly the same) for all versions of the kernel.


The Source Code

After the kernel source code is downloaded and uncompressed, users will see many folders and files. It may be a challenge trying to find a particular file. Thankfully, the source code is sorted in a specific way. This enables developers to find any given file or part of the kernel.

The root of the kernel source code contains the folders listed below.


There are also some files that are located in the root of the source code. They are explained below.

COPYING - Information about licensing and rights. The Linux kernel is licensed under the GPLv2 license. This license grants anyone the right to use, modify, distribute, and share the source code and compiled code for free. However, no one can sell the source code.

CREDITS - List of contributors

Kbuild - This is a script that sets up some settings for making the kernel. For example, this script sets up a ARCH variable where ARCH is the processor type that a developer wants the kernel to support.

Kconfig - This script is used when developer configure the kernel which will be discussed in a later article.

MAINTAINERS - This is a list of the current maintainers, their email addresses, website, and the specific file or part of the kernel that they specialize in developing and fixing. This is useful for when a developer finds a bug in the kernel and they wish to report the bug to the maintainer that can handle the issue.

Makefile - This script is the main file that is used to compile the kernel. This file passes parameters to the compiler as well as the list of files to compile and any other necessary information.

README - This text file provides information to developers that want to know how to compile the kernel.

REPORTING-BUGS - This text document provides information on reporting bugs.

The coding for the kernel will be in files with the extension ".c", or ".h". The “.c” extension indicates that the kernel is written in C, one of many programming languages. The “.h” files are Header files, and they are also written in C. The header files contain code that many of the “.c” files use. This saves programmers' time because they can use the contained code instead of writing new code. Otherwise, a group of code that performs the same action would be in many or all of the “.c” files. That would also consume and waste hard drive space.

All of the files in the above listed folders are well organized. The folder names help developers to at least have a good guess on the contents of the folders. A directory tree and descriptions are provided below.

arch - This folder contains a Kconfig which sets up some settings for compiling the source code that belongs in this folder. Each supported processor architecture is in the corresponding folder. So, the source code for Alpha processors belong in the alpha folder. Keep in mind that as time goes on, some new processors will be supported, or some may be dropped. For Linux Kernel v3.9.4, these are the folders under arch:


block – This folder holds code for block-device drivers. Block devices are devices that accept and send data in blocks. Data blocks are chunks of data instead of a continual stream.

crypto - This folder contains the source code for many encryption algorithms. For example, “sha1_generic.c” is the file that contains the code for the sha1 encryption algorithm.

Documentation - This folder contains plain-text documents that provide information on the kernel and many of the files. If a developer needs information, they may be able to find the needed information in here.

drivers - This directory contains the code for the drivers. A driver is software that controls a piece of hardware. For example, for a computer to understand the keyboard and make it usable, a keyboard driver is needed. Many folders exist in this folder. Each folder is named after each piece or type of hardware. For example, the bluetooth folder holds the code for bluetooth drivers. Other obvious drivers are scsi, usb, and firewire. Some drivers may be more difficult to find. For instance, joystick drivers are not in a joystick folder. Instead, they are under ./drivers/input/joystick. Keyboard and mouse drivers are also located in the input folder. The Macintosh folder contains code for hardware made by Apple. The xen folder contains code for the Xen hypervisor. A hypervisor is software or hardware that allows users to run multiple operating systems on a single computer. This means that the xen code would allow users to have two or more Linux system running on one computer at the same time. Users could also run Windows, Solaris, FreeBSD, or some other operating system on the Linux system. There are many other folders under drivers, but they are too numerous to mention in this article, but they will in a later article.

firmware - The firmware folder contains code that allows the computer to read and understand signals from devices. For illustration, a webcam manages its own hardware, but the computer must understand the signals that the webcam is sending the computer. The Linux system will then use the vicam firmware to understand the webcam. Otherwise, without firmware, the Linux system does not know how to process the information that the webcam is sending. Also, the firmware helps the Linux system to send messages to the device. The Linux system could then tell the webcam to refocus or turnoff.

fs - This is the FileSystem folder. All of the code needed to understand and use filesystems is here. Inside this folder, each filesystem's code is in its own folder. For instance, the ext4 filesystem's code is in the ext4 folder. Within the fs folder, developers will see some files not in folders. These files handle filesystems overall. For example, mount.h would contain code for mounting filesystems. A filesystem is a structured way to store and manage files and directories on a storage device. Each filesystem has its own advantages and disadvantages. These are due to the programming of the filesystem. For illustration, the NTFS filesystem supports transparent compression (when enabled, files are automatically compressed without the user noticing). Most filesystems lack this feature, but they could only possess this ability if it is programmed into the files in the fs folder.

include - The include folder contains miscellaneous header files that the kernel uses. The name for the folder comes from the C command "include" that is used to import a header into C code upon compilation.

init - The init folder has code that deals with the startup of the kernel (INITiation). The main.c file is the core of the kernel. This is the main source code file the connects all of the other files.

ipc - IPC stands for Inter-Process Communication. This folder has the code that handles the communication layer between the kernel and processes. The kernel controls the hardware and programs can only ask the kernel to perform a task. Assume a user has a program that opens the DVD tray. The program does not open the tray directly. Instead, the program informs the kernel that the tray should be opened. Then, the kernel opens the tray by sending a signal to the hardware. This code also manages the kill signals. For illustration, when a system administrator opens a process manager to close a program that has locked-up, the signal to close the program is called a kill signal. The kernel receives the signal and then the kernel (depending on which type of kill signal) will ask the program to stop or the kernel will simply take the process out of the memory and CPU. Pipes used in the command-line are also used by the IPC. The pipes tell the kernel to place the output data on a physical page on in memory. The program or command receiving the data is given a pointer to the page on memory.

kernel - The code in this folder controls the kernel itself. For instance, if a debugger needed to trace an issue, the kernel would use code that originated from source files in this folder to inform the debugger of all of the actions that the kernel performs. There is also code here for keeping track of time. In the kernel folder is a directory titled "power". Some code in this folder provide the abilities for the computer to restart, power-off, and suspend.

lib - the library folder has the code for the kernel's library which is a set of files that that the kernel will need to reference.

mm - The Memory Management folder contains the code for managing the memory. Memory is not randomly placed on the RAM. Instead, the kernel places the data on the RAM carefully. The kernel does not overwrite any memory that is being used or that holds important data.

net - The network folder contains the code for network protocols. This includes code for IPv6 and Appletalk as well as protocols for Ethernet, wifi, bluetooth, etc. Also, the code for handling network bridges and DNS name resolution is in the net directory.

samples - This folder contains programming examples and modules that are being started. Assume a new module with a helpful feature is wanted, but no programmer has announced that they would work on the project. Well, these modules go here. This gives new kernel programmers a chance to help by going through this folder and picking a module they would like to help develop.

scripts - This folder has the scripts needed for compiling the kernel. It is best to not change anything in this folder. Otherwise, you may not be able to configure or make a kernel.

security - This folder has the code for the security of the kernel. It is important to protect the kernel from computer viruses and hackers. Otherwise, the Linux system can be damaged. Kernel security will be discussed in a later article.

sound - This directory has sound driver code for sound/audio cards.

tools - This directory contains tools that interact with the kernel.

usr - Remember the vmlinuz file and similar files mentioned in the previous article? The code in this folder creates those files after the kernel is compiled.

virt - This folder contains code for virtualization which allows users to run multiple operating systems at once. This is different from Xen (mentioned previously). With virtualization, the guest operating system is acting like any other application within the Linux operating system (host system). With a hypervisor like Xen, the two operating systems are managing the hardware together and the same time. In virtualization, the guest OS runs on top of the Linux kernel while in a hypervisor, there is no guest OS and all of the operating systems do not depend on each other.

Tip: Never move a file in the kernel source unless you know what you are doing. Otherwise, the compilation with fail due to a "missing" file.

The Linux kernel folder structure has remained relatively constant. The kernel developers have made some modifications, but overall, this setup is the same throughout all kernel versions. The driver folder's layout also remains about the same.



Drivers are small programs that enable the kernel to communicate and handle hardware or protocols (rules and standards). Without a driver, the kernel does not know how to communicate with the hardware or handle protocols (the kernel actually hands the commands to the BIOS and the BIOS passes them on the the hardware). The Linux Kernel source code contains many drivers (in the form of source code) in the drivers folder. Each folder within the drivers folder will be explained. When configuring and compiling the kernel, it helps to understand the drivers. Otherwise, a user may add drivers to the kernel that they do not need or leave out important drivers. The driver source code usually includes a commented line that states the purpose of the driver. For example, the source code for the tc driver has a single commented line that says the driver is for TURBOchannel buses. Because of the documentation, users should be able to look at the first few commented lines of future drivers to learn their purpose.

There are different terms that should be understood so that the information below is understandable. An I/O device is an Input/Output device. A modem and network card are examples of this; they send and receive data. A monitor is an output device - information only comes out. A keyboard, mouse, and joystick are input only - data goes into the system. Storage devices store data. Examples of these include SD cards, Hard-drives, CD-roms, memory cards, etc. The CPU (also called a processor) is the "brain" or "heart" of the computer. Without this single processing chip, the computer cannot function. A motherboard (mainboard) is a small board with printed circuits that connect to the components that are on the board. The board and the components are essential to the functionality of a computer. Many computer users say that the motherboard is the heart of the computer (the motherboard holds the CPU). The motherboard contains ports for peripherals. Peripherals include the input, output, and storage devices. A bus is the circuitry of the motherboard and connection to peripherals. Network devices deal with the connection of two or more computers. Ports are devices that users can plug another device or cable into. For example, users would plug a FireWire memory stick into a FireWire port; an Ethernet cable would go into an Ethernet port. Optical discs are read using lasers that read off of reflective surfaces that will either scatter or reflect the laser light. A common optical disk is the DVD. Many systems are 32-bit or 64-bit systems; this refers to the number of bits of registers, address buses, or data buses. For instance, on a 64-bit motherboard, the data buses (the silver lines going between components) have sixty-four lines running parallel to the same destination. Memory addresses are addresses to the memory in the form of bits (ones and zeros). So, a 32-bit memory address contains thirty-two ones and zeros that give the location of a spot on the memory.

Many of the drivers are generic driver meaning that a generic keyboard driver will allow the kernel to handle nearly every keyboard. However, some drivers are specialized. Apple and Commodore, for instance, have made specialized hardware for their Apple computer and Amiga system, respectively. The Linux kernel contains drivers for many devices like Smartphones, Apples, Amiga systems, Sony's Playstation3, Android tablets, and many others.

Notice that some drivers overlap categories. For instance, radio drivers exist in the net folder and the media directory.

accessibility - These drivers offer support for accessibility devices. In Linux kernel 3.9.4, only one driver is in this folder, and that is the braille device driver.

acpi - The Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) drivers manage power usage.

amba - Advanced Microcontroller Bus Architecture (AMBA) is a protocol for the management and interconnection in a System-on-Chip (SoC). A SoC is a single chip that contains many or all essential components of a computer in one chip. The AMBA drivers in this folder allow the kernel to run on these chips.

ata - This directory contains drivers for PATA and SATA devices. Serial ATA (SATA) is a computer bus interface that connects host bus adapters to storage devices like hard-drives. Parallel ATA (PATA) is a standard for connecting storage devices like hard-drives, floppy drives, and optical disc drives. PATA is commonly known as IDE.

atm - Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) is a standard for telecommunications. There are a variety of drivers in here from PCI bridges (they connect to PCI buses) and Ethernet controllers (integrated circuit chip that controls Ethernet communications).

auxdisplay - This folder provides three drivers - LCD framebuffer driver, LCD Controller driver, and a LCD driver. These drivers manage Liquid Crystal Display monitors. LCD monitors are the screens that ripple when pressed. NOTE: The screen can be damaged when pressed, so do not poke of push on LCD screens.

base - This is an important directory that contains essential base drivers for firmware, the system bus, hypervisor abilities, etc.

bcma - These are drivers for buses that use a protocol that are based on the AMBA protocol. These new buses are made by Broadcom.

block - These drivers provide the kernel with support for block devices like floppy-disk readers, SCSI tapes, block devices over TCP, etc.

bluetooth - Bluetooth is a secure wireless standard for Personal Area Networks (PANs). The bluetooth drivers are in this folder and allow the system to use the different bluetooth devices. For example, a bluetooth mouse lacks a cable, and the computer has a dongle (small USB receiver). The Linux system must be able to understand the mouse signals that are coming in through the dongle. Otherwise, the bluetooth device would not work.

bus - This directory contains three drivers. One converts the ocp interface protocol to scp protocol. The other is a driver for interconnection between devices and the third driver is error handling for interconnection.

cdrom - Two drivers exist in this directory. One is for cd-roms - this includes reading and writing DVDs and CDs. The driver second is for gd-roms (Gigabyte Disc Read-Only Memory). A GD is an optical disc with a 1.2GB storage capacity. This is like a large CD or small DVD. GDs are commonly used in Dreamcast game consoles.

char - Character device drivers are stored here. Character devices transmit data one character at a time. Some included drivers in the folder are printers, PS3 flash ROM storage driver, Toshiba SMM drivers, and random number generator driver.

clk - These drivers are for the system clock.

clocksource - These drivers use the clock as a timer.

connector - These drivers supply the kernel with the ability to know when processes fork and execute as well as changing the UID (User ID), GID (Group ID), and SID (session ID) using what is called a proc connector. The kernel needs to know when process fork (run multiple tasks in the CPU) and execute. Otherwise, the kernel may have inefficiencies in managing resources.

cpufreq - These drivers control the CPU by changing power consumption.

cpuidle - These drivers manage the idleness of the CPU/s. If the system uses multiple CPUs, then one of the drivers will try to keep the idleness the same.

crypto - These drivers provide cryptographic features like encryption.

dca - Direct Cache Access drivers allow the kernel to access the CPU cache. The CPU cache is like a RAM storage built into the CPU chip. The CPU cache is faster than the RAM chip. However, the CPU cache has a much lower space capacity than the RAM. The CPU stores the most important and executed code on this cache system.

devfreq - This driver provides a Generic Dynamic Voltage and Frequency Scaling (DVFS) Framework which changes the CPU frequency as needed to conserve energy. This is known as CPU throttling.

dio - The Digital Input/Output bus drivers allow the kernel to use DIO buses.

dma - The Direct memory access (DMA) driver allows devices to access without needing the CPU. This reduces the load on the CPU.

edac - The Error Detection And Correction drives help reduce and correct errors.

eisa - The Extended Industry Standard Architecture drivers provide EISA bus support to the kernel.

extcon - The EXTernal CONnectors driver detects changes in the ports when a device is plugged in. For instance, extcon will detect if a user plugs in a USB drive.

firewire - These drivers control FireWire devices which are USB-like devices made by Apple.

firmware - These drivers communicate with the firmware of the device like the BIOS (the Basic Input Output System firmware of a computer). The BIOS is used to boot up the operating system and control the hardware and firmware of the device. Some BIOS systems allow user's to overclock the CPU. Overclocking is making the CPU operate at a faster speed. The CPU speed is measured in MHz (Mega-Hertz) or GHz. A CPU with a clock speed of 3.7GHz is significantly faster than a 700MHz processor.

gpio - General Purpose Input/Output (GPIO) is a generic pin on a chip whose behavior can be controlled by the user. The drivers here control GPIO.

gpu - The drivers in this folder control the Video Graphics Array (VGA), Graphics Processing Unit (GPU), and Direct Rendering Manager (DRM). VGA is the 640×480 resolution analog computer displays or simply the resolution standard. A GPU is a processor for graphics. DRM is a rendering system for Unix systems.

hid - These drivers provide support for USB Human Interface Devices.

hsi - This driver offers the kernel the ability to access the cellular modem on the Nokia N900.

hv - These drivers provide Key Value Pair (KVP) functionality to Linux systems.

hwmon - The HardWare MONitoring drivers allow the kernel to get the readings from sensors in the hardware. For example, the CPU has a thermometer. The kernel can then keep track of the temperature and change the fan speed accordingly.

hwspinlock - The hardware spinlock drivers allow systems to use two or more processors that are different or a single processor with two or more different cores.

i2c - I2C drivers enable the I2C protocol which handle low-speed peripherals attached to the motherboard. The System Management Bus (SMBus) driver manages SMBuses which is a single two-wire bus for lightweight communication.

ide - These drivers are for PATA/IDE devices like cdroms and hard-drives.

idle - This driver manages the idleness of Intel processors.

iio - The Industrial I/O core drivers handle analog to digital or digital to analog converters.

infiniband - Infiniband is a high-performance port used by enterprise datacenters and some supercomputers. The drivers in this directory support Infiniband hardware.

input - This directory contains many drivers. All of the drivers deal with input and some include drivers for joysticks, mice, keyboards, gameport (old joystick connectors), remotes, haptic controllers, headphone buttons, and many others. Joysticks today use USB ports, but in the 1980s and 1990s, joysticks plugged into gameports.

iommu - Input/Output Memory Management Unit (IOMMU) drivers manage the IOMMU which is a form of Memory Management Unit (MMU). The IOMMU connects a DMA-capable I/O bus to the RAM. The IOMMU is the bridge between devices and access to the RAM without help from the CPU. This helps to reduce the processors load.

ipack - Ipack stands for IndustryPack. This driver is for a virtual bus that allows operations between carrier and mezzanine boards.

irqchip - These drivers allow interrupt requests (IRQ) which are hardware signals sent to the processor that temporarily stop a running program for a special program(called an interrupt handler) to run instead.

isdn - These drivers support Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN) which is a set of communication standards for simultaneous digital transmission of voice, video, data, and other network services using traditional circuits of the telephone network.

leds - These drivers support LEDS.

lguest - The lguest drivers manage interrupts that are used with guest operating system. Interrupts are hardware or software signals that interrupt the CPU for important tasks. The CPU then gives the hardware or software some processing resources.

macintosh - Drivers for Apple devices belong in this directory.

mailbox - The driver in this folder (pl320-pci) manages connections for mail systems.

md - The Multiple Devices driver supports RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) - a system of many hard-drives sharing or replicating data.

media - The media drivers offer support in radios, tuners, video capturers, DVB standards for digital television, etc. The drivers also support various media devices that plug in through USB or FireWire ports.

memory - This important driver supports the RAM.

memstick - This driver supports Sony memorysticks.

message - These drivers are to be used with LSI PCI chip/adapter(s) running LSI Fusion MPT (Message Passing Technology) firmware. LSI stands for Large-Scale Integration which are integrated circuits with tens of thousands of transistors per chip.

mfd - MultiFunction Device (MFD) drivers provide support for multifunction devices which are devices that provide multiple services like email, fax, copy machine, scanner, and printer. The drivers in here also add a generic MCP (Multimedia Communications Port) layer which is a protocol for MFDs.

misc - This directory contains miscellaneous drivers that do not fit in any other category like light sensor drivers.

mmc - MultiMediaCard (MMC) drivers handle the MMC standard that is used in flash memory cards.

mtd - Memory technology devices (MTD) are drivers used in Linux for interacting with flash memory like a Flash Translation Layer. Other block and character drivers do not map the same way flash memory devices operate. Although USB memory cards and SD cards are flash drives, they do not use this driver because they are hidden from the system behind a block device interface. This driver is a generic flash drive driver for new flash devices.

net - The network drivers provide network protocols like Appletalk, TCP, and others. The drivers also support modems, USB 2.0 Ethernet Devices, and radio devices.

nfc - This driver is the interface between Texas Instrument's Shared Transport Layer and NCI core.

ntb - The Non-Transparent Bridging driver provides non-transparent bridging in PCI express (PCIe) systems. PCIe is a high-speed expansion bus standard.

nubus - NuBus is a 32-bit parallel computer bus. The driver supports this Apple device.

of - This driver provides OF helpers which are procedures for creating, accessing and interpreting the device tree. The Device Tree is a data structure for describing hardware.

oprofile - This driver profiles the whole system from drivers to user-space processes (applications running under the user's name). This helps developers find performance problems.

parisc - These drivers are for PA-RISC devices which are made by HP. PA-RISC is a specific instruction set for processors.

parport - The Parport drivers provides parallel-port support under Linux.

pci - These drivers offer PCI bus services.

pcmcia - These are laptop motherboard drivers.

pinctrl - These drivers handle pin control devices. Pin controllers can disable and enable I/O devices.

platform - This directory contains drivers for the different computer platforms like Acer, Dell, Toshiba, IBM, Intel, ChromeBooks, etc.

pnp - The Plug-aNd-Play drivers allow users to plug in a device, like a USB device, and use it immediately without the need to manually configure the device.

power - The power drivers allow the kernel to measure the battery power, detect chargers, and power management.

pps - Pulse-Per-Second drivers control an electrical pulse rate that is used for time keeping.

ps3 - These are the drivers for Sony's game console - Playstation3.

ptp - Picture Transfer Protocol (PTP) drivers support a protocol for transferring images from digital cameras.

pwm - Pulse-width modulation (PWM) drivers control the pulse of the electricity to devices, mainly motors like the CPU fan.

rapidio - RapidIO drivers manage the RapidIO architecture which is a high-performance packet-switched, interconnect technology for interconnecting chips on a circuit board, and also circuit boards to each other using a backplane.

regulator - The regulator drivers regulate the electricity, temperature, and any other regulator hardware that may exist on a system.

remoteproc - These drivers manage remote processors.

rpmsg - These drivers control Remote Processor MeSsaginG buses which can support a number of drivers. These buses supply the messaging infrastructure, facilitating client drivers to write their own wire-protocol messages.

rtc - The Real Time Clock (RTC) drivers allow the kernel to read the clock.

s390 - The drivers are for the 31/32-bit mainframe architecture.

sbus - The SPARC-based buses are managed by these drivers.

scsi - SCSI drivers allow the kernel to use the SCSI standard with peripheral devices. For instance, Linux would be using a SCSI driver when it transmits data with a SCSI hard-drive.

sfi -The Simple Firmware Interface (SFI) drivers allow firmware to send tables of information to the operating system. These tables of data are called SFI tables.

sh - These drivers are for SuperHyway buses.

sn - These drivers add support for IOC3 serial ports.

spi - These drivers handle the Serial Peripheral Interface Bus (SPI bus) which is a synchronous serial data link standard that operates in full duplex mode. Full duplex mode is seen when two devices can both send and receive information at the same time. Duplex refers to two-way communication. Devices communicate in master/slave mode (device configuration).

ssb - Sonics Silicon Backplane drivers provide support for a mini-bus used on various Broadcom chips and embedded devices.

staging - This directory contains numerous subdirectories with many drivers. All of the contained drivers are drivers that need more development before being added to the mainstream kernel.

target - These are drivers for SCSI targets.

tc - These are drivers for TURBOchannel. TURBOchannel is a 32-bit open bus developed by the Digital Equipment Corporation. These buses are commonly used in DECstations.

thermal - The thermal drivers make sure that the CPU stays cool.

tty - The tty drivers manage the connection to a physical terminal.

uio - This driver allows the user to make drivers that run in the user space instead of the kernel space. This keeps the user's driver from causing the kernel to crash.

usb - The USB drivers allow the kernel to use USB ports. Flash drivers and memory cards already contain firmware and a controller, so these drivers allow the kernel to use the USB ports and talk to the USB device.

uwb - The Ultra-WideBand driver manages very low energy level radio devices for short-range, high-bandwidth communications.

vfio - The VFIO driver allows devices to access the userspace.

vhost - This driver is for a virtio server in the host kernel. This is used for virtualization.

video - Video drivers are needed to manage the graphics card and monitor.

virt - These drivers are for virtualization.

virtio - This driver allows virtio devices to be used over a virtual PCI device. This is used for virtualization.

vlynq - This driver controls a proprietary interface developed by Texas Instruments. These are broadband products, like WLAN and modems, VOIP processors, and audio and digital media processor chips.

vme - VMEbus is a bus standard originally developed for the Motorola 68000 line of processors.

w1 - These drivers control one-wire buses.

watchdog - This driver manages the watchdog timer which is a timer that is used to detect and recover from malfunctions.

xen - This driver is for the Xen hypervisor system. A hypervisor is software or hardware that allows users to run multiple operating systems on a single computer. This means that the xen code would allow users to have two or more Linux system running on one computer at the same time. Users could also run Windows, Solaris, FreeBSD, or some other operating system on the Linux system.

zorro - This driver offers support for the Zorro Amiga buses.



