Optimized Kernels for Debian “Lenny”

Posted June 24th, 2009 at 8:08 AM by Anti-Trend

Hardwareforums.com kernels

Hardwareforums.com is now hosting architecturally-optimized Linux kernels! Currently we’re packaging custom kernels for Debian “Lenny”, which should also work with many Debian-derivative distributions of Linux. These kernels are based off of the latest stable source from kernel.org, and will be updated as frequently as schedules allow. There are some advantages to running a custom Linux kernel, but also some disadvantages which should be taken into account.

Advantages:

  • Optimized for extremely low-latency desktop usage. Also perfect for dedicated game servers.
  • Will behave responsively even under excessively heavy resource loads.
  • Ideal for applications that require near real-time responsiveness, such as gaming and multimedia work.
  • Built with CPU-specific optimizations to make the most of your hardware.
  • Supports SMP, multi-core CPUs and up to 64gb RAM on modern architectures.
  • More current kernels support more hardware and provide bugfixes which may not be present in distro-maintained kernels.
  • The depreciated OSS (Open Sound System) is entirely removed in favor of ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) and its reverse-compatibility with OSS.

Disadvantages:

Pre-packaged binaries of proprietary video drivers, etc which are built against the vendor-provided kernel will not work; they will need to be built and installed manually.

  • Pre-packaged binaries of proprietary video drivers, etc which are built against the vendor-provided kernel will not work; they will need to be built and installed manually.
  • Receiving support from official distributor-specific channels may be hindered by using an unsupported kernel.
  • The vanilla kernel source from kernel.org is newer and therefore not as well-tested as the distro-provided kernel.
  • Only 32-bit builds are provided (with 64-bit optimizations where applicable), since this currently makes the most sense for desktops.
  • This kernel enjoys no official support, nor even the suggestion of any warranty whatsoever. They are to be used strictly at one’s own risk, and are supported only at a friendly capacity here at hardwareforums.com

About The Kernel Configuration

The kernel configurations for Debian Lenny on Debian’s latest official kernel configurations, with some key modifications by myself. These changes center around architecture-specific optimizations, and pruning out some stuff that doesn’t apply in that context. For example, Intel-specific options don’t make sense for an AMD Athlon kernel and vise-versa. The timing settings were also changed from the default 250Hz to 1000Hz, and the schedulers set to be aggressively desktop-friendly. This will incur a very slight amount of overhead in the raw amount of potential CPU horsepower, but the payoff is a huge boost in responsiveness when multitasking or placing the system under a heavy CPU workload. This is especially noticeable in games, multimedia, and heavy multitasking environments, so I feel it’s well justified for a non-server environment. So fundamentally, the largest differences between the official configs and my own are the CPU-specific optimizations and the scheduler settings. Each respective kernel was also compiled with the highest known-safe CPU optimizations relative to each architecture.

CPU Architectures

  • atom – Best for the Intel ATOM CPU family.
  • centrino – Built specifically for the “Pentium M” processor, which is essentially a modernized P3. Use this if you have a Pentium M, Centrino, or Celeron-M that’s based on a pre-P4 architecture.
  • core2 – Newer Intel multi-core CPUs, including quad-cores, i7’s and recent Xeons.
  • k7 – Any AMD Athlon, Duron, or 32-bit Sempron CPUs.
  • k8 – AMD64, 64FX, 64-bit-capable Sempron, Turion or Opteron CPUs.
  • p3 – Optimized for Katmai, Coppermine, Coppermine-T and Tualatin Pentium 3 processors.
  • p4 – Any Pentium 4 or P4-based Celeron CPUs. Optimizations for newer P4s such as the Prescott are also included, but not required for this kernel to work on your system.
  • phenom – Later AMD K10-based CPUs, such as Deneb, Heka, Agena, and Toliman.
  • prescott – Built specifically for Prescott or later Pentium4 CPU’s before the Core2, such as the Pentium-D.
  • x2 – Early multi-core AMD processors such as Manchester, Toledo, Windsor, Brisbane, and Kuma.

Downloads:

⇒ Should you decide our custom kernels are for you, they can be found here: HWF Custom Kernel Wiki

If you have any questions, problems or suggestions please feel free to post them here.

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