These are my notes on how to install install preempt_rt patch for linux kernel on Ubuntu 18.04. I am doing this for a robot control application where non-determinism can cause damage to life or property. I will be writing more blog posts about real time implementation for robotic applications.

We will be installing RT-PREEMPT kernel on ubuntu 18.04. Kernel version I am choosing is 5.4 since it is the latest LTS release.


Install Dependencies

Install compilers required for building the kernel

sudo apt install build-essential git libssl-dev libelf-dev

Download and patch

Download the linux-5.4.17 kernel from and the rt patch


Extract the archive and apply the patch

xz -cd linux-5.4.19.tar.xz | tar xvf -
cd linux-5.4.19
xzcat ../patch-5.4.19-rt11.patch.xz | patch -p1


copy over your old config and use that to configure your new kernel

kautilya@johnny-5:~/factory/linux-5.4.19/ > cp /boot/config-5.3.0-40-generic .config
kautilya@johnny-5:~/factory/linux-5.4.19/ > make oldconfig

when asked for Preemption Model, select the option “Fully Preemptible Kernel” and accept the default value for the rest.

Alternatively, you could use the graphical interface to configure it using menuconfig.

menuconfig requires flex and bison dependencies

sudo apt install flex bison

open config editor using

make menuconfig

search for PREEMPT_RT and set it to “Fully Preemptible Kernel (RT)”.

Build and Install

Build the kernel as a debian package using make command

$ make -j8 deb-pkg

$ sudo dpkg -i ../linux-headers-5.4.19-rt11_5.4.19-rt11-1_amd64.deb ../linux-image-5.4.19-rt11_5.4.19-rt11-1_amd64.deb ../linux-libc-dev_5.4.19-rt11-1_amd64.deb


Reboot your system and check the kernel. It should show PREEMPT_RT

kautilya@johnny-5:~/factory/linux-5.4.19/ > uname -a
Linux johnny-5 5.4.19-rt11 #1 SMP PREEMPT_RT Fri Feb 21 12:54:56 PST 2020 x86_64 x86_64 x86_64 GNU/Linux

Additional Configuration

Security settings

Add your user to realtime group

$ sudo groupadd realtime

$ sudo usermod -aG realtime $USER

add the following to /etc/security/limits.d/99-realtime.conf

$ sudo nano /etc/security/limits.d/99-realtime.conf

@realtime soft rtprio 99
@realtime soft priority 99
@realtime soft memlock 102400
@realtime hard rtprio 99
@realtime hard priority 99
@realtime hard memlock 102400

CPU Scaling

disable cpu scaling by setting the cpu governer to performance using cpufrequtils.

$ sudo apt install cpufrequtils

Check the available cpufreq governers using cpufreq-info, in my case they were performance and powersave

kautilya@johnny-5:~/ > cpufreq-info
cpufrequtils 008: cpufreq-info (C) Dominik Brodowski 2004-2009
Report errors and bugs to, please.
analyzing CPU 0:
    driver: intel_pstate
    CPUs which run at the same hardware frequency: 0
    CPUs which need to have their frequency coordinated by software: 0
    maximum transition latency: 4294.55 ms.
    hardware limits: 800 MHz - 4.60 GHz
    available cpufreq governors: performance, powersave
    current policy: frequency should be within 800 MHz and 4.60 GHz.
                    The governor "performance" may decide which speed to use
                    within this range.
    current CPU frequency is 4.40 GHz.

set the cpu frequency to performance using the following

$ sudo systemctl disable ondemand

$ sudo systemctl enable cpufrequtils

$ sudo sh -c 'echo "GOVERNOR=performance" > /etc/default/cpufrequtils'

$ sudo systemctl daemon-reload && sudo systemctl restart cpufrequtils

CPU Partitioning

I want to run a few programs that do not have a low latency requirements and would like to isolate them from the real time programs. For this, I am going to partition 2 of my 4 CPU cores to real time and other 2 to non realtime.

You can also set exclusively which CPU your program runs on by setting its CPU affinity.

Additional References