Originally, this question was closed due to a mis-wording, and is now in the process of being reopened. Another user pointed out to me that they believe that a custom kernel makes a post off-topic (while the original post may have been mentioning a proxy configuration, that is beside the point). So, I would like some opinions (including discussion, and debating if necessary) of whether a custom kernel makes a post off-topic.


8 Answers 8


I propose a simple rule for us to apply, to figure out if someone's operating system is really Ubuntu, and thus within the scope of Ask Ubuntu.

We should ask ourselves what the best answer is to the question:

What is the name of their operating system?

If the best answer is "Ubuntu" or the name of an official derivative of Ubuntu (e.g., "Kubuntu") then it's really about Ubuntu.

If the best answer is something else, then it's not really about Ubuntu.


From the Ask Ubuntu FAQ page:

We welcome questions about:

  • Using and administering Ubuntu, including official Ubuntu derivatives.
    • Running third-party applications on Ubuntu.
    • Development on Ubuntu.
    • Services provided by Ubuntu
    • Any question not mentioned below or here are great! There are no "dumb" questions!

What are custom kernels? Can't I compile my own kernel and use it in Ubuntu, is that not considered usage of Ubuntu?

What if I needed to develop something that has no support while using the default kernel? Does that not follow the development line?

What if it's coming from a PPA? There can be a lot of issues simply solved by reverting to official packages, shall we ban questions that involve PPAs?

What about if I compiled the package from source and the features changed (ie: not an issue, just something different)?

If the problem is to be solved using a standard kernel, then great, we can further try to solve it and help knowing that fact, if it can't even be connect to a custom kernel, then ignore that fact. That single fact that an user is using a custom kernel should not make a post OT on this site.


As someone who has some experience compiling kernels, I think in general supporting custom kernels is beyond the scope of Ask Ubuntu.

Perhaps on other stack exchange sites, I am not sure.

The reasons are:

  1. As far as I know, the Ubuntu kernel team does not support custom kernels.

  2. The Ubuntu documentation clearly states custom kernels are not supported.

  3. Compiling a custom kernel involves a configuration file with 6, 000 lines of options, let alone actually modifying the underlying C code. Many of these options are hardware dependent and the Ubuntu Kernel team already releases a kernel that is already very generic.

  4. Actual kernel bugs, if they exist in the code, are reported to kernel.org. The Ubuntu kernel team supports only a minor portion of the code, such as apparmor.

As with all rules, there may be some exceptions such as applying a patch or perhaps a trivial configuration change, that could be considered on a case-by-case basis.

In summary, in general, IMO custom kernels are highly specialized and it is easy to break, and hard to fix a kernel.config

  • 1
    As far as I know, the Ubuntu kernel team does not support custom kernels. We have no relation to them, do we ? Actual kernel bugs . . . Bugs are off-topic anyway. This is different from using and administering a system Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 4:24

Who knows what was changed as https://help.ubuntu.com/community/Kernel/Compile states:

Building and using a custom kernel will make it very difficult to get support for your system.

While it is a learning experience to compile your own kernel, you will not be allowed to file bugs on the custom-built kernel (if you do, they will be Rejected without further explanation).

But I don't think this question is about a custom kernel, the wording the user used was

My workplace desktop uses a special customized distro of Ubuntu, but I can't get my hands on its installer in < 2 months notice, and I need to install this distro on my work laptop

  • 1
    That's a good quote, but do we agree with their methodology?
    – nanofarad
    Commented Dec 29, 2012 at 20:33
  • 2
    You have a bug in a custom kernel, you see if it also happens in a normal Ubuntu kernel or a kernel.org kernel. If it does, report it downstream or upstream respectively. As answering people's questsions, it may be hard for people to get help, and the best answer will sometimes be, "this could be happening due to your custom kernel, because with custom kernels X can be different." Such an answer is helpful and I see no reason for us to prevent people from getting it. Sometimes the issue is unrelated and they'll get an answer that solves it. But yeah, it seems s/he had no custom kernel. Commented Dec 30, 2012 at 16:34
  • Bugs are off topic on this site anyway, so we don't need to worry about that. Our site is about using and administering Ubuntu. We're not supposed to be fixing anything per se. Commented Jan 7, 2017 at 4:20

We should at a minimum allow questions about the tools that Ubuntu provides for building custom kernels, just as we try support any software provided by Ubuntu.


I understand that some folks want custom kernels to be on-topic. The question then becomes, at what point is it an unofficial derived distribution?

For practical intents and purposes, I could grab the source debs for the Backtrack kernel from the Offensive Security repo and apply them to my local kernel. This effectively makes it Ubuntu with a custom kernel, not Backtrack. So at what point is something not Ubuntu?

I don't see a more fundamental change to the OS than changing the base kernel everything else is built upon.

Just my 2 cents.


I would only consider custom kernels off-topic if it does not have to do with creating them. If it is about something not working, then it probably should not be considered off topic. Take this as a grain of salt though.


No, it should be on topic. Recompiling a custom kernel is within the purview of any Linux user, Ubuntu included. I don't see why this would be considered off topic. I think there is a somewhat over-protective attitude on this forum which discourages users from straying from the "one true path". I think we should not perpetuate such an attitude. If a user needs to compile a custom kernel then fine, they are still a user of Ubuntu, and it should remain on topic on this forum.

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