The Linux kernel is the core of all Linux systems. If any malicious code controls or damages any part of the kernel, then the system can get severely damaged, files can be deleted or corrupted, private information can be stolen, etc. Clearly, it is in the user's best interest to keep the kernel secure. Thankfully, Linux is a very secure system because of the kernel and its security. There are less Linux viruses than Windows viruses even in proportion to the number of users, and Linux users get less viruses than Windows users. (This is one reason why many companies use Linux to manage their servers.) However, this is no excuse to neglect the kernel's security. Linux has may security features and programs, but only the Linux Security Modules (LSM) and other kernel security will be discussed in this article.

AppArmor (Application Armor) is a security module originally made by Immunix. Since 2009, Canonical maintains the code (Novell handled the code after Immunix and before Canonical). This security module has been in the mainstream Linux kernel since version 2.6.36. AppArmor restricts the abilities of programs. AppArmor uses file paths to keep track of program restrictions. Many Linux administrators claim that AppArmor is the easiest security module to configure. However, many Linux users feel that this module provides the worst security compared to alternatives.

Security-Enhanced Linux (SELinux) is an alternative to AppArmor originally made by the United States National Security Agency (NSA). SELinux has been in the mainstream kernel since version 2.6. SELinux makes modifications to the kernel and user-space tools. SELinux gives executables (mainly daemons and server applications) the minimum privileges required to complete their tasks. SELinux could also be used to control user privileges. SELinux does not use file paths like AppArmor, instead SELinux uses the filesystem to mark executables when keeping track of permissions. Because SELinux uses the filesystem itself for managing executables, SELinux cannot offer protection on all filesystems while AppArmor can provide protection.

NOTE: A daemon (pronounced DAY-mon) is a program that runs in the background.

NOTE: Although AppArmor, SELinux, and others are in the kernel, only one security module can be active.

Smack is another choice for a security module. Smack has been in the mainstream Linux kernel since version 2.6.25. Smack is supposed to offer more security than AppArmor and easier configuration than SELinux.

TOMOYO, another security module, has been in the Linux kernel since version 2.6.30. TOMOYO offers security, but its main use is analyzing the system for security flaws.

AppArmor, SELinux, Smack, and TOMOYO make up the four standard LSM modules. All for work by using mandatory access control (MAC) which is a type of access control that restricts a program or user from executing some task. The LSMs have some form of a list of entities and what they are permitted and not permitted to do.

Yama is a new security module that comes with the Linux kernel. Yama is not yet considered a standard LSM module, but in the future, it may be the fifth standard LSM module. Yama uses the same principals as the other security modules.

"grsecurity" is a collection of security patches for enhancing the Linux kernel's security. The majority of the patches apply to remote network connections and buffer overflows (discussed a little later). One interesting component of grsecurity is PaX. PaX patches allow code on memory to use the least amount of needed privileges. For example, memory containing programs is marked as non-writable. Think about it, why would an executed program need to be written while in memory? Now, malicious code cannot change currently executed applications. A buffer overrun is the event where a program (bug or malicious code) write data on memory and goes past its space boundary into the memory pages for other applications. When PaX is active, it helps to prevent these buffer overruns because the program will not have permission to write on other memory pages.

The Linux Intrusion Detection System (LIDS) is a kernel security patch that adds Mandatory Access Control (MAC) features. This patch acts like a LSM module.

Systrace is a utility that reduces and controls application's access to system files and use of system calls. System calls are service requests to the kernel. For instance, when a text editor writes a file to the hard-drive, the applications makes a system call requesting that the kernel write the file to the hard-drive.

These are very important components in the Linux security system. These security modules and patches keep malicious code from attacking the kernel. Without these features, Linux systems would be unsecure computer operating systems.


Configuring 1

Configuring code for the kernel does take a lot of time. The configuration tool asks many questions and allows developers to configure every aspect of the kernel. If unsure about any question or feature, it is best to pick the default value provided by the configuration tool. This tutorial series will walk readers through the whole process of configuring the kernel.

To configure the code, open a terminal in the main source code folder. Once a terminal is up, there are a few ways to configure the code based on the preferred configuration interface.

make config - Plain text interface (most commonly used choice)

make menuconfig - Text-based with colored menus and radiolists. This options allows developers to save their progress. ncurses must be installed (sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev).

make nconfig - Text-based colored menus - curses (libcdk5-dev) must be installed

make xconfig - QT/X-windows interface – QT is required

make gconfig - Gtk/X-windows interface – GTK is required

make oldconfig - Plain-text interface that updates a config file (that may have been copied from another system) to be compatible with the newer kernel source code.

make silentoldconfig - This is the same as oldconfig except the questions answered by the config file will not be shown

make olddefconfig - This is like silentoldconfig except some questions are answered by their defaults

make defconfig - This option creates a config file that uses default settings based on the current system's architecture.

make ${PLATFORM}_defconfig - Creates a config file using values from arch/$ARCH/configs/${PLATFORM}_defconfig.

make allyesconfig - This option creates a config file that will answer yes to as many questions as possible.

make allmodconfig - This option creates a config file that will make as many parts of the kernel a module as possible

NOTE: Code in the Linux kernel can be put in the kernel itself or made as a module. For instance, users can add Bluetooth drivers as a module (separate from the kernel), add to the kernel itself, or not add at all. When code is added to the kernel itself, the kernel requires more RAM space and boot-up time may take longer. However, the kernel will perform better. If code is added as modules, the code will remain on the hard-drive until the code is needed. Then, the module is loaded to RAM. This will reduce the kernel's RAM usage and decrease boot time. However, the kernel's performance may suffer because the kernel and the modules will be spread throughout the RAM. The other choice is to not add some code. For illustration, a kernel developer may know that a system will never use Bluetooth devices. As a result, the drivers are not added to the kernel. This improves the kernel's performance. However, if users later need Bluetooth devices, they will need to install Bluetooth modules or update the whole kernel.

make allnoconfig - This option creates a config file that will only add essential code to the kernel; this answers no to as many questions as possible. This can sometimes make a kernel that does not work on the hardware it was compiled on.

make randconfig - This option makes random choices for the kernel
make localmodconfig - This option creates a config file based on the current list of loaded modules and system configuration.

make localyesconfig - This will set all module options to yes - most (or all) of the kernel will not be in modules

TIP: It is best to use “make menuconfig” because users can save their progress. “make config” does not offer this luxury. Because the configuration process takes a lot of time,


Most developers choose "make menuconfig" or one of the other graphical menus. After typing the desired command, the first question asks whether the kernel to be built is going to be a 64-bit kernel or not. The choices are "Y", "n", and "?". The question mark explains the question, "n" answers no to the question, and "Y" answers yes to the question. For this tutorial, I will choose yes. To do this I type "Y" (this is case-insensitive) and hit enter.

UPDATED NOTE: At first, I used "make config" as I wrote this series. I later used "make menuconfig" (ncurses). "make config" is linear, that is, each question is asked one after another while the ncurses interface is a branching menu. If you are using any of the configuration interfaces that use menus, start at the top of the first (main) menu and work your way down going into each menu and sub-menu. This will allow you to follow this series easily as you configure your own kernel.

NOTE: If the kernel is compiled on a 32-bit system, then the configuration tool would ask if the kernel should be 32-bit. The first question is different on other processors.

The next line shows "Cross-compiler tool prefix (CROSS_COMPILE) []". If you are not cross-compiling, hit enter. If you are cross-compiling, type something like "arm-unknown-linux-gnu-" for ARM systems or "x86_64-pc-linux-gnu-" for 64-bit PC systems. There are many other possible commands for other processor types, but the list can be quite large. Once a developer knows what processor they want to support, it is easy to research the command needed for that processor.

NOTE: Cross-compiling is compiling code to be used on other processors. For illustration, an Intel system that is cross-compiling code is making applications for processors other than Intel. So, this system may be compiling code for ARM or AMD processors.

NOTE: Each choice will change which questions come up and when they are displayed. I will include my choices so readers can follow the configuration process on their own system.

Next, users will see "Local version - append to kernel release (LOCALVERSION) []". This is where developers can give a special version number or name to their customized kernel. I will type "LinuxDotOrg". The kernel version is now “3.9.4-LinuxDotOrg”. Next, the configuration tool asks "Automatically append version information to the version string (LOCALVERSION_AUTO) [N/y/?]". If a git tree is found, the revision number will be appended. This example is not using git, so I will answer no. Other wise the git revision number will be appended to the version. Remember vmlinuz and similar files? Well, the next question asks which compression format should be used. The developer can choose one through five. The choices are

2. Bzip2 (KERNEL_BZIP2)

Gzip is the default, so I will press “1” and hit enter. Each compression format has greater or less compression ratios compared to the other formats. A better compression ratio means a smaller file, but more time is needed to uncompress the file while the opposite applies to lower compression ratios.

Now, this line is displayed - “Default hostname (DEFAULT_HOSTNAME) [(none)]”. The default hostname can be configured. Usually, developers leave this blank (I left it blank) so that Linux users can set up their own hostname.

Next, developers can enable or disable the use of swap space. Linux uses a separate partition called “swap space” to use as virtual memory. This is equivalent to Windows' paging file. Typically, developers answer yes for the line “Support for paging of anonymous memory (swap) (SWAP) [Y/n/?]”.

The next line (System V IPC (SYSVIPC) [Y/n/?]) asks if the kernel should support IPC. Inter Process Communication allows processes to communicate and sync. It is best to enable IPC, otherwise, many applications will not work. Answering yes to this question will cause the configuration tool to ask “POSIX Message Queues (POSIX_MQUEUE) [Y/n/?]”. This question will only be seen if IPC is enabled. POSIX message queues is a messaging queue (a form of interprocess communication) where each message is given a priority. The default choice is yes. Hit enter to choose the default choice (indicated by the capitalized choice).

The next question (open by fhandle syscalls (FHANDLE) [Y/n/?]) is asking if programs will be permitted to use file handles instead of filenames when performing filesystem operations if needed. By default, the answer is yes.

Sometimes, when a developer has made certain choices, some questions will automatically be answered. For instance, the next question (Auditing support (AUDIT) [Y/?]) is answered yes without prompting because previous choices require this feature. Auditing-support logs the accesses and modifications of all files. The next question relates to auditing (Enable system-call auditing support (AUDITSYSCALL) [Y/n/?]). If enabled, all system calls are logged. If the developer wants performance, then as much auditing features as possible should be disabled and not added to the kernel. Some developers may enable auditing for security monitoring. I will select “no” for this question. The next audit question (Make audit loginuid immutable (AUDIT_LOGINUID_IMMUTABLE) [N/y/?]) is asking if processes can change their loginuid (LOGIN User ID). If enabled, processes in userspace will not be able to change their own loginuids. For better performance, we will disable this feature.

NOTE: When configuring via “make config”, the questions that are answered by the configuration tool are displayed, but the user does not have a way to change the answer. When configuring via “make menuconfig”, the user cannot change the option no matter what button is pressed. Developers should not want to change options like that anyway because a previous choice requires another question to be answered a certain way.
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Configuring 2

The next portion of the kernel that is configured is the IRQ subsystem. An Interrupt ReQuest (or IRQ) is a signal from the hardware to the processor to temporarily stop a running program and allow a special program to execute in its place.

The first question belonging to this category of kernel features (Expose hardware/virtual IRQ mapping via debugfs (IRQ_DOMAIN_DEBUG)) asks if the IRQ numbers of the hardware and the respective can be mapped using a virtual debugging filesystem. This is for debugging purposes. Most users will not need this, so I will select “no”.

The next heading displays “Timers subsystem”. The first question pertaining to the timers subsystem is “Tickless System (Dynamic Ticks) (NO_HZ)”. Selecting “yes” (which I did) will enable a tickless system. This means that the timer interrupts will be used as needed. Timer interrupts allow tasks to be executed at particular timed intervals. The next question (High Resolution Timer Support (HIGH_RES_TIMERS)) asks if high resolution timer support can be enabled. Not all hardware supports this. Generally, if the hardware is slow or old, then select “no”, else select “yes” as I did.

The next heading - “CPU/Task time and stats accounting” - pertains to keeping track of processes. The first question looks like this

Cputime accounting
1. Simple tick based cputime accounting (TICK_CPU_ACCOUNTING)
2. Full dynticks CPU time accounting (VIRT_CPU_ACCOUNTING_GEN) (NEW)
3. Fine granularity task level IRQ time accounting (IRQ_TIME_ACCOUNTING)

TICK_CPU_ACCOUNTING checks /proc/stat on every CPU tick. This is the default choice. This accounting method is very simple.

NOTE: A CPU tick is an abstract way of measuring time by the CPU. Every processor, operating system, and installation is different. For example, a more powerful processor will have more CPU ticks than an old processor. If you install a Linux system and then reinstall from the same disk, you may have a faster or slower CPU tick time (at least that is what some computer techs say). Generally, a larger clock speed means more CPU ticks.

If VIRT_CPU_ACCOUNTING_GEN is enabled, task and CPU time accounting will be implemented by watching kernel-user boundaries. This choice comes with a price – extra overhead.

The IRQ_TIME_ACCOUNTING accounting method works by checking a time-stamp between IRQ states. The performance cost is small.

I chose “1” and was then asked about BSD Accounting “BSD Process Accounting (BSD_PROCESS_ACCT)”. This kernel feature logs a variety of information for each process that closes. For a smaller and faster kernel, I will choose “no”.

The next set of questions looks like the following.

Export task/process statistics through netlink (TASKSTATS)
Enable per-task delay accounting (TASK_DELAY_ACCT)
Enable extended accounting over taskstats (TASK_XACCT)

TASKSTATS gives the kernel the ability to export process statistics through a netlink socket. Netlink sockets are a form of IPC between the kernel and user space processes. TASK_DELAY_ACCT watches the processes and the delays concerning the access of resources. For example, TASK_DELAY_ACCT would see that process-X is waiting for some CPU time. The process is then given some CPU time if TASK_DELAY_ACCT notices that the process waits too long. TASK_XACCT collects extra accounting data. I will disable this for less kernel overhead.

Now, the next category is displayed – RCU Subsystem. The Read-Copy-Update subsystem is a low-overhead syncing mechanism that allows programs to view files that are in the process of being modified/updated. The configuration tool answered the first question.

RCU Implementation
> 1. Tree-based hierarchical RCU (TREE_RCU)
choice[1]: 1

This is to select the type of RCU. Besides TREE_RCU, there is classic RCU (the older implementation). The next question (Consider userspace as in RCU extended quiescent state (RCU_USER_QS) [N/y/?]) asks if RCU can be put in a special state when the CPU runs in userspace. This feature is usually disabled because this adds too much overhead. After this question is another RCU question (Tree-based hierarchical RCU fanout value (RCU_FANOUT) [64]) asking for a fanout value. The next question (Tree-based hierarchical RCU leaf-level fanout value (RCU_FANOUT_LEAF) [16]) is another fanout value question except this one deals with the leaf-level. Yet again, another RCU question (Disable tree-based hierarchical RCU auto-balancing (RCU_FANOUT_EXACT) [N/y/?]) asking if the RCU auto-balancing can be disabled.

Next, the configuration script asks this question “Accelerate last non-dyntick-idle CPU's grace periods (RCU_FAST_NO_HZ)”. After that, “Offload RCU callback processing from boot-selected CPUs (RCU_NOCB_CPU)” is displayed.

This next question is very important (Kernel .config support (IKCONFIG)). The developer has the choice of saving the settings made in this configuration tool into a file. This file can be placed in the kernel, in a module, or not saved at all. This file can be used by other developers that want to compile a kernel exactly as someone else. This file can also help developers recompile a kernel using a newer compiler. For illustration, a developer configures and compiles a kernel. The compiler has some bugs, but the developer still needs a kernel with these settings. Thankfully, the developer can upgrade their compiler and use the settings file to save them time from configuring the kernel again. The developer could also save the source code and config file and compile the kernel on another computer. As for another purpose, the developer can load this file and tweak the settings as needed. I chose to save the config file in a module. “Enable access to .config through /proc/config.gz (IKCONFIG_PROC)” asks if this file is accessible. I chose yes.

The next question asks how large to make the kernel log buffers (Kernel log buffer size (16 => 64KB, 17 => 128KB) (LOG_BUF_SHIFT) [17]). Smaller buffers indicate logs are not kept as long as logs set to higher buffers. This choice depends on how long the developer wishes the logs to last. I chose “12”.

Again, another question appears. This one asks about enabling NUMA (Non-Uniform Memory Access) aware memory/task placement (Automatically enable NUMA aware memory/task placement (NUMA_BALANCING_DEFAULT_ENABLED)). If set and if the computer is a NUMA machine, then NUMA balancing will be enabled. Under NUMA, a processor can access its own local memory faster than non-local memory (memory local to another processor or memory shared between processors). If the above is enabled (I enabled it), then it would be best to answer yes to “Memory placement aware NUMA scheduler (NUMA_BALANCING)”. This is the NUMA scheduler.

Under the new heading “Control Group support”, the choice “Control Group support (CGROUPS)” is automatically answered “yes” due to previous choices.

The following setting (Example debug cgroup subsystem (CGROUP_DEBUG)) is for enabling a simple cgroup subsystem for debugging the cgroups framework. The next choice (Freezer cgroup subsystem (CGROUP_FREEZER)) allows programmers to allow the ability to freeze and unfreeze tasks in a cgroup.

NOTE: A cgroup is a group of processes.

Next, we are asked “Device controller for cgroups (CGROUP_DEVICE)”. Cgroups (Control Groups) is a feature used to control resource usage. Answering “yes” will allow cgroup whitelists for the devices cgroups can open or mknod (system call for creating a file system node).

The next question (Cpuset support (CPUSETS)) asks if it can allow the creation and management of CPUSETS. This would allow administrators to dynamically partition sets of Memory Nodes and CPUs on a system and assign tasks to run on those sets. This is usually used on SMP and NUMA systems. I answered “no” on this question.

NOTE: Remember, if I do not specify what I chose, then I chose the default.

Enabling a cgroup accounting subsystem (Simple CPU accounting cgroup subsystem (CGROUP_CPUACCT)) makes a resource controller for monitoring the CPU usage of individual tasks in a cgroup. I chose “no”.

Resource counters (Resource counters (RESOURCE_COUNTERS)) enables controller independent resource accounting infrastructure that works with cgroups. I chose “no”.

