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Essential System Administration, 3rd Edition by Æleen Frisch

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Chapter 16. Configuring and Building Kernels

As we’ve noted many times before, the kernel is the heart of the Unix operating system. It is the core program, always running while the operating system is up, providing and overseeing the system environment. Thekernel is responsible for all aspects of system functioning, including:

  • Process creation, termination and scheduling

  • Virtual memory management (including paging)

  • Device I/O (via interfaces with device drivers : modules that perform the actual low-level communication with physical devices such as disk controllers, serial ports, and network adapters)

  • Interprocess communication (both local and network)

  • Enforcing access control and other security mechanisms

Traditionally, the Unix kernel is a single, monolithic program. On more recent systems, however, the trend has been toward modularized kernels: small core executable programs to which additional, separate object or executable files—modules —can be loaded and/or unloaded as needed. Modules provide a convenient way to provide support for a new device type or add specific new functionality to an existing kernel.

In many instances, the standard kernel program provided with the operating system works perfectly well for the system’s needs. There are a few circumstances, however, where it is necessary to create a custom kernel (or perform equivalent customization activities) to meet the special needs of a particular system or environment. Some of the most common are:

  • To add capabilities to ...

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