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Building a real-time Linux kernel [community-contributed]

This tutorial begins with a clean Ubuntu 20.04.1 install on Intel x86_64. Actual kernel is 5.4.0-54-generic, but we will install the Latest Stable RT_PREEMPT Version. To build the kernel you need at least 30GB free disk space.

Check https://wiki.linuxfoundation.org/realtime/start for the latest stable version, at the time of writing this is “Latest Stable Version 5.4-rt”. If we click on the link, we get the exact version. Currently it is patch-5.4.78-rt44.patch.gz.


We create a directory in our home dir with

mkdir ~/kernel

and switch into it with

cd ~/kernel

We can go with a browser to https://mirrors.edge.kernel.org/pub/linux/kernel/v5.x/ and see if the version is there. You can download it from the site and move it manually from /Downloads to the /kernel folder, or download it using wget by right clicking the link using “copy link location”. Example:

wget https://mirrors.edge.kernel.org/pub/linux/kernel/v5.x/linux-5.4.78.tar.gz

unpack it with

tar -xzf linux-5.4.78.tar.gz

download rt_preempt patch matching the Kernel version we just downloaded over at http://cdn.kernel.org/pub/linux/kernel/projects/rt/5.4/

wget http://cdn.kernel.org/pub/linux/kernel/projects/rt/5.4/older/patch-5.4.78-rt44.patch.gz

unpack it with

gunzip patch-5.4.78-rt44.patch.gz

Then switch into the linux directory with

cd linux-5.4.78/

and patch the kernel with the realtime patch

patch -p1 < ../patch-5.4.78-rt44.patch

We simply want to use the config of our Ubuntu installation, so we get the Ubuntu config with

cp /boot/config-5.4.0-54-generic .config

Open Software & Updates. in the Ubuntu Software menu tick the ‘Source code’ box

We need some tools to build kernel, install them with

sudo apt-get build-dep linux
sudo apt-get install libncurses-dev flex bison openssl libssl-dev dkms libelf-dev libudev-dev libpci-dev libiberty-dev autoconf fakeroot

To enable all Ubuntu configurations, we simply use

yes '' | make oldconfig

Then we need to enable rt_preempt in the kernel. We call

make menuconfig

and set the following

 -> General Setup
  -> Preemption Model (Fully Preemptible Kernel (Real-Time))
   (X) Fully Preemptible Kernel (Real-Time)

 -> General setup
  -> Timers subsystem
   [*] High Resolution Timer Support

 -> General setup
  -> Timers subsystem
   -> Timer tick handling (Full dynticks system (tickless))
    (X) Full dynticks system (tickless)

# Set CONFIG_HZ_1000 (note: this is no longer in the General Setup menu, go back twice)
 -> Processor type and features
  -> Timer frequency (1000 HZ)
   (X) 1000 HZ

 ->  Power management and ACPI options
  -> CPU Frequency scaling
   -> CPU Frequency scaling (CPU_FREQ [=y])
    -> Default CPUFreq governor (<choice> [=y])
     (X) performance

Save and exit menuconfig. Now we’re going to build the kernel which will take quite some time. (10-30min on a modern cpu)

make -j `nproc` deb-pkg

After the build is finished check the debian packages

ls ../*deb
../linux-headers-5.4.78-rt41_5.4.78-rt44-1_amd64.deb  ../linux-image-5.4.78-rt44-dbg_5.4.78-rt44-1_amd64.deb
../linux-image-5.4.78-rt41_5.4.78-rt44-1_amd64.deb    ../linux-libc-dev_5.4.78-rt44-1_amd64.deb

Then we install all kernel debian packages

sudo dpkg -i ../*.deb

Now the real time kernel should be installed. Reboot the system and check the new kernel version

sudo reboot
uname -a
Linux ros2host 5.4.78-rt44 #1 SMP PREEMPT_RT Fri Nov 6 10:37:59 CET 2020 x86_64 xx