The next question (Enable perf_event per-cpu per-container group (cgroup) monitoring (CGROUP_PERF)) allows developers to extend the per-cpu mode to make it only monitor threads of a particular cgroup on a specific CPU. I chose “no”.

The next section is “Group CPU Scheduler”. The first two pre-answered questions include

Group CPU scheduler (CGROUP_SCHED)
Group scheduling for SCHED_OTHER (FAIR_GROUP_SCHED)

The first answerable question (CPU bandwidth provisioning for FAIR_GROUP_SCHED (CFS_BANDWIDTH)) asks if the kernel should allow users to set CPU bandwidth limits for tasks executing in the fair group scheduler. Groups with no limit set are considered to be unconstrained and will run with no restriction.

NOTE: Not all of the kernel options are in groups. I mention groups only for the ease of reading and to indicate a new, large topic. It is not important to know the groups. This grouping system is helpful when configuring the kernel using the graphical tools. Then, developers can look through the menus that are grouped when searching for a particular setting.

Developers can enable users to allocate CPU bandwidth to task groups by answering yes to “Group scheduling for SCHED_RR/FIFO (RT_GROUP_SCHED)”.

The next question is “Block IO controller (BLK_CGROUP)”. Task groups are recognized and their disk bandwidth is allocated by the CFQ IO scheduler which uses the block IO controller to do so. The BIO throttling logic in the block layer uses a block IO controller to provide upper limit in IO rates on a device.

Here is a debugging question (Enable Block IO controller debugging (DEBUG_BLK_CGROUP) [N/y/?]) that is asking to enable debugging for block IO controllers. To make a streamlined kernel, it is best to disable this feature.

To enable checkpoint and restore features in the kernel answer yes to “Checkpoint/restore support (CHECKPOINT_RESTORE)”. I chose no for less overhead. Enabling this feature would add auxiliary prctl codes to setup process text, data and heap segment sizes, and a few additional proc entries.

Next, we will configure namespace support. A namespace is a container for a group of identifiers. For illustration, /usr/lib/python3/dist-packages/ is an identifier, /usr/lib/python3/dist-packages/ is the namespace, and is the localname in the namespace.

The first namespace question (Namespaces support (NAMESPACES)) asks if namespaces can be enabled. This will allow the same PIDs (Process ID) to be used but indifferent namespaces. Otherwise, PIDs can never be duplicated.

The next question (UTS namespace (UTS_NS)) asks to enable the ability for tasks in the UTS namespace to see different information in the uname() system call. The uname() system call provides information about the machine and operating system.

Enabling the IPC namespace (IPC namespace (IPC_NS)) will allow tasks in this namespace to work with IPC IDs which correspond to different IPC objects in different namespaces.

PID Namespaces (PID Namespaces (PID_NS)) are process ID namespaces. This allows multiple processes, each in different PID namespaces, to use the same PID. This is a building block of containers.

Next, enabling network namespaces (Network namespace (NET_NS)) will allow users to make a network stack appear to have multiple instances.

When enabled, Automatic process group scheduling (SCHED_AUTOGROUP) populates and creates task groups to optimize the scheduler for desktop workloads. This will put applications that take up a lot of resources in their own task group. This helps performance.

Here is a debugging feature that should be disabled unless it is specifically needed. This question (Enable deprecated sysfs features to support old userspace tools (SYSFS_DEPRECATED)) asks if sysfs should be enabled. This is a virtual filesystem for debugging the kernel.

Next, the question “Kernel->user space relay support (formerly relayfs) (RELAY)” is answered “yes” because it is needed with the current configuration. It is best to allow initrd support (Initial RAM filesystem and RAM disk (initramfs/initrd) support (BLK_DEV_INITRD)).

The user is asked where to put the initramfs source files. If none are needed, then leave this blank.

Next, the developer is asked about the supported compression format for the initial ramdisks (Linux image files for the kernel). It is fine to enable support for all of the compression formats.

Support initial ramdisks compressed using gzip (RD_GZIP)
Support initial ramdisks compressed using bzip2 (RD_BZIP2)
Support initial ramdisks compressed using LZMA (RD_LZMA)
Support initial ramdisks compressed using XZ (RD_XZ)
Support initial ramdisks compressed using LZO (RD_LZO)

Here, the compiling options for the kernel are set (Optimize for size (CC_OPTIMIZE_FOR_SIZE)). The developer can have the compiler optimize the code when compiling. I chose “yes”.

For users wanting to configure more kernel features, then they can answer “yes” for this next question (Configure standard kernel features (expert users) (EXPERT)).

To enable legacy 16-bit UID syscall wrappers, answer yes to this question (Enable 16-bit UID system calls (UID16)). These system calls use 16-bit user IDs.

It is recommended to enable sysctl syscall support (Sysctl syscall support (SYSCTL_SYSCALL)). This allows /proc/sys to be the interface for binary paths.

The next two questions about debugging have been pre-answered “yes” - “Load all symbols for debugging/ksymoops (KALLSYMS)” and “Include all symbols in kallsyms (KALLSYMS_ALL)”. These enable debugging symbols.

Next, developers should enable printk support (Enable support for printk (PRINTK)). This prints kernel messages to the kernel log. This is important if something goes wrong with the kernel. Having a mute kernel is not a good idea. However, some developer saw a purpose for it if we have a choice. Otherwise, we would not have a choice.

Unless needed, developers can disable bug support (BUG() support (BUG)). Disabling this will remove support for WARN and BUG messages. This reduces the kernel's size.


Configuring 3

The next question (Enable ELF core dumps (ELF_CORE)) asks about enabling the ability for the kernel to generate core dumps. This feature makes the kernel four kilobytes larger. I chose “no”.

NOTE: A core dump (memory or system dump) is the recorded state of an application before it crashed. Core dumps are used for debugging issues. This core dump file is in the Executable and Linkable Format (ELF) format.

Next, PC-Speakers can be enabled (Enable PC-Speaker support (PCSPKR_PLATFORM)). Most computers users have and use speakers, so this is enabled.

Although this next feature increases the kernel size (Enable full-sized data structures for core (BASE_FULL)), performance is increased. I chose “yes”.

For the kernel to run glibc-based programs, FUTEX must be enabled (Enable futex support (FUTEX)). This feature enables Fast Userspace muTEXes.

NOTE: glibc (GNU C Library) is the GNU's implementation of the standard C library.

NOTE: FUTEX (fast userspace mutex) is used for preventing two threads from accessing a shared resource that should not be used by more than one thread at once.

The epoll system calls can be disabled by answering “no” to this next question (Enable eventpoll support (EPOLL)). However, it helps to have epoll system calls, so I chose “yes”. Epoll is an I/O event notification system.

To receive signals on file descriptors, enable signalfd system calls (Enable signalfd() system call (SIGNALFD)).

This feature allows applications to get file descriptors to use with timer events if enabled (Enable timerfd() system call (TIMERFD)).

The eventfd system call must be enabled with our current configuration (Enable eventfd() system call (EVENTFD)). The ability to use a shmem filesystem is enabled by default (Use full shmem filesystem (SHMEM)). A shmem filesystem is a virtual RAM filesystem.

The next question that can be answered is “Enable AIO support (AIO)”. This feature enables POSIX asynchronous I/O that threaded application use. This features takes up seven kilobytes of space. I disabled this feature.

NOTE: Asynchronous I/O is input/output processing that allows other threads to get processed before transmission is complete.

If embedding a kernel for embedded systems, select “yes” for the question “Embedded system (EMBEDDED)”. Otherwise, choose no as I have done.

NOTE: Embedded systems are real-time computers that run in a larger electronic system.

Now, we can configure kernel performance events and counters. The configuration tool enables events and counters without giving the developer a choice (Kernel performance events and counters (PERF_EVENTS)). This is an important feature.

Next, we can disable another debugging feature (Debug: use vmalloc to back perf mmap() buffers (DEBUG_PERF_USE_VMALLOC)).

If VM event counters are enabled, then event counts will be shown in the /proc/vmstat (Enable VM event counters for /proc/vmstat (VM_EVENT_COUNTERS)). If disabled, event counts will not be shown and /proc/vmstat will only display page counts.

For better support for PCI chipsets, answer yes (Enable PCI quirk workarounds (PCI_QUIRKS)). This will enable workarounds for PCI quirks and bugs.

Next is another debugging feature that can be disabled as I did (Enable SLUB debugging support (SLUB_DEBUG)). This feature takes up a lot of space and disables SLB sysfs which is used for debugging the kernel. If this feature is disabled, then /sys/slab will not exist and cache validation support will not exist on the system.

Heap randomization is a feature that makes heap exploits more difficult (Disable heap randomization (COMPAT_BRK)). However, this should not be enabled because any libc5-based software will not work on the system. Only enable this feature if you have a specific reason for doing so or if you will not use libc5-based software. I disabled this feature. When making a general kernel, developers will want to disable this feature.

Next, a SLAB allocator must be chosen. A SLAB allocator is a memory management system for placing kernel objects in memory in am efficient way without fragmentation. The default is choice “2”.

Choose SLAB allocator
> 2. SLUB (Unqueued Allocator) (SLUB)
3. SLOB (Simple Allocator) (SLOB)
choice[1-3?]: 2

To enable extended profiling support, answer “yes” (Profiling support (PROFILING)).

The next question gives developers the choice of enabling the OProfile system. It can be disabled, enabled, or added as a module to be loaded when needed. I chose to disable this feature.

Kprobes allows users to trap nearly any kernel address to start a callback function. This is a debugging tool that can be disabled as I did (Kprobes (KPROBES)).

This optimization feature should be enabled (Optimize very unlikely/likely branches (JUMP_LABEL)). This makes branch prediction easier and reduces overhead.

The configuration tool enabled an experimental feature (Transparent user-space probes (EXPERIMENTAL) (UPROBES)). Do not worry, the system will be fine. Not all experimental features are unstable or bad.

Next, we are asked about gcov-based kernel profiling (Enable gcov-based kernel profiling (GCOV_KERNEL)). This can be disabled.

To allow the kernel to load modules, enable loadable module support (Enable loadable module support (MODULES)).

The Linux kernel will only load modules with version numbers. To allow the kernel to load modules with missing version numbers, enable this feature (Forced module loading (MODULE_FORCE_LOAD)). It is generally a bad idea to do this, so disable this feature as I have done, unless you have a specific need to such a feature.

The Linux kernel can also unload modules if that feature is enabled which is best to do (Module unloading (MODULE_UNLOAD)). If the kernel feels that unloading a modules is a bad idea, then the user cannot unload the module. Enabling force-unload is possible, but is a bad idea (Forced module unloading (MODULE_FORCE_UNLOAD)).

To use modules that did not come with your kernel or are not meant for your kernel version, enable versioning support (Module versioning support (MODVERSIONS)). It is best not to mix versions, so I will disable this feature.

Modules can have a field in their modinfo (Module Information) section titled “srcversion”. This field allows developers to see what source was used to make the module. Enabling this option will add this field when the modules are compiled. This is not necessary, so I will disable it (Source checksum for all modules (MODULE_SRCVERSION_ALL)). If the previous option was enabled, developers could have the checksums added to the modules (Source checksum for all modules (MODULE_SRCVERSION_ALL)).

To enable module signature verification (Module signature verification (MODULE_SIG)), answer “yes” for this option. Because it is not needed, I will answer “no”. Otherwise, the kernel will check and verify the signature before loading a module.

To enable block layer support (Enable the block layer (BLOCK)), choose “yes” as I have done. Disabling this will make block devices unusable and certain file systems will not be enabled

Next, SG support is enabled by default (Block layer SG support v4 (BLK_DEV_BSG)), and the helper library is also enabled (Block layer SG support v4 helper lib (BLK_DEV_BSGLIB)).

The next answerable question is about data integration support for block devices (Block layer data integrity support (BLK_DEV_INTEGRITY)). This allows better data integrity to help protect data on devices that support such a feature. Many devices do not support this feature, so I will disable it.

IO device rates can be limited if block layer bio throttling is enabled (Block layer bio throttling support (BLK_DEV_THROTTLING)).

To enable support for foreign partitioning schemes, answer “yes” to the next question (Advanced partition selection (PARTITION_ADVANCED)). I will disable this feature.

To enable the CSCAN service and FIFO expiration of requests, enable the deadline IO scheduler (Deadline I/O scheduler (IOSCHED_DEADLINE)).

The CFQ IO scheduler distributes bandwidth evenly between the processes. It is a good idea to enable this feature (CFQ I/O scheduler (IOSCHED_CFQ)).

Next, developers can enable or disable CFQ group support (CFQ Group Scheduling support (CFQ_GROUP_IOSCHED)). Then, developers can choose the default IO scheduler. It is best to pick DEFAULT_DEADLINE.

For devices with less than 32-bit addressing, this next feature allocated the first 16 megabytes of address space (DMA memory allocation support (ZONE_DMA)). If the kernel is not meant for such devices, this can be disabled, so I disabled this feature.

For systems with more than one CPU, it is best to enable SMP (Symmetric multi-processing support (SMP)). For single processor devices, the kernel will execute faster with this feature disabled. I enabled this feature.

For CPUs that offer x2apic, enable x2apic support (Support x2apic (X86_X2APIC)). If your system lacks this feature, then disable it as I have done.

Next, we can enable a MPS table which is for old SMP systems that lack appropriate ACPI support (Enable MPS table (X86_MPPARSE)). Newer systems that have ACPI support, DSDT, and MADT do not need this feature. I disabled the feature.

The following question allows us to enable support for extended x86 platforms (Support for extended (non-PC) x86 platforms (X86_EXTENDED_PLATFORM)). Only enable this if you need a general kernel or a kernel that will run on certain processors that need extended support. I disabled extended support.

To support an Intel Low Power Subsystem, enable this feature (Intel Low Power Subsystem Support (X86_INTEL_LPSS)).

Single-depth WCHAN output (Single-depth WCHAN output (SCHED_OMIT_FRAME_POINTER)) is used to calculate batter /proc/<PID>/wchan values. However, this will cause more overhead.

Next, we can enable virtual guest system support (Paravirtualized guest support (PARAVIRT_GUEST)). This will allow a guest operating system to run with the main OS. I will disable this feature.

Memtest is software that checks the RAM when the system starts. Memtest can be configured to run every time the system starts or sometimes. Memtest is not required, so I will disable it.

Here, we can select the processor family that the kernel should support. I will pick 5 – Generic-x86-64. This is a 64-bit system, a x86 is a 32-bit system,

Next, we can choose to support x86 processors (32-bit) (Supported processor vendors (PROCESSOR_SELECT)). Disable this if you are making a kernel that you plan to use only on 64-bit devices.

To find the machine's quirks, we can enable DMI scanning (Enable DMI scanning (DMI)). This will detect quirks.

To enable DMA access of 32bit memory devices with systems with more than 3GB of RAM, answer “yes” to this next question (GART IOMMU support (GART_IOMMU)).


Configuring 4

Here, we are asked about “IBM Calgary IOMMU support (CALGARY_IOMMU)”. This option will enable support for IOMMUs that belong to the xSeries x366 and x460 by IBM. This will also allow 32-bit PCI that do not support DAC (Double Address Cycle) devices of such systems to run properly because this system setup will have issues accessing more than 3GB of RAM. If needed, these IOMMU devices can be turned off at boot time using the “iommu=off” parameter. (These kernel/module parameters will be discussed in a later article.)

An IOMMU (input/output memory management unit) is a memory management unit (MMU) that connects a DMA-capable I/O bus to the main memory. DMA (Direct Memory Access) is a feature of many computers that allows certain devices to access the memory without help from the CPU. Double Address Cycle (DAC) is 64-bit DMA; regular DMA uses 32-bits.

Next, we are asked about enabling Calgary by default (Should Calgary be enabled by default? (CALGARY_IOMMU_ENABLED_BY_DEFAULT)). Calgary is the same concept as the IOMMU support mentioned above. The difference between the two is this is support for such a feature on many devices while the one above is specifically for IOMMU IBM devices. If this is disabled and you need to use it later, use this kernel parameter (iommu=calgary).

Here is a question that should be handled carefully (Enable Maximum number of SMP Processors and NUMA Nodes (MAXSMP)). Only enable this if the system the kernel will run on has many SMP processors and NUMA nodes like the Core i7 and many AMD CPU chips. If such a system lacks SMP processors and NUMA nodes or has a very little amount, the kernel can be inefficient. It is best to select “No”.

Non-Uniform Memory Access (NUMA) is a system of memory where each part of the memory takes longer to access than others. A node is a set of memory. For instance, a NUMA system may have three RAM chips. Each chip is one node. There is a node/chip on the motherboard with the CPU (this is the fastest node). The other two nodes are on a different bus. These two nodes take more time to access than the first node.

NOTE: ccNUMA and NUMA are now the same or at least very similar.

Symmetric Multi-Processing (SMP) is an alternative to NUMA. The memory is on the same bus. Only so many CPUs can access a bus, so this limits the number of processors on a SMP system. However, the memory is equally fast.

REMEMBER: I am compiling a kernel for an AMD64 system, so I will tell you what choice I made to help readers to understand the process and choices. If I do not specify what I choose, then I choose the default choice. When you are compiling for a different system or you have different needs, you will need to make alternate decisions based on your situation.

Next, choose the maximum number of CPUs the kernel will support unless the configuration tool chose for you. This configuration can optimize the kernel for the given amount.

Then, enable or disable “SMT (Hyperthreading) scheduler support (SCHED_SMT)”. The SMT scheduler improves the CPU's decision-making on Pentium 4 processors that use HyperThreading. However, there will be extra overhead. For some systems, it is best to choose “no” as I have done.

HyperThreading is a proprietary SMT parallelization for microprocessors (Intel invented the implementation). This is a special form of multitasking/multithreading (doing many tasks at once). Simultaneous multithreading (SMT) improves multithreading efficiency.

After that, enable or disable “Multi-core scheduler support (SCHED_MC)”. This feature also improves the CPU's decision making on multi-core chips. However, the cost is extra overhead. I chose “No”.

Here, in this next option, the preemption model can be chosen.

Preemption Model
1. No Forced Preemption (Server) (PREEMPT_NONE)
> 2. Voluntary Kernel Preemption (Desktop) (PREEMPT_VOLUNTARY)
3. Preemptible Kernel (Low-Latency Desktop) (PREEMPT)
choice[1-3]: 2

Preemption is the process of pausing an interrupting task with the intent of allowing it to continue executing later. Preemption forces the task to pause. The task cannot ignore preemption.

Next, we are asked about “Reroute for broken boot IRQs (X86_REROUTE_FOR_BROKEN_BOOT_IRQS)”. This is simply a fix for spurious interrupts. A spurious interrupt is an unwanted hardware interrupt. These are usually triggered by electrical interference or improperly connected electronics. Remember, an interrupt is a signal to the processor that needs immediate attention.

This option is vital for every machine; I doubt anyone would have a reason for disabling this feature (Machine Check / overheating reporting (X86_MCE)). The kernel must be aware of overheating and data corruption, otherwise, the system will continue to operate only to receive further damage.

Next, users can enable/disable “Intel MCE features (X86_MCE_INTEL)”. This is extra support for Intel MCE features like a thermal monitor. I chose “no” since I am compiling for an AMD64 processor. Machine Check Exception (MCE) is a type of error produced when the processor finds a hardware issue. An MCE will usually cause a kernel panic (equivalent to the “Blue-Screen-of-Death” on Windows).

Here is the same question again except for AMD devices (AMD MCE features (X86_MCE_AMD)).

Next is a debugging feature that I will disable (Machine check injector support (X86_MCE_INJECT)). This allows injecting machine checks. If you do perform machine injections occasionally, it may be better to enable this as a module rather than build it into the kernel. Machine injection makes a device send an error message even though no real error exists. This is used to make sure the kernel and other processes act correctly towards errors. For instance, if the CPU over heats, then it should shutdown, but how would a developer test such code without harming the CPU. Injecting errors is the best way since it is just software that tells hardware to send an error signal.

NOTE: Modules are for features/drivers that may be used or are very rarely executed. Only add features/drivers to the kernel itself if it will be used by many systems that will use the kernel being built.

If the kernel will likely be used on Dell laptops, then enable this feature (Dell laptop support (I8K)). Otherwise, add it as a module if some users of this kernel may use it on a Dell laptop. If this kernel is not planned for Dell laptops, then disable this support as I have done. Specifically, this support is a driver that allows the System Management Mode of the processor to be accessed on the Dell Inspiron 8000. The system management mode's purpose is to get the processor's temperature and fan status which are needed information for controlling the fans on such systems.

Next, users can allow microcode loading support (CPU microcode loading support (MICROCODE)). This will allow users to update the microcode on AMD and Intel CPU chips that support such a feature.

NOTE: To load microcode, you must have a legal copy of the microcode binary-file that is designed for your processor.

For loading microcode patches (to fix bugs or add minor features) to Intel chips (Intel microcode loading support (MICROCODE_INTEL)), this must be enabled. I disabled this feature.

This is the same as above except for AMD chips (AMD microcode loading support (MICROCODE_AMD)).

Enabling this support (/dev/cpu/*/msr - Model-specific register support (X86_MSR)) will allow certain processes to have permission to use x86
Model-Specific Registers (MSRs). These registers are a character devices that include major 202 and minors 0 to 31 (/dev/cpu/0/msr to /dev/cpu/31/msr). This feature is used on multiprocessor systems. Each virtual character device is linked to a specific CPU.

