Monday, February 21, 2005

Running User Mode Linux from 2.6.10 Kernel

I don't really know anything about mucking around with the Linux kernel (I'm the type of guy whose favourite text editor is pico and who can't figure out how to use Debian meaning he has to use RedHat instead), but somehow I signed up to do a term project involving a bit of kernel hacking, so I guess I have to learn. Since kernel stuff seems a bit messy, I opted to work with User Mode Linux (UML).

Now, when one browses around through the main website, there's a lot of stuff about ancient versions of UML based on 2.4 kernels, there's a couple of mentions of 2.6 kernels, and tucked away somewhere, there's a brief aside that UML has been integrated into Linux kernels 2.6.9 and beyond. Seeing as everything else on the main website seemed a little dated, I thought that it would be best to use the UML that's integrated into the main Linux branch because it would be more likely to be maintained and tested there. In actuality, the UML code that's been integrated into the kernel doesn't work all that well, and it took me a few days of searching through various websites, wikis, forum discussions, etc. to figure that out. So here are the goods on how I got UML working on my Fedora Core 3 system.

Apparently, the UML in the current 2.6.10 vanilla kernel doesn't work. Instead, grab the 2.6.9 vanilla kernel from or somewhere. Then, go to Paolo Giarrusso's UML site and grab the latest 2.6.9 patch (it's in his archives in the guest patches section). After you've unzipped and patched everything, simply taking the default configuration from

make menuconfig ARCH=um

isn't sufficient. One has to enable these options in the kernel

Character Devices/File Description Channel Support
Character Devices/Port Channel Support
Character Devices/tty Channel Support
Character Devices/xterm Channel Support
Block Devices/Virtual Block Device
File Systems/Pseudo File Systems/dev File System Support

Then, you can follow the normal instructions about compiling, stashing a root_fs file system somewhere, and then using the devfs=(no)mount option appropriately.

This is enough to get UML to bring up a prompt, but that's as deep as I've dug so far. I'm still weighing whether it would have been easier simply to have started with a Debian package of UML.

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