Ubuntu systems use a modified version of the plain vanilla Linux kernel (a modified version is referred to as a patched kernel) with additional drivers and other special features compiled into it.
Ubuntu has quite an intensive testing period for all distribution kernels and regularly distributes updated versions. The supplied Ubuntu kernel is compiled with as many modules as possible to provide as much flexibility as possible. A running kernel can be further tuned with the sysctl program, which enables direct access to a running kernel and permits some kernel parameters to be changed. As a result of this extensive testing, configurability, and modularity, the precompiled Ubuntu kernel does everything most users need it to do. Most users only need to recompile the kernel to
• Accommodate an esoteric piece of new hardware.
• Conduct a system update when Ubuntu has not yet provided precompiled kernels.
• Experiment with the system capabilities.
Ubuntu supplies several precompiled versions of the kernel for Athlon and Pentium processors, for single- and multi-processor motherboards, and for Enterprise-class systems (higher security; uses 4GB of memory). These are all available through Synaptic, or just by grepping through the results of an apt-cache search.
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