NOTE: MSRs are used for changing CPU settings, debugging, performance monitoring, and execution tracing. MSRs use the x86 instruction set.

After that, we have an option for “CPU information support (X86_CPUID)”. Enabling this feature allows processes to access the x86 CPUID instructions needed to execute on a particular CPU through character devices. These character devices that include major 202 and minors 0 to 31 (/dev/cpu/0/msr to /dev/cpu/31/msr), just like x86_MSR support above.

For processors that support it, enable the kernel linear mapping to use 1GB pages (Enable 1GB pages for kernel pagetables (DIRECT_GBPAGES)). Enabling this feature helps performance by reducing TLB pressure.

A page is the basic unit of memory itself (bits are the basic units of data). Page size is determined by the hardware itself. A page table is the mapping between virtual and physical memory. Physical memory is the memory on devices. The virtual memory is the addresses to the memory. Depending on the architecture of a system, there may be more addresses the hardware has the ability to access than what there is to access. For instance, on a 64-bit system with a 6GB RAM chip, an administrator can add more RAM if needed. This is because there are still more virtual addresses. However, on many 32-bit systems, an administrator can add an 8GB RAM chip, but the system will not use all of it because there are not enough virtual addresses for the system to use to access the large amount of RAM. Translation Lookaside Buffer (TLB) is a cache system that improves virtual address translation speed. Reducing pressure on it keeps it from being so busy.

Next, we have a NUMA option (Numa Memory Allocation and Scheduler Support (NUMA)). This will allow the kernel to allocate memory used by the CPU on the local memory controller of the CPU. This support also makes the kernel more NUMA aware. Very few 32-bit systems need this feature, but some common 64-bit processors use this feature. I chose “no”.

For the system to detect AMD NUMA node topology using an old method, enable this feature (Old style AMD Opteron NUMA detection (AMD_NUMA)). Next is an option for a newer detection method (ACPI NUMA detection (X86_64_ACPI_NUMA)). If both are enabled, the newer one will dominate. Some hardware works better using one of the methods instead of the other.

For NUMA emulation for the purpose of debugging, enable this next feature (NUMA emulation (NUMA_EMU)).

NOTE: If you do not plan to do debugging and you need a fast, light-weight system, disable as many debugging features as you can.

In this next option, choose the maximum number of NUMA nodes your kernel is planned to handle. Then, choose the memory model. There may be only one choice for a memory model. The memory model specifies how the memory is stored.

Maximum NUMA Nodes (as a power of 2) (NODES_SHIFT) [6]
Memory model
> 1. Sparse Memory (SPARSEMEM_MANUAL)
choice[1]: 1

To help performance, there is this option for optimizing pfn_to_page and page_to_pfn operations via a virtually mapped memmap (Sparse Memory virtual memmap (SPARSEMEM_VMEMMAP)). Page Frame Number (pfn) is a number given to each page. These two operations get a page from a number or a number from a page.

Next is an option that allows a node to move memory (Enable to assign a node which has only movable memory (MOVABLE_NODE)). Kernel pages cannot normally be moved. When enabled, users can hotplug memory nodes. Also, movable memory allows memory defragmentation. As data goes in and out of memory, a set of data may get divided across the memory where ever there is space available.

Following the previous memory question, we have more. These may be preconfigured by the configuration tool. The third option (BALLOON_COMPACTION), when enabled, helps to lessen memory fragmentation. Fragmented memory can slow down the system. The fourth option (COMPACTION) allows memory to be compressed. The fifth option listed below (MIGRATION) allows pages to be moved.

Allow for memory hot-add (MEMORY_HOTPLUG)
Allow for memory hot remove (MEMORY_HOTREMOVE)
Allow for balloon memory compaction/migration (BALLOON_COMPACTION)
Allow for memory compaction ()
Page migration (MIGRATION)

NOTE: Enabling movable memory will enable the five features listed above.

Next, we can “Enable KSM for page merging (KSM)”. Kernel Samepage Merging (KSM) views memory that an application says can be merged. This saves memory because if two pages are identical, one can be deleted or merged and only one will be used.

The configuration tool may automatically choose how much memory to save for user allocation (Low address space to protect from user allocation (DEFAULT_MMAP_MIN_ADDR) [65536]).

This next option is important (Enable recovery from hardware memory errors (MEMORY_FAILURE)). If the memory fails and the system has MCA recovery and ECC memory, the system can continue to run and try to recover. To have such a feature, the hardware itself must be able to support it as well as the kernel.

Machine Check Architecture (MCA) is a feature of some CPUs where they can send hardware error messages to the operating system. Error-correcting code memory (ECC memory) is a form of a memory device with error detection and correction.

Next, the configuration tool automatically enables “HWPoison pages injector (HWPOISON_INJECT)”. This feature allows the kernel to mark a bad page as “poisoned”, and then the kernel kills the application that created the bad page. This helps to stop and correct errors.

To allow the kernel to use large pages (Transparent Hugepage Support (TRANSPARENT_HUGEPAGE)), enable this feature. This speeds up the system, but more memory is needed. Embedded system should not use this feature. Embedded systems generally have very small amounts of memory.

If the above is enabled, then the sysfs support for huge pages must be configured.

Transparent Hugepage Support sysfs defaults
choice[1-2?]: 2

This next option is for adding system calls process_vm_readv and
process_vm_writev (Cross Memory Support (CROSS_MEMORY_ATTACH)). This allows privileged processes to access the address space of another application.

If tmem is present, enabling cleancache will generally be a good idea. (Enable cleancache driver to cache clean pages if Transcendent Memory (tmem) is present (CLEANCACHE)). When needed pages are removed from the memory, cleancache will place the page on cleancache-enabled filesystems. When the page is needed, it is placed back on memory. Transcendent Memory (tmem) is memory without a set known size. The kernel indirectly addresses such memory.

This next option allows caching swap pages if tmem is active (Enable frontswap to cache swap pages if tmem is present (FRONTSWAP)). Frontswap places data on swap partitions. This is needed for swap support.

It is best to enable this next feature (Check for low memory corruption (X86_CHECK_BIOS_CORRUPTION)). This will check the low memory for memory corruption. This feature is disabled at runtime. To use this feature, add “memory_corruption_check=1” to the kernel command-line (this will be discussed in a later article; this is not the same as any command-line). This feature, even when actively being executed, uses very little overhead (nearly none).

Next, we can “Set the default setting of memory_corruption_check (X86_BOOTPARAM_MEMORY_CORRUPTION_CHECK)”. This will set whether memory_corruption_check is on or off. It is best to have the memory checked otherwise data can be lost and the system can crash if an important part of the memory is corrupted.

This option concerns the BIOS (Amount of low memory, in kilobytes, to reserve for the BIOS (X86_RESERVE_LOW) [64]). The configuration tool usually knows the best amount of memory to reserve for the BIOS.

For Intel P6 processors, developers can enable memory type range registers (MTRR (Memory Type Range Register) support (MTRR)). This is used for AGP and PCI cards with a VGA card attached. Enabling this feature creates /proc/mtrr.

If X drivers need to add writeback entries, then enable this following option (MTRR cleanup support (MTRR_SANITIZER)). This will convert MTRR layout from continuous to discrete. Memory type range registers (MTRRs) provide software a way to access CPU cache.

Next, some MTRR options are set by the configuration tool.

MTRR cleanup enable value (0-1) (MTRR_SANITIZER_ENABLE_DEFAULT) [1]
MTRR cleanup spare reg num (0-7) (MTRR_SANITIZER_SPARE_REG_NR_DEFAULT) [1]

To set up page-level cache control, enable PAT attributes (x86 PAT support (X86_PAT)). Page Attribute Table (PATs) are the modern equivalents of MTRRs and are much more flexible than MTRRs. If you experience bootup issues with this enabled, then remake the kernel with this feature disabled. I chose “no”.


Configuring 5

The next kernel feature that can be configured is a x86 random number generator (x86 architectural random number generator (ARCH_RANDOM)). Remember, we are configuring the kernel source code for an AMD64 system. This number generator uses the x86 RDRAND instructions for Intel processors. It is not necessary for general use, so I will disable this for a more lightweight kernel.

Next, we can enable or disable "Supervisor Mode Access Prevention (X86_SMAP)". This is a security feature used by some Intel processors. SMAP will only allow the kernel to access user-space in some instances. This helps to protect user-space. There is a performance and size cost if enabled, but the cost is small. Since I am configuring for an AMD system, I will disable this feature.

Developers can enable "EFI runtime service support (EFI)". Only enable this on systems with EFI firmware. With this feature, the kernel can use available EFI services. EFI is a specification of how the operating system interacts with the hardware, so EFI firmware is hardware code that uses this specification. I disabled the support since I do not have a system with EFI firmware.

This is a useful security method that should be enabled (Enable seccomp to safely compute untrusted bytecode (SECCOMP)). This security feature is used with number crunching applications (software that performs extensive calculations) that use untrusted bytecode. Bytecode (p-code/portable code) is code that is made to be read efficiently by an interpreter. Bytecode is not source code, but it is not assembly or binary code either. Untrusted code is code that may cause system/data damage. The untrusted bytecode that may ruin the system or harm data are isolated in a separate address space via seccomp. This is done by using file descriptors as methods of transport. In general, it is best to enable security features even at the cost of performance unless you are making a kernel that absolutely needs incredible performance abilities.

Here is another security feature (Enable -fstack-protector buffer overflow detection (CC_STACKPROTECTOR)). A buffer overflow (buffer overrun) is where data is written past its memory boundary and into adjacent memory. This can be a security threat. Some malware uses buffer overruns to exploit systems. Enabling this will use the "-fstack-protector" GCC parameter. GCC is a Linux compiler; this compiler will compile the kernel when you are done configuring the options. This compiler parameter will add a canary value (special security code) on the stack just before the return address. The value is validated before the return. When a buffer overflow occurs, the canary value will get overwritten. When this happens, a kernel panic is initiated. As many know, a kernel panic means the system will crash, but that is better than the system or data being permanently ruined. With a kernel panic, the system can be rebooted, but if a buffer overrun gains a chance to damage the system, a simple reboot will not fix the destruction. You must compile the kernel with GCC version 4.2 or higher to support the parameter.

NOTE: To figure out what version you have, type “gcc --version” in the command-line.

After that, we can configure the timer frequency. The configuration tool recommends 250Hz, so we will use that value.

Timer frequency
1. 100 HZ (HZ_100)
> 2. 250 HZ (HZ_250)
3. 300 HZ (HZ_300)
4. 1000 HZ (HZ_1000)
choice[1-4?]: 2

Using 1000HZ is generally considered too fast for many systems. The timer frequency determines how often the timer interrupt is used. This helps the system operate on a timeline. Applications do not just execute a command randomly. Rather, they wait until a timer interrupt has gone off. This keeps process organized and structured. The time between interrupts on a timer frequency of 100HZ is 10ms, 250HZ is 4ms, and 1000HZ is 1ms. Now, many developers will instantly think that 1000HZ is the best. Well, it depends what effects you will be fine with. A large timer frequency means more power consumption and with more energy being utilized, more heat will be produced. More heat means the hardware may wear down faster.

NOTE: If a particular feature does not matter to you specifically or you are not sure what to choose, use the default value chosen by the configuration tool. For example, for the kernel that I am making, it does not matter to me which timer value to use. In summary, if you do not have a specific reason to select any of the choices, the default is fine.

This interesting system call may be useful to some users (kexec system call (KEXEC)). The kexec call shuts down the current kernel to start another or restart the current. The hardware is not powered-off and this call works without help from the firmware. The bootloader is not executed. (The bootloader is the software that starts the operating system) This restart takes place at the level of the operating system not the hardware. Using this system call is faster than performing a standard power-off or restart. This keeps the hardware on. This system call will not work on all systems. For maximum performance, enable hotplugging.

To use kexec, use the command below replacing “<kernel-image>” with the kernel that will be used after reboot. Also, replace “<command-line-options>” with some of those kernel parameters we had discussed previously. (I will go into greater depth in a later article.)

kexec -l <kernel-image> --append="<command-line-options>”
Specifically, I would type “kexec -l /boot/vmlinuz-3.8.0-27-generic –append="root=/dev/sda1””

NOTE: The hardware does need to be reset sometimes, so do not depend on kexec entirely.

Next, we have a debugging feature that works with kexec (kernel crash dumps (CRASH_DUMP)). When kexec is called, a crash dump is generated. Unless you need to debug kexec, this is not needed. I disabled this feature.

Again, we have another kexec feature (kexec jump (KEXEC_JUMP)). kexec jump allows users to switch between the original kernel and the one started by kexec.

It is best to use the default value for the address the kernel starts (Physical address where the kernel is loaded (PHYSICAL_START) [0x1000000]).

This next kernel option (Build a relocatable kernel (RELOCATABLE)) allows the kernel to be placed somewhere else in the memory. The kernel file will be 10% larger, but this excess is removed from memory on execution. Many may wonder why this is important. Before kernel 2.6.20, rescue kernel had to be configured and compiled differently to be able to run on a different memory address. After this feature was invented, developers no longer needed to make two kernels. A rescue kernel will not load where the first kernel is/was loaded because that portion of memory is occupied or corrupted. (If you are using a rescue kernel then obviously the first kernel had errors)

This feature should be enabled on systems where CPUs can be added unless there is a specific reason for not doing so (Support for hot-pluggable CPUs (HOTPLUG_CPU)). The configuration tool may auto-enable this ability. With this feature, you can active/deactivate a CPU on a system that has many processors. This does not mean adding a new CPU to a system. All CPUs must already be in the system.

The next option will allow us to set whether the above ability is enabled by default (Set default setting of cpu0_hotpluggable (BOOTPARAM_HOTPLUG_CPU0)). It is better to have this feature inactive for performance purposes until it is needed.

This debugging feature allows developers to debug the CPU hotplug abilities (Debug CPU0 hotplug (DEBUG_HOTPLUG_CPU0)). I disabled this feature.

To support older versions of glibc (<2.3.3), enable this feature (Compat VDSO support (COMPAT_VDSO)). This will apply the old-style address via map on the 32-bit VDSO. Glibc is Gnu C LIBrary; this is the GNU Project's implementation of the C standard library.

If the system the kernel is intended for lacks a fully functional boot-loader, then enable this feature (Built-in kernel command line (CMDLINE_BOOL)). This will allow users to use a command-line on the kernel itself so administrators can fix kernel issues. If the bootloader has a command-line (like Grub), then this feature is not needed.

Now, we can configure ACPI and power. First, we are given the choice to allow the system to suspend to RAM (Suspend to RAM and standby (SUSPEND)). Advanced Configuration and Power Interface (ACPI) is an open standard for device configuration and power management. Suspending a system places data on RAM and the hardware goes into a low-power state. The system is not shutdown entirely. This is useful if a user needs to put the computer in a low-power state but wants to retain the currently open applications. Shutting-down a system completely powers off a system and clears the memory.

Next, we can enable hibernation (Hibernation (aka 'suspend to disk') (HIBERNATION)). Hibernation is like suspend mode, but all data in the memory is saved to the hard-drive and the device is completely powered-off. This allows the user to continue using their open applications when the system is powered back on.

Here, we can set the default resume partition (Default resume partition (PM_STD_PARTITION)). Very few developers and administrators will need this feature. When a system returns from hibernation, it will load off of the default resume partition.

After that, we can enable "Opportunistic sleep (PM_AUTOSLEEP)". This lets the kernel to initiate suspend or sleep mode when no active wakeup calls are called. This means that an idling system will initiate suspend mode to save energy. I enabled this feature.
Next, we are asked about "User space wakeup sources interface (PM_WAKELOCKS)". Enabling this will allow wakeup source objects to be activated, deactivated, and created by the user space via a sysfs-based interface. Wakeup source objects track the source of wakeup events.

Sysfs is a virtual filesystem located /sys/. This virtual filesystem contains information about devices. When going to /sys/, it appears to be part of the hard-drive, but this is really a mount point. The files are actually found in the memory. This is the same concept for /proc/.

NOTE: “/sysfs/” is a folder while “/sysfs” would be a file on the root named “sysfs”. Many Linux users mix up the two naming conventions.

If the above option is enabled, then you can set the "Maximum number of user space wakeup sources (0 = no limit) (PM_WAKELOCKS_LIMIT)". It may be best to select the default. Then, you can enable the garbage collector (Garbage collector for user space wakeup sources (PM_WAKELOCKS_GC)). Garbage collection is a memory management method.

NOTE: On systems that need more memory, it is usually best in most cases to enable as many garbage collectors as possible. Otherwise, the memory will fill up faster and be disorganized.

The next power option concerns IO devices (Run-time PM core functionality (PM_RUNTIME)). This option will permit IO hardware to go into low power states on run time. The hardware must allow this feature; not all hardware will do this.

As with many other components of the kernel, the power-management code also has debugging support, if enabled (Power Management Debug Support). I will disable this option.

NOTE: Notice that the options/questions from the configuration tool that I quote/display are no longer showing the option code (the letters in all caps between the parenthesis). This is because I am no using the ncurses-based configuration tool (make menuconfig) instead of the default tool to get the options/settings/questions. Remember, “make config” lacks the ability to save the current progress.

After that, the configuration tool will enable "ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Interface) Support". It is best to allow this power management specification. Usually, the configuration file will enable this feature.

To allow backwards compatibility, enable "Deprecated /proc/acpi files". The new implementation uses the newer functions in /sys/. I disabled this option. A similar question asks about "Deprecated power /proc/acpi directories". Usually, if you disable the files, you will not need the folders, so I disabled them. Some older applications may use these files and folders. If you are compiling a new kernel for an old Linux system, it may be best to enable this option.

Next, we have another file interface that can be enabled/disabled (EC read/write access through). This will create an embedded controller interface in /sys/kernel/debug/ec/. Embedded controllers usually are found in laptops to read the sensors. The Linux kernel accesses the embedded controllers through ACPI code given by the BIOS tables of the system.

Here is another old feature that can be enabled for backwards compatibility (Deprecated /proc/acpi/event support). The acpid daemon may read /proc/acpi/event to manage ACPI-generated events. Instead of this interface, the daemon uses netlink events or input layer to get these events to the user-space. The acpid daemon manages ACPI events.

The next option allows developers to enable a feature that will inform the kernel whether it is using AC or battery (AC adapter). The next option provides battery information from /proc/acpi/battery/ (Battery).

To allow the kernel to behave differently when the power/sleep button is pressed or when the lid is closed, enable this option (Button). These events are controlled in /proc/acpi/event/. For instance, this will make the system suspend when the laptop lid is closed if in the user account power options such a behavior is enabled. On many Linux distros, users can go to the system settings to make the laptop stop suspending when the lid is closed.

The next ACPI extension to be enable/disabled is for video adapters (Video).

ACPI fans can be enabled/disabled (Fan). It is best to enable ACPI fans management. This will help to conserve energy.


Configuring 6

Here, we can enable support for ACPI-controlled docking stations and removable drive bays (Dock). Remember, ACPI (Advanced Configuration and Power Management Interface) is a power management system. A docking station is a device that allows extra devices to be plugged in through extra ports. A docking station may contain many various ports and connectors. So, an ACPI-controlled docking station is a docking station that has its power managed by ACPI. A drive bay is a set of hardware for adding hard-drives. This too can be managed by ACPI.

Next, we can allow ACPI to be used as the idle manager for the CPU (Processor). This will cause the processor to enter the ACPI C2 and C3 states when idle. This will save power and reduce the temperature of the CPU chip. Processors only idle when they are 100% free. No application must request CPU resources for a set period of time.

There are four CPU power states – C0, C1, C2, and C3. C0 is the active operating state. C1 (Halt) is an active state that is not executing instructions, but can do so instantly. C2 (Stop-Clock) is a powered down state. C3 (Sleep) is more powered down than C2. In C3, the cache is now longer synchronized or managed until the CPU leaves this state. There is a fifth state called C1E (Enhanced Halt State) that has lower power consumption.

If the IPMI driver is enabled, then ACPI can access the BMC controller (IPMI). A Baseboard Management Controller is a microcontroller that manages the connection between the software and hardware. The Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) is a framework for managing the computer through a direct network at the hardware level rather than going through a login shell or the operating system.

The ACPI v4.0 process aggregator allows the kernel to apply a CPU configuration to all processors on the system (Processor Aggregator). As of ACPI v4.0, only idling can be configured with this method.

After that, the ACPI thermal zone can be enabled (Thermal Zone). Most hardware supports this feature. This allows the fan's power to be managed by ACPI.

A custom DSDT can be linked to the kernel if this option is enabled (Custom DSDT Table file to include). In this setting, the developer must include the full path name to the file. The Differentiated System Description Table is a file that contains the system's information for supported power events. It is not required to enter a path name. These tables exist on the firmware. The kernel will handle this for you. The main purpose for this is if a developer need to use tables that are different from ones that are built-in to a device.

Arbitrary ACPI tables can be overridden using initrd (ACPI tables override via initrd). ACPI tables are basically rules and instructions on how to control and interact with the hardware.

Like all other parts of the kernel, the ACPI system can also generate debugging messages (Debug Statements). Like other debugging features, you may want to disable this and save about fifty kilobytes.

Enabling this next feature will create files (/sys/bus/pci/slots/) for each PCI slot detected on the system (PCI slot detection driver). A PCI slot is a port on a PCI motherboard that allows users to attach other PC devices. PCI is a type of motherboard. PCI refers to the way the components communicate with one another. Some applications may need these files.

