Living on the bleeding edge

As detailed in an earlier post, my Acer Aspire One has been doing a sterling job, replacing my larger, more powerful, but MUCH less portable Thinkpad.

And it occurred to me that the One might well be the ideal machine to take into hospital with me so I can listen to my entire music collection. And then I thought how it would be nice to also be able to listen to the radio. Or watch TV. And I remembered that Hauppauge make really good USB digital TV tuners, which can also receive radio. It was too much for a geek to resist, so a day later I was the proud owner of a Hauppauge Nova-T USB2 stick.

Only to discover that the highly optimised pre-compiled custom kernel that I was running (to keep the performance high) on the One lacked any support for TV tuners. Ooops. So all I need to do is produce a new kernel thats as efficient as my current one, but includes support for the TV tuner.

The last time I tried to compile a linux kernel was back in the days of SUSE 7, and I failed. Big time. So big time that I managed to also destroy the machine I was trying to compile the kernel on. I’ve avoided compiling my own kernels ever since. But hey, time heals all wounds … I’m smarter now, and much more linux-savvy. How hard can it be?

And the answer is, it’s a complete breeze. I plugged in all my hardware, and ran autokernconf, which worked out what kernel options I needed for my current hardware. I then merged it with the kernel config from my pre-compiled kernel, and sorted and uniq’ed it. A little bit of tweaking, and some judicious use of “meld” to check my new config against the original, and then I then downloaded the latest 2.6.28-7 kernel source, imported my kernel config, brought it up to date with newer config options, and ran the compile. All in my own home directory, without the need for root, or messing about in /usr/src. And the output was a pair of .debs that could be easily installed on any machine with next to no effort.

The physical process is about 10 minutes for the minimal kernel I created. Of course, working out exactly which options to select/deselect can take longer. A lot longer. But overall, I am deeply impressed with the effort that has been put into making compiling the kernel both a simple, and more importantly, safe job, with little to no risk of damaging the existing installation.

Oh yes, and now my TV tuner works just fine under Kaffeine 🙂

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