[conspire] Linux distributions, and variations thereon

Rick Moen rick at linuxmafia.com
Thu Jun 30 19:00:36 PDT 2011

Quoting Adrien Lamothe (alamozzz at yahoo.com):

> --- On Fri, 6/24/11, Rick Moen <rick at linuxmafia.com> wrote:
> "In a lot of ways these Mint distributions seem to
>   offer a good combination of a solid Debian base, with a choice between
>   the standard 2.6.32 kernel (which is in the current Debian stable
>   distribution) and the latest 2.6.38 kernel (which is in the current Mint
>   11 distribution), ..."
> I like staying as close as possible to the latest kernel release. I've
> looked at Mint 11 and it has a 2.6.38 kernel.

It should be noted that the quotation from my posting, above your
sentence, discussed both Linux Mint 11, which is Ubuntu, and also
Linux Mint Debian Edition (LMDE), which is Debian Testing (and thus is a
rolling distribution, because Debian Testing is).  It's a pretty vital 
difference, so people should be really clear about it:

Ubuntu is release-oriented:  Between releases, you get pretty much just
bugfixes, and then at release time you get a huge version jump on

Debian Testing[1] (and Debian Unstable) is a rolling distribution:  You get 
a slow continuous trickle of updates all the time.

I haven't installed either Mint edition lately, so I can't speak to it
specifically, but the Debian Unstable box in front of me has a selection
of precompiled 2.6.39 kernels available in the package repos, compiled
from Debian's patched 2.6.39+35.1 source packages.  Checking on
, it seems that Testing has those kernels, too (i.e., they've gone
through Testing's quarantine).

Looks like the latest precompiled kernel for Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty
Narwhal) is their set of linux-image-2.6.38-8 packages.  People on
Ubuntu 11.04 (or Linux Mint 11, which _is_ Ubuntu 11.04 with minor
differences) can grab an unofficial prerelease .deb of a 2.6.39
precompiled kernel from here, if they're feeling adventuresome:

Notes about that:

> My Debian 6 server has a 2.6.39 kernel.

Just to not disorient people:  6.0.x is 'Squeeze', the current Debian
Stable branch.  Stable is _not_ a rolling distribution, but rather a
regular release-oriented one.

One of the ways that release-oriented distributions maintain stability
is to declare a base version of each important package as their standard
for a while, and backport fixes to it as the software evolves during the
distribution release's support cycle.  In the case of Debian 6.0.x
'Squeeze', the kernel base version is 2.6.32:  Thus, their latest
revision of the available prepackaged kernels for Squeeze is 2.6.32+29
(their 29th revision of the 2.6.32 kernel plus backported fixes).

I'm guessing you either rolled your own 2.6.39 kernel from mainline
source code (the old-time way), or used an official repository?

> I was at a LUG recently, where someone suggested I forgo upgrading to
> a newer distro version for the purpose of getting a newer kernel,
> dismissing a newer kernel as providing an "esoteric advantage." I
> hadn't yet looked at the release notes for 2.6.38, but responded that
> using an "up to date" kernel has always provided me with various
> advantages.

Often, it's small but pleasant improvements versus time and effort
spent.  Also, sometimes the distro kernels _do_ have a few tricks and
stability tweaks not to be found in mainline.  Distro precompiled
kernels _in general_ have gotten good enough that the gains from
compiling locally have decreased quite a bit (with occasional exceptions
such as the anomalous situation created by very recent mainline
improvements that haven't yet hit distro kernels).

[1] Currently, Testing is 7.0 'Wheezy'.

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