The power management timer is another power-managing system (Power Management Timer Support). This is one of many system timers for keeping track of time. This one requires less power. The processor idling, voltage/frequency scaling, and throttling do not effect this timer. Numerous systems require this feature to be enabled.

Next, ACPI module and container device drivers can be enabled (Container and Module Devices). This enables hotplug support for processors, memory, and nodes. This is needed for NUMA systems.

This following driver offers support for ACPI memory hotplugging (Memory Hotplug). Some devices will not support hotpluggable memory even with this driver enabled. If this driver is added as a module, the module will be called acpi_memhotplug.

NOTE: For the kernel to have a particular feature, the hardware, BIOS, and firmware must support the feature in question. Some systems have a BIOS that does not control the hardware much. This type of BIOS will not restrict features often. If the kernel does have a particular feature, the hardware must have the ability to complete such a task.

The Smart Battery System driver offers access to the battery's status and information (Smart Battery System).

Next, we have a driver for a "Hardware Error Device". This device reports hardware errors through SCI. Usually, most of the reports will be on corrected errors.

Here is another ACPI debugging feature (Allow ACPI methods to be inserted/replaced at run time). This permits ACPI AML methods to be managed without rebooting the system. AML stands for ACPI Machine Language. With this debugging feature, the AML code can be changed and tested with requiring a reboot.

APEI is the ACPI error interface (ACPI Platform Error Interface (APEI)). APEI reports errors from the chipset to the operating system. This error interface also offers error injection abilities.

The hardware's firmware can send messages to the operating system when "SFI (Simple Firmware Interface) Support" is enabled. The firmware communicates with the operating system through static tables in memory. SFI-only computers will require this feature for the kernel to work.

To be able to change the processor's clock speed on runtime, enable this feature (CPU Frequency scaling). CPU frequency scaling means changing the processor's clock speed. This driver can be used to lower the clock speed to conserve power.

Next, is another power management subsystem (CPU idle PM support). When the processor is not active, it is best that it idles in an efficient way to reduce power consumption and reduce wear-and-tear on the CPU. Reduced power consumption will also lower the heat production from the the internal components.

The Linux kernel offers many CPU idle drivers. On systems with multiple processors, some users may have a reason to use a different driver on each CPU (Support multiple cpuidle drivers). Enabling this driver will allow users to set a different driver to each processor.

For Intel processors, the kernel has a driver specific for managing the idleness of such CPU chips (Cpuidle Driver for Intel Processors).

When the memory chips are idle, those can also use reduced power (Intel chipset idle memory power saving driver). This driver is specific for Intel devices with IO AT support.

Different computers use different types of motherboards (PCI support). One type is PCI. This driver will allow the kernel to run on PCI motherboards.

Next, we can enable/disable "Support mmconfig PCI config space access".

After that, we have an option of enabling/disabling a driver for host bridge windows (Support mmconfig PCI config space access). WARNING: This driver is incomplete (at least in kernel version 3.9.4)

As mentioned above, there are other types of motherboards. This next option offers a driver for "PCI Express (PCIe) support". PCIe is an improved and faster version of PCI.

After that, this following driver should be enabled to allow hotplugging on PCIe motherboards (PCI Express Hotplug driver).

Next, we can enable/disable error reporting for PCIe motherboards (Root Port Advanced Error Reporting). This is the PCI Express AER driver.

This next feature can allow users to override BIOS and firmware settings for PCIe ECRC (PCI Express ECRC settings control). In the next option, there is an error injector for PCIe (PCIe AER error injector support).

The following setting offers the operating system control over PCIe active state and clock power management (PCI Express ASPM control). Normally, the firmware would control the ASPM, but this feature allows the operating system to take control.

Again, like so many components of the kernel, there is debugging support for ASPM (Debug PCI Express ASPM).

Next, in this menu, select the "Default ASPM policy".

After that choice, the next one is about allowing device drivers to enable Message Signaled Interrupts (MSI). It is usually best to allow devices to send the CPU interrupts.

To add numerous debugging messages to the system log, enable "PCI Debugging".

This next setting allows the PCI core to detect if it needs to enable PCI resource re-allocation (Enable PCI resource re-allocation detection).

When hosting a virtual operating system on Linux, it can sometimes help to reserve a PCI device for the virtual OS (PCI Stub driver). With operating system virtualization, one OS is running inside or beside another operating system. Sometimes they can compete for resources. Being able to reserve a device for the guest system (the virtual OS) can reduce competition and increase performance.

The next driver offered allows hypertransport devices to use interrupts (Interrupts on hypertransport devices). Hypertransport is a bus system/protocol for high-speed communication between processors.

This next driver for PCI virtualization allows virtual devices to be made that share their owned physical resources (PCI IOV support).

The PCI Page Request Interface (PRI) gives PCI devices that are behind an IOMMU (input/output memory management unit) to recover from page faults (PCI PRI support). A page fault is not an error; it refers to the event of software trying to access data not on physical memory.


Configuring 7

Process Address Space Identifiers (PASIDs) allow PCI devices to access multiple IO address spaces simultaneously (PCI PASID support). This feature requires an IOMMU that offers PASIDs support.

Next, we can enable/disable "PCI IO-APIC hotplug support". APIC stands for Advanced Programmable Interrupt Controllers. A programmable interrupt controller (PIC) gathers all interrupts from all of the different sources to a single or multiple CPU lines. An advanced PIC are the same as PICs, but they have better features like Advanced Interrupt Request Management and more priority models. Hotplugging is the ability to add a device while the system is still on and not required to be reset. This driver is for PCI motherboards to have the ability to handle input/output APIC hot-swapping.

After that, the following question asks about enabling "ISA-style DMA support". As mentioned in a previous article, DMA is direct memory access which is the ability for devices to access memory without help from the CPU. ISA stands for Industry Standard Architecture which is a bus standard like PCI. This feature would allow DMA support that is used with ISA motherboards.

Now, we can move on to "PCCard (PCMCIA/CardBus) support". PCMCIA stands for Personal Computer Memory Card International Association. PC-cards, PCMCIA cards, and Cardbus cards are all peripheral laptop devices that are in the shape of cards.

The next PCMCIA options deals with "16-bit PCMCIA support". Some older computers use 16-bit PCMCIA cards.

To load a Card Information Structure (CIS) from userspace to make a PCMCIA card work properly, this feature should be enabled (Load CIS updates from userspace).

CardBus is the newer 32-bit version of 16-bit PCMCIA. This driver offers support for such devices (32-bit CardBus support). To use 32-bit PC-cards, a Cardbus compatible host bridge is required.

This next driver provides support for the CardBus bridges mentioned above (CardBus yenta-compatible bridge support). This bridge is the hardware port that the PCMCIA cards plugin.

The next three options are "Special initialization for O2Micro bridges", "Special initialization for Ricoh bridges", and "Special initialization for TI and EnE bridges". These are all types of bridges for cards.

Next, the driver for "Auto-tune EnE bridges for CB cards" is offered.

"Special initialization for Toshiba ToPIC bridges" can be enabled/disabled in the next option.

The next device driver offered is "Cirrus PD6729 compatible bridge support". This is needed in some older laptops.

The next PCMCIA bridge driver is for Intel "i82092 compatible bridge support". This is also found in some older laptops. This is again another bridge driver.

After that, the following settings asks about enabling "Support for PCI Hotplug".

Next, ACPI PCI hotplugging can be enabled (ACPI PCI Hotplug driver). This driver allows the hotplugging of PCI devices with ACPI (that power management feature that was discussed previously).

For IBM systems, this next driver will need to be enabled for ACPI PCI hotplugging (ACPI PCI Hotplug driver IBM extensions). This is like the above feature but this is specific for IBM devices.

For systems with a CompactPCI system card that has CompactPCI hotswap support, enable the "CompactPCI Hotplug driver".

Next, we have an option for another type of CompactPCU system card (Ziatech ZT5550 CompactPCI Hotplug).

CompactPCI cards that use the #ENUM hotswap signal as a system register bit through the standard IO port will need this driver (Generic port I/O CompactPCI Hotplug).

Motherboards with SHPC PCI hotplug controllers need this next driver (SHPC PCI Hotplug driver). SHPC stands for Standard Hot-Plug Controller. This is a generic hotplug system for PCI motherboards.

RapidIO interconnected devices also need a special driver (RapidIO support). RapidIO chips and boards are faster than PCI and PCI-express.

The "IDT Tsi721 PCI Express SRIO Controller" is a specific type of RapidIO controller.

This next option allows the developer to enter in how long the system's discovery node should wait (in seconds) for a host to finish enumeration before giving up. It is usually best to stick to the defaults.

This feature will allow the RapidIO system to accept other traffic besides maintenance signals (Enable RapidIO Input/Output Ports).

To transfer RapidIO data to and from RIO devices using a DMA Engine framework, enable this driver (DMA Engine support for RapidIO). RIO devices are Reconfigurable Input/Output devices. RapidIO uses NREAD and NWRITE requests to transfer data between local and remote memory, so a driver is needed to allow RapidIO to use DMA to access RIO devices. A DMA controller is needed to complete this feature on a kernel with this feature.

The RapidIO can provide debugging messages if permitted (RapidIO subsystem debug messages). As mentioned before, debugging features can be disabled unless you or the person using the kernel being made needs debugging features.

The next driver offers "IDT Tsi57x SRIO switches support". This is a group of serial RapidIO switches. The next four options are for different serial RapidIO switch drivers - "IDT CPS-xx SRIO switches support", "Tsi568 SRIO switch support", "IDT CPS Gen.2 SRIO switch support", and "Tsi500 Parallel RapidIO switch support".

After managing those drivers, we can move on to other kernel options. The next option offers support for ELF (Kernel support for ELF binaries). Executable and Linkable Format (ELF) support is a format specification for executables. It is highly recommended that this be enabled.

To execute scripts and binaries that require an interpreter, this feature must be enabled (Kernel support for MISC binaries). These types of executables are often called wrapper-driven binary formats. Examples include Python2/3, .NET, Java, DOS executables, etc.

The kernel can generate core dumps when this option is enabled (Enable core dump support). This is a debugging feature. Unless this kernel is intended to be used for debugging (whether the kernel itself or software) this is not needed.

64-bit processors can execute 32-bit programs if "IA32 Emulation" is enabled. It is best that this feature is enabled unless the developer is sure that such a kernel will never need to run 32-bit code.

The old a.out binaries can also be supported (IA32 a.out support). Assembler Output, as it is called, is a file format of a type of compiled code. It is best to enabled this because some shared libraries may use this format.

The next setting can allow 32-bit processes to access the whole 64-bit register file and wide data path (x32 ABI for 64-bit mode). However, 32-bit pointers are still used. These 32-bit processes will use less memory than the same process compiled to 64-bits because they use 32-bit pointers.

Now, we will move on to network support.

Our first network setting is to enable networking in general (Networking Support). Very few developers will disable this feature. If they do, the kernel will be small and fast, but it will never be able to use Wifi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, or any type of connection dealing with network devices or protocols. Some programs on stand-alone systems require this feature even though no network devices exist with the hardware. For instance, X11 depends on networking features. Only disable networking features in the kernel if you can provide an alternate way to display graphics on the screen.

"Packet socket" allows processes to communicate with network devices without a mediator. This can enhance performance.

The ss tool needs this feature enabled for packet monitoring (Packet: sockets monitoring interface). Packet monitoring means watching the network traffic concerning the local device.

"Unix domain sockets" are used to establish and access network connections. The X Windowing system requires this feature; this is the perfect example for why networking should be enabled in the kernel even for systems that will not use networks. Unix domain sockets is a network protocol that works between process on the same running machine.

The above Unix sockets can be monitored by the ss tool, but this next feature must be enabled first (UNIX: socket monitoring interface).

The Transformation (XFRM) user configuration interface is used by many native Linux utilities, so this feature is highly recommended (Transformation user configuration). This enables Ipsec – Internet Protocol SECurity. Ipsec controls the authentication and/or encryption of the IP packets.

The next feature allows developers to give network packets a second policy (called a sub-policy) (Transformation sub policy support).

IPsec security association locators can be updated dynamically when this feature is enabled (Transformation migrate database). Devices using Mobile IPv6 need this feature. When a computer sets up a network connection with a router or any type of network device, the security protocols make sure the two do not accidentally get connected to some other device on the network. The IP packet is set to go to a particular device. However, mobile systems that will use a different network providing a 4g signal, for instance, needs to be able to make the same connection to the new network point. Even though it may be the same 4g provider, a different device would provide a 4g connection to that geographic area. When the device is in the new area, it will still use the same IP address.

Next is a feature that displays statistics on transformation errors during packet processing (Transformation statistics). This useful for developers; this is not needed, so it can be disabled.

The "PF_KEY sockets" are compatible with KAME sockets and are need when using IPsec tools ported from KAME. KAME is a free protocol stack for IPv4 IPsec, IPv6 IPsec, and IPv6.

This is another required Mobile IPv6 feature that adds a PF_KEY MIGRATE message to PF_KEYv2 sockets (PF_KEY MIGRATE).

Next is the most important and number one well known feature in networking that should be enabled - "TCP/IP networking". Most networks (including the Internet) depend on this protocol. Even the X Windowing system uses TCP/IP. This feature even permits users to ping themselves (Command: ping To be able to use the Internet and/or X11, this must be enabled.

To address several computers on a network, "IP: multicasting" must be enabled. Multicasting is the ability to send messages to more than one computer, but not all of them. Broadcasting sends signals to all computers on the network.

If this kernel is for a Linux system that will act as a router, then enable this option (IP: advanced router).

With this following feature enabled, the IP address will be automatically configured at boot time (IP: kernel level autoconfiguration). This is useful when a user needs to connect to a network without needing to configure settings.

With the DHCP protocol support enabled, the Linux system can mount its root file system over a network using NFS and the IP address will be discovered using DHCP (IP: DHCP support). This allows the Linux system to have its root filesystem on a remote computer over the network without the user needing to manually manage the process each time the system is booted.

The next options is just like the above except the BOOTP protocol is used instead of DHCP (IP: BOOTP support). BOOTP is the bootstrap protocol; this protocol uses UDP instead of TCP and will only use IPv4 networks.

RARP is an old protocol that is now obsolete due to BOOTP and DHCP, but it can still be added to the kernel (IP: RARP support).

One network protocol can be used within another - a concept called tunneling. This feature can be used in the Linux kernel (IP: tunneling). The secure shell protocol (SSH) is an example of a tunneling protocol. This feature is needed for SSH.

The next driver can demultiplex GRE (Generic Routing Encapsulation) packets (IP: GRE demultiplexer). Demultiplexing is the process of making a single signal into many separate parts (this is not copying the message, only breaking it down). GRE (Generic Routing Encapsulation) is a tunneling protocol.

The following feature permits GRE tunnels to form in IP connections (IP: GRE tunnels over IP). This will allow GRE tunnels to form on IP networks.

A broadcast using GRE over IP can be done when this feature is enabled (IP: broadcast GRE over IP).

A Linux system intended to be a router for IP packets going to multiple places should have this enabled (IP: multicast routing).


Configuring 8

Remember, networking is the most important characteristic of computers, so this article and the networking ones after this are important to know.

Before we begin the next part of this series, I want to clarify something. This configuration process does not edit the current kernel on your system. This process is configuring the source code before a new kernel is compiled (or cross-compiled). Once I finish going through the configuration process, then I will discuss the topics that were suggested to me by my readers. Also, as a reminder, the text in the quotes or parenthesis of the first or (rarely) the second sentence of each paragraph is the name of the setting in the configuration tool.

First, we can enable two different Sparse Mode Protocol Independent Multicast routing protocols ("IP: PIM-SM version 1 support" and "IP: PIM-SM version 2 support"). A multicast is like a broadcast, but a broad cast sends signals to all computers while a multicast sends messages to a selective group or set of computers. All PIM protocols are multicasting routing protocols that work on IP.

NOTE: When a computer communicates with one other computer or server, this is called a unicast – just in case you were wondering.

The next network feature to configure is "ARP daemon support". This allows the kernel to have a list of IP addresses and their respective hardware addresses in internal cache. ARP stands for Address-Resolution-Protocol.

For extra security, "TCP syncookie support" should be enabled. This protects computers from SVN flood attacks. Hackers or malware could send SVN messages to a server to consume resources that would allow real visitors to use the service provided by the server. The SVN message opens a connection between a computer and a server. The Syncookie blocks SVN messages that are not legitimate. Then, real users can still access the site without hackers consuming bandwidth. Servers should have this feature enabled.

The following feature is for "Virtual (secure) IP: tunneling". Tunneling is the encapsulation of one network protocol into another. Secure tunnels are needed when making virtual private networks (VPN).

Next, enabling "AH transformation" adds support for the IPsec Authentication Header. This is a security measure that manages data authentication.

After that, enabling "ESP transformation" adds support for the IPsec Encapsulation Security Protocol. This is a security measure with encryption and optional data authentication.

The Linux kernel supports the IP Payload Compression Protocol if this feature is enabled (IP: IPComp transformation). This is a lossless compression system. Lossless refers to the fact that the data remains in its complete form. After the uncompression, there is no difference in the data before or after compression. The compression is performed before encryption. This compression protocol speeds up networks because less data is moving.

The next three settings deal with different IPsec features ("IP: IPsec transport mode", "IP: IPsec tunnel mode", and "IP: IPsec BEET mode"). IPsec stands for Internet Protocol SECurity. Transport mode is the default IPsec mode for connections between two computers and/or servers. Transport mode uses either an AH or an ESP header and only encrypts the IP header. In tunnel mode, the IP header and payload are encrypted. Tunnel mode is usually used when connecting a gateway to a server or gateway or a server to a server. BEET mode (Bound End-to-End Tunnel) does not reconnect when the IP address changes; the BEET mode connection remains connected. BEET mode uses less bytes than the other modes.

Next, the kernel can be given support for large IPv4/TCP offloads that are received (Large Receive Offload (ipv4/tcp)). The network interface cards (NIC) process the TCP/IP stacks. This feature adds code to the kernel to process large stacks.

INET socket monitoring can be enabled (INET: socket monitoring interface). INET sockets go to the Internet. This feature (when enabled) watches the connections and traffic to and from the Internet.

Here is another socket monitoring interface (UDP: socket monitoring interface). This one is for User Datagram Protocol (UDP). Again, this feature watches the sockets for UDP.

The following setting enables various TCP congestion controls (TCP: advanced congestion control). If the network gets too busy or the bandwidth is full, then many computers must wait for some bandwidth or their data stream will be slow. It helps network performance if the traffic is managed properly.

TCP connections can be protected with MD5 (TCP: MD5 Signature Option support). This is used for protecting Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) connections between core routers. Core routers are the main routers of a network; these routers are sometimes referred to as the “backbone of the Internet/network”. BGP is a protocol for making routing decisions.

The next setting allows you to enable/disable "The IPv6 protocol". When this is enabled, IPv4 will still work well.

The following feature is a special privacy ability (IPv6: Privacy Extensions (RFC 3041) support). This makes the system generate and use a different random address for the network interface.

NOTE: Nothing is computers is truly random. Random numbers and strings in computers are often called pseudo-random.

On networks with multiple routers, this feature will allow the system to more efficiently figure out which one to use (IPv6: Router Preference (RFC 4191)).

After that, an experimental feature for dealing with route information can be enabled/disabled (IPv6: Route Information (RFC 4191)). Remember, when making a stable kernel, only install experimental features unless you really need the feature in question.

Sometimes, when a system autoconfigures its IPv6 address, it may get an IPv6 address that is already used on the network. This experimental feature allows Duplicate Address Detection (DAD) (IPv6: Enable RFC 4429 Optimistic DAD).

IPv6 can get support for various IPsec features ("IPv6: AH transformation" and "IPv6: ESP transformation").

IPv6 can also use the IP Payload Compression Protocol discussed previously (IPv6: IPComp transformation).

There is even mobility support for IPv6 (IPv6: Mobility). This permits mobile devices using IPv6 to be able to use other networks while retaining the same IP address.

Again, there are some IPsec features for IPv6 ("IPv6: IPsec transport mode", "IPv6: IPsec tunnel mode", and "IPv6: IPsec BEET mode").

When enabled, IPv6 can support MIPv6 route optimization (IPv6: MIPv6 route optimization mode). This ensures the shortest and best network path is made. The download and upload speeds are faster if the messages are sent through less routers and other network devices.

If an administrator needs to connect two IPv6 networks, but it can only be done through an IPv4 connection, this kernel feature will make that possible (IPv6: IPv6-in-IPv4 tunnel (SIT driver)). This tunnels IPv6 through IPv4.

This tunneling feature is for IPv6-in-IPv6 and IPv4 tunneled in IPv6 (IPv6: IP-in-IPv6 tunnel (RFC2473)).

Another tunneling feature is seen (IPv6: GRE tunnel). This one allows GRE tunnels.

Multiple routing tables can be supported (IPv6: Multiple Routing Tables). A routing table is a list of network locations and the paths to take to get data to the destinations.

Routing can be done by source address or prefix with IPv6 if enabled (IPv6: source address based routing).

"IPv6 Multicast routing" is still experimental. IPv4 and IPv6 handle multicasting differently.

