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Ubuntu team releases custom kernels for its distribution.

For example, my current is 4.4.0-53 while last stable is 4.8.15 and last longterm is 4.4.39 (both according to kernel.org). Searching didn't revealed clearly the way Ubuntu team patches upstream kernel to ship it.

What patches does it apply to upstream kernel, what does it backport from upstream kernel code?

How would one correlate version strings like 4.4.0-53 to vanilla kernel numbering scheme?

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The Ubuntu kernel team has rather good change logs, which can answer a lot of your questions.

For example, I can see that the latest linux-image-4.4.0-57-generic contains the patches from upstream Linux 4.4.35, along with about 40 new patches by the Ubuntu kernel team (fix CVEs, fix kernel config, add a few more drivers, etc.).

The change log is here:

/usr/share/doc/linux-image-4.4.0-57-generic/changelog.Debian.gz

You can read it (for example) with less:

less /usr/share/doc/linux-image-4.4.0-57-generic/changelog.Debian.gz

You can also read it before upgrading the kernel, for example with the C shortcut key in aptitude or running:

apt changelog linux-image-4.4.0-57-generic
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    It should also be noted that apt changelog linux-image-4.4.0-57-generic works. – Chai T. Rex Dec 22 '16 at 6:48

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