Linux Kernel Topics

Linux kernel under GoboLinux

The Linux kernel differs from standard packages. It has nothing to be linked against the legacy tree: no libraries, no binaries, no headers, no manuals or info pages. Moreover, there are many things on a regular system which are very tied to the kernel itself, such as the proc and sys filesystems, the device nodes and the boot loader files.

These characteristics led to the creation of a special directory for the kernel, called /System/Kernel. This tree is organized in the following way:

  • /System/Kernel/Boot - Bootloader files, including the kernel image
  • /System/Kernel/Devices - Device nodes, populated by Udev + Hotplug
  • /System/Kernel/Modules - Kernel modules
  • /System/Kernel/Objects - Sysfs, providing information gathered from Linux 2.6
  • /System/Kernel/Status - The mounted proc filesystem

Installing a kernel

Thanks to Compile, installing a new kernel is pretty straightforward on GoboLinux. The Linux recipe takes into account the existence of a file called config.gz inside /System/Kernel/Status. This file contains the current configuration for the running kernel, and is used thereby to feed the new kernel options.

In short, running Compile Linux will fetch the latest available recipe (which already contains GoboLinux optional patches). After doing that, the kernel itself is automatically downloaded, patched and filled with the current configuration, taken from config.gz.

The menuconfig entry then appears, and allows for the user to modify their kernel options. Just selecting “Exit” and telling the script to save the changes will finish the user’s interaction with the Linux kernel compilation. After completed, a new entry will appear under /System/Kernel/Modules/$KERNEL_RELEASE, and the new bzImage and files will get installed under /System/Kernel/Boot.

The old bzImage and files aren’t overwritten, though. They’re just symlinks to the current kernel image, and this guarantees that if something goes wrong, a rollback can be done by simply modifying the kernel image at the GRUB’s bootloader prompt, and later by reverting the symlink’s target to the previous release.

To install a kernel which is newer than the available recipe, or one other than vanilla, you may use NewVersion.

If you already have a kernel downloaded, or have a special source package, you may place it in /Data/Compile/Archives.

  • Use NewVersion Linux <Version><your-archive-name> to create a recipe. Using a fake URL is all right if you don’t intend to distribute the recipe.
  • Place any custom patches you need to apply into the /Data/Compile/LocalRecipes/Linux/<Version> directory.
  • Then Compile as usual.

Kernel patches

The Linux recipe comes with a few patches in order to improve the user’s experience with the system. The patchset includes, but is not restricted to, the following modifications:

  • GoboHide: allows the legacy tree to be hidden from userspace applications
  • SquashFS: a compressed filesystem which gets uncompressed on demand. This filesystem is currently used on the GoboLinux ISO, and so it’s interesting to have it in order to get the CD contents easily accessible through the mount command