Typical multicast routers decide what should be done to multicast packets based on destination and source addresses (IPv6: multicast policy routing). Enabling this feature will allow interfaces and packet marks to be included in the decision making.

Next, the PIM-SMv2 multicast routing protocol can be enabled for IPv6 (IPv6: PIM-SM version 2 support). This is the same PIM mentioned previously with IPv4. Because IP v4 and v6 are different, PIM can be activated for v4 and/or v6.

Network packet labeling protocols (like CIPSO and RIPSO) can be enabled (NetLabel subsystem support). These labels contain security information and permissions.

Network packets can be made more secure by enabling security marking (Security Marking).

This network feature adds some overhead (Time-stamping in PHY devices). PHY devices can time-stamp network packets. PHY stands for “PHYsical layer”. These devices manages received and transmitted data.

A netfilter can be enabled (Network packet filtering framework). Netfilters filter and mangle passing network packets. A packet filter is a type of firewall. If the packet matches certain criteria, the packet is not allowed through.

The Datagram Congestion Control Protocol can be enabled (The DCCP Protocol). DCCP permits bi-directional unicast connections. DCCP is helpful with streaming media, Internet telephony, and on-line games.

Next, the Stream Control Transmission Protocol can be enabled (The SCTP Protocol). SCTP works on top of IP and is a stable and reliable protocol.

The following protocol is the Reliable Datagram Sockets protocol (The RDS Protocol).

RDS can use Infiniband and iWARP as a transport that supports RDMA operations (RDS over Infiniband and iWARP). Infiniband and iWARP are both protocols. RDMA stands for remote direct memory access. RDMA is seen when a remote computer accesses another's RAM directly without the need of the local computer's operating system assistance. It is like direct memory access (DMA) but with a remote computer rather than this taking place locally.

RDS can also use TCP as a transport (RDS over TCP).

Next, "RDS debugging messages" should be disabled.

This next network protocol is for clusters (The TIPC Protocol). A cluster is a group of computers that act as one. They need a way to communicate, so they use the Transparent Inter Process Communication (TIPC) protocol.

This high-speed protocol uses packets with a fixed size (Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM)).

IP can be used on ATM to communicate with systems using IP that are connected to a ATM network (Classical IP over ATM).

This next feature disables the "ICMP host unreachable" error message (Do NOT send ICMP if no neighbor). This prevents problems when the ATMARP tables from being removed due to a revalidation. ATMARP tables manage address resolution. ICMP stands for Internet Control Message Protocol and is usually used for sending error messages across a network.

LAN Emulation (LANE) emulates LAN services on an ATM network (LAN Emulation (LANE) support). A LANE computer can be a proxy that bridges Ethernet and ELAN segments.

"Multi-Protocol Over ATM (MPOA) support" allows ATM devices to send connections over subnetwork boundaries.

With this feature, ATM PVCs will behave like Ethernet, at least from the kernel's perspective (RFC1483/2684 Bridged protocols). PVC stands for permanent virtual circuit. A virtual connection is a packet-based connection that uses other higher protocols along with the main/original protocol.

The "Layer Two Tunneling Protocol (L2TP)" makes tunneling transparent to applications. Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) uses L2TP.

To make a Linux-based Ethernet bridge, enabled this bridging feature (802.1d Ethernet Bridging). In networking, a bridge connects two or more networks together. An Ethernet bridge is a hardware bridge that uses Ethernet ports.

"IGMP/MLD snooping" is the ability for an Ethernet bridge to be able to selectively forward multicast signals based on the IGMP/MLD load. Disabling this feature can reduce the kernel size significantly. IGMP stands for Internet Group Management Protocol which is a protocol used to set up multicast groups. MLD stands for Multicast Listener Discovery.

This next filtering feature allows Ethernet bridges to selectively manage traffic based on VLAN information seen in each packet. Disabling this feature reduces the size of the kernel being made.

VLAN interfaces can be created on Ethernet interfaces with this feature enabled (802.1Q VLAN Support).
Next, "GVRP (GARP VLAN Registration Protocol)" support allows the GVRP protocol to be used to register certain values from network devices.

After that, "MVRP (Multiple VLAN Registration Protocol) support" can be enabled. MVRP is a newer alternative to GVRP.

"DECnet Support" is a network protocol made by Digital. This is a stable and safe protocol.

"DECnet router support" allows users to make a Linux-based router that supports DECnet.

NOTE: Linux can be used as a server, workstation, router, cluster, firewall, and supports many other uses.

This next feature will enable Logical Link Layer type 2 (ANSI/IEEE 802.2 LLC type 2 Support). This layer allows multiple protocols to be used on the same network equipment. It is highly recommended that this be enabled in environments where networks are important. It may be best if all kernels supported this feature.


Configuring 9

The Novell networking protocol, IPX, is commonly used between Windows systems and NetWare servers (The IPX protocol). IPX stands for Internetwork Packet Exchange. This is a network layer that is commonly used with the SPX protocol that is the transport layer.

To give a NetWare server the same IPX address on all of the networks it serves, enable this next feature (IPX: Full internal IPX network). Otherwise, each network will see the server as having a different IPX address.

NOTE: The IPX protocol uses IPX addressing, not IP addressing. IP addresses are not the only network addresses in computer networking.

For Linux systems on an Apple network, it will help to enable Appletalk (Appletalk protocol support). Apple computers and Apple printers commonly use Appletalk to communicate across a network. Appletalk does not require a central router/server and the network system is pug-and-play.

Linux systems that need to use IP on an Appletalk network will need "Appletalk interfaces support".

The next feature allows users to have IP tunneled in Appletalk (Appletalk-IP driver support).

Next, this feature permits IP packets to be encapsulated in Appletalk frames (IP to Appletalk-IP Encapsulation support). In networking, a frame is a special sequence of bits that marks the beginning and end of packets. This feature would place IP packets inside of Appletalk packets.

This setting allows the decapsulator to be enabled for the previous feature (Appletalk-IP to IP Decapsulation support). The decapsulator takes the IP packet out of the Appletalk packet.

This is another protocol layer called "X.25" (CCITT X.25 Packet Layer). This layer is usually enabled for very large networks like country wide public networks. Many banks use this in their extensive network systems. X25 (spelled “X25” or “X.25”) networks have packet-switching exchange (PSE) nodes which are devices that package the incoming data into packets. X25 is being replaced by IP which is more simple than X25. X25 is an old protocol that is not as efficient as TCP/IP, but some companies find it very useful in large, complex networks.

LAPB is a data link layer used by X.25 (LAPB Data Link Driver). If the above is enabled, then this should also be enabled. LAPB stands for "Link Access Procedure Balanced". LAPB can also be used on Ethernet and X.21 (this is not a typo) network cards. X.21 is a protocol used on the physical layer (hardware) and X.25 is used on the network layer. LAPB checks for errors and ensures the packets are placed back in the correct sequence.

Nokia modems use the phone network protocol commonly called PhoNet (Phonet protocols family). Linux computers controlling Nokia phones remotely need this feature.

The next network protocol is for small wireless connections between various automatic devices (IEEE Std 802.15.4 Low-Rate Wireless Personal Area Networks support). 802.15.4 is a simple low data rate protocol that requires little amounts of power. This wireless protocol extends out a maximum of about ten meters. This can be useful in robotics when connecting sensors through a wireless network. Any type of machinery that should not have cables may benefit from this local wireless network in place of cords.

If the above feature was enabled, it may be wise to enable this IPv6 compression feature (6lowpan support over IEEE 802.15.4).

SoftMAC devices that support IEEE 802.15.4 at the PHY level can use this feature (Generic IEEE 802.15.4 Soft Networking Stack (mac802154)).

When many packets need to be transmitted, the kernel must decide which ones to send out first (they cannot all be sent out at once), so they feature will help the kernel prioritize the packets (QoS and/or fair queuing). If this is not enabled, then the kernel will use a "first come, first serve approach". This would mean urgent networking messages will need to wait for their turn for transmission.

On networks with a data center server, this feature is highly recommended (Data Center Bridging support). This feature enhances the Ethernet connections for data center networks.

DNS lookups will be enabled with this next ability (DNS Resolver support). Most systems store DNS cache that allows the computer to perform a DNS lookup itself without the aid of a DNS server.

Next is another routing protocol for multi-hop ad-hoc mesh networks (B.A.T.M.A.N. Advanced Meshing Protocol). "B.A.T.M.A.N." stands for "better approach to mobile ad-hoc networking". This works on wired and wireless networks. Ad-hoc networks have no central infrastructure like routers and such. Each device on the network behaves like a router. Mesh networks are a similar concept. Each node must route data sent to it. In a mesh network, each computer is connected to all or nearly all of the other network devices. When such networks are written on a paper to make a map, the network looks like a mesh.

When many mesh nodes are connected to the same LAN and mesh, some network signals may loop (Bridge Loop Avoidance). This feature will prevent such looping. These loops may never end or harm performance. Preventing such looping is called Bridge Loop Avoidance (BLA).

Distributed ARP Tables (DAT) are used to enhance ARP reliability on sparse wireless mesh networks (Distributed ARP Table).

The BATMAN protocol has some debugging features that may be used by developers (B.A.T.M.A.N. Debugging). As with any debugging feature, it is usually best to disable it to save space and have a better optimized kernel.

Virtualized environments can benefit from "Open vSwitch". This is a multilayer Ethernet switch. Open vSwitch supports numerous protocols.

Network connections between virtual machines, hypervisors, and the host needs the "virtual socket protocol". This is similar to TCP/IP. These sockets are like other network sockets, but they are for virtual machines. This allows a guest OS to have a network connection with the host.

There is a cgroup subsystem that can manage network priorities (Network priority cgroup). This control group gives network traffic priority based on the sending application.

BPF filtering is handled by an interpreter, but the kernel can perform BPF filtering natively with this enabled (enable BPF Just In Time compiler). BPF stands for "Berkeley Packet Filter". This allows the computer system to support raw link-layer packets.

Next, we have two network testing tools. The first one is a "Packet Generator" which injects packets (makes void packets) for testing the network. The second, allows an alert system to be setup to alert the user/system when packets are dropped (Network packet drop alerting service).

The Linux kernel can be made to run radio systems or control them remotely. The "Amateur Radio AX.25 Level 2 protocol" is used for computer communication via radio. This radio protocol can support TCP/IP among many other protocols.

To prevent collisions on an AX.25 network, enable DAMA (AX.25 DAMA Slave support). So far, Linux cannot act as a DAMA server, but it can be a DAMA slave. DAMA stands for Demand Assigned Multiple Access. DAMA assigns network traffic to particular channels.

NET/ROM is a routing layer for AX.25 (Amateur Radio NET/ROM protocol).

An alternative to NET/ROM is Packet Layer Protocol (PLP) which also runs on top of AX.25 (Amateur Radio X.25 PLP (Rose)).

The Controller Area Network (CAN) bus devices need this driver (CAN bus subsystem support). CAN is a serial protocol with various purposes.

The CAN bus can be access through the BSD socket API with this feature (Raw CAN Protocol (raw access with CAN-ID filtering)).

A broadcast manager for the CAN protocol is available for the kernel (Broadcast Manager CAN Protocol (with content filtering)). This manager offers many controls including content filtering.

To make a Linux box a CAN Router and/or gateway, this feature is needed (CAN Gateway/Router (with netlink configuration)).

NOTE: A gateway is an interface device between two or more networks that each support different protocols. A simple definition would be a gateway is a protocol converter.

NOTE: A router redirects network traffic and connects networks together that use the same protocols.

There are many CAN devices (mainly controllers) and interfaces that the Linux kernel can support if enabled. All of the CAN drivers are for different brands and models of these types of devices. In the configuration tool, they have titles as seen below.

Virtual Local CAN Interface (vcan)
Serial / USB serial CAN Adaptors (slcan)
Platform CAN drivers with Netlink support
Enable LED triggers for Netlink based drivers
Microchip MCP251x SPI CAN controllers
Janz VMOD-ICAN3 Intelligent CAN controller
Intel EG20T PCH CAN controller
Philips/NXP SJA1000 devices
Bosch C_CAN/D_CAN devices
Bosch CC770 and Intel AN82527 devices
CAN USB interfaces
Softing Gmbh CAN generic support
Softing Gmbh CAN pcmcia cards

Like the many other features in the kernel, CAN devices also have debugging abilities that can be enabled (CAN devices debugging messages). Again, remember the purpose of your kernel - will you need debugging or do you want performance?

The Linux kernel also supports protocols for infrared signals (IrDA (infrared) subsystem support). IrDA stands for "Infrared Data Associations"; this is a standard for infrared signals.

Many people today will want these Bluetooth abilities (Bluetooth subsystem support).

RxRPC session sockets can be enabled (RxRPC session sockets). These sockets carry network connections that are using the RxRPC protocol. RxRPC runs on top of UDP.

The Linux kernel can support "RxRPC dynamic debugging" if enabled.

RxRPC has kerberos 4 and AFS kaserver security abilities that can be enabled (RxRPC Kerberos security). Kerberos is an authentication protocol where each network device is required to prove each other's identity to each other before any data transaction.

The configuration tool for wireless LAN (802.11) devices should be enabled for computers that have a wireless device like Wifi (cfg80211 - wireless configuration API). cfg80211 stands for Configuration 802.11. 802.11 is a wireless specification.

The "nl80211 testmode command" is used for calibration and/or validation utilities that perform such tasks on chips for wireless devices.

The next setting allows users to "enable developer warnings" for cfg80211 devices.

Next, "cfg80211 regulatory debugging" can be enabled.

The following cfg80211 setting is for "cfg80211 certification onus".

Powersaving features should be enabled for cfg80211 compatible devices (enable powersave by default).

cfg80211 supports debugfs entries (cfg80211 DebugFS entries).

Wireless devices have regulatory rules that they follow; these are stored in a database (use statically compiled regulatory rules database).

Some wireless extensions that use cfg80211-based drivers may need to use an old userspace; this feature permits that action (cfg80211 wireless extensions compatibility).

lib80211 can provide debugging features (lib80211 debugging messages).

The hardware independent IEEE 802.11 standard can be enabled (Generic IEEE 802.11 Networking Stack (mac80211)). mac80211 is a framework used to make SoftMAC wireless drivers. SoftMAC allows better control and configuration of the device.

This next feature allows the mac80211 to use a PID controller to manage the TX rate (PID controller based rate control algorithm). TX rate is the BPS (Bits per minute). Specifically, this feature is the algorithm for controlling the rate of data flow.

Another algorithm for the same feature is called "Minstrel". This is a much more precise and efficient TX rate managing algorithm.

Minstrel also supports 802.11n (Minstrel 802.11n support).

Because there are two TX rate controlling algorithms, only one can be used, so a default must be set (Default rate control algorithm (Minstrel)). Generally, it is best that Minstrel be the default.

Draft 802.11s mesh networking can be supported by the kernel (Enable mac80211 mesh networking (pre-802.11s) support). Draft 802.11s is a wireless standard for mesh networking.

For hardware that supports this feature, LED triggers for various packet traffic events can be enabled (Enable LED triggers). On many Ethernet devices, there is an LED that lights up when the port is active. This driver will make those LEDs work during packet traffic events.

mac80211 also supports debugfs features (Export mac80211 internals in DebugFS).

Here is a feature that collects mac80211 debug messages independently of the typical logging system (Trace all mac80211 debug messages).

There is also another set of mac80211 debugging abilities, but these use the typical logging system (Select mac80211 debugging features --->). In this menu, select the debugging features you need (if any).


Configuring 10

Wireless broadband devices that use the WiMAX protocol can be enabled (WiMAX Wireless Broadband support). This type of wireless connection usually works only if the connection service is provided by a service provider (this is the same concept as with 3G/4G). WiMAX stands for Worldwide Interoperability for Microwave Access. WiMAX is intended to be a replacement for DSL. Broadband refers to the wide bandwidth and transportation of numerous signals.

RF switches are used in many Wifi and Bluetooth cards (RF switch subsystem support). The “RF” stands for Radio Frequency. RF switches route high-frequency signals.

Input support for RF switches also exists in the kernel (RF switch input support).

The kernel can control and query radio transmitters (Generic rfkill regulator driver). Enabling this will make a device file (/dev/rfkill). This device file acts as an interface to such radio devices.

The Linux kernel supports the 9P2000 protocol (Plan 9 Resource Sharing Support (9P2000)). This network protocol is sometimes called Styx. Plan 9's windowing system (Rio) uses Styx the same way Linux's X11 uses Unix Network Sockets. Linux systems may use Styx on Styx networks. Plan 9 and Linux can use Styx on a network.

The "9P Virtio Transport" system provides transports to and from guest and host partitions on virtual systems.

RDMA transport is also supported by the kernel (9P RDMA Transport (Experimental)). RDMA stands for Remote Direct Memory Access. This is Plan 9's protocol for accessing memory from a remote computer.

The 9P system has debugging support like many of the other kernel components (Debug information).

"CAIF support" support can also be enabled in the kernel. CAIF stands for Communication CPU to Application CPU Interface. This is a MUX protocol that uses packets and is used with ST-Ericsson's modems. ST-Ericsson is the company that developed this protocol. Android and MeeGo phones use this protocol. (Yes, MeeGo and Android are Linux systems, and yes, I am talking about the popular Android by Google.) A MUX protocol is a multiplexing protocol. Multiplexing was mentioned in a previous article.

Next, cephlib can be added to the kernel which is used in the rados block devices (rbd) and the Ceph filesystem (Ceph core library). cephlib is the complete core library for Ceph. Ceph is a storage platform. CephFS (the Ceph filesystem) is a filesystem that runs on top of another. Usually, CephFS runs on top of EXT2, ZFS, XFS, or BTRFS. Rados devices are block storage units that use CephFS.

This debugging feature for ceph harms the kernels performance, so only use it if needed (Include file:line in ceph debug output).

The CONFIG_DNS_RESOLVER facility will perform DNS lookups when this feature is enabled (Use in-kernel support for DNS lookup).

Near Field Communication (NFC) devices are also supported by the Linux kernel (NFC subsystem support).

The NFC Controller Interface (NCI) should be enabled if the above feature is enabled (NCI protocol support). This allows the host and the NFC controller to communicate.

NFC devices that process HCI frames will need this next feature to be enabled (NFC HCI implementation).

Some HCI drivers need a SHDLC link layer (SHDLC link layer for HCI based NFC drivers). SHDLC is a protocol that checks integrity and manages the order of the HCI frames.

"NFC LLCP support" is usually enabled if NFC features (like the above) are enabled.

Next, there are some drivers for specific NFC devices. The first one is a "NXP PN533 USB driver".

The next NFC driver supports Texas Instrument's BT/FM/GPS/NFC devices (Texas Instruments NFC WiLink driver).

Next is the "NXP PN544 NFC driver".

The driver for Inside Secure microread NFC chips is also provided by the kernel (Inside Secure microread NFC driver).

Now, we will be moving on to various drivers that are not network related. First, we can allow a path to the uevent helper (path to uevent helper). Many computers today should not have this feature because one uevent helper is executed for every one fork a process possess. This can quickly consume resources.

On boot-up, the kernel will make a tmpfs/ramfs filesystem (Maintain a devtmpfs filesystem to mount at /dev). This offers the complete /dev/ directory system. Of the two filesystems (tmpfs and ramfs), ramfs is the most simple of the two. “tmpfs” stands for temporary filesystem and “ramfs” stands for ram filesystem.

The next setting is the code for the devtmpfs filesystem which is also mounted at /dev/ (Automount devtmpfs at /dev, after the kernel mounted the rootfs).

The following feature allows modules to be loaded into user space (Userspace firmware loading support).

To "Include in-kernel firmware blobs in kernel binary" (which will add proprietary firmware to the kernel) enable this feature.

Some binary proprietary drivers need to be used on boot-up. This feature allows such software to do so (External firmware blobs to build into the kernel binary). Some computers have boot devices that require special firmware that may only be proprietary binaries. Without this feature enabled, the system will not boot.

Enabling "Fallback user-helper invocation for firmware loading" allows user-helper (udev) to load firmware drivers as a fallback for the kernel fails to load firmware drivers. udev can load firmware that resides in a non-standard path for firmware.

The part of the kernel that manages drivers can produce debugging messages if permitted (Driver Core verbose debug messages).

Next, the devres.log file will be used if this feature is enabled (Managed device resources verbose debug messages). This is a debugging system for device resources.

This next feature makes a connection between the userspace and kernelspace via a netlink socket (Connector - unified userspace <-> kernelspace linker). This socket uses the netlink protocol. This is another example of a Linux system needing networking abilities even if the computer will never be on a physical network.

The userspace can be informed on process events via a socket (Report process events to userspace). Some reported events include ID changes, forks, and exit status. Some previously enabled kernel features may need this. It is best to follow what the configuration tool recommends.

Systems that use solid state drives will need MTD support (Memory Technology Device (MTD) support). MTD devices are solid state storage devices. Typical storage drivers are different than Solid State Drives (SSD). The standard routines used on magnetic storage units do not work on SSDs (read, write, and erase).

Most desktop computers have parallel ports (a connector with 25 holes), so they need this feature (Parallel port support). Parallel ports are used for printers and ZIP drives among many other less known uses. Parallel ports are the ports with twenty-five pins.

Enable this feature for IBM compatible computers (PC-style hardware). There are different types of computers. Besides IBM computers (which commonly run Windows), there are Apple computers. Linux runs on nearly every type of computer.

