Simple question - complicated answers

Liam Proven lproven at
Fri Sep 28 15:35:26 UTC 2007

On 28/09/2007, alex <aradsky at> wrote:
> Bart Silverstrim wrote:
> > Tony Arnold 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!
> >>
> >
> > Perhaps the conversation could help get to the point faster if someone
> > just asked the OP,
> >
> > "What exactly are you trying to do?"
> >
> > Then we'd know if the OP:
> > 1) wants to see the source code
> > 2) wants to know where the kernel is stored, and/or related kernel files
> > 3) wants to know how the kernel works, a la block diagrams
> > 4) wants a visual reference of kernel subsystems
> >
> > This would distinguish if he or she wants the kernel source
> > (!), binary, upgrade procedure, diagrams compared to things
> > like NT, a book on programming the kernel,...without intent, it's hard
> > to recommend a course of action.
> >
> >
> I believe I've had a misconception of the kernel...  Somehow  I had the
> idea that the kernel existed in a single editable file.  What led me to
> this was reading that the kernel was compilable so it must be a file of
> some kind that was editable, something that looked like what's in
> /boot/config.*.    This is why I kept asking for a specific location for
> a file..
> QUOTE:(from above)
> Then we'd know if the OP:  2) wants to know where the kernel is stored, and/or related kernel files.     3) wants to know how the kernel works, a la block diagrams
> As for what I wanted to do --------I believe I clearly said that all I
> wanted to do is see what the kernel looked like.  I had no
> intention of doing anything but study get some idea of what it
> did.   I still would like to examine the kernel.if this is possible.
> What aroused my curiosity about the kernel was reading about it in the
> kernel websites..
> Perhaps I'm a bit too old to to work Linux......I'm 89.

Then I salute your enterprise in wishing to learn a new operating system!

The Linux kernel /is/ plain readable ASCII code that is compiled.
However, there is a mind-boggling amount of it. It consists of many
thousands of files, some tiny, some large. Many of these files refer
to or include other files. It's a maze.

Most are written in the C programming language, so if you cannot read
C - and it is a notoriously hard-to-read language - then it will be
meaningless. When you also consider that Linux runs on dozens of
different types of processor, from Intel x86 to IBM's PowerPC to the
ARM chips found in cellphones and washing machines, and all of those
have their own versions of the kernel, it's epic. If printed out on A4
paper, we're talking about not so much a book as a reasonable-sized
room full of fat books.

If you would like to see the kernel code, there's a version formatted
as a website. It's here:

>From there, you can browse around the source code of the latest
version, dipping in and out as you please.

Liam Proven • Profile:
Email: lproven at • GMail/GoogleTalk/Orkut: lproven at
Tel: +44 20-8685-0498 • Cell: +44 7939-087884 • Fax: + 44 870-9151419
AOL/AIM/iChat: liamproven at • MSN/Messenger: lproven at
Yahoo: liamproven at • Skype: liamproven • ICQ: 73187508

More information about the ubuntu-users mailing list