Simple question - complicated answers

alex aradsky at
Fri Sep 28 01:36:30 UTC 2007

Liam Proven wrote:
> On 27/09/2007, Tony Arnold <tony.arnold at> wrote:
>> Liam,
>> On Thu, 2007-09-27 at 12:27 +0100, Liam Proven wrote:
>>> On 26/09/2007, alex <aradsky at> wrote:
>>>> It's a little maddening to get answers  that dance all around a simple
>>>> question.
>>> It's not a simple question. It's a vaguely-worded and deeply imprecise
>>> question that appears to betray a profound ignorance of what an
>>> operating system kernel is, or indeed, what an operating system is.
>>> It's a silly question asked by a beginner who doesn't really know what
>>> he's talking about. You may as well march up to the gates of the
>>> Houses of Parliament and demand to see this "democracy" that everyone
>>> keeps talking about.
>>>> I want to do is see what the kernel looks like.
>>> What does the smell of baking cookies look like? What does yellow sound like?
>>> Simple questions, but unanswerable.
>> I think you are being a little harsh on the OP. The question is
>> answerable! Download the kernel source tar ball, unpack it and start
>> examining the directory structure and reading the source code.
>> Unfortunately,and perhaps this is your point, the above is unlikely to
>> be helpful, especially for someone who perhaps does not have an
>> understanding of what a kernel is or maybe does not even understand
>> code! It's a bit like trying to understand how the brain works by
>> mapping out the synapses!
> That's my *point*. You can "see" a kernel in all sorts of ways.
>  - If the machine has booted and is running, woohoo, you're watching a
> kernel in operation.
>  - You can go to the /boot directory and list its contents. See the
> big one? That's the kernel, that is. Enjoy. Ain't she a beauty?
All the rancor and commotion could have been prevented if only someone 
had said this at the beginning of the thread.

>  - You could inspect the various files in /sys and look at the output
> of top and vmstat and so on. Watch those live values change!
>  - You can open said file with "less" or even "strings | less" and
> look inside it. Eeeuw.
>  - You can download the source and read it. There, you're looking at
> its guts now.
> The point being that none of these are really meaningful operations.
> Someone who actually knows what a kernel *is* would not ask "how do I
> see it", so, if they *are* asking this, they don't know what they're
> asking so they won't understand any answer to the question.
> But in this case, we've got someone who not only asks the question,
> but according to Mario Vukelic, has asked it before and fairly clearly
> didn't understand or wasn't happy with the answer then.
> If I was running a bike shop and someone came in and asked how they
> would supercharge their bike, I wouldn't just tell them, because
> anyone capable of doing it wouldn't need to ask. If I was a doctor and
> someone came in and asked how they could remove their own appendix,
> the same applies.
> I think this is an analagous situation. I suspect that the OP does not
> actually know what he is asking. Perhaps he thinks the kernel is a
> particular program that he can watch running on his screen or that he
> can in some way send commands to and watch it work, like a word
> processor. If so, no answer we can give will satisfy him, which is why
> he says he's been getting the runaround. So, he needs to learn what a
> kernel /is/ before he can "see" one.

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