Linux also supports multi-IO PCI cards (Multi-IO cards (parallel and serial)). Multi-IO PCI cards have both parallel and serial ports. Serial ports send or receive one bit at a time.

This next feature allows the kernel to "Use FIFO/DMA if available". This is used on certain parallel port cards to speed up printing. FIFO stands for “First In, First Out”. DMA is Direct Memory Access as mentioned before.

The next feature is for probing Super-IO cards (SuperIO chipset support). These probes find the IRQ numbers, DMA channels, and other types of addresses/numbers of such devices. Super-IO is a type of integrated IO controller.

PCMCIA support for parallel ports can be enabled (Support for PCMCIA management for PC-style ports).

NOTE: For many of these features, it may be best to do what the configuration tool recommends unless you have a specific reason for not doing so. Usually, if you are cross-compiling or making a kernel for a broad range of computers, then you should be familiar with what you are wanting to support and make the choices accordingly.

Parallel ports on AX88796 network controllers need this support (AX88796 Parallel Port).

"IEEE 1284 transfer modes" allows Enhanced Parallel Port (EPP) and Enhanced Capability Port (ECP) on parallel ports and status readback for printers. Status readback is the retrieval of the printer's status.

"Plug and Play support" (PnP) should be enabled. This allows users to plugin devices while the system is still on and then immediately utilize them. Without this feature, users could not plugin a USB device, printer, or some other device without performing any special tasks. The system will manage the rest automatically.

Next, users can enable block devices (Block devices). This is a feature that should be enabled because block devices are very common.

Floppy disks are block devices that can be enabled (Normal floppy disk support).

IDE devices that connect to parallel ports are also supported (Parallel port IDE device support). Some external CD-ROM devices can connect via parallel ports.

External IDE storage units can also be connected to parallel ports (Parallel port IDE disks).

ATA Packet Interface (ATAPI) CD-ROM drives that connect to parallel ports will need this driver (Parallel port ATAPI CD-ROMs). ATAPI is an extension of the ATA protocol used in Parallel ATA (PATA) devices.

Other ATAPI disk devices can be plugged into the parallel ports (Parallel port ATAPI disks). This driver will support other disk types besides CD-ROMs.

The kernel also supports ATAPI tape devices that connect via the parallel ports (Parallel port ATAPI tapes).

There are many other ATAPI devices that can connect to the parallel ports. As a result, a generic driver was made to manage the other devices not supported by the previously mentioned drivers (Parallel port generic ATAPI devices).

IDE devices attached to the parallel ports need a special protocol for communication purposes. There are many such protocols, one of them being the "ATEN EH-100 protocol".

An alternate protocol for parallel IDE devices is the "MicroSolutions backpack (Series 5) protocol".

There is yet again another parallel IDE device protocol (DataStor Commuter protocol) and another (DataStor EP-2000 protocol) and another (FIT TD-2000 protocol).

Once again, there is another protocol, but this one is highly recommended for the newer CD-ROM and PD/CD devices that plug into parallel ports (FIT TD-3000 protocol).

This next protocol is mainly for parallel port devices made by SyQuest, Avatar, Imation, and HP (Shuttle EPAT/EPEZ protocol).

Imation SuperDisks need support for the Shuttle EP1284 chip (Support c7/c8 chips).

Some other parallel IDE protocols that can be enabled next include
Shuttle EPIA protocol
Freecom IQ ASIC-2 protocol - used by Maxell Superdisks
FreeCom power protocol
KingByte KBIC-951A/971A protocols
KT PHd protocol - used in by 2.5 inch external parallel port hard-drives.
OnSpec 90c20 protocol
OnSpec 90c26 protocol

NOTE: These protocols and support for plugging devices into the parallel port is meant to be like hotplugging devices just like USB devices are put in USB ports. USB and Firewire are still the most popular ports to use because of their size and speed. A parallel storage unit is larger than a USB flash drive because parallel ports are larger than USB ports.

Next, we have a driver for Micron PCIe Solid State Drives (Block Device Driver for Micron PCIe SSDs).


Configuring 11

Linux supports two different Compaq Smart Array controllers (Compaq SMART2 support) and (Compaq Smart Array 5xxx support). Array controllers are devices that present physical storage units as logical units. These controllers may also implement hardware-based RAID. The difference between hardware and software RAID is simple. Linux manages and sees software RAID. Linux sees hardware RAID as any other storage unit. This means Linux is not aware that the device is a RAID drive. The hardware (array controller) manages the RAID system independently of the kernel. This is better for system performance because the kernel does not need to configure or manage RAID. Note, not all array controllers have RAID abilities.

The above mentioned array controllers can access SCSI tapes with this driver (SCSI tape drive support for Smart Array 5xxx). SCSI tapes are magnetic-tape drives that use the SCSI protocol.

The PCI RAID controllers Mylex DAC960, AcceleRAID, and eXtremeRAID are supported by this driver (Mylex DAC960/DAC1100 PCI RAID Controller support). A PCI RAID controller is an array controller connected to a PCI card. RAID controllers are array controllers with RAID capabilities.

The MM5415 battery-backed RAM chips are supported with this driver (Micro Memory MM5415 Battery Backed RAM support). Battery-backed RAM chips allow the data to remain on the RAM device when the power is lost. This helps to protect data. Otherwise, when power is lost, the current computer session is lost.

To use a typical file (such as an ISO image) as a block device and mount it when this feature is enabled (Loopback device support). This is useful for retrieving files from image files without the need to burn the file to a disk or pull it apart. Imagine getting an ISO file from the Internet that contains many files. If only one file in the package is desired and the user does not want to burn the ISO to a disc or does not know how to open an ISO file, the user can instead mount the ISO.

The Linux kernel creates some loop devices during init time, so some loopback devices are already prepared and made (Number of loop devices to pre-create at init time). This feature saves time when a file (like an ISO) or virtual device (like a virtual hard-drive [vhd]) is mounted as a loopback device. This setting allows developers to choose how many the kernel should pre-make.

Ciphers from the CryptoAPI can be used when "Cryptoloop Support" is enabled. This can be used for hard-drive encryption. However, not all filesystems are supported.

Next, users can enable "DRBD Distributed Replicated Block Device support". This is like a network RAID1. These devices own the device files /dev/drbdx. These storage devices are usually used in clusters where each computer in the cluster has a storage unit that is mirrored from the master. This means each computer's hard-drive is a mirrored copy of the hard-drive found in the central “master” computer of the group. A cluster is a group of computers acting as one large powerful unit. However, each cluster has one controlling computer called the master node. The rest of the computers are slave nodes.

The DRBD supports fault injection for testing IO error handling (DRBD fault injection). Remember, fault injection is the process of making a device/software think an error occurred so the developer can test how the hardware/software handles errors.

If the kernel is intended to be a client for network block devices, then enable this feature (Network block device support). The first device file is /dev/nd0. A network block device is a remote storage unit that is accessed via a network.

Solid state drives (SSD) that are directly connected to PCI or PCI Express cards will need this driver (NVM Express block device).

Individual SCSI object-based storage (OSD) objects can be used as a block device with this feature (OSD object-as-blkdev support).

Next is a driver for "Promise SATA SX8 support". This is a driver for a SATA controller made by Promise Technology Inc.

Linux allows a part of the RAM to be utilized as a block device (RAM block device support). This is commonly seen on live Linux distros where the system is running entirely on the RAM. A live Linux distro loads off of a disc and then loads into RAM so the installed OS is not harmed when trying a new operating system, or repairing another.

The next setting allows users to enter in the "Default number of RAM disks".

The "Default RAM disk size" can be set in kilobytes.

The kernel can support XIP filesystems on RAM devices acting as block devices (Support XIP filesystems on RAM block device). This feature will enlarge the kernel's size. XIP (eXecute In Place) filesystems are filesystem that allow executables to store data on the same filesystem instead of utilizing RAM like other applications. Such filesystems are needed when running an executable on a live Linux system which resides on the RAM.

Next, the kernel can be given support for "Packet writing on CD/DVD media".

The kernel developer can set the max amount of active concurrent packets (Free buffers for data gathering). A large number will speed up write performance at the cost of memory. One packet will consume about sixty-four kilobytes.

The Linux kernel can use a rewritable compact-disc as cache space (Enable write caching). This feature is still experimental.

The next feature allows the ATA specification to be used over Ethernet cables (ATA over Ethernet support).

This following driver allows virtual block devices to be created for virtio (Virtio block driver). Virtio is a platform for I/O virtualization.

Old hard-drives will need a special driver (Very old hard disk (MFM/RLL/IDE) driver).

Here is a driver for the previously mentioned Rados device (Rados block device (RBD)).

Next, a device specific driver is available (IBM FlashSystem 70/80 PCIe SSD Device Driver).

Now, we will move on to miscellaneous devices. The first setting is for enabling/disabling potentiometers (Analog Devices Digital Potentiometers ).

If the potentiometer(s) is on a I2C bus, then this should be enabled (support I2C bus connection).

If the potentiometer is attached to a SPI bus, then this driver will be needed (support SPI bus connection).

NOTE: The Linux kernel supports many sensors because the Linux kernel is often used in weather devices and robots.

This driver is for the IBM RSA (Condor) service processor (Device driver for IBM RSA service processor).

The kernel also has a driver for the PCI Sensable PHANToM devices (Sensable PHANToM (PCI)).

This driver is for directing trace data from various devices via Parallel Trace Interface (PTI) out to Intel Penwell PTI ports (Parallel Trace Interface for MIPI P1149.7 cJTAG standard). This directed data is for debugging purposes.

Some SGI IO controllers have an IOC4 chip that needs this driver (SGI IOC4 Base IO support). SGI IO controllers are devices made by SGI that manage input/output. The IOC4 chip controls a lot of the tasks performed by such devices. This is a basic driver. Other drivers for such devices will rely on this driver.

There are few Texas Instruments Flash Media adapter drivers for the Linux kernel (TI Flash Media interface support) and (TI Flash Media PCI74xx/PCI76xx host adapter support).

This "Integrated Circuits ICS932S401" driver for ICS932S401 clock control chips.

The Atmel Synchronized Serial Communication peripheral (SSC) has a driver in the kernel (Device driver for Atmel SSC peripheral).
Such a device provides point-to-point serial connections between devices.

The "Enclosure Services" feature supports hard-drive bays.

This is a timer driver for CS5535/CS5536 chips (CS5535/CS5536 Geode Multi-Function General Purpose Timer (MFGPT) support).

This driver gives applications the ability to communicate with iLO management processors in HP ProLiant servers (Channel interface driver for the HP iLO processor). “iLO” stands for Integrity Integrated Lights-Out. iLO allows remote server management.

The Linux kernel supports the ALS APDS9802 light sensor (Medfield Avago APDS9802 ALS Sensor module). Some other supported sensor include
Intersil ISL29003 ambient light sensor
Intersil ISL29020 ambient light sensor
Taos TSL2550 ambient light sensor
ROHM BH1780GLI ambient light sensor
BH1770GLC / SFH7770 combined ALS - Proximity sensor
APDS990X combined als and proximity sensors

NOTE: Most of these drivers should be included as modules if the kernel being made is intended for a broad range of computers.

Linux can even use a "Honeywell HMC6352 compass".

The kernel also supports the "Dallas DS1682 Total Elapsed Time Recorder with Alarm".

The 16-bit digital-to-analog converter is supported with this driver (Texas Instruments DAC7512).

The "VMware Balloon Driver" manages physical memory by taking physical pages from guest operating systems that do not need it and giving pages to those that do.

There are also two different pressure sensors (BMP085 digital pressure sensor on I2C) and (BMP085 digital pressure sensor on SPI).

An Intel Input/Output Hub (IOH) is also supported by the kernel (Intel EG20T PCH/LAPIS Semicon IOH(ML7213/ML7223/ML7831) PHUB). Specifically, this is the PCH PHUB (Platform Controller Hub Packet Hub) Intel Topcliff.

The "FSA9480 USB Switch" is a detector that detects when devices are plugged in.

The next option permits bitstream configuration (Lattice ECP3 FPGA bitstream configuration via SPI).

The Silicon microcontroller uses the Silicon Labs C2 Port which needs a special driver (Silicon Labs C2 port support).


Configuring 12

The next set of features we will discuss is "EEPROM support". Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory is a form of memory that is not erased when the power is lost or purposely shut off.

The kernel supports EEPROM chips on I2C cards including FRAMs, ROMs, and SRAMs (I2C EEPROMs / RAMs / ROMs from most vendors). FRAM (also called FeRAM is a Random Access Memory chip that uses ferroelectric principles instead of dieletric materials to store data. A ROM chip is a Read Only Memory chip. SRAM is Static instead of Dynamic like DRAM. DRAM must be refreshed to retain data while SRAM does not require refreshing. However, both lose the stored data when the power is turned off or lost.

The kernel also supports EEPROMs for SPI buses (SPI EEPROMs from most vendors). The Serial Peripheral Interface Bus (SPI) is a full duplex bus system that lacks an error-checking protocol.

The older I2C EEPROM chips require a driver other than the I2C driver above (Old I2C EEPROM reader). The I2C bus is intended for embedded systems and cellphones due to the low-speed bus protocol that is used.

This feature is needed to prevent the Maxim programmable EEPROM from going into read-only mode (Maxim MAX6874/5 power supply supervisor). Specifically, this driver provides better power management to the chip.

There is also a driver for "EEPROM 93CX6 support", "Microwire EEPROM 93XX46 support", and then "ENE CB710/720 Flash memory card reader support".

Like with many other kernel features, there are debugging features for EEPROM devices (Enable driver debugging). Again, for better performance, disable debugging features.

Next, we have a Texas Instruments feature (Shared transport core driver). This driver provides transport protocols for BT/FM and GPS chips.

The following driver supports the I2C LIS3LV02Dx accelerometer (STMicroeletronics LIS3LV02Dx three-axis digital accelerometer (I2C)). The data provided by the device is stored in /sys/devices/platform/lis3lv02d.

Next, the Linux kernel supports a module for downloading firmware to Altera's FPGA (Altera FPGA firmware download module). An FGPA is a field-programmable gate array. These are programmable integrated circuits.

The "Intel Management Engine Interface" offers security and other services to Intel chips.

"ME Enabled Intel Chipsets" can have MEI support. MEI is Management Engine Interface. This driver gives supported chipsets MEI services.

The "VMware VMCI Driver" is a high-speed virtual device for relaying communications between the guest and host. VMCI stands for Virtual Machine Communication Interface.

Next, "ATA/ATAPI/MFM/RLL support" can be enabled/disabled. MFM (Modified Frequency Modulation) is a specific method for encoding floppy disk bits. However, this does not work on all floppy disks. MFM uses the RLL (Run-Length Limited) coding scheme. RLL transfers data going through communication systems that have bandwidth limits. ATAPI is the previously mentioned ATA Packet Interface and ATA is the same ATA mentioned when discussing interface standards.

Now, we will discuss SCSI support. Small Computer System Interface is another interface standard as is SATA. USB and FireWire devices use the SCSI protocol.

The first SCSI setting concerns the "RAID Transport Class". This allows RAID to use the SCSI standard.

To use SCSI targets, enable this feature (SCSI target support).

If the system will run old Linux applications, the system may need "legacy /proc/scsi/ support".This will create the SCSI files once placed in /proc/scsi/.

To support SCSI disks, enable the next feature (SCSI disk support). This is a generic driver.

To support SCSI tapes, enable this feature (SCSI tape support). This is a generic driver. A SCSI tape drive stores data on tape-like magnetic strips.

The OnStream SCSI tapes need this driver instead of the previously mentioned generic SCSI driver (SCSI OnStream SC-x0 tape support).

For "SCSI CDROM support" enable this feature. Some CD-ROMs use the SCSI protocol.

Next, the user can enable "Enable vendor-specific extensions (for SCSI CDROM)".

This is a SCSI driver that is a generic driver for a larger variety of SCSI devices (SCSI generic support). This is mainly used for SCSI scanners and other SCSI devices not supported by the previously mentioned SCSI drivers or those discussed afterwards.

Some SCSI jukeboxes need this SCSI driver (SCSI media changer support).

The Linux kernel offers "SCSI Enclosure Support". A SCSI enclosure is a device that manages the power and cooling of the SCSI device as well as offer other services not related to the data.

The Linux kernel should be set to search for all Logical Unit Numbers (LUN) for each SCSI device (Probe all LUNs on each SCSI device). A LUN is a SCSI address.

Extra error reporting is available for SCSI (Verbose SCSI error reporting (kernel size +=12K)). This will increase the size of the kernel significantly.

There is also a logger for SCSI (SCSI logging facility).

To enhance your system, enable this feature that allows SCSI to be probed while the system boots up rather than booting and then probing (Asynchronous SCSI scanning). Most systems can perform both tasks at once, so why not allow it? For hardware with many SCSI devices attached, this will increase boot time significantly.

Next, "Parallel SCSI (SPI) Transport Attributes" allows each SCSI device to send transport information to sysfs. Some systems require this feature.

This next feature is the same as above, but sends information about transport from FiberChannel devices (FiberChannel Transport Attributes). FiberChannel devices use SCSI.

Next, the user can enable/disable "SCSI target support for FiberChannel Transport Attributes".

Transport information from iSCSI devices and SAS devices can also be exported to sysfs (iSCSI Transport Attributes) and (SAS Transport Attributes). SAS stands for Serial Attached SCSI.

Next, ATA support is added to libsas (ATA support for libsas (requires libata)). Note that the configuration tools says libata is required. To satisfy this need, enable ATA support. Most likely, the configuration tool has or will do this for you, but double check anyway. libsas and libata are the libraries that provide support for SAS and ATA, respectively.

The next feature permits SAS interfaces to accept SMP frames (Support for SMP interpretation for SAS hosts). This adds a SMP interpreter to libsas. However, this does increase the kernel's size. SMP frames allow all processors on multi-CPU systems to access SAS devices.

SRP can send transport data to sysfs (SRP Transport Attributes). SRP stands for SCSI RDMA Protocol. RDMA stands for Remote Direct Memory Access. This means SRP is a protocol used to access data from remote SCSI devices attached to another computer.

Next, the user can enable "SCSI target support for SRP Transport".

Low-level SCSI drivers can be enabled (SCSI low-level drivers). This provides many basic drivers.

After that, users can enable/disable "PCMCIA SCSI adapter support". This adapter allows SCSI devices to attach to PC cards.

There are some drivers for specific adapters - (Future Domain PCMCIA support), (Qlogic PCMCIA support), and (Symbios 53c500 PCMCIA support).

Devices with multi-path setups will need this feature (SCSI Device Handlers). This is used in clusters where each node needs a direct path to a SCSI storage unit.

Next, the "OSD-Initiator library" can be enabled. This is a SCSI driver that provides patches, the OSD protocol, and the T10 protocol to SCSI devices. OSD stands for Object-based Storage Device; this is discussed more in the next paragraph.

This feature makes a SCSI upper layer for testing and managing /dev/osdx devices (OSD Upper Level driver). exofs uses this driver for mounting OSD-based filesystems. OSD devices are storage devices that do not use blocks like other storage units. Instead, OSD devices store data in containers called objects. exofs was once called OSDFS.

OSD features provide debugging tools if enabled (Compile All OSD modules with lots of DEBUG prints).

Now, we can discuss Serial ATA and Parallel ATA features and drivers. The first feature to enable/disable is for debugging (Verbose ATA error reporting).

Next, users should enable the Advanced Configuration and Power Interface feature for ATA devices (ATA ACPI Support). This will allow the kernel to manage power usage more efficiently in SATA devices.

The kernel contains a driver for "SATA Zero Power Optical Disc Drive (ZPODD) support". This powers off SATA optical disc drives (ODD) when not in use. This saves energy and reduces wear and tear.

TIP: Even when making a high-performance kernel, try to enable all power management features. This reduces power consumption, operating costs, heat production (heat reduces performance), and wear and tear.

SATA port multipliers need this driver (SATA Port Multiplier support). A port multiplier is a device that has numerous ports but only needs to plug into one port itself. For instance, if a piece of hardware has one SATA port, but more are needed, plug the port multiplier into the one port. Now the device has many SATA ports.

Next is a driver for AHCI SATA (AHCI SATA support). Advanced Host Controller Interface (AHCI) is an operation standard for SATA bus adapters.

For AHCI SATA devices to be supported on SoC hardware, this driver must be enabled (Platform AHCI SATA support). SoC stands for System-on-a-Chip.

Next are some drivers for some specific devices.
Initio 162x SATA support
ACard AHCI variant (ATP 8620)
Silicon Image 3124/3132 SATA support


Configuring 13

"ATA SFF support (for legacy IDE and PATA)" should be enabled because this extends the abilities of ATA.

To support Pacific Digital ADMA controllers, enable "Pacific Digital ADMA support".

"Pacific Digital Serial ATA QStor support" is offered by this next driver.

Support for the Promise SATA SX4 device is supported by the Linux kernel (Promise SATA SX4 support (Experimental)).

SFF ATA controllers with BMDMA abilities will need this driver (ATA BMDMA support). BMDMA stands for Bus-Master Direct Memory Access.

Next, this driver provides support for various Intel SATA and PATA controllers (Intel ESB, ICH, PIIX3, PIIX4 PATA/SATA support).

