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By "the same kernel", I mean the one which was originally created by Torvalds and then updated by people here: http://www.kernel.org

Is it true that different distros all keep the kernel unchanged(of course they will update the kernel when there is a new version from the above site), and only make changes to the various utilities of their own?

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5 Answers 5

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All distros use the same "Linux" kernel, however all distros make slight changes to it in order make the kernel work best for them, however these changes will almost always get uploaded back to the top where Linus will merge them himself. So all use the Linux kernel, however they all have a few different lines of code in them to make them work best for that distro. It is also worth noting that distros will ship with the version of the kernel that they see fit for each version. Some distros choose to choose a newer kernel then others. The main pro of a new kernel are improvments in driver's and hardware compability. The con is a loss in stability as all new code has bugs in it. So you trade features for stability. This is why disrtos known for being more stable will usually always ship an older kernel then the more risky distros. To find what kernel you are running enter:

uname -r

This will show you what you are running in the version of Ubuntu you have on your computer currently. Hope you enjoy!

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Thank you for the answer. Another question, is the init function part of the kernel? If so, does it prove different distros have might use "different" kernels(as there are upstart and sysvinit to realise the function)? –  xczzhh Aug 7 '12 at 10:24
    
I would ask this as a new question. Also can you mark the correct answer here? –  philipballew Aug 7 '12 at 11:04

Yes and No will be the answer.

"The Linux kernel" is a fairly complicated piece of software which can be compiled in a number of different ways. Basically, a configuration file is set up with a laundry-list of options, and this file subsequently determines exactly which blocks of source-code are or are not included in "the Linux kernel" for your system. (The same process also determines which kernel modules are built.)

Generally speaking, a distro writer will do all of that "heavy lifting" for you:

They'll compile one or more kernels, using config options that they have carefully selected, and include those (in binary form) in their distributions. They might even include custom patches.

So, the answer to your question is both 'yes' and 'no'.

  • Yes, several distros might use "Linux version X.Y.Z."
  • No, they might not use the same configuration options when building it.

Courtesy: sundialsvcs' comment here.

Also check out this post on stackoverflow for some more related information.

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@mtk, Thanks for the edit. –  saji89 Aug 7 '12 at 11:14

They do use the same kernel uploaded at http://www.kernel.org.

But as per distribution , goals of their respective projects , to what Systems are they targeting their releases shapes the customization of their respective kernels.

For a rolling release it will be bleeding edge kernels , for a stable release it will based on Upstream stable release.

For example 3.5 is currently in Quantal release but 3.2 is for Stable Precise release and its future updates..

Ubuntu customized kernels are provided at http://kernel.ubuntu.com/~kernel-ppa/mainline .

fedora customized kernels https://admin.fedoraproject.org/updates/kernel .


The best way to understand is for example following Ubuntu Kernel team development.

rolling kernel upgrade policy for 14.04

Canonical Kernel Team Voices

Kernel Roadmap

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Yes, It is true, Ubuntu uses same kernel which was originally created by Linus Torvalds, but of course the updated version.

The kernels of Linux Distributions are updated from the original one and See this link to get the view of kernel version changes.

Ubuntu is based on latest stable linux version released, more correctly, it is based on the kernel of debian (more correctly, from debian unstable release, except the LTS's which are derived from Debian testing) and then add some more distro specific customization.

See these links for more information

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They don't make changes to the kernel, or add anything at all? hmmm, if so, why ubuntu is using upstart while other distros use sysvinit for initiation? The kernel does include the system initiation function, does it? –  xczzhh Aug 7 '12 at 9:38
    
@xczzhh Yes, I said they change. I didn't say that, the don't change. Please read the answer again –  Anwar Shah Aug 7 '12 at 9:55

Kernel get changes as per features requirement in different Linux distros. Linux kernel is developed by Linux Foundation community. You can get Latest Kernel here.

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