Here is another device-specific driver (Calxeda Highbank SATA support) and another (Marvell SATA support) and another (NVIDIA SATA support) and another (Promise SATA TX2/TX4 support) and another (Silicon Image SATA support) and several more (SiS 964/965/966/180 SATA support), (ServerWorks Frodo / Apple K2 SATA support), (ULi Electronics SATA support), (VIA SATA support), . . . .. Because many of the SATA/PATA controllers are designed differently, a generic driver cannot be used on many of these devices.

Next, ATA devices on PC Cards are supported by this driver unless a device-specific driver manages the hardware (PCMCIA PATA support).

After that, here is a generic PATA driver that manages all other PATA devices not supported by previously enabled drivers (Generic platform device PATA support).

The power consumption of PATA devices are managed by this ACPI driver (ACPI firmware driver for PATA). It is highly recommended that ACPI be enabled for all hardware on the system. Although this increases the kernel's size, ACPI is better for performance.

"Generic ATA support" is offered by this driver.

Legacy support for ISA, VLB, and PCI bus PATA devices can be added via this driver (Legacy ISA PATA support (Experimental)). This legacy support uses the new ATA layer.

This set of features contains many abilities for RAID and LVM as seen in the following feature options (Multiple devices driver support (RAID and LVM)).

INTERESTING FACT: The kernel is written in C and Assembly.

This driver allows RAID and LVM to be combined (RAID support). This is used to make several LVMs use RAID. Partitions are combined into Logical Block Devices which are then used to form RAID devices.

Many users will want RAID devices to be detected during booting (Autodetect RAID arrays during kernel boot). If you do not have RAID, then do not enable this feature. Otherwise, the boot process will take a few seconds longer than what it needs to be.

NOTE: When configuring the Linux kernel, it is best to follow the "use it or lose it" principal. That is, if you will not use it, then disable the feature.

Hard-drive partitions can be added together using this driver (Linear (append) mode).

The following driver adds RAID-0 support to logical block devices (RAID-0 (striping) mode). Then, there is (RAID-1 (mirroring) mode), (RAID-10 (mirrored striping) mode), and (RAID-4/RAID-5/RAID-6 mode).

The MD framework needs multipath support (Multipath I/O support). The MD framework is a Multi Device framework which manages multiple devices as one unit. For example, combining the partitions of many storage units will make multiple devices act as one. The multipath support is for handling a virtual "single device" with many addresses. Because the single storage unit is physically more than one piece of hardware, it will have more than one hardware address.

These larger multi-disk storage units can be tested for bugs using this debugging driver (Faulty test module for MD).

The "Device mapper support" is a volume manager that is used to map logical sectors. LVM uses sector mapping.

The device mapper can have debugging features if enabled (Device mapper debugging support).

These logical devices can be set to encrypt data if desired (Crypt target support). This feature can allow users to later encrypt such storage devices.

Snapshots of these logical storage units can only be taken if this feature is enabled (Snapshot target).

Thin provisioning allows logical volumes to be setup to have more storage capacity than the physical storage units that make up the logical volume (Thin provisioning target). This feature also provides snapshot abilities of such storage. This excess virtual data space cannot immediately be used. The point of it is to allow users to add a physical storage unit in the future and save time configuring the logical block device.

Thin provisioning can be debugged with this feature (Keep stack trace of thin provisioning block lock holders).

The performance of block devices can be improved by moving the more commonly used data to the faster storage units (Cache target (EXPERIMENTAL)).

Volume managers can be made to mirror logical volumes (Mirror target).

Device-mapper (dm) targets can be made to support the mappings of RAID1, RAID10, RAID4, RAID5 and RAID6 (RAID 1/4/5/6/10 target).

The device-mapper logs can be mirrored in userspace (Mirror userspace logging).

A "Zero target" is a device that disregards writes and returns reads as zero.

Next, volume managers should have multipath support for the hardware (Multipath target).

This driver finds the most efficient path to storage devices for reads and writes (I/O Path Selector based on the number of in-flight I/Os).

The next driver is the same as above, but finds the fastest path (I/O Path Selector based on the service time).

If a physical storage unit on a logical volume is busy, this feature will allow reads/writes to go to another physical volume if possible (I/O delaying target).

udev can generate events for device-manager actions (DM uevents). udev is a device manager for /dev/.

To test how software/hardware reacts to logical devices that occasionally fail input/output tasks, enable this debugging feature (Flakey target).

A logical volume can be created that is a read-only storage unit that validates data for another logical partition (Verity target support).

NOTE: If you enjoy my articles, click "Like" on my posts if you have a account. Also, reshare this article on Google, Twitter, and/or Facebook.

ConfigFS and the TCM storage engine can be enabled with this setting (Generic Target Core Mod (TCM) and ConfigFS Infrastructure). ConfigFS is a RAM-based filesystem.

INTERESTING FACT: The Linux kernel does not have a “main()” function. In programs, main() is called by libc which depends on the kernel. The kernel cannot have a main() function because libc would not be able to start the kernel. If the kernel did have a main() function, then we would have a “chicken-or-the-egg” problem – which would come first? Plus, the entry point of the kernel is written in Assembly which does not use the main() function.

Next, the "TCM/IBLOCK Subsystem Plugin for Linux/BLOCK" can be enabled/disabled.

Then, the "TCM/FILEIO Subsystem Plugin for Linux/VFS" can be enabled/disabled.

And again, there are two other TCM features - (TCM/pSCSI Subsystem Plugin for Linux/SCSI) and (TCM Virtual SAS target and Linux/SCSI LDD fabric loopback module).

The iSCSI Target Mode Stack for ConfigFS is provided by this driver ( iSCSI Target Mode Stack).

Next, enable/disable the "FireWire SBP-2 fabric module". This allows a computer to connect to another computer and appear to be a hard-drive.

After that, we can configure "Fusion Message Passing Technology (MPT) device support".

The first option under that heading is a driver for SCSI support for parallel adapters (Fusion MPT ScsiHost drivers for SPI).

SCSI can also get support for fiber channel host adapters (Fusion MPT ScsiHost drivers for FC) and/or SAS adapters (Fusion MPT ScsiHost drivers for SAS).

Next, users can set the "Maximum number of scatter gather entries". A lower number leads to reduced memory consumption per controller instance.

The next driver offers system ioctl calls to manage MPT adapters (Fusion MPT misc device (ioctl) driver).

Fiber channel ports can support IP LAN traffic with this driver (Fusion MPT LAN driver).


Configuring 14

Next, we can enable/disable the "Fusion MPT logging facility". MPT stands for Message Passing Technology. The Fusion driver is made by LSI Logic Corporation. MPT is a specific messaging tactic used between process. This technique is synchronous meaning that process will wait for messages as needed.

After that, the "FireWire driver stack" should be enabled if the computer possesses FireWire ports. If not, then there is no point in enabling FireWire ports for a device that could not use such drivers. FireWire is a lot like USB. The differences lie in the protocols, speed, and the physical shape and layout of the ports. Generally, Apple devices use FireWire and USB. Some PCs have FireWire ports, but this is less common than USB ports.

Some FireWire controllers use the OHCI-1394 specification (OHCI-1394 controllers). If so, enable this driver.

To use FireWire storage devices, enable this next driver (Storage devices (SBP-2 protocol)). This driver provides a protocol that the FireWire storage units use to communicate with the FireWire bus (the card with the attached FireWire ports). Some FireWire scanners also need this driver.

IPv4 can be used on FireWire ports (IP networking over 1394). IEEE 1394 or simply "1394" is FireWire. Multicasting over FireWire using IPv4 has limitations.

Nosy is the traffic monitor for FireWire PCILynx cards (Nosy - a FireWire traffic sniffer for PCILynx cards).

Next, the I2O devices can be supported (I2O device support). Intelligent Input/Output (I2O) bus uses drivers for the hardware and operating system levels. The hardware drivers (HDM) are not specific to any operating system while the OS drivers (OSM) must be used on the intended operating system. The OSM communicates with any of the HDMs. I2O cards/buses have an IOP - Input/Output Processor. This speeds up the system since the main CPU is processing less data.

Only enable "Enable LCT notification" on systems that lack a SUN I2O controller. I2C SUN firmware does not support LCT notifications.

The Adaptec I2O controllers need this next driver if RAID is intended (Enable Adaptec extensions).

Direct memory access of 64-bits can be allowed on Adaptec I2O controllers (Enable 64-bit DMA).

I2O devices can be configured if permitted (I2O Configuration support). This feature is mainly needed for RAID setup.

The old Input/Output controls can be enabled for I2O devices (Enable ioctls (OBSOLETE)).

The OSM software for I2O bus adapters can be enabled (I2O Bus Adapter OSM). This set of OSMs are used to find new I2O devices on the other end of the adapter.

Next, the OSMs for I2O block devices can be enabled (I2O Block OSM). RAID controllers on I2O hardware will need this OSM.

The following OSM is for the SCSI or FiberChannel devices on I2O controllers (I2O SCSI OSM).

Information on I2O devices can be read from /proc/ if enabled (I2O /proc support).

After the I2O features have been enabled/disabled, we can move on to other kernel abilities. Next, we have "Macintosh device drivers". These are only useful to Apple devices. Linux kernels for PCs should not have any of these features enabled. However, as with many statements there is always an exception. Some PC users may use an Apple mouse, keyboard, and/or some other Apple device. Again, it is best to thoroughly understand the need and use of the kernel being developed.

Next, we have a driver for networking (Network device support). X11 and other Linux software do not depend on this driver, so if the kernel will not need to connect to another computer, Internet, Intranet, or network, then this can safely be disabled.

The following driver is like above, but is specific to core drivers (Network core driver support).

Etherchannels are supported by this driver (Bonding driver support). In networking, bonding is the fusion of two or more Ethernet channels. This is also known as trunking.

A dummy network can be set up in Linux with this driver (Dummy net driver support). A dummy network is a virtual network that is like the /dev/null of networking. Any data sent to this dummy network is gone forever as it would be going to /dev/null. The IP address is not set. The user can define their networking equivalent of /dev/null.

Next, EQL can be supported (EQL (serial line load balancing) support). This is needed to allow two computers to communicate via two serial connections that use the SLIP or PPP protocol.

Fiber Channel is a fast serial protocol for connecting storage devices to computers (Fibre Channel driver support).

The MII transceiver needs this driver (Generic Media Independent Interface device support). MII is an interface for Ethernet with speeds up to 100Mbit/s. These Ethernet cables are intended for connecting to a PHYceiver which is an Ethernet transceiver.

To group many Ethernet devices via virtual interfaces, the "Ethernet team driver support" is needed.

"MAC-VLAN support" permits users to have packet maps between a particular MAC address and a certain interface.

A tap character device can be made from the MAC-VLAN network interface (MAC-VLAN based tap driver). Tap devices get packets from the kernel so they can be sent elsewhere.

The next feature allows virtual vxlan interfaces that create Layer 2 networks to be placed above Layer 3 (Virtual eXtensible Local Area Network (VXLAN)). This is commonly used for tunneling to virtual systems.

Messages that the kernel sends on a network can be logged with this feature (Network console logging support). Only enable this if it is important for you to log the network messages. Disabling this feature will enhance performance.

This feature allows various parameters to be changed (Dynamic reconfiguration of logging targets). Some of these parameters include port numbers, MAC addresses, IP addresses, and some other settings.

If user space programs are expected to use TAP devices, then enable this driver that will allow such activity (Universal TUN/TAP device driver support).

This driver is for local Ethernet tunnels (Virtual ethernet pair device).

The "Virtio network driver" is used with QEMU, Xen, KVM, and other virtual machines.

Next, "ARCnet support" can be enabled. ARCnet is a Token-Ring-like Local-Area-Network (LAN) protocol. ARCnet stands for "Attached Resource Computer Network".

Now, we can move on to "ATM drivers". ATM stands for "Asynchronous Transfer Mode". ATM is used for telecommunications.

The Marvell Ethernet switch needs this driver (Marvell 88E6060 ethernet switch chip support). Also, the chip for such a switch is also needed depending on the model (Marvell 88E6085/6095/6095F/6131 ethernet switch chip support) and (Marvell 88E6123/6161/6165 ethernet switch chip support).

Now, we can learn about "Ethernet driver support".

First, we can enable/disable "3Com devices". This then allows kernel developers to choose which 3Com devices to support.

The next set of options is for various "Adaptec devices" and then later "Alteon devices".
These are just device/vendor specific drivers. Generally, these drivers are added as modules.

After those two sets of options, there is a set for "AMD devices" and again for "Atheros devices".

NOTE: Keep in mind what type of hardware the kernel will run on. For a large variety of devices, it may be best to add these devices as modules.

There are various other vendor-specific device drivers - "Cadence devices", "Broadcom devices", "Brocade devices", "Chelsio devices", "Cisco devices", and "Digital Equipment devices". Some other device/vendor specific drivers follow.

The next driver that is not vendor/device specific is "SLIP (serial line) support". This driver supports SLIP and CSLIP. SLIP (Serial Line Internet Protocol) is an Internet protocol for modems and serial ports. PPP is now used instead of SLIP. CSLIP is Compressed SLIP.

Next, "CSLIP compressed headers" can be enabled which compresses the TCP/IP headers. CSLIP is faster than SLIP, but to be able to use CSLIP, both the transmitting computer and the receiving computer must be able to understand CSLIP.

When using SLIP on bad analogue lines, then it may be a good idea to enable "Keepalive and linefill" which will help to keep the connection alive.

For running IP on poor-quality networks or are 7-bit, it may help to enable and use "Six bit SLIP encapsulation".

Now, we can move on to the popular USB system, but these are the USB drivers for networking.

The first USB network device to enable/disable is "USB CATC NetMate-based Ethernet device support". This is for 10Mbps USB Ethernet EL1210A chip devices. The USB device will act and appear to be an Ethernet device even though the hardware is USB.

Next, this driver is the same as above except this is for devices with the KLSI KL5KUSB101B chipset (USB KLSI KL5USB101-based ethernet device support).

The Pegasus USB devices are USB-to-Ethernet adapters/converters (USB Pegasus/Pegasus-II based ethernet device support).

Next, there is another USB-to-Ethernet driver (USB RTL8150 based ethernet device support).


Configuring 15

In this article of the Linux kernel series, we are still configuring drivers for USB networking. Then, we will move on to input devices.

First, we can enable/disable the "Multi-purpose USB Networking Framework" which allows connecting laptops to desktop systems.

Next, the ASIX USB-to-Ethernet adapter driver can be enabled/disabled (ASIX AX88xxx Based USB 2.0 Ethernet Adapters).

Then, there is another ASIX adaptor driver (ASIX AX88179/178A USB 3.0/2.0 to Gigabit Ethernet).

NOTE: Generally, it is best to add adapter drivers as modules.

The Communication Device Class specification is offered in the driver (CDC Ethernet support (smart devices such as cable modems)). This specification is for USB modems. The Linux system recognizes this USB networking interface as an Ethernet interface and will be designated as "ethX" where "X" is the Ethernet device number.

Next is a specification similar to the above (CDC EEM support). CDC EEM stands for Communication Device Class Ethernet Emulation Model.

The CDC Network Control Model (NCM) also has a driver that offers the specification (CDC NCM support).

The driver providing the CDC MBIM (Mobile Broadband Interface Model) specification is also available for the Linux kernel (CDC MBIM support).

Next, there are several vendor/device specific drivers for various USB networking devices and chipsets.

After those, there is a generic driver for USB network devices that do not require any special drivers (Simple USB Network Links (CDC Ethernet subset)).

Again, there are some more drivers for device/vendor specific devices.

FUN FACT: Linux was used to make the special effects for the movie "Titanic" by James Cameron.

"CDC Phonet support" is for USB Nokia modems that use Phonet.

Now, we can move on to Wireless LAN drivers which use the 802.11 specification.

Mainly, there is a list of vendor/device specific drivers.

"SoftLED Support" controls the LEDs that are associated with the Wifi cards/devices. Many people forget to enable this and then wonder why the LED will not turn on. So, remember this.

Some chipsets support SDIO as seen by this driver (Atheros ath6kl SDIO support). SDIO is an extension of the Secure Digital specification for wireless SD cards. SDIO stands for Secure Digital Input/Output.

Kernel developers may also notice that some wireless devices can support QoS. QoS stands for Quality of Service. This feature gives network transmissions priority. Assume two sets of data need to be sent over a network. Only one can go first. QoS will send the most important data first.

FUN FACT: Technically, Linux is not an operating system. Linux is the kernel while GNU/Linux is the operating system.

The "Generic HDLC layer" is needed for WAN cards. HDLC stands for High-Level Data Link Control. This is a data link layer protocol.

Raw HDLC can be used with the "Raw HDLC support" driver enabled. The "Raw HDLC Ethernet device support" driver allows the HDLC layer to emulate Ethernet. The cHDLC driver offers a HDLC extension also called Cisco HDLC (Cisco HDLC support).

The Linux kernel also has a driver for "Frame Relay support" for HDLC. Frame Relay is a Layer 2 protocol.

HDLC can also support PPP (Synchronous Point-to-Point Protocol (PPP) support) and X.25 (X.25 protocol support).

Next, this driver offers Frame Relay the ability to use DLCI (Frame Relay DLCI support).

The "LAPB over Ethernet driver" creates a device file that permits the user to make a LAPB point-to-point connection to another computer via Ethernet. The device file is usually /dev/lapb0 for the first of such device.

X.25 frames can be sent over telephone lines with this driver (X.25 async driver). Specifically, this driver allows X.25 to use asynchronous serial lines.

A special driver is needed for ISA SBNI12-xx cards (Granch SBNI12 Leased Line adapter support). These cards are inexpensive substitutes for leased line modems.

The next driver allows parallel connections to carry scheduled traffic (Multiple line feature support). This allows the Linux system to more efficiently manage parallel connection on SBNI12 adapters. Some Linux users claim this driver doubles their speed. However, I have never tested this to know for myself.

Next, "IEEE 802.15.4 drivers" can be configured. This is for slow WAN devices. This is a standard that controls the media and physical layers of the wireless network. This specification uses different frequencies in different continents. For example, in Europe, such wireless devices will use the 868.0-868.6MHz frequency.

The first setting in this category is for a fake LR-WPAN driver (Fake LR-WPAN driver with several interconnected devices). LR-WPAN stand for Low-Rate Wireless Personal Area Network.

FUN FACT: Only about 2% of the current kernel was written by Linus Torvalds.

The vmxnet3 virtual Ethernet used by VMware requires this driver (VMware VMXNET3 ethernet driver). When making a kernel for a large number of users, it is best to enable this as a module because someone may want to use the Ethernet on VMware.

The Hyper-V virtual network needs this driver (Microsoft Hyper-V virtual network driver). You may be wondering if this is the same Hyper-V virtual network by Microsoft. It is and yes, Linux supports Hyper-V.

The digital telephone service, ISDN, is supported by this driver (ISDN support). ISDN stands for Integrated Services Digital Network. In France, ISDN is known as RNIS which stands for Réseau numérique à intégration de services. With an ISDN adapter, a computer can start and accept voice calls. This allows computers to be used as answering machines or some other telephone service device. ISDN can also carry video information.

Now, we can move on to input devices (Input device support). These are devices that give the computer information. Mice and keyboards are the most commonly used and known input devices. Scanners are another example of input devices.

First, there is a driver that supports various haptic/tactile feed-back devices (Support for memoryless force-feedback devices). For instance, many game controllers vibrate which is haptic/tactile feed-back.

Some input devices check on the status of the hardware (Polled input device skeleton). Such behavior requires this driver.

Input devices that use sparse keymaps need this driver (Sparse keymap support library). A keymap is the layout information for keyboards.

Next, this is another keymap (Matrix keymap support library).

NOTE: When making a kernel for a broad user group, include most or all input devices as modules because the developer usually does not know what type of devices the users may plugin to the computer.

FUN FACT: A Vanilla Kernel is a Linux kernel in its original, unchanged state. For example, if you download a kernel from, then you have just downloaded a Vanilla Kernel.

The "Mouse interface" makes two different device files for the mouse. The two device files are /dev/input/mouseX and /dev/input/mice.

This next driver makes a psaux device file that is an alias to /dev/input/mice (Provide legacy /dev/psaux device). The psaux device file is /dev/psaux.

If the system has a digitizer, then the horizontal resolution needs to be set (Horizontal screen resolution) and then the vertical resolution (Vertical screen resolution). A digitizer is the type of touch-screen that supports touch-pens that allow users to draw. Other touch-screens cannot support such complex input.

The next driver supports joysticks and gamepads (Joystick interface). This driver creates the /dev/input/jsX files.

The "Event interface" driver allows input devices to be accessible via /dev/input/eventX.

The "Event debugging" driver outputs all input events to the system's log. Do not enable this for any reason other than debugging systems. Obviously, for performance reasons, but the main reason I recommend this be disabled is for security purposes. All key-presses are plainly logged including passwords.

Next, a list of various keyboard drivers are listed for configuration (Keyboards) followed by mouse drivers (Mice) and then joystick/gamepad drivers (Joysticks/Gamepads).

After that, various drivers for specific tablet hardware/vendors are listed (Tablets). After that is the driver list for "Touchscreens".

The last set of input device drivers is a list of miscellaneous drivers for specific hardware and vendors (Miscellaneous devices).

The next article of this series will discuss input ports. Do not forget to read the other articles of this series and this website. Mahalo!

NOTE: The images in this article are externally linked to their source. Most or all of these images are copyrighted. These images are on the server of their copyright-holder or person with legal permission.

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